Peters has harsh words for National

Winston Peters
Winston Peters
The man who could be kingmaker at this year's general election says he is closer to Labour on economics, but disagrees with the party on social reform.

An upbeat New Zealand First leader Winston Peters took part in a lively conversation yesterday with University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards, one of a series being filmed in election year.

While Mr Peters refuses to state a preference for National or Labour, his harshest words yesterday were reserved for the party from which he split in the 1990s.

Former National Party prime minister the late Sir Robert Muldoon would be ''turning in his grave'' to see the party he led had become an ''international global party'' of big business and banking interests. It used to be a party whose interests reflected its name. Now, it lacked a moral and philosophical compass.

He was pleased Labour turned its back on the ''neoliberal'' economic policies of the 1980s, but he disliked its tendency to impose social reform without referendum.

Taking aim at Prime Minister John Key, he said the popular leader was a ''good old boy'' who had brought the ''behaviour of Wall Street'' to his role.

''He's become the country's number one salesman, selling this country out.''

Asked about MPs he admired, he named Labour deputy leader Dunedin-based David Parker, whose ''innate honesty'' made him someone who could be trusted.

Mr Peters said he had always compared himself with the best in the world, rather than other New Zealand MPs, and had thus avoided being ''pigeon-holed''.

On the question of succession, Mr Peters (69) said he would campaign for the next leader of New Zealand First when the time came, but at the moment he was young enough, and enjoying the role.

He was not asked about the leadership by his own supporters: ''New Zealand First has got a leader, and most party's problem is they haven't got one''.

On the question of Labour's fortunes, ''I'd love to be advising the Labour Party now and what they should do''. Asked to elaborate, he declined, saying he was tired of being asked about parties other than his own.

Mr Peters said the minimum hourly wage should be increased to $16 to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Asked about industrial relations, he maintained the Government should adopt a ''neutral'' stance, siding with neither employers nor workers.


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