Labour leader Chris Hipkins fires back at Winston Peters' claim he'll be gone 'within a few weeks'

Chris Hipkins is firing back at the deputy Prime Minister's claim he'll be gone "within a few weeks".  

During Question Time on Tuesday, Labour leader Hipkins accused Winston Peters of speaking with members of the "tobacco lobby" after the deputy Prime Minister was caught using his cellphone.  

It came as the Government was being grilled in the House over its repealing of the smokefree laws, which is being spearheaded by one of Peters' NZ First party members Casey Costello - the Associate Health Minister.  

"Point of order, Mr Speaker. [I] just wanted to check with you whether the rules around talking on cellphones in the debating chamber have changed, or whether in fact the tobacco lobby should wait until after question time to contact the deputy Prime Minister with their feedback," Hipkins said in Parliament.  

Peters said that was "disgraceful insinuation, especially when somebody's going to be out of this House within a few weeks".  

"But the real point is no, I was pursuing a lawyer that acted illegally and I'm going to make sure I win against him. That's what the phone call was about," Peters added.  

Hipkins, appearing on AM, was asked whether there was any truth to Peters' comments he'd be gone in a few weeks.  

"No, absolutely not," Hipkins said on Wednesday.  

"The big issue there, the one that we were highlighting, was that this Government - and particularly the New Zealand First component of it - seem to be very, very close to the tobacco lobby."  

Hipkins accused Costello of "effectively running the tobacco lobby's arguments" to justify scrapping the smokefree laws.  

"They seem quite comfortable with the idea New Zealanders should take up smoking in greater number to generate more revenue they can then use for tax cuts. I think that's morally reprehensible and I'm going to continue to... use every opportunity that I can to highlight that's wrong."  

In Parliament on Tuesday, Hipkins also asked Prime Minister Christopher Luxon why Costello rejected proposals to stop tobacco from being sold near schools.   

Luxon hit back, saying ministers took "a range of advice on a range of topics".  

"We have a clear programme forward: we want to lower smoking rates across this country and we're going to do it with the existing legislation."  

Costello, under questioning by Labour health spokesperson Ayesha Verrall, said she was "absolutely committed to the Smokefree 2025 targets".  

"I received a range of advice from officials and we're continuing to develop good legislation and programmes to achieve the Smokefree 2025 targets."