Winston Peters slams media for calling hypocrisy on Iraq troop extension

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has lashed out at the media for pointing to hypocrisy over the coalition Government's decision to extend the Iraq troop deployment to June 2019. 

New Zealand troops were initially deployed to Iraq in May 2015 by John Key's Government in a decision that did not go through Parliament, which Mr Peters' said at the time was undemocratic. He said the decision was made by "an arrogant Government making a minority decision".  

But the current Labour-led Government - of which Mr Peters' New Zealand First party is a coalition partner - did not put its decision to extend New Zealand troops in Iraq to Parliament, either. Mr Peters was asked by RadioLIVE's Mark Sainsbury if he was contradicting his previous stance. 

He has adamantly defended the Government's decision, telling Sainsbury on Tuesday the "kind of mindless consideration of present day events won't wash any longer," in response to the radio host's comment that the media only sees things from an outside perspective. 

"Don't tell me you guys are on the outside when you know full well that the circumstances in which National engaged was not a consultative matter... we have to maintain our country's honour as we consider where we go in the future," Mr Peters said. 

"We are talking about engagements that we inherited... managing those and looking to what we should do in the future with commitments that a former Government made to Australia... you've got to honour those things," he said, referring to New Zealand's joint training programme with Australia. 

The Deputy Prime Minister said the former Government and the current Government's decisions are not comparable, because the current Government "consulted across Parliament... to try and show them what's happening there [Iraq] now."

"That's what's dramatically changed and I'm glad I've had the chance to clear this up."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also defended the Government's decision, despite Labour promising in 2015 to pull the troops out of Iraq while in Opposition. She said there is even a chance the troops could stay in Iraq beyond June 2019. 

"We as a Cabinet will make that decision really early next year because this is an extension out till June, and I do want us to have the opportunity to look at the environment," she told The AM Show on Tuesday. 

There are around 143 New Zealand troops deployed at Taji Camp in Iraq which will be reduced to 121 in November. There are also around 11 New Zealand military personnel training army officers in Afghanistan, and their presence will also be reassessed early next year. 


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