Winston Peters talks media and politics. And cows.

by Toby Manhire / 17 May, 2012
The NZ First leader is at his best off the script in Wintec appearance.

Why did John Key launch into that weirdly detailed critique of New Zealand media and politics on Thursday morning?

It's clear as anything now: he was stealing the thunder of Winston Peters, who addressed precisely that subject before an audience of politicians, media and students (and, most importantly, Sir Pinetree Meads) in Hamilton yesterday.

The New Zealand First leader was speaking at a Wintec School of Media Arts lunch as the guest of Steve Braunias, the editor-in-residence, columnist and suspected author of satirical Twitter account @JohnKeyPM.

In a cunning allusion to the media as a feral beast, Peters invoked pitbulls, cows and kittens as he orated his way around a range of subjects, punctuated with those signature glares, mile-wide grins and complicit chortles.

As one seasoned observer put it, it was a speech the NZ First leader appeared to be discovering at the same time as his audience. Especially when he was telling us about social media. That was sort of painful.

Among other near misses, the “big German” who appears to have entangled John Banks in his net was repeatedly called “Tim Dotcom”.

The speech itself, which laments a lot of things, including the impact on New Zealand media of foreign ownership, can be read here.

But while the official version is not entirely without sparks – including swipes at Kiwiblog and Whale Oil – the best stuff, of course, was Winston off-piste.

Not in the script was the bit where he framed an argument against immigration on the basis of there being too many restaurants on Dominion Road.

Or the bit where he talked about his views on drinking. “It’s not whether you like a drink, its whether you can handle it.”

Or the bit where he talked about strategic news management. “My father told me, when you go out there on the farm to feed the cows, you shouldn’t feed them all you like. Spread it out.”

Or journalists’ “magical reason to exist” but poverty of soul. “I wish more had the sense of glamour and romance about their glamorous profession.”

Or the use of Twitter in parliament. “People use it a lot. Apart from one member – that’s all he does. Tau Henare. It’s a fact. That’s when he’s not hiding behind Paula Bennett.”

Tau Henare? “When I met him, I thought he was very bright. But that was before he opened his mouth.”

You can find a better, more thorough and more coherent write-up of the event, penned by Wintec student Mackenzie McCarty, at the Waikato Independent. The future is in safe hands.
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