Winston Peters
Leaders

Winston Peters

Winston Peters

The Right Honourable
Winston Peters

MP
Peters in 2017
Peters in 2017
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Incumbent
Assumed office
21 June 2018
Governor-General Patsy Reddy
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Incumbent
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Governor-General Patsy Reddy
Preceded by Paula Bennett
In office
16 December 1996 – 14 August 1998
Prime Minister Jim Bolger
Jenny Shipley
Governor-General Michael Hardie Boys
Preceded by Don McKinnon
Succeeded by Wyatt Creech
25th Minister of Foreign Affairs
Incumbent
Assumed office
26 October 2017
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Preceded by Gerry Brownlee
In office
19 October 2005 – 29 August 2008
Prime Minister Helen Clark
Preceded by Phil Goff
Succeeded by Helen Clark (Acting)
Leader of New Zealand First
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 July 1993
President Doug Woolerton
Dail Jones
George Groombridge
Kevin Gardener
Anne Martin
Brent Catchpole
Deputy Tau Henare
Peter Brown
Tracey Martin
Ron Mark
Fletcher Tabuteau
Preceded by Position established
1st Treasurer of New Zealand
In office
16 December 1996 – 14 August 1998
Prime Minister Jim Bolger
Jenny Shipley
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Bill Birch
35th Minister of Māori Affairs
In office
2 November 1990 – 1 October 1991
Prime Minister Jim Bolger
Preceded by Koro Wētere
Succeeded by Doug Kidd
Member of New Zealand House of Representatives
Incumbent
Assumed office
23 September 2017
Constituency New Zealand First Party List
In office
28 March 2015 – 23 September 2017
Preceded by Mike Sabin
Succeeded by Matt King
Constituency Northland
In office
26 November 2011 – 28 March 2015
Constituency New Zealand First Party List
In office
17 September 2005 – 3 October 2008
Constituency New Zealand First Party List
In office
17 July 1984 – 17 September 2005
Preceded by Keith Allen
Succeeded by Bob Clarkson
Constituency Tauranga
In office
24 May 1979 – 28 November 1981
Preceded by Malcolm Douglas
Succeeded by Colin Moyle
Constituency Hunua
 
Personal details
Born Wynston Raymond Peters
(1945-04-11) 11 April 1945
Whangarei, New Zealand
Political party National (Before 1993)
New Zealand First (1993–present)
Spouse(s) Louise (m. 1973; separated 1995)
Children 2
Relatives Jim (Brother)
Ian (Brother)
Alma mater University of Auckland
Signature
 

Winston Raymond Peters  is a New Zealand politician who is the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2017. He was previously Deputy Prime Minister from 1996 to 1998. Peters has led the populist New Zealand First party since its foundation in 1993. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2011, having previously served from 1979 to 1981 and 1984 to 2008.

Peters was born in the Northland city of Whangarei. He is of mixed ethnicity, his father being Māori and his mother being of Scottish descent. Widely known simply as “Winston”, Peters has had a long and turbulent political career since first entering Parliament following the National Party win of 1978. Throughout his career, he has called for more focused and restrictive immigration policies. He has advocated benefits for senior citizens, criticised the media and “elitism”, and has favoured socially conservative policies.

Peters first served as a Cabinet minister when Jim Bolger led the National Party to victory in 1990. He was dismissed from this post in 1991 after criticizing his own Government’s economic, fiscal and foreign ownership policies. As leader of New Zealand First, he held the balance of power after the 1996 election and formed a coalition with National, securing the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer—the latter position created for Peters. However, the coalition dissolved in 1998 following the replacement of Bolger by Jenny Shipley as Prime Minister.

In 1999 New Zealand First returned to Opposition before entering into a government again with the Labour Party in 2005, in which Peters served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. On 29 August 2008 he stood down as a minister pending a police investigation into a funding scandal involving Peters and his party.

In the 2008 general election, New Zealand First failed to reach the five percent threshold and Peters did not regain his seat. As a result, neither Peters nor New Zealand First were returned to Parliament. However, in the 2011 general election New Zealand First experienced a resurgence in support, winning 6.8 percent of the party vote to secure eight seats in Parliament. In the 2014 general election, NZ First gained 11 seats and finished with 8.66 percent. In the 2017 election, Peters lost his electorate seat of Northland but NZ First won 9 seats overall, with 7.2 percent of the party vote. Following the election, NZ First again held the balance of power and formed a coalition government with the Labour Party.

Upon the announcement of her pregnancy on 19 January 2018, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that she would temporarily relinquish her position to Peters, following the birth of her child, for a period of six weeks. Peters became Acting Prime Minister on 21 June 2018, when Ardern went into labour. Her six-week maternity leave is scheduled to conclude on 2 August 2018.

Early life and education

Born in Whangarei, his birth name is recorded as Wynston Raymond Peters. His father is of Māori descent and his mother of Scottish descent. His iwi affiliation is Ngāti Wai and his clan is McInnes. Two of his brothers, Ian and Jim, have also been MPs, and another brother, Ron, has also stood as a New Zealand First candidate. According to the journalist Ian Wishart, Peters had little exposure to the Māori language and culture during his childhood years due to vigorous assimilation policies that encouraged integration into Pākehā/New Zealand European society.

After attending Whangarei Boys’ High School and Dargaville High School, Peters studied at the Auckland Teachers’ Training College. In 1966, he taught for a year at Te Atatu Intermediate School in Auckland. In 1967, Peters subsequently abandoned his teaching career and spent several years living and working in Australia. He worked as a blast furnace worker with BHP in Newcastle and later as a tunneler in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.

In 1970, Peters returned to New Zealand and studied history, politics and law at the University of Auckland. During his university years, Peters joined the New Zealand Young Nationals, the youth wing of the center-right New Zealand National Party, and became acquainted with Bruce Cliffe and Paul East, who later served as Cabinet ministers in the Fourth National Government. Like his brothers Ron, Wayne, and Allan, Peters played rugby. He was also a member of the University Rugby Club in Auckland and captain of the Auckland Māori Rugby team. In 1973, Peters graduated with a BA and LLB and Peters married his partner Louise. He later worked as a lawyer at Russell McVeagh between 1974 and 1978.

Early political career

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1979–81 39th Hunua National
 
1984–87 41st Tauranga National
1987–90 42nd Tauranga National
1990–93 43rd Tauranga National
1993 43rd Tauranga Independent
1993–96 44th Tauranga NZ First
1996–99 45th Tauranga 1 NZ First
1999–2002 46th Tauranga 1 NZ First
2002–05 47th Tauranga 1 NZ First
2005–08 48th List 1 NZ First
 
2011–14 50th List 1 NZ First
2014–15 51st List 1 NZ First
2015–17 51st Northland NZ First
2017–present 52nd List 1 NZ First

Peters entered national politics in 1975, standing unsuccessfully for the National Party in the electorate seat of Northern Maori; he got 1873 votes, and was the first National candidate in a Māori seat for some years who did not lose his deposit. This followed a successful campaign by Peters and other members of his Ngati Wai iwi to retain their tribal land in the face of the Labour government’s plan to create coastal land reserves for the public. The result was that virtually no ancestral land was taken by the government of the day in the Whangarei coastal areas, and the initiative helped inspire the 1975 Land March led by Whina Cooper.

Peters stood successfully in 1978, but only after winning in the High Court an electoral petition which overturned the election night result for the seat of Hunua (an electorate in the Auckland area) against Malcolm Douglas, the brother of Roger Douglas. Peters took his seat six months after the election, on 24 May 1979 He lost this seat in 1981, but in 1984 he successfully stood in the electorate of Tauranga.

On 16 December 1986, he exposed the Māori loan affair in Parliament; which involved the-then Māori Affairs Department attempting to raise money illegally through a NZ$600 million loan package offered by the Hawaiian businessman Michael Gisondi and the West German businessman Max Raepple. He became the National Party’s spokesperson on Māori Affairs, Consumer Affairs, and Transport. In 1987, he was elevated to National’s front bench, acting as spokesperson for Māori Affairs, Employment, and Race Relations. After National won the 1990 election, Peters became Minister of Māori Affairs in the fourth National government, led by Jim Bolger.

As Minister of Māori Affairs, Peters co-authored the Ka Awatea report in 1992 which advocated merging the Ministry of Māori Affairs and Iwi Transition Agency into the present Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry for Māori Development). Peters disagreed with the party leadership on a number of matters and frequently spoke out against his party regarding them. This made him relatively popular with the public. However, his party colleagues distrusted him, and his publicity-seeking behaviour made him increasingly disliked within his own party. While National may have tolerated his difference of opinion, they were far less willing to accept public criticism from a Cabinet minister which they determined was undermining the party. In October 1991, Bolger sacked Peters from Cabinet.

Peters remained as a National backbencher, continuing to criticise the party. In late 1992, when the National Party was considering possible candidates for the elections in the following year, it was decided that Peters would not be allowed to seek renomination for Tauranga. In Peters v Collinge, Peters challenged this decision in the High Court, and in early 1993, he chose to resign from the party and from Parliament. This prompted a by-election in Tauranga some months before the scheduled general election. He stood as an independent and won easily.

Fourth National Government (1993–1999)

Peters in the 1990s
Peters in the 1990s

Shortly before the 1993 election, Peters established New Zealand First. He retained his Tauranga seat in the election. Another New Zealand First candidate, Tau Henare, unseated the Labour incumbent in Northern Maori, helping to convince people that New Zealand First was not simply Peters’ personal vehicle. Peters started the Winebox Inquiry in 1994; which concerned companies using the Cook Islands as a tax haven.

In the 1996 elections, the MMP electoral system delivered a huge windfall to New Zealand First. The party won 17 seats and swept all of the Māori electorates. More importantly, it held the balance of power in Parliament. Neither National nor Labour had enough support to govern alone. Neither party could form a majority without the backing of New Zealand First, meaning Peters could effectively choose the next prime minister.

It was widely expected that he would throw his support to Labour and make Labour leader Helen Clark New Zealand’s first female prime minister. Peters had bitterly criticised his former National colleagues, and appeared to promise that he would not even consider a coalition with Bolger. However, after over a month of negotiations with both parties, Peters decided to enter into a coalition with National. Michael Laws, the party’s campaign manager, later claimed that Peters had already decided to join forces with National and used his negotiations with Labour simply to win more concessions from Bolger.

Whatever the case, Peters exacted a high price for allowing Bolger to stay on as prime minister. Peters became Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer (senior to the Minister of Finance), the latter post created especially for him. Initially, there were concerns about whether Peters would be able to work with Bolger, the National prime minister who had previously sacked him from Cabinet, but the two did not seem to have any major difficulties.

Later, however, tensions began to develop between Peters and the National Party, which only worsened after Jenny Shipley staged a party room coup and became prime minister. After a dispute over the privatisation of Wellington International Airport, Peters was sacked from Cabinet again on 14 August 1998. He immediately broke off the coalition and led New Zealand First back into opposition. However, several MPs, including deputy leader Henare, opted to stay in government and leave New Zealand First. It later came out that Henare had tried to oust Peters as leader, but failed. Henare and other disaffected NZ First MPs formed the shortlived Mauri Pacific party. None of the MPs who opted to stay in government retained their seats in the next election.

Fifth Labour Government (1999–2008)

New Zealand First was severely mauled in the 1999 elections, which saw Labour oust National from power. The party suffered for the rash of party-switching. Additionally, there was a wide perception that Peters had led voters to believe a vote for New Zealand First would get rid of National, only to turn around and go into coalition with National. New Zealand First collapsed to 4.3 percent of the vote. Under New Zealand’s MMP rules, a party that falls below the 5 percent threshold can still qualify for MMP by winning one electorate seat. However, Peters just barely held onto Tauranga, defeating a National challenger by 63 votes. As a result, New Zealand First remained in parliament but was reduced to five seats. Still in opposition, Peters continued to promote his traditional policies, but also became more noticeably concerned about immigration policies.

In the 2002 election, Peters performed well once again, campaigning on three main issues: reducing immigration, increasing punishments for crime, and ending the “grievance industry” around Treaty of Waitangi settlements. This message regained much support for both Peters and his party, especially from among the elderly who had in the past backed Winston Peters, and New Zealand First won 10 percent of the vote and 13 seats. Peters seemed to hope that Labour would choose to ally with New Zealand First to stay in power. However, Clark explicitly rejected this possibility, instead relying on support from elsewhere. This appeared to anger Peters considerably.

In a speech at Orewa in 2005, he criticised immigration from Asian countries as “imported criminal activity” and warned that New Zealanders were “being colonised without having any say in the numbers of people coming in and where they are from.” He also accused the Labour Party of having an “ethnic engineering and re-population policy.” In July 2005, Peters said New Zealand should err on the side of caution in admitting immigrants until they “affirm their commitment to New Zealanders’ values and standards.”

SuperGold Card

The SuperGold Card has been one of Peters’ flagship initiatives. As a condition of the 2005 confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Labour Government, Peters launched the SuperGold Card in August 2007.

New Zealand First established a research team to design the SuperGold Card, which included public transport benefits like free off-peak travel (funded by the Government) and discounts from businesses and companies across thousands of outlets. Winston Peters negotiated with then Prime Minister Helen Clark despite widespread opposition to the card on the grounds of high cost. However, it was argued much of the extra costs were ‘book entries’, for example; the Government subsidises much of public transport anyway, where buses and trains travel with empty seats during off-peak hours. SuperGold Card commuters are simply using buses and trains during off-peak times.

2005 election

Winston Peters greets US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Auckland Airport in 2008
Winston Peters greets US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Auckland Airport in 2008

As the 2005 general election approached, Peters did not indicate a preference for coalition with either of the major parties, declaring that he would not seek the “baubles of office”. He promised to either give support in confidence and supply to the party with the most seats, or to abstain from no-confidence votes against it, and that he would not deal with any coalition that included the Greens. He pledged to keep post-election negotiations to under three weeks following criticism of the seven-week marathon it took to broker a deal with National in 1996.

In the election, some of New Zealand First’s traditional support moved to National. Peters himself narrowly lost his longstanding hold on Tauranga to National MP Bob Clarkson, but New Zealand First did well enough to receive seven seats (down from 13 in 2002), allowing Peters to remain in Parliament as a list MP. Soon after the 2005 election Peters launched a legal challenge against Clarkson. The case alleged that Clarkson had spent more than the legal limit allowed for campaign budgets during elections in New Zealand. This legal bid ultimately failed, with a majority of the judges in the case declaring that Clarkson had not overspent.

In negotiations with Clark after the election, Peters secured the ministerial portfolios of Foreign Affairs and Racing in the Labour-led government, a move which apparently lay at odds with his earlier promise to refuse the “baubles of office”. He was a member of the Executive Council, although he was outside cabinet. He was able to criticise the government in areas not related to his portfolios, which experts said was an unprecedented situation. Considering his previous comments relating to immigration, there were mixed reactions from commentators. His selection for the Foreign Affairs portfolio created some measure of surprise within the country and beyond. National Party leader Don Brash said the choice was “astonishing”, because “the whole region distrusts Winston Peters – Australia, Asia […]. I think putting him as minister of foreign affairs does huge damage for our international reputation.” The Age, in Australia, expressed surprise that the position had been given to an “outspoken, anti-migrant populist [and] nationalist”.

Allegations concerning Peters’ involvement with Simunovich Fisheries and former Member of Parliament Ross Meurant, who was engaged as both adviser to Peters and in undefined business activities with Peter Simunovich (managing director of Simunovich Fisheries), culminated in a Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into what became known as the ‘scampi enquiry’. The enquiry cleared Peters, Simunovich and Meurant of any wrongdoing.

In October 2006, Peters affirmed that he would continue to serve as leader for the 2008 election.

2008 election

Peters tried to regain Tauranga in the 2008 election and lost to National’s Simon Bridges by a margin of 11,742 votes, a much larger loss than in 2005. With New Zealand First falling to 4.07 percent of the vote, Peters and his party were shut out of the 49th New Zealand Parliament. In his concession speech, Peters promised, “This is not the end”, and alluded to the fact that while New Zealand First would not have any members in Parliament, its 4.07 percent of the vote meant it was still New Zealand’s fourth largest party (after National, Labour, and the Greens). Despite this, political commentators described the defeat as “the end of the road” for Peters.

In opposition (2008–2017)

Peters generally shunned the media spotlight following the 2008 election. In 2009, he caused a brief flurry of interest when it was revealed he was still using a ministerial car, some months after his election defeat. Later it was reported he had started writing a rugby column for a local magazine. He appeared on TV ONE’s Q & A programme on 5 July 2009, confirming that he was still the leader of New Zealand First. He hinted at a political comeback and attacked the New Zealand government’s review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act. In late 2010 and early 2011 Peters made a number of appearances on television and radio where he made it clear his and New Zealand First’s intention to contest the 2011 election. New Zealand First’s annual convention in July 2011 received widespread media coverage and somewhat restored the media’s interest in Peters and the party.

2011 election

Peters talking to Bryce Edwards as a part of the Vote Chat forum at the University of Otago, 2011
Peters talking to Bryce Edwards as a part of the Vote Chat forum at the University of Otago, 2011
In the 2011 general election New Zealand First experienced a resurgence in support, winning 6.8 percent of the party vote to secure eight seats in Parliament. The party remained in Opposition to the National government.

2014 election

During the 2014 general election, Winston Peters tactically endorsed the Labour candidate Kelvin Davis in the Te Tai Tokerau Māori electorate as a means of opposing the Mana Movement MP Hone Harawira. Harawira had formed an electoral pact with the Internet Party, which was funded by controversial internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. Peters denounced Dotcom as a “crooked German” who “had been here for five minutes.” Peters was joined by Prime Minister and National Leader John Key and the Māori Party candidate Te Hira Paenga. As a result, Harawira was defeated during the 2014 election. During the election, New Zealand First increased their parliamentary representation further, winning 8.6% of the party vote to secure 11 seats in the New Zealand parliament.

2015 Northland by-election

In 2015, National MP Mike Sabin was forced to resign, leaving his seat of Northland open. The seat, located in the Far North District, and its predecessors had been in National hands for decades. However, Peters ran for the seat and won it with a commanding majority—the first time that New Zealand First had won an electorate seat since 2005. With Peters resigning his list seat to take up the Northland seat, this allowed New Zealand First’s representation in parliament to increase to 12, with Ria Bond, the next available candidate on New Zealand First’s party list filling the vacant list seat.

2017 election

During the lead-up to the 2017 general election, Peters reaffirmed his support for the campaign by families of the victims of the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster to reenter the mine to recover their loved ones. Peters publicly stated that re-entry to the mine would be non-negotiable in any coalition deal and dismissed claims that it was too dangerous to re-enter the mine.

On 13 July, Peters traded barbs with Green Party MPs Barry Coates and Metiria Turei. Coates had written on the left-wing The Daily Blog that the Greens would prefer a snap election to being left out of a Labour and New Zealand First coalition government. Meanwhile, Turei had criticised what she alleged was Peters’ “racist approach towards immigration.” Peters responded that Coates’ comments were the “height of stupidity”. He also rejected Turei’s claims that New Zealand First was racist and warned that there would be consequences for the Greens in any post-election talks. Green co-leader James Shaw later clarified that Coates’ remarks did not represent Green Party policy.

At New Zealand First’s convention in South Auckland on 16 July 2017, Peters announced that if elected his party would hold a double referendum on eliminating the Māori seats and reducing the number of MPs in Parliament from 120 to 100 in mid-term 2017–2020. Peters also outlined his party’s policies which included reducing immigration to 10,000 a year and nationalising the country’s banks. Peters also proposed making KiwiBank the New Zealand government’s official trading bank. In terms of law and order, Peters said that his party would build no more prisons but would make prisoners do hard labour six days a week.

During the 2017 election held on 23 September, Peters lost his Northland electorate seat to the National candidate Matt King by a margin of 1,389 votes. Despite losing his seat, New Zealand First secured 7.2% of the party vote with the party’s parliamentary presence being reduced from twelve to nine seats. Since Peters ranked first on the New Zealand First party list, he remained in Parliament as a list MP.

Following the 2017 election, Peters entered into coalition–forming talks with senior figures from the National and Labour parties. Neither major party had enough support to govern alone. National Party leader and Prime Minister Bill English signalled an interest in forming a coalition with NZ First; a potential National-NZ First coalition would have had 65 seats between them, enough to govern without the need for support from other parties. Labour leader Jacinda Ardern announced that her party was considering a three-way coalition with NZ First and the Greens. Peters indicated that he would not make his final decision until the special votes results were released on 7 October 2017.

During negotiations with Ardern, Peters indicated that he would be willing to consider dropping his policy for a referendum on abolishing the Māori seats as part of a coalition deal with Labour. Peters clarified that the defeat of the Māori Party during the 2017 election had eliminated the rationale for his call to abolish the Māori electorates Peters stated that foreign ownership of homes would be one of the topics discussed during negotiations with both National and Labour. He also called for Labour to scrap its contentious water tax policy on farmers. Peters also refused to negotiate with the Greens directly on the grounds that they had campaigned on a partnership with Labour. He described the Greens as a minor party with a minimal role in any potential government.

Sixth Labour Government (2017–present)

Peters with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet on 26 October 2017.
Peters with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet on 26 October 2017.

On 19 October 2017, Peters announced that New Zealand First would form a coalition with the Labour Party under Jacinda Ardern, citing changing international and internal economic circumstances as the reasoning behind his decision, coupled with a belief that a Labour government was best-placed to handle the social and economic welfare of New Zealanders in a global environment that was undergoing rapid and seismic change.

As part of the agreement, New Zealand First has four portfolios inside Cabinet and one outside. On 26 October 2017, Peters assumed the positions of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister for State Owned Enterprises and Minister for Racing. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, his commitments include the initiation of a closer economic relations agreement with the UK, Australia, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries and to work towards a free-trade agreement with the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union. 

On 19 January 2018, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she was pregnant and that Peters would take the role of Acting Prime Minister for six weeks after the delivery, which happened on 21 June. He has been described as managing the “day to day” business while Ardern is on maternity leave.

 

Views and policies

Peters speaks to Grey Power members, August 2011
Peters speaks to Grey Power members, August 2011

Peters has been labelled a nationalist and a populist by political commentators. He favours cutting taxes. However, he was critical of the free market policies enacted by the fourth Labour and fourth National governments in the 1980s and 1990s, opposing privatisations and deregulation. His economic policy retains elements of the Muldoon era.

Peters is opposed to high levels of immigration, in order “to avoid New Zealand’s identity, values and heritage being swamped”. He has highlighted the “threat” of immigration in both cultural and economic terms. Peters has on several occasions characterised the rate of Asian immigration into New Zealand as too high; in 2004, he stated: “We are being dragged into the status of an Asian colony and it is time that New Zealanders were placed first in their own country.” On 26 April 2005, he said: “Māori will be disturbed to know that in 17 years’ time they will be outnumbered by Asians in New Zealand”, an estimate disputed by Statistics New Zealand, the government’s statistics bureau. Peters responded that Statistics New Zealand had underestimated the growth-rate of the Asian community in the past.

In 2012, Peters voted, together with all of his fellow New Zealand First MPs, against the Marriage Amendment Bill, which aimed to permit same sex marriage in New Zealand. Peters also had called for a referendum on the issue.

He has a generally fraught relationship with the media with media interactions often described as confrontational. Peters attributes the hostility of media coverage to foreign-ownership of New Zealand media assets and their political agenda. He has long advocated direct democracy in the form of “binding citizen initiated referenda”, to create “a democracy that is of the people and for the people”, while forcing government “to accept the will of the people”. Peters has also used anti-establishment and anti-elite rhetoric, such as criticising what he regards as the “intellectually arrogant elite in government and bureaucratic circles”.

Peters supports compulsory superannuation schemes for all New Zealanders. He has cultivated support amongst the elderly in particular, and his support has been concentrated among New Zealanders over 60 years of age.

In June 2016, Peters advocated interviewing immigrants and reducing immigration numbers between 7,000 and 15,000 a year on TVNZ’s Q+A show. During the interview, he stated that he would want prospective migrants “to salute our flag, respect our laws, honour our institutions and, above all, don’t bring absolutely anti-women attitudes with them, treating women like cattle, like fourth-class citizens.” Peters also clarified that he was not opposed to refugees or Muslim migrants. In addition, Peters argued that reducing immigration would stabilise the Auckland housing market and enable younger and poorer New Zealanders to buy their first home.

In March 2017, Peters criticised the former Foreign Minister Murray McCully for endorsing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 without consulting his fellow Cabinet ministers. The resolution controversially condemned Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and passed with the support of the United Nations Security Council including New Zealand, which held a rotating membership on the council.

Funding controversies

Peters attracted media attention in 2008 over controversial payments for legal services and party donations. He had received $100,000 in 2006 to fund legal costs of challenging the election of Bob Clarkson to the Tauranga electorate. The money came from Owen Glenn, a wealthy New Zealand businessman and philanthropist based in Monaco. Under parliamentary rules, any gift to MPs over the value of $500 must be relinquished. Peters denied knowing about the source of the money but this was not corroborated by his lawyer Brian Henry and Glenn contradicted Peters’ denial.

The Vela family, prominent in the racing industry, had donated $150,000 to Peters over a four-year period. The payments were made in sums of $10,000 to remain within rules governing political party funding.

The Dominion Post published details from New Zealand First sources that before the 2005 election $25,000 had been donated to the party from Bob Jones via the Spencer Trust. The Trust is administered by Wayne Peters, a brother of Winston Peters. Jones confirmed that he had paid the money to the Spencer Trust and was asked by Winston Peters to make the donation. Peters denies that he had asked Jones for a donation to the party. The donation was not declared to the Electoral Commission as required by law.

On 29 August 2008, Peters offered to stand down from his portfolios as Foreign Affairs and Racing Minister,  pending an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office as to whether the donations from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers reached New Zealand First as intended. On 10 September 2008, Winston Peters gave evidence to the Privileges Committee of the New Zealand Parliament in an attempt to refute evidence given by Owen Glenn. The Privileges Committee returned a report on 22 September recommending that Peters be censured for “knowingly providing false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests”. Parliament passed a motion censuring Peters the following day. All but three of the parties in Parliament (New Zealand First, Labour, and Progressives who abstained) supported the censure.

Peters was later cleared by the Serious Fraud Office with respect to political donations, however some matters were referred back to the Electoral Commission as it was determined that, while no fraud had taken place, some electoral law matters with regard to funding declarations were not complied with. The police subsequently decided that no offence had been committed. Peters has referred to the affair as part of the “most vicious character assassination seen in any campaign this country has ever witnessed” and unsuccessfully sued Television New Zealand for defamation.

In late August 2017, Peters admitted being overpaid in superannuation after being contacted by the Ministry of Social Development. Peters stated that he and the Ministry agreed that there had been a payment error but that he had corrected the overpayment. Peters described it as a private matter and expressed outrage that it had been leaked to the media. Prime Minister Bill English has denied that neither the Beehive nor the National Party had leaked the information.

Honours and awards

On 21 May 1998, Peters was appointed to the Privy Council and gained the style of “The Right Honourable”. In 2007, Peters was bestowed with the chiefly Samoan title Vaovasamanaia, meaning “beautiful, handsome, awesome, delighted and joyful.

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