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NZ First leader Winston Peters compares co-governance to Nazi Germany, says promised tax cuts ‘not impossible’

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New Zealand First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has compared Labour’s use of co-governance to “race-based theory”, as seen in Nazi Germany.

His comments, made today in a State of the Nation speech delivered in Palmerston North, have drawn warnings from the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand about the use of such terminology by politicians.

“It is actually offensive to the memory of those who died and to those who survived in the Holocaust to start throwing around terms like ‘holocaust’ or ‘Nazi’ willy-nilly,” Holocaust Centre of New Zealand spokesman Ben Kepes told NZME.

”Generally speaking, as we’ve seen society grow increasingly numb to inflammatory comments, people have to get more and more inflammatory in order to get an effect and so I think what we saw today was simply an example of the sort of breakdown of society.”

Asked after his speech by reporters what he thought New Zealand’s Jewish community would think of his comments, Peters said: “I think that they would understand entirely what I’m saying.”

Today’s speech was trademark Peters, closely resembling much of what he said during the election campaign, attacking the left, Labour in particular.

Responding to Peters’ comments this afternoon, Labour leader Chris Hipkins compared Peters to a “drunk uncle at a wedding”.

“Same old Winston Peters. Using racism and anti-media rhetoric to divide our country. He should be focusing on the real work of leading New Zealand forward, but that would require a plan and a vision. Sadly, this government is lacking in both.

”I ruled out working with Winston Peters before the election. Everyday that goes by I feel more and more vindicated by that decision. Kiwis deserve better than a deputy prime minister who behaves like a drunk uncle at a wedding.”

During the hour-long speech, Peter also said the tax cuts promised before the election are “not impossible”, amid reports of a $5.6 billion hole the Government is facing.

He highlighted the Green Party’s current troubles, including its investigation into MP Darleen Tana over her knowledge of migrant exploitation claims against her husband’s e-bike business.

Speaking to hundreds of vocal supporters at the Palmerston North conference centre, Peters verified a report in The Post which claimed the Government was facing a $5.6b hole regarding what it had promised before the election and the funds currently available.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis has already warned the Government could struggle to meet the surplus forecast for the 2027 year, a goal included in its pre-election fiscal plan, blaming worsening economic conditions which will cause multiple years of lower tax income.

After he’d finished his speech, Peters said it was not impossible to deliver the tax cuts – promised by July this year – but it was “premature” to directly answer whether the tax cuts could be achieved ahead of the Budget in May.

“I admit that there is a construction of the economic plan going forward where all these things can be done, but not the plan I’ve heard just yet,” he said.

“However, we’re in coalition talks all the time to see what the construction pathway forward might be.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters gave a speech which was very similar to what he said during the election campaign. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First leader Winston Peters gave a speech which was very similar to what he said during the election campaign. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Asked whether the Government could afford all the policies that had been committed to, Peters said: “Our ones, yes.”

Peters was welcomed to the conference centre by more than a dozen pro-Palestine protesters waiting for the NZ First leader.

On his exit, the protesters chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, and, “How many kids did you kill today?” while Peters was driven away.

His speech referenced many topics familiar to those who had been to one of Peters’ public meetings ahead of the election, including Labour’s failure while in government between 2020 and 2023, media bias, high levels of immigration and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Peters said NZ First’s absence from Parliament during the 2020-2023 term was the chief reason the country had gone downhill.

“Without the handbrake, Labour cared more about feelings than the duty to competently govern our country,” he said.

Peters said the country couldn’t be fixed until its problems were acknowledged. He claimed Labour had left a “barrage of broken promises”, citing a “crumbling, underfunded health system”.

“We had three years of the dripping, self-righteous moral high-horse – where they were right and everyone else was wrong,” Peters said of Labour during its time as a majority government.

“The problem for Labour was that there were no ‘ends’ because they had no concept of where they were going – the hapless freight train ran out of tracks.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters gave his State of the Nation speech in Palmerston North on Sunday. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First leader Winston Peters gave his State of the Nation speech in Palmerston North on Sunday. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He touched on many topics briefly, shifting from the workforce issues within the Defence Force to the current approach to gangs and the failed targets of KiwiBuild.

Peters spoke of the “implosion on the left”, a reference to the Green Party launching an investigation into Tana, whose husband’s business has been accused of migrant exploitation.

He referenced Tana not by name but as the person who “had the moko on her chin”.

He grouped Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori together, saying they were competing to see “who can be most culturally woke”. Peters said when MPs from those parties featured in the media, they were “always over-gesturing like an Italian waiter”, which received a lot of laughs from the crowd.

Much of Peters’ speech was focused on Labour. He has bemoaned how Labour has forgotten its roots and wasn’t focusing on workers’ rights, which were at its core, and spent many minutes criticising Labour’s record while in government.

“The once-great Labour Party of Savage and Fraser has turned into the ‘Party of Moral Outrage and Political Inertia’,” he said.

On the media, Peters talked about the prospect of Newshub closing and job losses at TVNZ, saying it was “obviously devastating” for people and for the fourth estate.

However, he then shifted to criticism of mainstream media, particularly focusing on the Public Interest Journalism Fund.

“[The fund] created a media environment where certain left-wing political narratives and agendas seeped into much of what the media presented to the public – where any opposing views were shut down, cancelled and labelled as ‘far-right’ or ‘fringe’,” Peters claimed.

The crowd responded very well to Peters’ comments about the media, laughing and heckling towards reporters.

NZ First leader Winston Peters during his State of the Nation speech in Palmerston North. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First leader Winston Peters during his State of the Nation speech in Palmerston North. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Moving on to the current Government, Peters said it was facing “massive challenges”.

“With the right polices, the right attitude and, above all, the right commitment, we can secure a much better future.”

“Our campaign message was for voters to join us to ‘Take Back Our Country’ – and that’s what we intend to do.”

“We are the party that is bringing steel to our Government through the hard times and, above all, experience and common sense.”

He recapped the commitments made in the coalition agreement between National and NZ First, including an inquiry into banking competition, strengthening the Grocery Commissioner’s powers, establishing a National Infrastructure Agency and investigating the reopening of the Marsden Point Oil Refinery – the last of which garnered huge applause. Reopening the refinery is a common priority among a lot of NZ First supporters.

Peters promised to list only a few of the commitments in the coalition agreement – but he went on to list quite a few on a range of topics such as health, crime, education, seniors rights, gender in sport and Covid-19.

Nearly every item Peters listed was applauded by the crowd of about 600.

On the economy, he contrasted New Zealand with Australia to underline his point that this country’s economy had performed much worse in comparison to that across the ditch.

Peters referenced Iceland and how people earned tens of thousands of dollars more than people in New Zealand.

“Size matters? No, it doesn’t. What you do with the assets does.

“We bring steel to our Government,” Peters repeated, speaking of NZ First.

One of his final topics was the Treaty of Waitangi. Peters pushed back on the idea that it was “a partnership between the signatories”.

”Today what is being taught at universities on this matter denies the simple fact that neither Queen Victoria, nor her successors, could constitutionally enter, with their subjects, a partnership.”

He claimed a “self-appointed Māori elite” had benefited from the misinterpretation at the expense of “ordinary Māori” – a common message of Peters’.

“We got knocked down, but we got back up again – and nothing is going to stop us now,” was Peters’ last line of his speech – quoting from the song Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, which he entered to.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon gave his State of the Nation speech last month in Auckland, in which he described the country as being in a “fragile” state and blamed the previous Labour government for “dumb and stupid” policies.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

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