Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has delivered a diatribe in his first speech back in Parliament taking aim at Te Pāti Māori, the media and those who counted his party out from returning.
The speech appeared largely reactionary, responding to interjections from opposing MPs as he employed many of his catchphrases often used during his public meetings during the election campaign.
They included the Elvis lyric “If you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place”, the Phil Collins song “Both Sides of the Story”, how full NZ First campaign meetings were and how no journalists attended them.
He took several shots at Te Pāti Māori and the Green Party, attempting to shame them for not having a minister in Cabinet in 54 years.
“Blah, blah, blah,” was Waititi’s response.
“I’ve been around a long time, I know a bunch of losers when I see them,” Peters directed at the Greens.
Peters’ repeated criticism aimed at Te Pāti Māori was the party was not the sole authority of what Māori wanted.
“What’s your authority? You haven’t got one.”
Labour’s Willie Jackson took pleasure in supplying regular interjections and he came within Peters’ focus when the DPM wished Jackson was “as bright as his mother” - the late Dame June Jackson - who allegedly said Peters was not anti-Māori, he was anti-nonsense.
“I think she did too,” Jackson said with a laugh.
‘Kohanga Reo generation is here’
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi directed his initial comments to Peters.
“You’re going to see this moko and this hat for a long, long time, Winston, so you better get used to it.
“The Kohanga Reo generation is here.”
He claimed the Government’s agenda was a flashback to the 19th century and its policy priorities resembled a “manifesto of white supremacy and cultural genocide”,
Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the coalition had motivated Māori across the country.
“Your hatred has encouraged us to unite.
“Your calls to take us back have been a drive to advance.”
Looking at Peters and his deputy Shane Jones, Ngarewa-Packer said the two Māori men didn’t automatically have a mandate to speak on behalf of Māori.
She expressed her sadness that Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, who she described as a “decent bloke”, was surrounded by such people and hoped he would engage with iwi leaders.
Act leader David Seymour spent much of his 30 minutes speaking in the House about the success of his party in the recent election, his criticism of the previous Labour Government and what the coalition Government would achieve.
Hipkins was a main target of Seymour’s - the Act leader claimed the former Education Minister had the “most wonderful form of selective amnesia” given the state of the education system.
It was reported today New Zealand 15-year-olds were performing their worst in an international assessment of literacy, science and math skills.
“The damage that has been done over the past two decades will take another generation to fully turn around.”
As the new and first Regulations Minister, Seymour emphasised the Government’s commitment to removing regulations that wasted people’s time and furthered compliance activities that added “nothing to public welfare”.
It was his citing of Act’s incoming Treaty Principles Bill - set to debate the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi - that provoked the greatest reaction, particularly from Te Pāti Māori MPs.
As Seymour claimed some of the Te Pāti Māori MPs might actually enjoy discussing the Treaty discussion, young MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke rolled her eyes. Tākuta Ferris, speaking te reo, invoked Seymour’s iwi Ngāti Rēhia.
Luxon and Hipkins clash for first time in roles
Earlier, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Opposition leader Chris Hipkins were finally back in the Parliamentary ring as the 54th Parliament got under way with the Address in Reply debate, the first debate of the term, when MPs bash skulls about over the new Government’s agenda.
Opposition leader Chris Hipkins got proceedings under way delivering the first speech in which he described the new Government as “pathetic” and a “disgrace”.
He said he could not find even a “shred of vision” in the new Government’s agenda, which leaned heavily on plans to “repeal, replace, reverse, and disestablish” the former Government’s agenda.
“A plan to go backwards not a plan to take New Zealand forward,” Hipkins said.
He said the new Government was beholden to NZ First leader Winston Peters, describing the spectacle of seeing Luxon race to Auckland to negotiate with Peters, rather than make Peters come to Wellington as “pathetic”.
He said that Labour accepted New Zealanders had “voted for change” but that he did not think the new Government was the change they had voted for.
He said that National’s decision to roll back Labour’s smokefree policy was a “disgrace” and a “stain on New Zealand’s international reputation”.
Speaking after Hipkins, Luxon shot back, saying Labour had “squandered” its historic 2020 majority.
“They started the last term with everything they needed to set up a political dynasty for the next decade but they squandered it,” Luxon said, describing Hipkins as “bitter, and twisted, and negative”.
Luxon hinted that Hipkins might not survive as leader, a classic Government tactic to sow seeds of doubt and instability in the opposition.
“Why is he still here when so little was achieved?” Luxon said.
He that New Zealand had voted for a Government that could “get things done”.
He said the new Government would “get public services working better”.
Luxon attacked Labour’s record on health saying that the former Government “looked anguished” about the state of public services, but could not convert those looks into action.
“Looking anguished doesn’t actually reduce a wait list,” Luxon said.
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson promised to not allow the new Government to get away with “political violence”, claiming the coalition would whip up fear and disinformation.
She considered the Government’s priorities to be a “random, visionless and harmful grab-bag” of policies that didn’t focus on real issues.
“This Government and its programme of performative cruelty does not represent our future. That is up to us.”
Davidson took pleasure in reminding MPs that their travel into Wellington will likely be through electorates represented by Green MPs. Both the Wellington Central and Rongotai electorates were won by Tamatha Paul and Julie Anne Genter respectively.
At one stage during her speech, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called out: “Talk about “cis white men” - a reference to Davidson’s comments earlier this year that violence was created by cis white men.
Peters at one point also made Davidson correct the record after referring to him as “Uncle Winston”.
“Point of order, Madam Speaker. I rush to defend myself,” said Peters.
“That relationship is not true, and it’s obvious from the speech it’s not true.
“I’m not her uncle.”
Labour keeps up claims of ‘attacks on Māori’ after Speech from Throne
Labour is continuing its pressure on the new Government, accusing it of “continuing Māori attacks” in response to the Governor-General’s Speech from the Throne today laying out the agenda over the next three years.
The commitment was read by the Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro and written by the incoming Government, setting out its priorities for the next term.
Despite being read by Kiro, the speech sets out the agenda of the National, Act, and NZ First coalition. The commitments in the speech are also found in the coalition agreements between the three parties.
Kiro said the Government would achieve its spending promises by “restoring discipline to government spending”.
It included pledges to disestablish the Māori Health Authority and assurances there would be ‘no co-governance of public services’.“
“Services will be delivered on need, using a range of effective providers, including iwi and community groups who have the best reach into the communities they serve,” she said.
Kiro also outlined an array of Labour initiatives that would be repealed, from RMA reforms to Fair Pay Agreements, alongside a more punitive approach to justice such as restoring the “three strikes” legislation.
Labour leader Chris Hipkins said afterwards there was a “lot in the speech that I disagree with”.
“Ultimately, though, it’s the new Government’s agenda and helps us to set out our response.
“I think there were a number of examples in there of sort of bold decisions being made by the incoming Government that actually probably won’t stick up to scrutiny.”
Hipkins was asked about a moment when was seen laughing visibly when Kiro mentioned “strong and stable government”.
“They were talking about strong and stable all the way through the coalition negotiations, which are [now] proving to be anything but,” Hipkins said.
On reports the Government was looking to scrap incentives for public sector workers to speak te reo Māori, alongside other work to decrease its use in favour of English, Hipkins said its previous increasing use was a “source of pride for New Zealanders”.
“When we watch the All Blacks doing the haka overseas, we all feel proud about that. We should actually celebrate the Māori language and culture as New Zealanders. It’s one of the things that makes us different from the rest of the world. It is a treasure for all of New Zealand.”
Hipkins said he thought staff should be incentivised to speak and use te reo at work.
“Te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand. So we asked government departments to have the capability to be able to work in te reo Māori and to be able to interact with members of the public in te reo Māori. And in order to do that, they have to have a workforce that’s capable of doing that.”
Initiatives to increase te reo in the public sector can be linked to an Act in 2016, which was brought in under a National-led government.
On Waitangi next year, Hipkins said it was “always a place of robust debate” but he had always tried to “strike a unifying tone”.
“That will certainly be my intention next year as well. How the new Government is received will really depend on the decisions they make between now and then.”
Labour’s Māori development spokesman Willie Jackson said the speech was a “tough listen” given Kiro’s background, but they accepted the tikanga/protocol.
“You can’t say a word can you, but incredibly disappointed ... to her talking about the spending, the Māori Health Authority. You hear about the Treaty principles. So again, just the attack in terms of Māori continues.”
Meanwhile, NZ First Cabinet Minister Shane Jones explained why he had written to new Speaker of the House Gerry Brownlee over the conduct of Te Pāti Māori during the Parliamentary swearing-in on Tuesday, when three MPs referred to King Charles III as “Kīngi Harehare” instead of the formal Māori translation of “Kīngi Tīare”.
Co-leader Rawiri Waititi explained Harehare was a common term for Charles - he said he had an uncle with the name - although in some places it can also mean scab, skin rash, and/or something sinister.
“I’m sure that the Clerk of the House was confident that the intent was there but it is arguable whether the term was taking the P, I double S or whether it was a genuine thing,” said Jones.
“If we’re going to see three years of this kind of theatrical behaviour, I certainly don’t want to see any more edible art or wearable art in Parliament.
“What I want the speaker to do is lay down very firmly what his expectations are the decorum of the house the conduct in the house. And if we’re expected all to abide by the letter of the law, then it applies to Winston and I and everyone else.”