Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats
Winston Peters promised "explosive policy" at his party's convention on Sunday but it was a tried and true pledge of referenda on abolishing the Maori seats and reducing the number of MPs that he delivered.
In addition the NZ First leader set out reducing immigration to a "sensible and sustainable" level of 10,000 and bringing the country's banks back into Kiwi ownership - starting with making KiwiBank the government's official trading bank.
He also hinted at not building any more prisons and making prisoners do hard labour six days a week but when pressed on whether it was policy he said it was still a work in progress.
About 600 NZ First supporters of varying age turned up at the Vodafone Events Centre in South Auckland to hear Peters' pitch for being in Government after the election on September 23.
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Peters kicked off by attacking the National Party, in particular Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith's housing policy, followed by criticisms of the country's "volatile currency" being the worst in the world and poverty affecting the lives of so many Kiwis.
"Some of us know what poverty smells, tastes and feels like. Some of us have been there in the past," he said.
Speaking to media following his speech, Peters said the size of Parliament needs to reduce because there was a referendum in 1999 where 80 per cent of the country wanted to reduce the overall number of MPs but it wasn't binding.
"The public should be asked again now whether they want the 120 or 100."
A binding referendum on the two matters would be held on the same day in the middle of the next election term.
Peters said both issues were "explosive" but in particular the Maori seats because "Maori progress economically and socially has been massively sidetracked, detoured and road blocked by the Waitangi industry".
"How could that possibly happen when we've got all these new members of Parliament coming from the Maori world?"
Peters said he wouldn't use "silly phrases" like "bottom lines" but he made it clear the referendum wasn't negotiable.
"My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won't be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election."
He said the roughly $27 million to hold the referenda would be money well spent - "far better spent than this wasted flag exercise".
National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce said Peters had so many bottom lines now "he must have a dedicated person to keep track on them".
"We won't worry too much about that until we see how the election goes."
"In terms of the Maori seats we've always said there will come a time one day when everyone agrees they're no longer needed but that day hasn't happened yet. In terms of reducing the number of seats in Parliament, well, we could all look across Parliament and see people we'd rather see not there, but it's just not the most important issue for New Zealand at the moment," Joyce said.
Asked whether he would be constrained by the Government's current spending limits, Peters said you had to "take the plus and the minus".
"I might spend far less in some areas as well. For example, I'm not going to build any more prisons, no, I'll have them out there doing hard labour six times a week."
During his speech Peters told the crowd his party spent less than any other on getting the country's vote.
"It almost should be on our CV and resume for running the economy," he said.
Stability, or a lack of, was a popular theme in his speech with one-line zingers including, "this government reeks of instability from the very top all the way down to Todd Barclay" - a not so subtle dig at the National backbencher who has been forced to resign over a recording of a staff member in his office.
Peters' interview with media was interrupted several times by members of his youth wing yelling "Make New Zealand great again" but when asked if he thought his supporters using a Donald Trump slogan was helpful, Peters said he had never heard Trump say that.
He talked about a "great political upset coming" and signed off with a promise - "we will be, most definitely, the Government."