Rt Hon Winston Peters speech to Asia Plus Group of Wellington: Making Sense Of Political Change

06 April 2017

Speech to Asia Plus Group of Wellington,

Embassy of Switzerland,

Ambassador’s Residence,

61 Ludham Crescent,

Woburn, Lower Hutt.




Making sense of political change


A wave of discontent is spreading around the developed Western world.

Ordinary citizens are saying they have had enough.

The powerful elites are struggling to handle this and have been shaken to the core.


Most people see the Dutch to be the model of a sane and sensible society.
For probably the first time ever the recent general election in the Netherlands was international news.
What provoked the interest was whether the wave of discontent that has been spreading across the West would show up in the Netherlands.
In the event Prime Minister Mark Rutte declared the result to be “a victory over the wrong kind of populism.”

During the campaign the Prime Minister issued a full-page letter, published in Dutch newspapers that criticised some immigrants, implicitly of Muslim origin, for refusing to integrate into society.
“Behave normally or leave,” was his message.
In a similar vein, the leader of another centre party demanded that the singing of the national anthem should be mandatory in schools.
Mr Geert Wilders was an important factor in the election.
It may be premature to conclude that the surge of discontent is over.
A series of recent events suggest something profound is happening in developed Western countries.

We have had:
- Brexit
- The election of President Trump
- The Scottish referendum on independence.
- The resignation of the Italian Prime Minister Renzi late in 2016 after his constitutional referendum failed.
- French president Hollande’s decision not to seek re-election – the first time a president has left office this way in modern French politics.
- The volatile Dutch election and the tremors of concern Geert Wilders sent through Europe.
- Malcolm Turnbull calling a snap election in Australia, losing 14 MPs and the Upper House having 35 percent who are neither Liberal nor Labour.

There are various explanations for these events but they are widely seen as disruptions to the prevailing order.
One common theme is clear.
A significant swathe of people in many Western countries are deeply dissatisfied – to the point of hostility – with the establishment parties of both left and right.
The economic “losers” are stirring over the economic “winners.”
Their dissatisfaction stems from a number of issues.
They are uneasy with the way their world has been going.
What they see is:
- A system that is not working for the ordinary people but seems to be run by, and for the benefit of, a cosmopolitan elite.

- Globalisation as a project that has not delivered what was promised. What is has delivered is a sense of economic insecurity and a view that their future – and that of their children – is precarious.
- National identity and social cohesion being eroded in waves of mass immigration and effectively “borderless” countries.
- Free trade agreements that have only added to job insecurity.

Discontent tends to be infectious.
Are these trends overseas of relevance to the New Zealand elections?

The results of the NZ flag referendum may provide a clue.
On that occasion many people felt the government’s arrogance had to be checked, even if they were open to a flag redesign provided the process was transparent and above board.
At its core the tide of discontent overseas is based on the view that mainstream parties such as Labour and Conservative in the UK; and Democrat and Republican in the USA, are just two sides of the same coin.

Underneath their rhetoric, it is fair to say that both National and Labour are committed pro-globalisation parties.
They share a common doctrine and agenda in terms of:
- Job-exporting free trade deals
- Open borders
- Being ‘business friendly’ (jargon for favouring foreign corporates)

In NZ in 2017 what is obvious is that all systems are creaking under pressure, whether it is congestion in Auckland or overloaded ambulance services.
The cracks in public services are now across the board and are merging on a weekly basis.
And yet the government is still painting an absurdly benign picture of the economy.
All the talk of a surplus is bogus.
It is complete smoke and mirrors.

Growing numbers also see a National government that has given up and that it is pinning its hopes on two things:
False promises and China.
All National can deliver now are promises.
Everywhere you go in New Zealand you hear the promises they have made:
- Four laning Kawarau Rd in Queenstown.
- Upgrading State Highway 1 between Whangarei and Oakleigh.
- They have promised to make New Zealand predator free by 2050.
- They’ve promised to make 90 percent of rivers swimmable 80 percent of the time by 2040.

New Zealand has massive infrastructure problems.
State Highway 1 between Picton and Kaikoura has to be rebuilt.
This is just one example.
What is the National government’s answer?
We found out last week.
They have “allowed it” that the impression that they want China to build New Zealand’s roads and infrastructure.
There has been speculation of cruise ships being moored in our ports to accommodate Chinese workers.
This is economic madness.
In the past New Zealand built its own major projects, tunnels and bridges with minimal help from outside.
The benefits were kept in New Zealand.


On the same day we learned from Local Government New Zealand that $1.4 billion was needed for councils’ infrastructure to cope with tourists, the Tourism Minister announced a pathetic $5.5 million to help out.
All the government gave last year was $12 million spread over three years.
Councils are not impressed.
Quite rightly – because the government took $1.5b in GST from international visitors in the year to March 2016 and $950m the year before.


While we have major problems over infrastructure, the National government promulgates the false message of having a surplus.
The prime minister said there was an operating surplus of $1.14 billion for the last seven months to January.
This is a bogus surplus made possible only by massive cuts
National have slashed:
It is a bogus surplus made possible only by National slashing for just come examples:

- Cutting funding to health by $1.76 billion since they came to office through to 2015.
-  Freezing police budgets since 2010
- Keeping education funding frozen and then cutting it each year from 2011 to 2014
- Providing DoC with $53 million less funding each year from 2008 until 2015.
- And GDP growth claims that ignore over 2 percent is borne of mass immigration.


Cuts and frozen budgets have placed schools, hospitals and government departments under huge pressures.
We have a housing crisis in Auckland.
Auckland’s congested roads are a nightmare.
Aucklanders have just been told they will have to wait 30 years for a rapid rail route from the central city to the airport.
There are 91,000 young New Zealanders who are not in jobs, training or education.
We have an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent.
We are taking in 72,000 net immigrants who are settling here permanently each year – a rate that is much higher than the US and UK.
Most of them are unskilled, going to Auckland and adding to its problems, and many here to gain residency.
We have serious law and order problems with insufficient police and crime rampant in many of our smaller towns.
In New Zealand today we see:
Inequality has risen dramatically.
 Economic growth is sluggish. 
 Productivity growth has stalled.
 Incomes for most people are stagnant.

That is why the wave of discontent seen in Europe and the United States is here, now in New Zealand.
The so-called experts could not understand why the British voted to get out of Europe – or why Americans voted in a property tycoon and reality TV star.
It’s because the ordinary citizens were fed up.
They had run out of patience having their concerns ignored by Washington and London.
They had endured enough of being treated as the ‘forgotten people.’
Ladies and gentlemen, there are a great many people in New Zealand today who feel Wellington treats them as the forgotten people.
The winds of change are coming in New Zealand.