Winston Peters gave an impassioned speech at the Grey Power Annual General Meeting held at Pakuranga Bowling Club on Friday morning.
A large crowd gathered to hear the NZ First leader speak on issues such as housing, water ownership, climate change, immigration and the overall state of politics in New Zealand.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Winston Peters speech without a few sly digs slipped in throughout, and of that there was plenty. From calling the present parliamentary group “a bunch of morons”, to a dig at Maggie Barry and David Seymour and more.
“I have never seen politics in a state as bad as it is today,’ he said. That’s a bold statement from someone who’s spent 42 years in the business.
“I have never seen such lowering standards of deceit and organised spin passing for substance and policy as I’ve seen today.”
He began with the current topic dominating New Zealand politics – the Todd Barclay tapes scandal.
The Clutha-Southland MP said he would stand down at the general election after allegations surfaced of him having illegally recorded a conversation of one of his staffers criticising him. As we all learnt from the Bradley Ambrose and John Banks Teapot Tapes saga of 2011, recording a conversation you are not a party to is a crime – although apparently more of a crime then than the National Party would say it is six years later when the shoe is on the other foot.
Mr Peters said the latest scandal was “at best naive; at worst, plain illegal” and made even worse by lies told by Mr Barclay, Prime Minister Bill English and others in the National Party.
He said there used to be a certain standard of behaviour required by people in positions of authority – and those standards weren’t always being met anymore.
“Say what you like about [Sir Robert] Muldoon, [Sir Keith] Holyoake and the rest but they were nothing compared to how politicians are today” he said.
As he moved onto senior’s issues, Mr Peters told of how behind closed doors, “you will never hear National defend [NZ] Super,” and accused both National and Labour of flip-flopping on the issue.
“Only [NZ First] has stood firmly behind NZ Super and has been unbending in its stand.”
He drew applause from the crowd on the topic of the SuperGold Card and how “we could be doing so much better if [National] got behind the card.”
Mr Peters accused Minister for Seniors, Maggie Barry of “pretending to be a friend” to the seniors and said she “expounded the virtues of the SuperGold Card which her own party has tried to undermine from the day it was first proposed”.
These claims were “blatantly false” and another “great example of arrogance,” he said.
Not one to shy away from the hard issues, Mr Peters drew yet more loud applause as he made his case against immigration and raised the concern of substandard construction and political oversight of low quality materials being used.
The floor was opened up for a question and answer session – and it was quickly off to a rusty start.
“Do you have someone to groom as successor to the ACT Party?” someone asked as confused looks were exchanged around the room.
The NZ First leader didn’t miss a blink.
“If I did, it would be a rabbit,” he said.
As the microphone was passed around all corners of the room, Mr Peters easily fielded questions on climate change, homelessness and foreign investors before being riled by someone asking if he would consider abolishing Māori electorates.
“Who did you vote for?” the wily politician demanded.
“Well last time I voted for the Conservatives but this time I was going to vote for you.”
“You didn’t even give me your vote and you want me to do things for you? You voted for some lunatic [Colin] Craig?” said the politician, choosing to ignore the last part of the sentence.
Luckily, it did pick up from there. There was laughter and lots of approving nods and quiet words of agreement and a whole lot of passion being flung around the room as the Grey Power community got to raise the issues that matter most to them.
And then suddenly time was up. Mr Peters was ushered out of the room to one final round of applause and even a partial standing ovation by some of the captive audience.
And by looking at the ear-to-ear grin on the fiesty politician’s face, you get the feeling the affection was mutual.