"FLAKY" NZ FIRST WANTS TO TAKE ON THE BANKS AND CALLS FOR RESERVE BANK CHANGES
By Richard Harman (author)
New Zealand First agreed at its conference over the weekend in Rotorua to finally assign its management to a professional party team based in an office to be established in downtown Wellington.
And the party is aiming to vastly increase its membership.
It hopes to end years of controversy over its fund raising practices by levying each member to fund the office and the next election campaign.
In 2008 the party was accused of hiding a large donation from Owen Glenn then at the last election, its former MP, Brendan Horan, claimed it was channelling parliamentary funding to its campaign.
There have also been dark rumours about corporate funding of the party and Mr Peters has launched several defamation actions around those.
Mr Peters said that the party realised during the Northland by-election that thousands of people wanted to help the party.
“We’ve put a lot of thinking into how we can get out there and confront hundreds of thousands of people who we believe want to help us.”
This new membership push comes as Mr Peters says that the next election will be a “three way fight” between National, Labour and NZ First.
But talking to NZ First’s senior members and MPs it is clear the party believes it is ready to supplant Labour as the main Opposition Party.
It may well be that that this is the party’s main aim at the next election.
But looking at the conference and trying to pick which way it might go in a balance of power situation is all but impossible.
Mr Peters lambasted National in his speech for its neo liberal economic policies, its “corporate” friends and above all, for its Reserve Bank policies which he argues partly lie behind what he sees as a forthcoming rural debt crisis.
At the same time NZ First MPs are critical of Labour for its divisiveness and its political correctness.
What does seem likely though, is that NZ First would require action on the Reserve Bank in any deal to support a Government.
In his main conference speech Mr Peters said Exporters had faced an uphill struggle to compete on world markets because our currency had been held at impossibly high levels for years.
“We have been left at the mercy of international money manipulators,” he said.
“Now all of a sudden Key, English and Joyce tout how a lower dollar would help.
“What political charlatans we have leading this country.
“If anyone thinks that statement is too harsh then ask these three, new age, political wide boys whether they would change the Reserve Bank Act to ensure our dollar is export competitive.”
Mr Peters claimed that the low dairy prices meant there was a deep concern that many farmers were going to the wall.
“The profiteering overseas-owned banks are already closing down credit lines for many farmers.
“This means farmers being forced off the land and their farms snapped up by foreign interests.
“The psychological health of farmers and their families will likewise deteriorate.”
All this sounds like the old Social Credit Party which ran on a now discredited policy of having the Reserve Bank create low interest credit to help farmers and small business.
And a remit advocating a similar policy appeared at the conference. It called on the Reserve Bank to take over the entire money supply, saying banks would function solely as intermediaries in the lending process.
Mr Peters said there were parts of the proposal which made sense and parts which did not.
“It’s not Social Credit,” he said.
“It is saying that the people’s sweat and equity count for something and that we should have a control on the issuance of money or that people should control that not private interests.”
However an Epsom delegate Cliff Lyon said that the remit did hark back to Social Credit.
“The party needs to keep its direction focused on New Zealand issues first and not run the risk of becoming a party of flaky ideas,” he said.
Though the remit was passed it was notable that some MPs voted against it.
Before entering Parliament after the last election Fletcher Taubuteau was an economics lecturer and head of the business school at Waiariki Instutute of Technology.
He voted against the remit because he believed the party needed to have a much broader discussion about the ideas behind it.
“It sounded very much like Social Credit,” he said.
“I’m not sure how many of those in the room understood what was being proposed so the question is how do we educate our membership so that they understand what is being put in front of them and then we can have this broader discussion.”