Polls show Winston Peters and his party returning to Parliament after being soundly defeated in 2020. With the resurgence has come closer scrutiny – particularly from the weekend political shows on TVNZ and Three.

Peters appeared on both Q+A and Newshub Nation over the weekend and became angered and agitated when pushed for specifics. He described Jack Tame (TVNZ) and Rebecca Wright (Three) as “jumped up” and “arrogant” respectively.

Peters described Wright as “ageist” and “lazy” but went further on Tame calling him a “dirt merchant” and “corrupt”.

The fury at Tame built during an interview when the TVNZ journalist sought details and costings on NZ First policies. It started with Peters being unable to answer a question on his policy of building a separate prison for gang members.

Tame: How many will it hold?

Peters: Well, it will hold the required number that there is now.

Tame: And what is the required number?

Peters: If you just go and have a look – now this is not complex….

Tame: I’m asking you

Peters: Well, depends, what where’d [sic] you talk about

Tame: How many gang affiliated prisoners are there in prisons now?

Peters: No one has that record.

Tame: Corrections do – 2,700

The interview became heated when Tame repeatedly asked Peters how much the new prison system for gangs would cost and said Peters had complained about other parties not supplying costings. Peters responded, “We won’t have amateur hour now based on what you don’t know…. keep quiet and take a valium.”

Peters repeated the same line when he was asked to supply a figure on how much his policy to fund residential aged care for New Zealanders would cost.

Tame: How many people will you fund?

Peters: Amateur hour

Tame: You can tell us how much this policy will cost – it is a straight question.

Peters: Can I just tell TV One you are a taxpayer-owned operation. The taxpayer is entitled to have a proper interview here not you thinking you are going to do what you did last time.

Tame: Mr. Peters

Peters: If you’d shut up for 5 seconds, would you do that?

Tame: It is a straight question

Peters: No, we are not moving on.

Tame then put it to Peters that his residential aged care policy was a “one sentence policy and if 10 percent of the aged population was to receive residential care it would cost $6.2 billion a year.”

He added that there was no fiscal detail in the policy and that he (Peters) couldn’t give answers to questions on aged care or prisons.

Peters, his hands visibly shaking, came back with “I’m sorry Jack you are not going to get past me with bulldust.”

When Tame started asking Peters about the $900,000 in donations his party had received from the “big end of town,” the exchanges became even more acrimonious with Peters claiming Tame was doing the bidding of higher-ups.

Peters: This is amazing, take your dirt and go somewhere else. We are getting less money than the Greens…. You are corrupt…. You’re on this programme trying to get rid of New Zealand First because your masters told you to. I’ve got news for you Jack, and your masters and it is all bad.

Tame raised with Peters that he had favoured the racing industry when he had been in Government by spending $10 million on synthetic tracks and giving the industry $5 million in tax breaks. Peters told Tame those questions resulted in the journalist “being exposed for the dirt merchant you are.”

Peters then referred to the interview with Newshub Nation’s Rebecca Wright the previous day.

“I did an interview like this yesterday. Unbelievable the arrogance of these journalists that don’t know what day it is, and they think they are going to come here and take me to the cleaners.”

A seemingly rattled Peters then did something he has possibly never done before. He accused the journalists of a neo-colonial stance “Like yesterday, I’ve got a white person telling a Maori…. what a Maori should think.”

Peters had got into a rambunctious exchange with Wright over a speech by NZ First’s candidate Rob Ballantyne where he said: “Cry if you want to, we don’t care. You pushed it too far. We are the party with the cultural mandate and courage to cut out your disease and bury it permanently.”

Peters has previously said that the claim came from a speech he had made in Timaru and what needed “cutting out” and “burying” was co-governance.

Wright: Let’s go back to the statement because you’re not talking about burying co-governance there – you’re talking about burying elite Maori.

Peters: No we’re not talking about elite Maori. I’m Maori and proud of my Maori background – we’ve got more Maori in our party but we believe we are New Zealanders first… we’re not here on an ethnic mission – we’re on a mission for all new Zealanders.

Wright: This is coded racial language – it’s designed to whip up anger and get votes – everybody can see that.

Peters : I’m sorry – with the greatest of respect – I’m not putting up with ignorant commentators like you saying that. I for example have spent my whole career working for Maori and other great causes.

Wright: Mr Peters – attacking me is just deflection it’s not addressing the point that this is coded racial language and everybody can see it.

Peters dismissed Wright’s conclusion as “simply lazy journalism”.

When Wright asked how, at 78, Peters could be the future of this country he replied: “What an ageist elitist arrogant statement.”

In previous elections Peters has found a way to combat the hard questions, deal with the cut and thrust of TV interviewers and, if all else failed, charm his way out of a tight situation.

The final exchange on Q & A had a dark tone. Peters suggested things would change if NZ First held the broadcasting portfolio after the election.

Tame: Is that a threat Mr Peters?

Peters: No, it’s a promise that you’re going to have an operation that’s much more improved than it is now.

Mark Jennings is co-editor of Newsroom.

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