By Alex Tarrant
Winston Peters wasn’t being drawn on immigration policy Wednesday, although he did bite softly when asked about his desire for a deposit guarantee scheme for majority New Zealand-owned banks.
Meanwhile, he indicated that compromises were being found on certain policy areas not held in common between the negotiating parties. There had been “huge progress” finding out what was agreed on or not, what might still be negotiated, and where things might be taken in the future by cooperation.
“So that, at the end, you may not have their decision or our decision as to policy, but a mutual decision,” Peters told media waiting for him as he returned from meeting National Wednesday morning.
He said those talks went well, and that he was getting closer to making a decision. However, he wouldn’t talk further about the process we might see on Thursday, including whether the New Zealand First caucus would meet with the board at some point during the day to choose which deal to take.
Peters on Tuesday evening said that while he might have made a decision on which way he might go by Thursday night, he was unlikely to make this public until after Thursday.
One journalist tried asking about a specific policy area in a way that Peters might be drawn to comment on it: Would NZ First voters who supported the party due to its immigration stance be happy when the outcomes of government formation talks were known?
Peters cottoned on to it, though. “Is this an attempt to entrap me? In a comment which I can’t make? Which I told you on day one I couldn’t make. I mean, can we try and cooperate here without me looking like I’m being evasive, because I’m not.” He was sworn to secrecy.
Deposit guarantee scheme
I tried with another area - NZ First’s policy for a deposit guarantee scheme for majority NZ-owned banks. In one of his first press releases after the election, he had warned of economic risks facing New Zealand due to hot international money flows into our banking system. Was this him pushing the need for depositor protection?
“Well, the reality is that, if we end up needing that, it would be a very parlous situation,” he said. “But we still need to consider it. I’m not making this part of any discussion at the moment; all I’m saying is, any country, in the Western world in particular, would be having regard to the Australian - for example - deposit guarantee scheme, as opposed to the absence of one with Australian banks in New Zealand.”
I asked him to clarify that they weren’t talking about the policy in the discussions. “No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say I was, or I wasn’t,” he said. (He may have been trying to say earlier: 'I’m not saying that I'm making this part of any discussion at the moment'.)
Waiting for the Greens?
Then onto the Greens again. Was he concerned that the Greens would need to go back to their membership to ratify any deal with Labour and New Zealand First?
“Look, you should know far more about the Greens than I do. But they don’t have to go back to their membership, they have to go back to about 170 members. Even I know that.”
Here, he was referencing that the Greens in fact need agreement from 75% of delegates representing the party’s membership to ratify a deal – something which is expected to be possible over email or online rather than the party having to fly them all to one location.
So, perhaps a positive note there for James Shaw – if you read that as Peters not being to fussed about the time the Greens might need to be allowed to say they support a Labour-NZ First deal.