Winston’s term with Ardern shows what high-delivery, low-foolishness government looked like. That’s why he’s rising again.
Ron Mark the Minister of Defence got through two of the biggest defence purchases in decades: the replacement into new ‘Super-Hercules’ to replace the old ones for troop deployment and regional crisis support. The second was to replace the old P3 Orions with the new P8 Poseidons. Also a really big upgrade to the Ohakea Airbase to deal with them. He also oversaw the completion of the giant HMNZS Aotearoa supply ship. He also instigated upgrades to a number of Pacific Island airports and air strips, which have been completed over the last 2 years. We are much stronger in defence because of NZFirst in their Ardern term.
Winston Peters got the largest investment in foreign aid we had seen in years, and used it to good effect almost as soon as he was elected doing a speech into the Lowy Centre think tank and promised everyone that we were there to play our part in reversing growing Chinese influence. Lowy Institute is where all Australian defence and foreign affairs players hang. When the Christchurch massacre occurred, Prime Minister Ardern dispatched Peters as Foreign Minister to a swathe of Muslim-dominated governments to assure them that we were fully on their side and we would right ourselves.
It was Winston’s leadership in the first Ardern term, together with Ardern herself, that deeply embedded a complete change in our foreign policy.
Then there’s the $3 billion for the Provincial Growth Fund. That was $2 billion more than proposed in the coalition agreement. It was a roaring success, far better than anyone had ever expected. It also proved to be the critical template for accelerating projects which was to be so helpful in the massive NZUP post-COVID rebuild fund, and most of those projects are still in construction. This fund and its programme was by a long, long way the largest investment in provincial or regional economic development in half a century. Helen Clark’s industry growth frameworks usually had the locals do most of the work and over half the funding, and that was still a country mile better than multiple previous governments.
The move to make a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commision came from the NZFirst-Labour coalition agreement, not the Greens. It also required that when agriculture went into the ETS, all revenues from this source would be recycled back into agriculture. We would have happy farmers making carbon money. Imagine that now.
Then there’s the ‘handbrake’ moves of which Winston Peters is quite reasonably proud in the first Ardern term.
The first is the decision by Winston Peters to actively kill off the light rail funding deal. This particular deal was one in which the lead Minister Phil Twyford, was alone powerfully seduced by a Canadian pension company to provide an unlimited franchise to one company to build, own and operate light rail with no connection to any local ticketing system or transport system. It was literally a license to print money. Twyford handled it all so badly that he was demoted, and a few months later demoted further. And it was Winston Peters that killed that deal in cabinet. When we can now see the light rail costs ballooning out now by the tens of billions, and no national integrated ticketing system in sight, Winston clearly made the right move.
Then there was the decision by the Ardern government to reject the Spark bid with Huawei to upgrade 5G infrastructure. While widely seen as uniting within similar bans from the United States and Australia, in reality it was more targeted. I’ve got no proof but this has Winston Peters fingerprints all over it.
Another was the coalition agreement move not to proceed with another parliament building. Imagine how opening that would have gone down with the public right now.
The likelihood of the Births Deaths and Marriages self-identity clause getting through Parliament let alone Cabinet under Winston Peters would be zero. He had and has no time for what in 2020 he called “woke pixie dust.” What we see now in 2023 is a fractious, splintered leftist movement that has rapidly turned against each other and whose key achievement, Three Waters, has been one of the governments’ most politically expensive disasters.
Winston Peters certainly had a hand in killing off a Capital Gains Tax in April 2019. Whether this was a convenient excuse for Ardern at the time or not, Prime Minister Hipkins certainly understands that Winston’s political calculus was more accurate than those of Parker or Robertson. It wasn’t Hipkins that killed it off. Listen to what Peters said in July 2020 of high-tax parties and see if he’s wrong when you see our economic doldrums now:
The only idea these people ever have is how to spend someone else’s money and no idea how to grow a nation’s economy. Tax policy needs to be smart, targeted towards our exporters, growth in the economy and jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Uncomfortable for the die-hard remnant of Ardern supporters though it may be, Winston Peters was the only politician to engage with the protesters on the grounds of Parliament in 2022. New Zealanders are not fickle and Winston’s people do remember. Those protesters and their families will reward him for it and Labour will in part be punished for it.
Winston Peters together with his colleague Shane Jones were the only New Zealand politicians who sought to publicly hold our largest business, Fonterra, to any kind of account. The current Labour government have legislated again and again to give them everything they want. Fonterra have continued to make New Zealand one of the most narrow and vulnerable exporting economies in the world, to just one country, China. Fonterra through 2018 made huge losses, marked down everything it owned, started to sell off all its overseas businesses, and rapidly shrank. Our one business of any internationally competitive scale. Fonterra’s multi-decade promises to increase its value-added goods have been nothing but lies. Shane Jones also called for the Chair of Air New Zealand to be sacked, for abandoning regional New Zealand centres. Just imagine if we had a current government who really held our key companies to account whether public or private.
Had Winston Peters been in the coalition this term, there is 0% chance that Mahuta and Sage would have been able to cook up their late-night SOP to entrench the 3 Waters legislation to achieve a 60% vote in order to privatise the water entities that were then proposed. Not because he would have opposed the idea of resisting sales of water entities, but because he would have targeted the legislation towards centralised governance and not an irrational regional hybrid that we had last left behind with provincial government in the 1870s.
Winston Peters got stuff done in the Ardern government because he was one of the very few in there with the experience to make a deal, how to get it paid for, how to deliver it, how to take credit for it, and how not to over-extend. None of those elements were evident in the 2020 coalition arrangement.
That is why New Zealand First are going to get back into parliament in 8 weeks time.