After a relatively controversy-free six weeks as Acting PM, Winston Peters’ disgraceful comments in the House on Wednesday have marred his short tenure, Jason Walls argues

Jacinda Ardern & Winston Peters by Jacky Carpenter.

By Jason Walls

At 12am on Thursday night, Winston Peters slipped back into his role as Deputy Prime Minister after a more or less controversy-free six weeks in the top job.

For the most part, he has received high marks from commentators and Government MPs alike.

For five weeks and six days, he performed relatively well in the job.  

But his actions in the House on the last day of his time as Acting Prime Minister were nothing short of disgraceful and need to be called out.

During an exchange in question time on Wednesday, Peters can be heard yelling “throw fatty out,” at National’s Gerry Brownlee, as he interjected during one of the answers.

It’s by no means uncommon for MPs to heckle each other from opposite sides of the House, but a personal attack like this is well out of line.

We should call it what it is – bullying and it’s not acceptable.

Although the comments were widely reported – even UK-based The Guardian ran a story on Peters’ “fat-shaming” – the story was out of the news cycle just hours after it was first reported.

The comments will likely be all but forgotten in a matter of weeks.

A lot of that comes down to people giving the NZ First Leader a lot of slack. “It’s just Winston being Winston,” is a phrase thrown around a lot.

As NZ First leader, there is often a tendency to just laugh off or roll your eyes at some of the more outlandish things Peters says.

But on Wednesday it was different – he was the Acting Prime Minister.

He was sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair, answering questions directed at the Prime Minister and acting in the capacity of the Prime Minister.

Not only that, but as Acting Prime Minister of this Government, Peters represents a group of MPs who Jacinda Ardern famously said would be nothing short of “relentlessly positive.”

“Throw fatty out,” is about as far from “relentlessly positive” as you can get.

It’s a comment that is nowhere near acceptable for an MP in the House. For a Prime Minister, it is nothing short of outrageous.

What if John Key, or Bill English had said it to a Labour MP when they were in the top job? Do you think for a second that would get lost in the news cycle?

If Ardern said it, we would be reading about it for weeks.

Alas, it was simply “Winston being Winston” and thus that seems to be the end of it.

It is understood Peters has made no attempt to apologise to the National MP he insulted.

He needs to rectify this soon.

Peters also needs to apologise to Ardern for tarnishing the “relentlessly positive” image of the Government.

After almost 30 years in politics, Peters finally won the ultimate prize. It’s a shame his last public act in the job he worked so hard to get was such a shameful performance.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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36 Comments

Strongly agree with this one. Pretty much captured my thought about Winstons thoughtless comment. I would have thought that the speaker would have said something, but, alas, no.

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Absolutely DISAGREE - I'm in Christchurch and Gerry Brownlee is a known bully and was unable to get along with our city council. He almost got into a physical fight with John Minto.

Also the day before this comment (maybe even the same day) IN THE HOUSE, Gerry Brownlee accused Winston (our acting PM !!) of being drunk, which as a Parliamentary TV viewer was clearly untrue - and TOTALLY against standing orders.

Gerry Brownlee is morbidly obese, which is a disgraceful way to treat your body. Gerry Brownlee has used extreme pettifogging tactics (all be it poorly) since National's loss. This isn't even a mole-hill. I support Winston Peters.

Like most bullies, Gerry is happy to hand it out, but goes crying like a school girl when attacked. BooHoo, National are soooo tragic - thanks for the laugh Winston.

Dude, you aren’t old enough to know half of what Peters has been up to in his long troughing life. Come back when you have educated yourself.

Using ageism to try and diminish my point-of-view speaks volumes. Using the ageism trope and trying to conflate Winston's whole political life with this 'kick the fatty out' remark .. well .. you're making zero sense Rex Pat.

Have a giggle, it might lower your blood pressure. Sad some Kiwis have such a low opinion of young New Zealanders. #BrainDrain

Careful what you wish for Mr Pat. What if he comes back with even more proof than we already have, that neoliberal economic policies have deleterious social outcomes?

Mr Peters got the boot from National because he opposed Rogernomics and the dogma of obsessive growth. The term then became Ruthanasia. What do we call the same policies when put forward by Key? It's definiately not Keynesian...

And Peters was dead right on that point.

Absolutely agree, politicians will be politicians. . They have a go at each other all the time, not sure why the media is making a fuss about it, when GB himself would have forgotten about it

I wondered is what make him so annoyed, nasty accusation by Brownlee. Peters has been on the receiving end of some nasty political media attacks lately hasn’t he, like what happened just before the election. That jibe wasn’t his best work but come on, storm in a teacup. The media should be apologising to Peters.

Zack,

I find both of them pretty distasteful. I have no connection to Christchurch,but from what i have heard,Brownlee treated the the unfortunate homeowners badly,while Peters is simply untrustworthy and his Waka Jumping bill,a hypocritical offence to the democratic process. I would like to see the back of both of them,dragging Collins with them.

" not sure why the media is making a fuss about it," Our lying media put forth garbage for our lowest common denominators.

W being a W

It's politics, guys! These two go back decades eg: from 2014,
"Foreign Minister Winston Peters and National MP Gerry Brownlee had the House in stitches during a hilarious exchange during question time in Parliament where Mr Peters took a sly dig at the man he replaced. https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/foreign-minister-winston-pet...
And from a less fragile sense of political correctness, we get,
"Meaning: Fatty
This term is used both in familial relationships and in romantic relationships, and there’s nothing malicious about it. In fact, the term actually has nothing to do with weight at all ”

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Maybe you like your government to act like children on a playground.

I'd rather there were adults in the room myself.

Wankiwi, please lighten up. This is politics, MPs insult each other from time to time. I’ll get annoyed at poor policy positions, not the occasional jab.

B**LSH**

I get annoyed at poor policy positions, as well as the lack of decorum displayed. Every single time I've listened to clips from the beehive, I am dismayed with what I hear. I want to hear how our representatives are striving to do the best job they can. Instead, I hear them attempting to craft the most effective sound bite and jab to the "opponent".

My exposure to NZ politics started in late 2007. The first year I didn't pay much attention to the politics, there were more pressing matters to attend to. I started paying more attention in 2008, which means that my first real exposure to "opposition politics" was when Labour assumed the position. At that time, I thought, "what a bunch of whiny shrill .... people". Now that National is in opposition, I see how they go to the same objectionable level. I'd strongly prefer that it wasn't a pitched opposition, but somehow some method for the differing views of the various parties to reach some sort of compromise when there are opposing viewpoints. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be how things work.

Agree...it's tiresome watching the constant silly interjections from the opposition too. Like "stupid little girl", that no one has had the courage to own up to but that some folk think sounds exactly like Gerry Brownlee.

Perhaps the two sides can exchange mutual apologies and a commitment to act like grown ups.

There are rules and a referee in the house. Let them sort it out within the agreed parameters. Personally I don’t think the public in general gives a fig what goes on in the house.

They are better behaved than a lot of other countries parliaments.. https://youtu.be/7ExEXoTm4Dc

Frankly if they aren't going to be effective and working towards making NZ a better place for all it's citizens, at least they could provide some entertainment.

bw,

In what alternative world does the epithet fatty have nothing to do with someone's weight? Brownlee is obese,but that is no excuse for Peters' insult,clearly a breach of parliamentary process.
I find the childish behaviour of many of our MPs more than a little distasteful-most of them could be released for useful work in the community-say as healthcare assistants on the minimum wage.

Winston’s going to say what Winston’s going to say.

There should be some boundaries right, not just say and do whatever

For sure. I don’t think this crossed the line though. It would’ve been appropriate for Mallard to give him a reprimand and tell him to withdraw and apologise. If he said “kick the fat f@*k out” then I’d say it certainly crossed the line.

Rightly or wrongly Winston tends to get more leeway than others because that’s just what he’s like.

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Ongoing, loud interjection by the Opposition whilst the questions were being answered. Whereas, there was absolute silence while the questions were being asked. Opposition failing to respond to the Speakers warnings.
And a point made by the Speaker about four warnings to the Leader of the Opposition for directing his criticism toward the Speaker himself? Winston decided Mallard should have had enough. Seems it got about as much publicity as "Zip it, sweetie".

Some years ago Dr Cullen demonstrated his great depth of intellect by calling WP a blowfly and just for those of us of lesser being, ie, most, continued the explanation on a bit. He also called Merv Wellington a lobotomised Jerry Lewis. Wasn’t much kerfuffle about those remarks and hundreds more by hundreds more MP’s. Where is the uproar about National’s Wagner’s “you little bitch” utterance. Sadly it is the nature of the beasts we elect. Personally I think our MP’s in parliament are puerile going on pathetic too often. But this time I am rather in touch with this one by WP, after all all he has done is told the truth.

The biggest problem that I see with Winston Peters is that he was too aggressive in his coalition negotiations.
Some times you can be too successful when negotiating a deal and if your partner suffers you can suffer along with them. In this case probably suffer more than them. When you look at some of the big ticket items that can be sheeted back to NZ First :-

$900 million on a handful of extra over indulged diplomats
$1 billion/year on a regional slush fund
$1.6 billion for 4 new aircraft for the airforce
$? for the racing(gambling) industry.

You have to question where they should sit in the countries overall priorities and how much they have undermined our getting back to a more fair and sustainable economy.
I question whether in the long run, NZ first may in fact loose out big time at the ballot box in the next election as a result of their disproportionate success at the expense of other more worthy priorities and the arrogant swagger that they seem to have adopted as a result.
Winston's lasting legacy from his King making "success" may well be the destruction of the party he created.
On the other hand, if he came out and said that in the wider interests of the country they would be prepared to defer some of this expenditure into the next electoral cycle, then the electorate may have an entirely different view of them.

Not one to jump to Winstons defence, but the media did drop Key's pony tail pull almost as quick, and it took some work by grassroots activists and feminists to get any light on that issue. I struggle to see how any suggestion of favourable treatment in the media can be made against Winston, OTOH he's constantly lambasted gathering from what I read.

Funny how political correctness is either the enemy of free people, or simple human decency, depending upon who the belligerants are.

Underneath it all the MSM represent corporate interests, and today they’re fiercely pro-neoliberal. Noam Chmosky’s “Manufacturing Consent” is as true today as it was when it was published in 1988.

Gerry should have replied that I can lose weight but you cannot grow any taller.

If he could lose weight then he is derelict in his duty to the NZ public. Too many of whom are obese.

PC gone mad!
Just like the ridiculous hoo ha over Lauren Southern

Yes

Yet we permitted a QUDS day in Auckland that was full of hate speech against jews. Google it folks. Its an eye opener!

Completely agree that Peters' comment about Brownless was disgraceful, but I can't see that it was actually any more disgraceful than his performance in the house throughout his tenure as Prime Minister. Never once did he even address, let alone answer, a question put by the Opposition and his constant mockery of Simon Bridges' accent was at best unworthy and at worst cruel. Shameful indeed.

But Bridges accent is a disgrace sounds like a rural kindergarten teacher.

Note to myself...Having a bad accent rules you out of being a good politician..
Very shallow.
Very similar to Havinging big teeth rules you out of being a good politician.

That is very unfair on rural kindergarten teachers. Goodness, what have they done to deserve that?