Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lunch with Winston Peters

To Hamilton this morning to attend another Media Bites luncheon in the company of another 100 or so of Steve Braunias’s closest personal friends. The guests were students from Wintec’s journalism course (where Steve is editor in residence), Waikato journalists, Auckland media types, Colin Meads, local freeloaders (i.e. me) and a gaggle of MPs: Jacinda Ardern, David Bennett, Sue Moroney, Tim Macindoe and some chap from the Greens I’ve never heard of.

Peters was late, of course. “He likes to make a dramatic entrance,” announced Steve, who seemed more concerned by the non-appearance of David Shearer, leader of the Opposition. I wanted to call out, “He’s here, he’s just invisible.” (He did turn up eventually and I had a chat with him after the show. He seems a very nice man. Who knew?)

NBR has posted online the official text of the speech here. It was the usual stuff, a mixture of charm, bluster, fudging the historical record and blaming the media – especially two social-media operatives, Whale Oil and “a mischievious [that’s how he pronounced it] blogger known as Kiwiblog” who apparently are responsible for NZ First’s dismal result in the last election. 

When in government Peters was notorious for not reading Cabinet papers. He seemed not to have read his speech either – we were all discovering it together. We were on the same journey. At one point he extemporised then went back to the speech notes – and repeated a couple of paragraphs. He didn’t notice but we all did.

There was a baffling anecdote, not in the speech notes, that started, “My father used to say, if you go out to feed the cows, don’t feed it all out at once, feed it out slowly.” Also not in the speech notes:

On Gerry Brownlee: “some illiterate woodwork teacher”.

On Paula Bennett: a sexist remark which I shan’t repeat.

On Rupert Murdoch: “Murdoch owns half the media in this country.”

On Kim Dotcom: “Tim Dotcom”.

On Jacinda Ardern: “Jacinda Ahearn”.

On the media: “The media has magical reasons to exist.”

Where things really got strange was when questions came from the floor. Joshua Drummond, the Waikato Times’s superb most-Mondays columnist, said, “I’ve read Richard Prosser’s book. Is he OK?” Peters had to defend his crazed MP but after more questions from Joshua finished, defeated, with:
We’re a freedom party in that respect.
There was a question about John Key’s recent comments about the NZ Herald. Peters replied that it was odd for Key to complain because:
The Herald might as well be his press office.
David Slack asked, “What is the next question the media should be asking John Banks?” Peters replied:
Well, Mike, why does he keep changing his position on asset sales?
More blather followed about finance and speculation, all of it about John Key and all of it economically illiterate, as I said to Joshua later. He replied, “But he’s very politically literate.” Yes. I suppose that’s why he is still with us.

Among the audience eyebrows had been raised and eyeballs had rolled throughout. But not as much as when – after some shameless pandering to the audience about how wonderful “TV7” is – he got onto immigration and Asians, as we all knew he would eventually:
Drive down Dominion Road, there’s 150 restaurants. Now there can’t be that many people eating.
Winston Peters is 67.

UPDATE: I have added (above, or click here) an interview with Winston Peters, published in Quote Unquote the magazine in 1996. He hasn’t changed a bit. Connoisseurs will enjoy his frequent references to “accountability” and “integrity. The interviewer was Kate Belgrave, who is as fearless as she is funny.


Keeping Stock said...

Great yarn Stephen. It sounds as though the old bugger was in fine form!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I didn't get to talk to you. I was the rash fool who suggested to Winston that Prosser was a nutcase.

Stephen Stratford said...

That was very funny, Anonymous. As was how unsurprised Peters was by the suggestion.

Liz Allen said...

On Dominion Road I can say from experience, having eaten in nearly every one of the 150 restaurants, that they are usually packed and when they're not it is because the food is dreadful not because there are not enough diners.

Geoff Lealand said...

Thanks, Stephen, my last posting made me more anonymous than I should be.

From Geoff Lealand (just in case it does it again)

Stephen Stratford said...

Gidday Geoff - if we are both invited again to another Wintec Press Club meeting, I shall ask young Braunias to introduce us.