Winston Peters challenged over 'lies' claim against James Shaw

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been challenged over an allegation of lying he made against Greens co-leader James Shaw inside and outside of the House on Wednesday afternoon.  

Greens MP Chlöe Swarbrick – who apologised last year after making her own allegation of lying - brought it to the attention of the Speaker, while a Green Party spokesperson said: "Perhaps we have touched a bit of nerve here. For he doth protest too much, methinks."  

Peters said he's acted appropriately.  

The allegation came during Question Time when Shaw, the outgoing Greens co-leader who Swarbrick is hoping to succeed, was asking Chris Bishop, the Minister responsible for RMA Reform, questions about the Government's plans to establish a new fast-track consenting scheme for major infrastructure projects.  

At one point in the exchange, Shaw asked if any of the projects would include coal mines, to which Bishop said there was a "range of projects that have been proposed and are being proposed" and the Bill's development remained underway.  

Shaw also wanted to know if Bishop had sought assurances that the projects "being considered for inclusion in the Bill are not connected to any people or companies that have made substantial donations to any of the Coalition parties".  

He didn't make any specific allegation of any donation influencing policy.  

Bishop replied: "No. But that Member will know from his time as a minister in the previous Government, that all ministers are subject to Cabinet act processes around things like he is describing."   

The Cabinet Manual contains provisions about conflicts of interests and how they must be managed.  

Peters then stood with a point of order suggesting there was a "trend in that sort of question", to make an allegation that lacked evidence and "thinking they will get away with it in this House".  

"We are not going to put up with those lies anymore."  

Swarbrick soon stood to raise Peters' use of "lies".  

"There has been a lot made in this House over the last few months over the use of the term 'lying' and in that statement just then from the incoming deputy Prime Minister the statement 'lie' was used in relation to the Honourable James Shaw."  

Speaker Gerry Brownlee said he would review and consider Swarbrick's point.  

Peters then stood to say: "There is a requisite under the electoral law of this country for declarations to be made."   

"Those declarations have been made. The Electoral Commission has not challenged it, nor has anyone else. What is happening in this House has to be that or plain ignorance. Take their choice."  

Parties must immediately report donations and loans over $20,000 received between January 1 of an election year and the day before election year. Parties' annual returns for 2023 are due by April 30.   

After Question Time, Peters was asked whether his allegation in the House was appropriate.   

"It most definitely is, and you know it is," Peters responded.  

"No, he's lying and I'm saying it outside here. I have got protection inside there [the House] but if he is saying it, and he wants to say it outside this House, I will call him a liar outside of here because I have got the evidence."  

He believed the Greens were alleging policy was being pursued on the basis of donations.   

"By way of inference, they are saying this is based on, for example, today's statement was that we are getting some money from the mining things. That's absolute balderdash."  

Shaw didn't make that specific allegation.  

He said declarations had been made as required by the electoral law and the policy of his party was "not up for sale".  

He said his party had had "victories" in court cases taken against it by the Serious Fraud Office. In 2022, a pair on trial over their handling of donations were found not guilty of obtaining by deception. The SFO appealed the verdict.

When it was put to him that MPs can't make allegations of lying in the House, Peters said the Speaker didn't pull him up because "he knows these inferential allegations in Question Time just won't wash".  

Swarbrick last year accused Prime Minister Christopher Luxon of telling a "demonstrable lie" when he said the new Government was "not weakening our actions on climate change".   

Peters at the time said Swarbrick should have an opportunity to withdraw her remark and later said the matter could end up before Parliament's Privileges Committee.   

She later apologised, noting she had made her comment to challenge the content of the Prime Minister's answer, but it was not her intention to make a personal reflection on the Prime Minister.  

Peters said on Wednesday that Swarbrick couldn't prove her claim, but "I can".