Could the Winston Peters super payments affair backfire on the Government?
That was a distinct possibility last night as sources close to the NZ First leadership maintained National must have known how confidential information held by the Ministry of Social Development made its way to the media.
Peters himself made no mention of the affair last night at a lively Northland electorate candidates’ meeting at Mangawhai Heads. None of his opponents mentioned it either.
But the audience was clearly sympathetic to the NZ First leader and gave him a good hearing as he ticked off his usual complaints about the over-valued exchange rate, the state of Northland roads, the lack of any investment in rail for Northland and a new bottom line which he said he would bring into any coalition negotiations.
He would want whichever Government he supported to revisit the complaints from Mangawhai residents about a large rates surcharge they face after a sewerage scheme went massively over budget.
But after the meeting speaking to journalists, he was ready to talk about the leak of his superannuation overpayments.
He said someone had decided they would break the law and leak the information about him in a political way.
“Some of those tweets and other comments point to knowledge out there which was malicious and politically dirty,” he said.
“I’ve got my serious investigatory assistants out there putting some hard work into it.
“And I’ve got my deep suspicions, and I’ll tell you when I know it.”
The party sources spoken to by POLITIK said the investigations already showed that the crumbs led back to National.
But Peters said if the Ministry were to conduct its own investigation it would need a complaint from him.
And he said he hadn’t laid one so far.
“I’ve been flat out on the campaign, and when I’ve got time I will turn my mind to it,” he said.
It may have been cold comfort to Peters at last night’s meeting but National’s Northland candidate, Matt King, conceded that the party had been sent a message by the 2015 by-election which Peters won.
“The message is that National has to do better in Northland,” he said.
“And I want to tell you this, that message has been received loud and clear.”
However Labour’s candidate, Willow Jean Prime, a Far North District Councillor and lawyer, who is highly rated by Labour and placed at 17 on their list, said all was not well in Northland.
“As I go round on the campaign I see first hand the poverty and the homelessness,” she said.
“Northland has always had the worst representation in the statistics for deprivation.
“This is not necessarily a new thing.
“However the levels of suffering that I am seeing out there are new.”
Peters, however, was sticking to his favourite themes.
“We are nationalists and proud of it,” he said.
“But we are one law for all.
“We do not like the Waitangi industry that sees a certain group saying you can’t have water because you weren’t born here at the same time Winston Peters’ background was.
“Whatever the anthropological limitations might be, that’s how long my background in the north is.
“But I was the product of a mother who was Scottish and frankly I wouldn’t be here if it wasn;t for the sacrifices she made with 11 children.
“My point is that we have got to make up our mind to face the world as one country, one people, one law regardless of our creed, background or our race.
“Or we will head down the path of separatism.”
Peters knows his Northland audience, and his attack on the Maori claim on water gets a good hearing.
He will release the party’s list later today, and there will be much interest in where the party’s Whangarei candidate, Shane Jones is placed.
Jones told POLITIK last night he was happy with is ranking, but he wouldn’t say what it was.
However other sources say it is not — as reported by RNZ — ninth.
Meantime we await Peters’ investigators’ report on the leak.