Winston Peters 'not sorry at all' for labelling journalist 'psycho'

Paula Bennett has given Winston Peters a grilling in Parliament about him labelling a journalist a "psycho", but the Deputy Prime Minister is not backing down. 

Bennett, National deputy leader, asked Peters during question time if describing a journalist as a "psycho" fits within the Government's ambition to "be kinder and more caring".  

Peters replied: "When a journalist alleges that two ministers have acted improperly when one minister knew nothing about the application, and the application failed, it's around about then one can responsibly call for decent journalism."

The New Zealand First leader called the Newshub reporter a "psycho" on Monday after she asked questions about a New Zealand First-linked company that applied for government funding.  

The Deputy Prime Minister snapped at the reporter when she asked if he'd be comfortable with the Auditor-General taking a closer look. 

"I am calling you a psycho, because you can't even make out the case," Peters told the reporter. "You've got to be psychologically maladjusted if you can't make a case for an investigation you think is sound."

Peters doubled down on Tuesday morning, telling Magic Talk's Peter Williams he was "not sorry at all, because that's psycho behaviour". 

"For somebody to step up there, and make the allegation that I and my partner were involved when I demonstrably was not - I'm not going to let them get away with it."

The reporter had asked Peters if he would be willing to let the Auditor-General investigate, which had been suggested by National MP Chris Bishop. 

Why did Winston Peters lash out?

Peters was confronted by reporters on Monday after it was revealed forestry company NZ Future Forest Products had applied for $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). 

The company's founding director is Peters' lawyer Brian Henry, and New Zealand First MP Shane Jones oversees the PGF as Regional Economic Minister, so Jones sought conflict of interest advice and removed himself from ministerial discussions. 

It was also revealed that Peters' partner, Jan Trotman, was appointed as a company director five days after the application was rejected by ministers in August - Jones and Peters were not involved. 

Future Forest Products said in a statement that it also planned to seek a $95 million planting subsidy from the One Billion Trees programme, but no such application was made. 

The revelations prompted Bishop to call for an investigation by the Auditor-General into the company's dealings and its proximity to New Zealand First. 

The reporter asked Peters why he wouldn't just open up the books if he's confident there was no conflict of interest. 

"We're not going to have you running off in a psycho case of attack on a political party without any grounds whatsoever," Peters replied. 

Bennett tweeted about Peters' response: "Name-calling to avoid having to answer questions."

Peters told Magic Talk he was "not privy to the application and nor was my partner, because at the time she was not even an executive director" when the application to the PGF was made. 

"The application by the way failed, but still, we're being criticised for it... how does that work?"

Williams said the issue is the "connection" between New Zealand First and Peters' lawyer who is a director of a company making an application to a government fund. 

Peters replied: "If you want to make an allegation, you've got to join the dots, and in this case you've gone from a giant leap that there's a connection to Brian Henry and that it's somehow a sin.

"I'm afraid that's not how society operates... I know all sorts of businesspeople - many would say I'm not their best friend but I know them.

"Why we should be damned for knowing people without you being able to itemise what the fault, sin or breach we're guilty of, just won't do."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show it's not her job to censor Peters' language, but she said she didn't support his use of the word "psycho" to describe a reporter.

Peters is also rubbishing claims New Zealand First tried to hide donations from the New Zealand First Foundation, describing it as "filthy allegations without any proof".