Twelve questions
Sarah Stuart poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions: Winston Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters grew up in a Northland family of 11 children that produced three politicians and some very good rugby players. He is prone to answering questions in the third person.

Winston Peters' suit has been a trademark since the early days. Photo / Martin Hunter
Winston Peters' suit has been a trademark since the early days. Photo / Martin Hunter

1. That's a very fetching new cover photo you've put on your Facebook page: can you give us the year, the details and where the suit was from?

When people ask private questions like 'where do you buy your clothes?', I usually say the Salvation Army. I've no idea where the suit was from. My mother liked the photo though and had it framed. The photo was taken on 11 April, 1989 in the House, by John Nicholson from the Evening Post.

2. What were the greatest lessons you learned growing up in a family of 11 children?

Basic lessons. One needs to work to eat - The Little Red Hen story was often a parental parable. Saving leads to realisable dreams. Waste not, want not, which is why one becomes a bit of a hoarder. Timeless lessons.

3. Rugby and politics seem to run in the Peters family. What were your parents' ambitions for you?

Like most parents, that we all would be successful and happy, safe and healthy. The greatest parent-taught ambition was that if we deserved it, we could be whatever we aspired to be, and never give up.

4. Has Parliament lost its character(s) in recent years?

Sadly yes. Fraternising with other parties has become frowned upon as though - unlike sportsmen and women - one wouldn't give it one's best shot the moment the bell sounded because of cross-party friendships. Conformity is now favoured over character and the place has become somewhat sterile.

5. You disappeared a bit during your years out of Parliament (2008-2011): what were you doing?

Didn't really disappear, despite the media blackout. Business-related activities, attending to my neglected pleasures like fishing, repairs to the boat and beach cottage, reading etcetera, while quietly rebuilding a campaign for a comeback.

6. Describe your relationship with Helen Clark.

A professional one. In a confidence and supply, not coalition, arrangement she let me get on with my responsibilities in foreign affairs, NZ Aid, senior citizens and rebuilding the racing industry. I didn't bother her with needless meetings and repetitive discussions. She was busy and I was often offshore. Our senior staff kept both of us in the loop nearly all the time.

7. What is the issue that has frustrated you most during your 30 years in Parliament?

Our loss of place economically and socially in the world. That was avoidable. There's always a better way than extremism. New Zealand needed, like any great strategy, to play its strengths and minimise weaknesses. Blind, obsolete ideology, left or right, prevents that. We work the second-longest hours in the OECD but our policies lack real savings and incentives for business and personal risk to be rewarded.

8. What is your greatest failing?

That family and friends often lost out to politics and work, which we probably are all guilty of, some more, some less.

9. What is your greatest strength?

Understanding that politics is seriously important and the quality and direction of leadership is critical to people's lives and happiness, and after all happiness should be the serious business of politics.

10. Describe your ideal dinner party.

An outdoor maritime setting with people who want to simply enjoy the occasion and the company. High variety of food as long as it's prepared as it should be, not overly elaborate so that the main ingredients get swamped. High protein, low carbohydrate. No cameras, no recordings, no records, and with the right background music.

11. Ross Meurant. Michael Laws. Brendan Horan. Andrew Williams. Do you have a (colleague) type?

No, although Andrew has been underrated and Laws is often misjudged.

12. What do you wear when you are not in a suit?


- NZ Herald

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