So now Peters has gone all con­sen­sus on us, what gives?

Taranaki Daily News - - Magazine - MARTIN VAN BEYNEN

OPIN­ION: So sud­denly Win­ston Peters is a team player and a con­sen­sus seeker.

The more we see of Win­ston Peters, the odder it gets.

First he made the rash prom­ise of hav­ing the coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions all wrapped by Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 12, giv­ing rise to the per­fectly un­der­stand­able ex­pec­ta­tion a de­ci­sion would be an­nounced in short or­der af­ter­wards.

Adopt­ing that sort of time frame, given no real ne­go­ti­a­tions started un­til af­ter the fi­nal tally of votes last Satur­day, was al­ways a rash and ill-con­sid­ered prom­ise.

With no chance of a de­ci­sion this week, Peters has said he meant only that the ne­go­ti­a­tions would be com­plete but the de­ci­sion would take longer, es­pe­cially since so many of the party’s board had other obli­ga­tions.

Peters never needed to hurry the process. He was caned for seem­ing to pro­long the ne­go­ti­a­tions in 1996 when it took a cou­ple of months to get a re­sult but he should not have set an un­re­al­is­tic tar­get for this month’s talks.

As we have seen over the last few weeks, the wheels of gov­ern­ment seem to keep turn­ing per­fectly well un­der a care­taker ar­range­ment. The pub­lic is also much more fa­mil­iar with MMP and un­der­stands that post-elec­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions take time. He should be apol­o­gis­ing for mis­lead­ing the pub­lic.

Then it tran­spires that Peters is tak­ing the deals or dossiers to his board and that he will be seek­ing a strong con­sen­sus.

I have been an avid Peters watcher for years but I must have missed some­thing. Of course New Zealand First must have had a board in the past but I’ve never heard Peters talk about it.

And now just when we would like to know who they are and what their level of com­pe­tence is, Peters does not want them outed be­cause ap­par­ently they never signed up to be in the pub­lic eye.

‘‘New Zealand First val­ues trans­parency but we also value an in­di­vid­ual’s pri­vacy es­pe­cially when they vol­un­teer their ser­vices,’’ Peters said.

I guess this stance is un­der­stand­able as Peters never liked any­body in the party be­ing in the pub­lic eye ex­cept him.

New Zealand First, in other words, was Win­ston Peters and vice versa. Un­paid back­room peo­ple were sup­posed to be just that but now they have a cru­cial role.

What is Peters play­ing at? It prob­a­bly has some­thing to do with the fact that any de­ci­sion he makes is go­ing to be un­pop­u­lar.

If he goes with the left coali­tion, he will be con­demned for thumb­ing his nose at the will of the peo­ple who, af­ter all, gave Na­tional con­sid­er­ably more seats than any other party.

If he goes right, his vot­ers, es­pe­cially the 2 or 3 per cent who got him over the thresh­hold, will be fu­ri­ous be­cause they wanted change. Re­mem­ber ‘‘had enough?’’.

Peters is used to be­ing un­pop­u­lar with cer­tain sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion but he fears his fans. So what to do?

First he shares the blame. He and a few se­lect others will no doubt make the fi­nal call but he will be able to say it was a team de­ci­sion. Sub­text: ‘‘Don’t blame me’’.

That way no-one will be able to say Peters sin­gle- hand­edly de­stroyed New Zealand First. This sud­denly makes things un­com­fort­able for the back­room peo­ple who be­lieved, quite rightly up to now, that Peters made all the calls and they were there to make sure the bill­boards were put up and the party bus had enough fuel. Crikey, now they are sup­posed to choose the Gov­ern­ment and be held to ac­count if they get it wrong.

His sec­ond mo­ti­va­tion might be putting more pres­sure on the board to ac­cept his view. The board might have an idea of what it wants but Peters has given it a sub­tle hint of what could hap­pen if it goes against his wishes.

Vin­tage Peters you might think. It re­minds me of his su­per­an­nu­a­tion over­pay­ment that some­one leaked to the me­dia. Sud­denly the leak was a gross breach of his pri­vacy, and me­dia calls for him to pro­duce the doc­u­ments and other pa­per work were im­per­ti­nent.

Don’t for­get this is a politi­cian who has kept him­self in the lime­light by re­leas­ing con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion or claim­ing to have con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion leaked to him.

Any­way, whichever way New Zealand First jumps, it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see what pol­icy con­ces­sions have been wrung out of the suc­cess­ful suitor.

This week we should have been por­ing over the New Zealand First man­i­festo to see what bril­liant ideas from the grab bag of eclec­tic, broad-brush and largely un­costed poli­cies will be em­bed­ded in the fi­nal deal.

Will Ki­wiBank, for in­stance, be­come the gov­ern­ment’s of­fi­cial trad­ing bank, or will GST be re­moved from ba­sic food items. Will im­mi­gra­tion be cut sav­agely?

Will ex­porters pay a re­duced tax rate of 20 per cent on ex­port gen­er­ated in­come or will the new Gov­ern­ment be leg­is­lat­ing to re­lo­cate the Port of Auck­land to North­port within 10 years?

Will the cof­fers of lo­cal bod­ies be boosted with the GST on spend­ing by for­eign tourists?

Some­one could stop all this non­sense now. Green Party leader James Shaw could give Bill English and ring and say let’s talk.

The Greens’ in­sis­tence on play­ing a one-sided game makes a mock­ery of MMP and gives all the power to Peters. Our grat­i­tude to Shaw would be ex­pressed at the next elec­tion.

Look, I never said Thurs­day and frankly you should be ashamed of your­selves.

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