Peters was late, of course. “He likes to make a dramatic entrance,” announced Steve, who seemed more concerned by the non-appearance of David Shearer, leader of the Opposition. I wanted to call out, “He’s here, he’s just invisible.” (He did turn up eventually and I had a chat with him after the show. He seems a very nice man. Who knew?)
NBR has posted online the official text of the speech here. It was the usual stuff, a mixture of charm, bluster, fudging the historical record and blaming the media – especially two social-media operatives, Whale Oil and “a mischievious [that’s how he pronounced it] blogger known as Kiwiblog” who apparently are responsible for NZ First’s dismal result in the last election.
When in government Peters was notorious for not reading Cabinet papers. He seemed not to have read his speech either – we were all discovering it together. We were on the same journey. At one point he extemporised then went back to the speech notes – and repeated a couple of paragraphs. He didn’t notice but we all did.
There was a baffling anecdote, not in the speech notes, that started, “My father used to say, if you go out to feed the cows, don’t feed it all out at once, feed it out slowly.” Also not in the speech notes:
On Gerry Brownlee: “some illiterate woodwork teacher”.
On Paula Bennett: a sexist remark which I shan’t repeat.
On Rupert Murdoch: “Murdoch owns half the media in this country.”
On Kim Dotcom: “Tim Dotcom”.
On Jacinda Ardern: “Jacinda Ahearn”.
Where things really got strange was when questions came from the floor. Joshua Drummond, the Waikato Times’s superb most-Mondays columnist, said, “I’ve read Richard Prosser’s book. Is he OK?” Peters had to defend his crazed MP but after more questions from Joshua finished, defeated, with:
We’re a freedom party in that respect.There was a question about John Key’s recent comments about the NZ Herald. Peters replied that it was odd for Key to complain because:
The Herald might as well be his press office.David Slack asked, “What is the next question the media should be asking John Banks?” Peters replied:
Well, Mike, why does he keep changing his position on asset sales?More blather followed about finance and speculation, all of it about John Key and all of it economically illiterate, as I said to Joshua later. He replied, “But he’s very politically literate.” Yes. I suppose that’s why he is still with us.
Among the audience eyebrows had been raised and eyeballs had rolled throughout. But not as much as when – after some shameless pandering to the audience about how wonderful “TV7” is – he got onto immigration and Asians, as we all knew he would eventually:
Drive down Dominion Road, there’s 150 restaurants. Now there can’t be that many people eating.Winston Peters is 67.
UPDATE: I have added (above, or click here) an interview with Winston Peters, published in Quote Unquote the magazine in 1996. He hasn’t changed a bit. Connoisseurs will enjoy his frequent references to “accountability” and “integrity. The interviewer was Kate Belgrave, who is as fearless as she is funny.