Winston Peters scolds ex-Australian Prime Minister John Howard over 'unjust' election remark

Winston Peters has scolded former Australian Prime Minister John Howard for calling the National Party's fall from power after the election an "unjust and unfair political result".

Mr Howard made the comment when he opened the National Party annual conference on Sunday, adding that he wrote to former Prime Minister Bill English after the 2017 election to say "there is no justice in politics". 

Acting Prime Minister Peters hit back in his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday afternoon, saying Mr Howard "used to be called 'Honest John', and he had a departure from his character when he said that".

"We don't really get very enthusiastic when people come over from overseas and start telling us how to run our country and run our democracy - which, I might add, has some very fine features to it superior to that of Australia, with greater transparency to that of Australia," he said.

Mr Peters then appeared to link Mr Howard's comments to Russia's alleged meddling in the US Presidential campaign in 2016.

"Making those sorts of comments begs the question, 'Why are you blaming the Russians for the American campaign in 2016 if foreign interference is not a matter of importance?'

"We're a sovereign nation and to say that's unjust and unfair without being able to particularise and itemise that, is rather a lazy, idle comment."

Asked whether he was comparing Mr Howard's comments to the Russia investigation he said: "No I'm saying everybody's dancing up and down about that, and yet someone who's a four-time Prime Minister from Australia is here criticising the make-up of this Government without being able to itemise, particularise with any exactitude what on earth he's talking about."

He said he still had a lot of respect for Mr Howard, "but all I'm saying is this is 2018, somehow, it's clear to me with John Howard and John Key that the National Party's favourite film is back to the future".

Sir John Key was also at the National Party conference, where he warned of a potential economic downturn and said Labour would not be the right party to handle it.

National won the most seats out of any single party in the 2017 election, but could not form a Government without coalition partners.

New Zealand First chose to form a coalition with Labour with support from the Greens, putting National into opposition after nine years in Government.