New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars compensating people who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 mandates and those proven to be injured by the vaccine.
He says compensation will likely be determined through a new 12-month inquiry into the pandemic in New Zealand, one that will replace the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into Covid, which Peters says is too limited in his scope.
However, Peters’ promise comes with an acknowledgment that if the inquiry found compensation wasn’t necessary, he wouldn’t challenge it.
“You should listen to an inquiry if you’ve got confidence in it and the answer is, one would have to listen to that,” Peters said
“Though I find it inconceivable that an inquiry set up for a legitimate purpose, understanding what has happened to some people, will come up with that finding but you always have the prospect that the inquiry may not go in the way you think.”
His comments come after Peters voiced his commitment to compensating anyone injured by the vaccine after being asked by a member of the public during a meeting in Ōrewa, north of Auckland.
In a press conference after the meeting, Peters clarified he intended to compensate people who were vax-injured and those who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 mandates.
He couldn’t put a number on how many people could be eligible, but estimated it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Any compensation wouldn’t occur until after a 12-month rapid inquiry into Covid which would replace the current inquiry Peters intended to scrap, claiming its terms of reference were too narrow.
The existing inquiry, announced last year by then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, would not assess individual claims such as a person losing their job due to the mandates.
All parties supported the inquiry at the time but some did express concerns about its scope.
Peters, however, was adamant a new inquiry should be initiated and in quick time.
“There’s no reason that a week after the Government is formed, we could not have found the people [to run the inquiry].”
His appearance in front of roughly 350 people at the Ōrewa Community Centre contained many of the trademark themes Peters has espoused in his public meetings across the country.
He spent a short time bagging the “mind-boggling” free dental policy announced by Labour at its campaign launch today, but gave plenty of his hour-long speech breaking down National’s recently unveiled tax plan.
Peters said the idea to tax online gambling operations was “brilliant”, but was critical of National’s proposed immigration levies.
He asked the audience whether they liked a tax on foreign buyers purchasing homes over $2m. He received a grumbling from the crowd which gave little indication of where they sat on the issue.
Peters ended that segment with an attack on Luxon’s political inexperience and his overall assessment of National’s plan.
“As a former treasurer of this country, it doesn’t stack up, it won’t.”
Criticism of the media was a running theme throughout the speech, often used to elicit a laugh from those gathered by calling reporters “cynical” and “jerkoff journalists”.
His only compliment came when referencing a Herald article that featured his criticism of the Act Party’s policies about superannuation.
Other topics traversed included co-governance, crime, health and education, pledging to invest in health in particular by diverting funding currently connected to the development of light rail in Auckland.
Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.