His speech was a good example of 'know your audience' as he elucidated a clear policy message that anyone could understand: roll back foreign ownership of banks, insurance companies, land and businesses; stop the flood of new immigrants by putting New Zealand and New Zealanders first not last; encourage exports, tourism and a productive economy by dropping the exchange rate. Sure he was light on detail and one could argue with each and every policy but at least he put his points over clearly and with great humour at times.
When it came to the question and answer session he challenged National over their lack of commitment to maintain the Gold Card, Labour over race based seats on Auckland Council introduced by Labour Mayor Len Brown, and the Greens for believing they can stop natural changes in climate by imposing more taxes.
The Gold Card is a BIG issue for Waiheke with its ageing population. Waiheke residents benefit greatly from having free travel because of the card, especially on the expensive ferry service to Auckland. Many in the crowd wanted reassurance that the Gold Card would continue following a review, due after the election, in November. Winston did not disappoint, but reminded the crowd that “one good turn deserves another”, a clear message to vote NZ First, the party responsible for the card’s introduction. Other parties could not be trusted on this issue he said. It was his trump card, although the fear that the card might be withdrawn is probably unfounded according to a treasury accountant friend who told me that a cost benefit analysis showed benefits outweigh costs by a ratio of eight to one.
Nikki Kaye has not made National's intentions towards keeping the Gold Card clear enough. Instead she has chosen to work with the Greens on Waiheke to try and deliver a school pool. This is foolish in so many ways. Firstly, she will not attract one vote from the Greens on the island by making that, or any, promise. Secondly, she will incur the wrath of her own supporters here by siding with the Greens. Thirdly, she does not understand the implications of a school pool for the tax and ratepayers of Waiheke. Her natural voters are the ageing tax and ratepaying public of Waiheke. They will be shut out from ever using a school pool, yet they will be forced to foot the huge bill for ongoing operation and maintenance, either through a targeted rate, or through the discretionary money of the Waiheke Local Board leaving no money to benefit the wider community.
Kaye is considered by many in her own party on Waiheke as being highly suspect because of her allegiance to a ‘Blue/Green’ philosophy which most consider to be a contradiction in terms. My guess is she will retain their support as the local MP but Winston's play on their uncertainties may be enough to woo some to give New Zealand First their precious party vote.
The other issue of local interest was the push for amalgamation of local authorities. Peters was of the opinion that it had been a failure in Auckland and should be opposed wherever it was mooted around the country. He singled out the threat to democracy of having a race based, unelected Maori Statutory Board able to vote and affect decision making on Auckland Council.
Being Ostend Market the Greens were there in numbers. A couple of questions came from that quarter. In response, he said the Greens “care more about bees than people or the economy” and they should read their Bible where it says “God gave dominion to Man over the birds and bees” much to the amusement of the crowd. It was obvious he thought of the Greens as so many troublesome bees to be buzzed off. In response to a question about that old chestnut ‘climate change’, he went on to say you couldn’t fight the natural phenomena of climate change by imposing more taxes, such as the Carbon Tax or belonging to an Emissions Trading Scheme.
A coalition involving the Greens and NZ First following the election would, in my opinion, be untenable, but one never knows. Power and the promise of influence are compelling incentives. Looking at his likely voters in the crowd it was obvious they would find it easier to stomach a coalition with National than any other party. Naturally, he wouldn’t be drawn on which party or parties he would favour if NZ First were to hold the balance of power.
Winston is as silver tongued as he is silver haired. He was able to deliver a clear message for his party. Many will have found it compelling.