All manner of absurdities pop up by way of party policies, but few come as barmy as NZ First leader Winston Peters' big policy announcement of the week: to carpet government buildings and state houses with wool.

It was as genius as it was barmy. The genius was because the barminess of it ensured it got widespread coverage.

Keen observers will reflect Peters has something of an obsession with carpets. He once demanded to know of former Prime Minister John Key "whether the carpets match the drapes". He was accusing Key of dying his (head) hair.

Peters released his new game changer of a policy while in the deep south on his great regional tour, in a region where the sheep was once king but the cow was taking over.


He reprised it in Hawke's Bay, declaring it the fifth largest sheep region in the country, and again in Taupo where he told them he knew what he was talking about because when he had worked on the steel furnaces in Newcastle, he had been frocked out in wool.

Peters had done his research and discovered major government departments, such as the Ministry of Social Development, were opting for synthetic carpets and Housing NZ had purchased (wait for it) 2,025,023 metres squared of the synthetic coverings.

In Peters' view, that bordered on treason for a land built on the wool from a sheep's back (and an occasional chop).

He declared the housing boom in Auckland (the same housing boom he claims is not happening) should also be a wool boom for Southland.

NZ First would use all its powers to try to ensure government procurement programmes used wool carpet. The feet of state house tenants and public servants should only pad across natural fibres.

Prime Minister Bill English's own farm in Dipton has been converted from sheep to dairy and he was quick to dismiss such a suggestion. Other National MPs also dismissed it as idea that harked back to the era of Muldoon subsidies.

Only Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges might have taken a fleeting interest in Peters' call.

After the ministerial offices were re-carpeted a couple of years' back, Bridges started getting static electricity shocks to such an extent he had to take precautions such as spritzing water about and putting tape on metal surfaces such as door handles.

It amounted to a health and safety hazard - some of those hair products can be flammable. And the wool industry argues that wool carpets are less prone to static electricity than others.

But Bridges' interest drooped when Parliamentary Services revealed that while the lesser areas of Parliament were carpeted in synthetic, wool carpet was used in ministers' offices because they were so important.

It is unlikely to be one of the bottom lines in NZ First negotiations but the carpet policy did provide momentary distraction from the bitter exchange of words between Green co-leader Metiria Turei and Peters and MP Tracy Martin about whether NZ First had racist views on immigration and terrorism.

It is a dangerous word and it remains unclear what Turei's aim was. She said she was trying to shore up the Greens' vote to ensure it was more powerful than NZ First when it came to a future government.

Her comments may indeed have played well among core Green voters but Turei apparently forgot the first step in the recipe for rabbit stew: first, catch your rabbit. In this case, the rabbit is the Government benches. To get those requires appeasing a wider spectrum than Green voters.

In one exchange, Turei undid some of the hard work by Labour and the Greens to ensure they looked to the rest of the country like a stable government-in-waiting.

In the last campaign, National capitalised on the image of Labour's fractious, bickering potential coalition partners to illustrate the instability that would ensue.

It was the reason for the Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Greens and the agreement on fiscal responsibility the two parties signed to try to persuade voters they would not throw money about on madcap schemes (like wool carpets for all).

As National dusted off its old theme with some glee, Labour leader Andrew Little was confronted with bickering children and a poll highlighting the trouble he would have in catching that rabbit. He could do little beyond suggesting Turei did not bandy about the R word quite so glibly.

As for the mystery of Key's carpet and drapes, Key denied dying his hair but fortunately tendered no proof of its match with his soft furnishings.