Winston Peters confronted with his previous comments in fiery Question Time

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has been confronted with previous comments he made while part of the Labour Government between 2017 and 2020 as the new Government prepares to repeal many of the initiatives introduced under that regime.   

The New Zealand First leader was also asked during Question Time whether he agreed with remarks made previously by his colleagues, including ACT leader and now senior Cabinet minister David Seymour.   

Labour leader Chris Hipkins asked Peters if he agreed with comments from Seymour, including, "you can't trust Winston Peters and a lot of things will be much, much harder than they otherwise would" and that Peters is a "muppet".  

The acting Prime Minister rose and said: "As the good book says, nobody is beyond redemption." 

Peters went on to attack the Labour Opposition, saying that without New Zealand First's "open-mindedness and liberality, no one would have ever heard of those people ever again".   

New Zealand First supported Labour to gain power in 2017. The two parties were in a coalition together until 2020, when New Zealand First didn't get enough votes to re-enter Parliament.  

Peters' New Zealand First now supports National and ACT in a coalition.   

Peters was filling in for Christopher Luxon in the House on Tuesday while the Prime Minister is in Australia to attend his daughter's graduation. It meant Peters took questions that usually would have been directed to the Prime Minister.  

The first was from Greens co-leader Marama Davidson, who asked whether Peters stood by all of his Government's statements and policies. A general question like this allows the questioner to then canvass a range of topics in subsequent questions. 

Peters replied that he did.   

"But of course, when new information or evidence emerges, we acknowledge that and don't just carry on like a bigoted lefty shill," said the acting Prime Minister.  

Davidson went on to ask if the acting Prime Minister agreed with then-deputy Prime Minister Peters who she said in 2018 stated that he thought the oil and gas ban made sense.    

The National and ACT coalition agreement, which New Zealand First has committed to support, includes a promise to repeal that ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.  

Peters answered Davidson by saying this Government was focused on the future.  

The Green MP asked if reversing the ban was a contradiction to a statement made by Climate Change Minister Simon Watts at COP28 that countries should be " justly moving to a future where we no longer rely on fossil fuels".  

Peters said that issue was being considered at COP28 and both the current Climate Change Minister and his predecessor James Shaw, who is also at the conference, are "doing a fine job to ensure that New Zealand's commitments remain the same going forward".    

Labour leader Chris Hipkins asked Peters whether he stood by a policy in the National-ACT agreement to amend the Overseas Investment Act 2005 "to limit ministerial decision-making to national security concerns" and if he was confident all parties in the coalition would support it.  

The previous Labour Government, which Peters was a part of, amended the Overseas Investment Act to introduce a residency test that stopped overseas residents from buying most types of homes.   

Peters responded to Hipkins' question by saying if that wasn't the case, New Zealand First wouldn't have signed up to it, to which Labour's Grant Robertson yelled out: "What." 

"Words matter Mr [Robertson], not just gobbledegook," Peters said.  

"The reason we signed up to it was because we could see under the previous administration, they had no idea of the importance of international investment and the security of long-term policy which persuades people to come here."  

Hipkins then asked if the acting Prime Minister agreed with a comment Peters made in 2017 when he was campaigning to make it harder for foreigners to purchase land in New Zealand.  

"Last year, 465,000 hectares of land was sold to foreigners. That's up four times on the year before," Peters said at the time. "We, in New Zealand First, are going to stop land sales to foreigners, and house sales to foreigners, who don't come to live here."  

Peters responded by saying that quote was from "one of the brightest guys that have ever come to this Parliament". He said someone from Labour had previously called him that.   

"The point of the matter is we were looking to make sure any offshore investment in this country had the national interest and economic benefit of New Zealand, like Ireland, like countries like Singapore, first in mind. With that in mind, we welcome overseas investment."  

Hipkins also put a number of quotes to Peters from Peters himself and his New Zealand First colleague Shane Jones that were supportive of the Reserve Bank dual mandate introduced by the previous Government. The new Coalition Government will this week remove that dual mandate.   

Peters was dismissive of the questions, saying that was it time to "move on" and inflation had got so high that it was necessary to speak with the Reserve Bank Governor to "turn back the tide of inflation".