Two days ago at his party conference Winston Peters promised “explosive policy” and one in particular that red necks throughout the country would support, putting the future of the Maori seats up for a general referendum.
From Stuff at the time:
Speaking to media following his speech, Peters said the size of Parliament needs to reduce because there was a referendum in 1999 where 80 per cent of the country wanted to reduce the overall number of MPs but it wasn’t binding.
“The public should be asked again now whether they want the 120 or 100.”
A binding referendum on the two matters would be held on the same day in the middle of the next election term.
Peters said both issues were “explosive” but in particular the Maori seats because “Maori progress economically and socially has been massively sidetracked, detoured and road blocked by the Waitangi industry”.
“How could that possibly happen when we’ve got all these new members of Parliament coming from the Maori world?”
Peters said he wouldn’t use “silly phrases” like “bottom lines” but he made it clear the referendum wasn’t negotiable.
“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”
Not only was it policy but it was coalition dependent policy. I thought at the time he was sabotaging the possibility of a deal with Labour because the party’s policy is to retain the seats.
But two days later his position has appeared to have changed, and rather dramatically.
Winston Peters appears to be having second thoughts on a binding referendum to decide the future of the Māori seats – he now says it should be “up to Māori” to decide whether they should stay or go.
The NZ First leader told his party’s annual conference on Sunday he would insist on the referendum if his party was part of the next government.
He didn’t specify who should take part, and it was assumed he was talking about all voters.
Since then the party’s Māori affairs spokesperson, Pita Paraone, has said the decision should be left to Māori.
Mr Peters agrees with that.
“Of course it should be up to Māori to decide if the seats go, but I’m making a speech about it very shortly and I will tell you the full parameters of that,” he told the NZME.
“I’ve heard what has been said by people who have been interviewed, Pita and maybe others, and the question is whether it is full conscription and I’ll have that answer in a speech I’m giving shortly.”
I am not surprised at the back flip although it feels like Winston is trying to get a bob both ways. At the last election New Zealand First’s support among the general electorates was 8.37% and among the Maori seats it was 12.98% so there is a good chunk of support he was threatening to annoy.
No doubt he will claim that he had been misreported and his position has always been consistent. For this to be reality would require Trump quality suspension of belief.
Update: make that a double backflip …