It was vintage Winston Peters – a class act that took my mind back through countless encounters with journalists asking questions he did not want to answer.
The 78-year-old with seemingly several centuries of political experience did to Jack Tame on 1News’ Q&A last weekend what he did to the same interviewer on the same programme three years ago: He answered questions with umbrage. At least this time he didn’t repeatedly call him James.
Tame was trying to get Peters to admit his New Zealand First Party had not costed its policies. He tried to pin down Peters on the cost of a dedicated gang prison and seemed to believe it would be a new prison rather than the re-allocation of existing spaces between institutions. After a verbal pas-de-deux he was told: “Look, I’m not going to have a fiscal argument with you when you don’t know what you’re talking about”.
The interviewer moved to a policy on funding the elderly in residential care and after repeated questioning on cost was told: “Can I just tell TV1: You’re a taxpayer-owned operation. The taxpayer is entitled to a proper interview here, not you thinking you’ll do what you did last time…I’ll answer your question if you’ll just shut up for five seconds.” Neither did, but Peters went on to say the party’s imminent manifesto would explain the policy “but, of course, you couldn’t wait for that.” The manifesto was due to be published later that day. It wasn’t, and the following day Peters announced he had delayed publication until after Wednesday’s official cash rate announcement.
Then to co-governance and a complex exchange about Peters’ past knowledge of government policy and a report which he claimed had been withheld from him. A sample of his personal slights aimed at Tame: “Don’t show your inexperience”, “Jack, I know you’re desperate but you’re not going to stop this surge in our campaign with lies and deceit”, “you’re a waste of taxpayers’ money”. On party funding: “This is amazing. Jack, take your dirt and go somewhere else.”
He accused Tame of being “corrupt”, suggesting his “masters” were “trying to get rid of New Zealand First”.
And so it went on, culminating in a final salvo at the host: “People are going to say ‘Winston, why did you bother coming today’. Democracy is about hearing both sides of the story, not hearing arrogant, jumped-up, overpaid [journalists] who think they know more about this country…you just made a case here for us to get the broadcasting portfolio after the election.”
He was asked if that was a threat: “No, it’s not a threat. It’s a promise that you’re going to have an operation that is much more improved on what it is now.”
And, with a winning smile, he was gone. Continue reading “‘Corrupt, arrogant and ignorant’: Classic Peters playbook but Jack Tame kept asking questions”