AM host Ryan Bridge has quizzed Labour leader Chris Hipkins on ruling out Winston Peters after the 2023 election despite his party choosing to go into a coalition with New Zealand First in 2017.
Bridge asked Hipkins during an interview on Tuesday why Labour was only now ruling out Peters, despite the veteran politician making multiple controversial remarks in years gone by including "two Wongs don't make a white" and has also called New Zealand the "last Asian colony" and said the country had "now reached the point where you can wander down Queen St in Auckland and wonder if you are still in New Zealand - or some other country".
"Look, our experience of working in coalition with him has made it very clear that's not something we're rushing to do again," Hipkins said of Peters.
Hipkins was appearing on AM after a major speech on Sunday in which he ruled out working with Peters, slamming NZ First for what he said was "a force for instability and chaos". The incumbent Prime Minister claimed NZ First, as well as the ACT Party, were trying to divide New Zealand.
"I will not be seeking to divide New Zealand communities," Hipkins said in the speech. "The rhetoric I'm hearing from Winston Peters in this election means I just don't see any compatibility with my vision for an inclusive, progressive and prosperous society."
Hipkins doubled down on Tuesday morning, telling Bridge he was "very clear that I don't intend to work with Winston Peters after the election".
Bridge again confronted Hipkins on why Labour formed a coalition Government with NZ First in 2017 when Peters' party became the kingmaker after receiving 7.2 percent of the vote.
"Why did it take you until 2023 to refuse to work with him? Where was your conscience in 2017?" Bridge asked.
"Look, I'm setting out as Prime Minister - and as leader of the Labour Party - my bottom lines," Hipkins replied. "One of my bottom lines is I won't be working with Winston Peters."
He told Bridge the decision to enter a coalition with NZ First in 2017, when Jacinda Ardern was Labour leader, was a "collective" one.
But Peters' current "style of politics" wasn't one "I endorse - it's not a style of politics I want to see", Hipkins said.
Bridges asked if Hipkins was ruling out Peters "only if he goes after the trans community, but not so much the Chinese", to which Hipkins said that "wasn't fair" because he said Peters wasn't making anti-Asian comments "in the lead-up to the 2017 election".
"I want New Zealand to be more inclusive; whether you're Chinese, whether you're gay, straight, man, woman, Māori, Pacific, Pakeha, whatever - you should be living in a New Zealand that respects you for who you are and that's inclusive," Hipkins said.
Peters was booted out of Parliament in 2020 when NZ First failed to reach the 5 percent threshold. However, the party had again reached that threshold in recent polls - indicating it could return to the Beehive.