Thursday, July 31, 2008
The NZ Herald has been running a poll today with the question "Should the Serious Fraud Office investigate alleged donations to Winston Peters and NZ First?". As I type this, 2619 readers have expressed an opinion, and it's overwhelming. 86% of repsondents (2243) have answered "Yes", with a mere 14% (376) supporting the embattled NZ First leader.
Helen Clark drew the line in the sand earlier in the week ""The court of public opinion may have views on whether something is moral or not," she said. Miss Clark, the Court has spoken!
"The decision includes the Maritime Union, the Dairy Workers Union, the Meat Workers' and Related Trades Union and the Service and Food Workers Union, all of which were waiting for the EPMU decision."
What the Electoral Commission has essentially done is cleared the way for each of these five unions to spend up to $120,000, or $600,000 to run election campaigns. Whilst the EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little says that the union's "campaign on workers' rights focused on issues, rather than parties. ", it doesn't take much imagination to deduce that the EPMU and other unions will not be endorsing National or Act! Their campaign in 2005 was strongly pro-Labour/anti-National.
I note that the Service and Food Workers' Union (SFWU) was one of those cleared to register. And it is there that my attention goes. For in 2005, the SFWU had a budget of $70,000 for its election activities. But in 2005, the SFWU spent a total of $237,364 on election activities - $167,364 over budget. The expenditure was itemised in the SFWU's Financial Report as "$100,274 spent on printing, photocopying, postage, petrol cost, telephone tolls, the delegates' election conference and delegates' expenses. The cost for staff involved in election activities was $137,090. Our Union dedicated almost 7% of total resources as well as one-month labour force for the election campaign."
Spending over budget is a recipe for disaster. As Michael Cullen would have doubtless advised the SFWU had they consulted him. For the SFWU made a loss of $218,000 in the 2005/6 year. And who makes up the shortfall? I'm only guessing, but the largest source of income to a union would seem to be the subscriptions of its members.
And now here's the interesting bit! The Labour Party declared a donation from the SFWU of $20,000 in 2005. I don't have a problem with that. The Union had budgeted for an election campaign, and doubtless made provision for a cash contribution to the party to whom they are allied (with a small 'a'). But the Union's total electoral spend was a whole lot more than $20,000 - so what benefit did the Labour Party derive from the additional $217,364 of the SFWU's election spending? And have incorrect declarations been made?
Prior to the 2005 election, the SFWU National and Northern Reginal Secretary was Darien Fenton, now a Labour list MP. Was the SFWU's massive overspend in any way related to see one of their brethren elected to Parliament by way of the Labour Party list? I'll let you be the judge of that. And who succeeded Mrs Fenton as Northern Regional Secretary of the SFWU? None other than Jill Ovens, partner of "Megaphone Len" Richards. And in case you missed it, here's where Len is working now.
There's a whole lot more to tell about the SFWU, who will presumably register as a third party under the EFA on Monday. Watch this space...
"How much of all this has been known to Helen Clark and her government, and for how long? When she gave the ministry of racing to Winston Peters did she know the extent to which New Zealand First had become beholden to the racing industry? Did she realize when her ministry agreed to the reduced totalisator duty from 20% to 4%, said to be worth $32 million per annum to the racing industry, that it could be seen as payback to her racing minister’s big backers? The same with the new tax write-down periods for race horses, and this year’s budgetary $9 million for co-sponsorship schemes? Has Helen Clark kept an eye on Peters’ appointments to the New Zealand Racing Board to which, according to Wall, he’s appointed people with the backing of the big racing industry players?"
I guess that this is the last thing that Helen Clark and Winston Peters would want to see today. But once again we have cause to suspect that the man whose party was conceived on the slogan "Keeping Them Honest" is not the paragon of virtue that he has so long seemed to be.
Hat-tip: No Minister
The Dom-Post carries ANOTHER allegation against NZ First, and by default, against Winston Peters regarding a deposit of one or more cheques in December 1999, totalling $19,998.00. This sounds to me like two cheques, each of $9,999.00, which, if I remember rightly, was the sum on the copy of the Vela cheque which the Dom-Post showed last week. It adds to the perception that Peters made a "factual misunderstanding" when he declared in February this year that his party had never accepted money from big business.
When questioned about this latest revelation by reporter Phil Kitchin, Peters said "Phil, I told you I'm not talking to a lying wanker like you. See you." He then hung up.
As other blogs have noted, Peters's behaviour is becoming increasingly bizarre. His speech in the General Debate yesterday was a mix of Alice in Wonderland and accusations against journalists, complete with frequent glances to the assembled gallery journos.
This story is far from done. It will be interesting to hear the Business Statement this afternoon at the start of the session, and hear when Labour plans to seek the confidence of the House on the Appropriations Bill.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
There is one more confidence vote for the government to face in the life of the 48th Parliament. Last week, it was expected that the Appropriation (2008/09 Estimates) Bill, the Budget would be concluded this week, with indications given that the Third Reading debate would take place on Thursday. Clearly, this is an issue of confidence and supply, and at the start of the Budget debate, the Leader of the Opposition moves a motion of No Confidence in the government.
The Greens abstain on issues of confidence and supply. Accordingly, Labour needs the support of NZ First to ensure they have a majority, particularly if the Maori Party votes with the Opposition. However, if NZ First was to collapse its coalition agreement with the government, Helen Clark would face the possibility of defeat on the confidence motion.
So what was discussed when Clark and Peters met yesterday? Why did the PM back away from the hard-line stance she had taken that morning, and the previous afternoon. Is Winston Peters effectively holding Helen Clark to ransom?
What do you think?
This afternoon in the House could be fun, especially the General Debate!
"The odour around Winston Peters' mysterious "Spencer Trust" grew worse yesterday when the Prime Minister met him and appears not to have pressed him for an explanation of the trust and its purpose. She was unable to give Parliament anything more than the word of her Foreign Minister that he has done nothing illegal. Either she did not ask for an explanation or, if she got one, it was not an explanation she wanted to relay to the country.
Either way, it leaves this affair more deeply disturbing. If Helen Clark does not want to inquire into her governing partner's financial arrangements it can only suggest she has no confidence that she might hear an explanation she could defend in public."
Quite so. Whenever questioned by John Key yesterday, Clark was quick to put the Spencer Trust into the same category as the trusts from which National has received donations. But her obfuscation ignores one important fact. Nationals trusts are known, and income from them has been declared. The Spencer Trust, by way of contrast, only registered on the public consciousness last week, has NEVER been declared by NZ First, and to all intents and purposes does exactly what Peters railed against during the progress of the Electoral Finance Act last year. The leader writer then gives advice to Helen Clark:"If the Prime Minister still does not know the nature and purpose of this trust run by Mr Peters' brother, she must find out. If she is left in any doubt of its propriety she should suspend him from her ministry, as she has with several ministers of her own party during her years in office."
Absolutely. It is not good enough for Clark to say that everything is OK because Peters has said it is. She is treating the public with the utmost of contempt by allowing Peters to bluster his way out of trouble.
The editorial concludes:
"It would be comforting to believe Mr Peters' reluctance to admit to these contributions can be explained by the fact that he has campaigned as a lonely crusader against politicians and parties that he claims are in the pockets of big business. But his supporters would understand he needs wealthy donors as much as the next party and they would see a moral difference between his benefactors and others'.
His reluctance to explain this trust must have another explanation and it behoved the Prime Minister to find it. She is responsible for the probity of all her ministers. If the standards she has enforced so far have a purpose higher than her political interests she will not limit them to her own party, she will confront Mr Peters properly and tell the country the truth."
And so say all of us!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
As statements go, it was a damp squib. But it set the scene for half an hour of fun on Question #1 - the Hansard records it all. And where were we at the end of it all? Right where we started, it would seem. Peters has promised to release more information tomorrow, but we won't be holding our breath!
Peters did fire one blank though - an allegation of non-disclosure against Tukituki MP Craig Foss, which Foss has since rebutted. Not that Peters has ever worried about the facts getting in the way of a good story. So who will be in his sights tomorrow, and will the mud stick?
"Mr Joyce today acknowledged his role in liaising with the Brethren, but said he treated them like any other group that wanted to help National and referred them to the Chief Electoral Officer to make sure they knew the rules.
"I was not involved with them as a go-between," he said on Radio New Zealand.
However, he defended the right of third parties to campaign under the laws at the time.
"At the end of the day the third party groups had a right under the Electoral Act to do what they did. Labour had the unions doing it for years.
"The National Party doesn't control who campaigns for or against the government of the day. The people have a democratic right and they choose what they do."
He said he was no longer in contact with the group."
Much as the Brethren men have been demonised for their clumsy campaign, they did nothing illegal. They have been subjected to a hate campaign, orchestrated by senior Labour government figures, but they did nothing illegal. The insidious Electoral Finance Act was conceived as revenge for their opposition to Labour and the Greens, but they did nothing illegal. Had they not been a Christian group (albeit with a very different doctrine to that which I follow), there would have been outrage at their treatment from the government, but the fact remains - THEY DID NOTHING ILLEGAL. And we should be grateful to Steven Joyce for reminding us of that truth, as inconvenient as that truth may be to the government.
"Prime Minister Helen Clark distanced herself from Foreign Minister Winston Peters last night, implying he could be judged to be hypocritical if his New Zealand First Party accepted donations from secret trusts.
And she also offered the bare minimum in terms of expressing confidence in him.
"As long as ministers are in their position, I retain confidence in them," she said at her post-Cabinet press conference. She dismissed any suggestion that the situation could lead to an early election."
"As long as ministers are in their position" - is that the broadest hint yet that the axe has been sharpenened and ready for action? Has Helen Clark been following the Herald poll which currently, with over 3200 respondents, shows that only 15% believe Winston Peters over the 85% that believe Sir Robert Jones? Or is she responding to another Herald poll, one that Keeping Stock will talk about later?
Meanwhile, One News is reporting that "Helen Clark has said all she wants is an assurance from Peters that he hasn't been acting hypocritically over the donations issue."
Keeping Stock believes that when you consider that Winston Peters formed New Zealand First on the slogan "Keeping Them Honest", that he has long railed against the use of secret trusts yets directs donations to the Spencer Trust, and that he has decried the influence of "big money" in politics, while receiving substantial donations himself, that assurance will be very difficult for Peters to give. He knows that, and the PM knows that, and I suspect that she has chosen her words very, very carefully.
So where does that leave Winston Peters? How "hollow" are his denials over the Spencer Trust and the Jones, Vela and Glenn donations?
And speaking of "hollow" people, Clark has a very short memory. The public of New Zealand needs to be reminded that Clark was right at the centre of government during the Lange/Palmer/Moore years (including Rogernomics), and was Deputy PM when Labour threw a hospital pass to the incoming National government in 1990. So who's REALLY "hollow" Miss Clark?
Monday, July 28, 2008
""There was a lot of drinking and when we got round to the subject [of the donation] there was a tremendous argument and I said 'Winston, I'm not giving you anything'. Finally to get him off my back I said 'you can have $25,000 on the basis of friendship'," Sir Robert said.
Asked if he believed it was plausible Peters knew nothing of the Spencer Trust, he added: "Of course he [Peters] did... [But] there was no bloody mention of the Spencer Trust. The money was to go to his party.
"I don't tell bloody lies. Why am I in the firing line for an act of benevolence? I won't tolerate it.""
It would also seem that Labour's focus groups have been hard at work at the weekend, and the message that Clark is taking from them is that not only is Peters a hypocrite, but that Labour is being tainted by association. Keeping Stock strongly suspects that Winston Peters's time as Foreign Minister is fast coming to a close.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
#1 - Bailey Junior Kurariki has been recalled to prison after being caught "under the influenece of drugs". That's hardly a surprise, albeit a sad one. The real problem will come when his statutory release date passes, and the when he is discharged from parole six months later.
#2 - Police are close to deciding whether or not Tony Veitch will face criminal charges. Good. If there is prima-facie evidence of an assault, he should be charged.
It will be interesting to see whether once the Veitch case has been solved, the Police get around to doing something about "Megaphone Len" Richards and his assault at last year's Labour Party conference, witnessed by several police officers, and captured by two television channels. Perhaps it is time that someone asked questions of the Police on this matter - after all, Helen Clark described Winston Peters's electoral petition as a matter of public interest, so surely Len Richards's act of political thuggery is also of interest to the public! And as they say, justice must not only be done; it must be seen to be done.
Meanwhile the Herald reports that Sir Bob Jones is angry, and that would be the LAST thing Peters needs at the moment. The Herald reports:
"Asked if he believed it was plausible Peters knew nothing of the Spencer Trust, he added: "Of course he [Peters] did... [But] there was no bloody mention of the Spencer Trust. The money was to go to his party.
"I don't tell bloody lies. Why am I in the firing line for an act of benevolence? I won't tolerate it.""
Hell, it would seem, hath no fury like a Knight of the Realm being accused of losing his marbles!
Ouch! When I predicted that the All Blacks would beat the Wallabies in Sydney last night, I qualified it with a couple of "if" statements. Sadly, none of the "ifs", "buts" or "maybes" could save the All Blacks last night. They were soundly beaten, and deservedly so. I struggle to remember a test match in which the All Blacks coughed up so much ball, and missed so many tackles.
Sure, there was controversy and bad luck. Referee Craig Joubert of South Africa allowed the Australians way too much latitude at the offside line, and should be pilloried by his IRB bosses for not awarding a penalty try midway through the second half when Sitivini Sivivatu was tackled without the ball. The All Blacks were desperately unlucky to have to play the last 30 minutes with two broken-arse halfbacks. But that's not why they lost.
Graham Henry has a huge job ahead of him this week. Churches throughout New Zealand should pray this morning for the rapid and miraculous healing of Richie McCaw - the All Blacks desperately need him. More than anything, Henry will need to work on the players's headspace. I'm loath to single out individuals after an inept team performance, but surely Sione Lauaki will be watching from the stand next week - the only "impact" he made was on the Aussies's possession stats as he dropped ball after ball after ball.
Anyway, enough of the negative! Let's face it; after last night's performance, the All Blacks can only get better!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
"The zoological community is finding increasing evidence that the shorter blustering peterus may be facing extinction.
Characterised by its immaculate pinstriped plumage and animal cunning, the peterus has defied previous predictions of its imminent demise because of its chameleon-like propensity for taking on the characteristics of former enemies when coalescing with other species.
Experts put this ability down to a lust for power which blinds the peterus to the contradictions in its easy assimilation into communities on which it has previously poured scorn."
Why does Keeping Stock have mixed emotions? Well, in recent years, this species has become a parasitic and largely irrelevant pest, and in the last few days, it had become increasingly feral. But coming less than two decades after the loss of its irascible cousin the Porcine Muldoonus, it will leave a gap on the zoopolitical lanscape. And life was never dull when the Peterus was around!
If ever there was a year that the Wallabies should take the cup away from us it is 2008. Four games, only one of which is in New Zealand. But Keeping Stock confidently predicts that the Bledisloe will still reside in the NZRU's trophy room come the end of the year.
Everyone's talking about Deans vs Henry. Lots of people say that Deans will have an advantage, knowing the Kiwi players inside out. But equally, those players know Deans inside out, especially the likes of Dan Carter, Greg Somerville, Brad Thorn and Richie McCaw (even though he's not on the field).
The loss of Stirling Mortlock is a huge blow for tjhe Aussies. Their backs already look raw without Gregan and Larkham, and Ryan Cross won't be the rock in midfield that Mortlock is. Nonu and Kahui should be able to exploit this, given some good front-foot ball.
What's almost a first-choice All Black forward pack had the potential to monster the Aussies. If they can do that, and accordingly nullify George Smith and Rocky Elsom, the All Blacks should win, and win well.
Are these words from Sir Robert Jones the words that will bring to an end the political life of Winston Peters? This morning's Herald suggests that he has "serious credibility questions" - a journalist's way of saying he's not telling the truth:
"Serious credibility questions remain for Foreign Minister Winston Peters after he failed yesterday to throw any light on what happened to a $25,000 donation given by Sir Robert Jones in 2005 for Mr Peters' NZ First Party.
Sir Robert said he was dismayed at what Mr Peters said yesterday and believed a police complaint will follow shortly - although he said he would not be making it.
He predicted that Mr Peters was "going to die on his own sword on this matter"."
Peters's response astounded me - and I have long since ceased to be amazed by almost anything Peters says! Read this:
"Mr Peters said the police would not be "so naive or uninformed or unprofessional" to investigate the matter."
I rather think that Peters has spent too much time in the company of the PM, making an outrageous statement such as that. It is time for him to go; failing that, it is time for Helen Clark to sack him, even if that means an early election. Today's visit by Dr Condoleezza Rice should have been Peters's moment of triumph. That it will be surrounded by farce is entirely the fault of Peters himself, and to a lesser degree, that of Helen Clark.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Game, set and match to Sir Robert! Meanwhile, until the Campbell Live video is online, here's the 3News take on the spectacle that passed as a media conference this afternoon.
UPDATE: Still waiting for the full Campbell Live piece (everything else from tonight's show has been posted!), but while you wait, enjoy Stephen Page's "Headshot" take on Peters.
UPDATE #2: Campbell Live video now online.
"LATEST: NZ First leader Winston Peters says press reports on his party funding are "unsubstantiated rubbish".
"Every donation New Zealand First has ever received has been legal and no individual has ever personally retained any donations," he said.
"NZ First is once again caught up in a power struggle for control," he said.
He said he had no knowledge of the Spencer Trust which Sir Robert Jones said he had paid money into.
"What are you left with?" Peters asked.
"A campaign of innuendo, misrepresentation and character assassination promoted by some particular interests of their own purposes.
"These campaigns have been going on since 1991 and they have always failed."
He said Jones's memory was failing him."
Watch this space!
UPDATE: Peters denies any knowledge of the Spencer Trust - again, from Stuff:
"LATEST: NZ First leader Winston Peters has angrily refused to reveal who and what the Spencer Trust is, the organisation property developer Sir Robert Jones says he gave money to.
He would not say when he knew of the trust.
"Neither I nor my barrister has any involvement with the Spencer Trust."
To questions about the trust he repeatedly said "ask them"."
And then of course there has been Winston - and a media conference today which is sure to be entertaining one way or the other. Henry vs Dean #1 is good to go tomorrow, although there will be a dedicated thread on that later. Interest rates are down - what implications will that have for other sectors of the domestic economy? The dissolution of the 48th Parliament is a week nearer, and the ETS Bill has still to return to the House. So there's no shortage of topics for discussion today, but this is still an Tony Veitch-free zone! Other than that, welcome aboard, wear your heart on your sleeve, and rant, rave or bleat to your heart's content!
"Prime Minister Helen Clark has rejected calls to grill Winston Peters over donations to NZ First, saying he has assured her he has done nothing illegal.
Mr Peters flies back into the country this morning from Singapore - straight into a political storm - as he prepares to meet United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tonight..
The controversy over NZ First funding - which includes what happened to the $25,000 property magnate Sir Robert Jones has confirmed giving in 2005 - threatens to overshadow the biggest coup of Mr Peters' time as foreign affairs minister.
National leader John Key said Miss Clark had to get to the bottom of serious questions surrounding the funding before Mr Peters met Dr Rice.
NZ First insiders were last night planning for Mr Peters to answer media questions before his talks with Dr Rice - a sign Miss Clark wants the issue dampened down by then."
It would appear that by the time Peters faces the media, an alibi will have been constructed. But how plausible will it be? When confronted with the allegations on Sunday, Peters's response was vintage Winnie - ""That is a lie," Mr Peters said." However the Dom-Post this morning reveals that they have seen the receipt for $25,000, and Sir Bob Jones's company has a copy of the original cheque.
It is Clark's response (or the lack of it) that is telling however. The Dom-Post reports:
"But Miss Clark said she was not concerned about the latest reports. She had been assured that "he believes everything he has done is legal and he is coming back to New Zealand ... to clear the matter up"."
Of course he will Helen! But the question remains. Why is the PM cutting Winston Peters far more slack than she cut Dover Samuels, Taito Philip Field, David Benson-Pope or David Parker when various allegations first surfaced against each of them?
Thursday, July 24, 2008
"Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Leader of the House: What is the Government’s timetable for passing the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill; and will the second reading be held during this parliamentary session?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): The Government’s timetable for this bill is for it to be passed in 2008. As this parliamentary session must end by 6 October by law, we are aiming to hold the second reading and remaining stages before then."
Time is running short for the 48th Parliament. At present, it would seem that the government lacks the numbers to bring this legislation back to the House. Even if the government, or more particularly Heather Simpson can stitch together a deal or deals, the passage of the ETS legislation through its three remaining stages will be rushed - just as the Electoral Finance Bill was at the end of 2007. And haven't we seen a graphic illustration there of just how bad rushed legislation can be??!!
Now, joining the dots - Helen Clark has been staunch in her defence of Winston Peters this week. And we know from past experience that she is usually quick to distance herself from those who commit "embarrassing" glitches. Is the PM's support for Peters somehow linked to NZ First's reciprocated support for the ETS? We know that this is "flagship" legislation for the Helen Clark-led Labour government. But are we to believe that Clark is prepared to turn a blind eye to Peters's cavalier attitude towards donations as a price of his support for her "legacy"?
Keeping Stock believes that to be exactly the situation as it stands today. And Keeping Stock believes that this is an absolute outrage.
Although Helen Clark, John Key and Peters himself will not be in the House today, there will still be fun to be had, especially at Question #2:
"GERRY BROWNLEE to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement that, “greater transparency about the sources of political funding will lead to increasing public confidence in our democracy.”?"
This morning's allegation surrounds two donations by Sir Robert Jones - $50,000 in 1993, and $25,000 just before the 2005 election. The Dom-Post reports:
" Winston Peters faces mounting pressure over undeclared NZ First donations amid revelations that Sir Robert Jones gave the party $25,000 — which was banked into a trust administered by Mr Peters’ brother.
An investigation by The Dominion Post has learnt from NZ First sources that property magnate Sir Robert gave money to Mr Peters to help fund the party.
The $25,000 donation has not been declared to election officials.
It is understood the cheque went to the Spencer Trust, which a NZ First source has described as secretive. Its identity was known to only a handful of party MPs, officials or supporters. Money sourced from the Spencer Trust had been used sometimes to pay NZ First’s bills, the source said.
The Dominion Post has learnt that Sir Robert gave the money to Mr Peters a month before the 2005 election.
The Electoral Commission has confirmed it has no record of NZ First declaring a $25,000 donation from Sir Robert, any of his companies, or from the Spencer Trust in 2005 or in later years.
Mr Peters’ brother Wayne administered the Spencer Trust."
Now this takes on an interesting dynamic. Sir Bob has, in recent months, been a trenchant critic of the Electoral Finance Act. How did NZ First vote when this insidious piece of legislation was before the House? Ah, they supported its passage! So right now, I'm guessing that Sir Bob doesn't think very kindly on NZ First for being a party to the EFA. Which makes today's revelation another HUGE blow to Winston Peters.
UPDATE: Danyl Mclauchlan, commenting on Kiwiblog, advises that Sir Bob has confirmed on National Radio that he has indeed donated to NZ First, to the tune of $150,000.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
"John Key: Is the Prime Minister prepared to accept that there is probably quite a lot of difference between a donation that may be accepted by a political party and a donation that is accepted by an individual for his or her own personal use?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yesterday I cautioned the member from going down that particular route, because if he is going to hold Mr Peters accountable for declaring donations into a legal fund as either relevant debt declarations or gift declarations in the interests of the pecuniary interest register, then we would want to know why Mr Smith did not declare the debts and did not declare the gifts, and whether he knows who puts money into his account. I am well aware that Mr Smith declared a beneficial interest in a trust, but he has not declared the debt that he owes—nor has he declared who helped him pay for it; nor has he declared gifts under that section of the declaration.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I contacted the registrar of pecuniary interests and sought advice as to what disclosure requirements I was to make. The registrar was clear that what I needed to declare was a pecuniary interest in a trust. I have done just that. I seek leave to table the pecuniary interest declaration that I made on that advice, which clearly states there was a trust that provided support for that legal action.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It therefore follows from Mr Smith’s point of order that if that were the appropriate course for him to follow and that he does not have to declare either debts or gifts, then nor does Mr Peters."
You're wrong Miss Clark. The issue here is not whether or not Peters declares debts or gifts from his trust; thie issue is that Peters has made NO declaration of a pecuniary interest in the donation of $100,000 towards his legal expenses. Which is a significant difference when we are talking about the party leader who is "Keeping them honest", and who demands transparency from everyone else, but hides his own light under a bushel.
The original definition stated that one could donate only if one was registered on the New Zealand electoral roll. Then there was a coffee break. Then committee members came back and said that we need to change that definition. Then we spent another couple of hours on the definition. Then there was a lunch break. When the committee members came back they said that we will have to make more changes to the definition of what an overseas person is. It was all about cementing Owen Glenn’s ability to give half a million dollars to the Labour Party for the coming general election.
That is what this bill is all about. It is about cementing the interests of big union money and about the ability of the Labour Party’s half-a-million-dollar overseas donor to contribute again. That is what this bill is all about. It is about tilting the playing field in favour of the Labour Party."
So is this what all the fuss over Owen Glenn's donation to Winston Peters is all about? On one hand, it seems strange. Glenn liked the FTA between New Zealand and China (good for his business, no doubt), but Peters opposed it.
But Peters agreed to support Helen Clark's minority Labour-led government on confidence and supply, allowing Labour to push forward with its legislative agenda. and, of course, NZ First supported the Labour Party, the Greens and Jim Anderton with the Electoral Finance Act - "Owen Glenn clause" and all. And what would that have meant for Peters and NZ First in 2008? And were the parties who voted in favour of the EFA REALLY trying to "prevent the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes" or just the influence of wealth from other parties's supporters?
Ah, so many questions; so few answers...
Keeping Stock believes that a very strong argument could be made in that regard, given that the purpose of the film would appear to be to alert the populus to dodgy dealings by National Party politicians in the lead-up to the 2005 election - many of whom will be seeking a further mandate from the electorate this year.
Let's be honest here - The Hollow Men is blatantly and shamelessly partisan, and its release date, so close to the election, can only be interpreted as an attempt by its makers and author to influence voters not to vote for National. Is that not what the Electoral Finance Act was specifically intended to regulate? Or does the level of regulation depend on which side of the political divide you occupy?
So it's a big and heartfelt thank you to all at Wanganui Hospital. We hope not to have to avail ourselves of your services again for some good time! And thanks to all who have expressed kind wishes to Mrs I - much appreciated!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs; if so, why?
Winston Peters is "hard-working and conscientious"? As my favourite Bro-Town character Jeff da Maori would say - "Not even"!!
It seems as though the Owen Glenn donation is not the only one where Winston Peters may have problems. Phil Kitchin of the Dominion-Post is revealing that Peters and NZ First have received significant financial support from the Vela family - but that not all of it has appeared in NZ First's bank accounts.
Now, let's remember that Phil Kitchin is a seasoned investigative journalist. It was he who broke the story about Donna Awatere-Huata a few years back, which led to her fall from grace. So I'm guessing that Kitchin is very confident in the veracity of his sources to be running this story. If his allegations have foundation, Peters has some serious explaining to do!
"Since 2006 all MPs have had to declare assets and gifts. Before that, only Cabinet ministers needed to do so.
If Owen Glenn's donation to Winston Peters' legal bill is considered a "debt" or a "gift" it should have been declared."
Given that Brian Henry has said that there is NO fund, and that when money came in, bills were paid, Winston may have a wee "issue" here!
Monday, July 21, 2008
Last night, 3News carried a story which both staggered and angered me. George Baker, the very person who murdered 17 year-old Liam Ashley in a prison van in 2006 is alleged to have attacked and stabbed a guard - in a prison van! But wait, there's more!
Baker was not wearing the waist restraints which have been fitted in prison vans since his cowardly attack on Liam Ashley! It was as a result of Baker's actions that procedures were changed to make transport of prisoners safer. And yet procedures do not appear to have been followed in Baker's case, and a Corrections officer has been wounded as a result.
The Corrections Department seems to suffer a new fiasco every day. But enough is enough. Barry Matthews must resign or be sacked without delay, and certainly before ANOTHER New Zealander dies as a result of a cock-up by Corrections.
Peters told the party faithful (at least those who were awake!) that NZ First had warned against the danger of seeing the world through "multiculturalism spectacles". And as the Herald notes:
"And he railed against gangs as a visible breakdown of law and order.
Mr Peters pointed to the inner-city deaths in Auckland on Saturday - over which an Iraqi faces charges - and also referred to kidnapping crime in the wake of last week's abduction of 5-year old Xin Xin Ma.
"The crime wave in Auckland is all too real - as are its racial and ethnic undertones.
"There is nothing so antiseptic as the words 'I told you so' but we damned well did and we will go on doing it.""
Someone should tell Winston that Asian-bashing is SOOOO 20th century!
On Winston Peters - she said that Mr Peters will be "embarrassed" by Friday's revelations, but that it is a New Zealand First issue, so case closed. Interestingly, she also said that legal funds were not covered by the pecuniary interests requirement for MP's, and couldn't resist dragging Nick Smith into the debate, saying that he'd had legal issues, and she wondered where he got his money from. That was a cheap shot, especially when it is considered that Smith's "legal issues" have been as a consequence of his working on behalf of constituents!
On John Key - Clark made reference to the Herald "biography" from the weekend, seemingly slighted that she had not been the subject of one! And she had another dig at Key's wealth, saying that the public will have their own view on speculating against the NZ$, but that "it's not something I'd be proud of".
So, when the House resumes tomorrow, it looks as though nothing will happen to Peters (quelle surprise!), and that clearly, Labour sees the weekend poll results as carte blanche to continue the personal attacks on John Key. An interesting week awaits!
UPDATE: It's interesting already! According to Kiwiblog, Nick Smith has declared his Freedom of Speech trust as a pecuniary interest from which he benefits. Clark tried to slur Smith this morning, but he has played it by the book, unlike Clark's Foreign Minister. Clark's government is now tainted by her attempted slur - ain't that a shame!
Padraig Harrington has achieved a rare disticntion in an era dominated by Tiger Woods by winning a second consecutive Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Greg Norman was unable to maintain his earlier momentum, shooting 77 in the final round to finish tied for third. But the glory goes to the Irishman.
What makes this story even more remarkable is that right up to the time that he teed off in the first round Harrington was only a 50/50 chance of even playing in the Championship, let alone winning it. He had suffered a wrist injury the previous weekend in a gym accident, and as anyone who has ever swung a golf club will know, the wrist is rather important!. But he started, hung in for the first three rounds, then stormed home over the closing holes for an emphatic win. The likeable Irishman is one of golf's most popular characters, and with a second major, moves into the ranks of the very good.
"Peters has not acknowledged that the Herald was right. Only a reasonable person would do that.
Here at the party convention at Alexander Park he has held perhaps the most graceless press conference he has ever held, and that takes some beating.
And No, to the dozens of inquiries: Peters has not apologised for the personal abuse levelled at me last Monday when he employed the bazooka strategy - fire so many missiles at somebody else that people forget what you are supposed to have done. Though I did receive one from a very decent member of the caucus.
Today Peters continued to say that the Herald editor and I should resign and suggested that he was the victim in all of this."
Sunday, July 20, 2008
That could be the song that is buzzing in Greg Norman's mind as he nods off tonight (UK time). The final round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale beckons, and Norman will start the day with a two-stroke lead over Padraig Harrington, the 2007 Open Champion and KJ Choi.
Can he hang on? If so, he will become the oldest winner of a major at the age of 53, smashing Jack Nicklaus's record of having won the 1986 US Masters at the age of 46. Ironically, that was the same year that Norman won his first Open Championship. Surely it won't happen....surely......
Full Open Championship coverage is here.
UPDATE: Believe in omens? It is 22 years to the day since Greg Norman won his first Open Championship, at Turnberry. He could put the ghosts of Augusta 1996 to rest today.
Now what, you might ask, has the President of the Labour Party got to do with donations to Winston Peters? According to Ralston, quite a bit! Which once again makes it very hard for Helen Clark to distance herself from this rapidly developing maelstrom. Ralston opines:
"Peters should be able to avoid too much flak next week with his mother's funeral and the Association of South East Asian Nations meetings in Singapore.
This puts Helen Clark squarely in the firing line. In the House she will be writhing under Opposition pressure for blithely accepting Peters' assurance at face value that he did not receive any payment from Glenn.
National will be keen to paint her as a slave to Peters, scared of rupturing her fragile government.
Bill English has already gone on the attack this weekend, carefully targeting Clark and her party president Mike Williams, not Peters, because National do not want to alienate Winston in case they, too, need him to hold a coalition together after the next election."
It's interesting how Ralston draws Mike Williams into this. Williams has already incurred the wrath of Clark several times this year, and MUST be on his final warning now. Allegations such as this will be the last thing he needs:
"A good question is what role did Williams play in backing the expensive Tauranga electoral petition after the last election?
It was that legal action, along with 13 cases since 1991, that ran up the legal bill that Glenn helped pay off.
It is understood Williams did a lot of the calculations on election spending by National's Bob Clarkson that Peters' lawyers used to try to challenge his election."
Isn't that interesting! LABOUR'S President was doing spade-work for the NZ FIRST leader!! Was that part of the post-election negotiations between Labour and NZ First? If that is the case, it adds much weight to the argument that this is indeed an issue by which Helen Clark may stand or fall.
The electoral petition for which Peters claims Glenn donated $100k was between Winston Raymond Peters (Petitioner) and Robert Moncrieff Clarkson (Respondent). Keen legal beagles can read the judgement here.
This was clearly a legal action between two INDIVIDUALS, one of whom was the said Winston Peters. the New Zealand First party was not a party to the action, nor was any Winston Peters legal defence fund.
Now I'm no lawyer. But surely, the costs of a legal action taken by an individual become the personal responsibility of the individual concerned. And remember that there was an award of costs of $40,000 made against Winston Raymond Peters by the three High Court judges who heard the petition. Surely then, a donation towards those legal costs incurred by an individual must be considered as a personal donation to that individual, regardless of the channels by which it is accounted for.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
"Winston Peters' explanation for the Owen Glenn donations affair is exquisite: it means everyone is right.
Owen Glenn is right in believing he had given to New Zealand First when he paid the whopping $100,000 towards the leader's law suit.
Peters is right in believing Glenn hadn't because he apparently paid the money anonymously through Peters' lawyer, Brian Henry.
Peters was right when he told the Prime Minister on Monday he knew nothing.
Peters was right last night when he told the Prime Minister he now knew something.
And of course the Herald was correct when it ran Glenn's emails a week ago revealing the billionaire thought he had donated to the party.
It is the perfect explanation.
I love the Press headline on the Peters admission last night: "No No No No No No Yes.""
Then there's lines like this:
"Peters has not acknowledged that the Herald was right. Only a reasonable person would do that." and:
"Here at the party convention at Alexander Park he has held perhaps the most graceless press conference he has ever held, and that takes some beating." and:
"And No, to the dozens of inquiries: Peters has not apologised for the personal abuse levelled at me last Monday when he employed the bazooka strategy - fire so many missiles at somebody else that people forget what you are supposed to have done. Though I did receive one from a very decent member of the caucus."
This is vintage stuff, reminiscent of Peters's own rhetoric. If, like me, you don't have much time for the bloke, it's a great read. And Audrey hints at rough waters ahead for Peters, and for Helen Clark:
"There will be more questions next week as to whether Peters has breached the Cabinet Manual or the registers of MPs pecuniary interest in not disclosing the gift. His defence will be that he didn't know.
Helen Clark will have to end her silence and say what her own people knew about all this and when.
There are already questions being asked as to whether massive donations to Peters' personal law suit, anonymous or not, is appropriate for a Member of Parliament - especially for a person who has railed against hidden donors in the past.
In the end the effect of a Glenn donation to Peters' lawyers is the same as a private gift to him that gives him more money in his pocket. Money that Peters does not have to spend on lawyers can be spent on whatever he wants.
Peters is foolish at times like this not to answer all questions. When he walks away from questions, abusing media as he does, it looks as though he still has something he does not want us to know."
All of which is, to quote Richie Benaud, "maaaaaarvellous"!!
So when he was tied for fourth at even par after the first round of the Open Championship (NOT the British Open as it is too often misnamed), there was a flurry of media interest. When Norman shot a second even-par 70 at Royal Birkdale to loead the Championship, until a late birdie by KJ Choi, the Shark was the name on everyone's lips.
I watched the coverage last night, and was thrilled to see a bloke the same age as me out there competing with the best in the world (with one notable ommission!). In all probability, Norman will not win the Open Championship, but it has been great to watch the BGITWUTWCA (Best Golfer In The World Until Tiger Woods Came Along) take centre-stage one more time. I will be glued to the telly tonight following his progress.
And Cambo! Yes, Michael Campbell made the 36-hole cut, right on the number at 9-over par. He will be out early in the third round, which might be good with the wind forecast to gust to over 50mph (yes, MILES per hour) in the afternoon. Royal Birkdale is a tough course in moderate conditions. When the wind blows tomorrow, we may see carnage! And if you don't have Sky TV, you can follow the action here, on the Open Championship website.
UPDATE: Cambo is 2-over fior the day through 11 holes, and has gone from T70th to 64th! No-one is under par for the day so far as the wind gets up.
I am surprised that the gap has narrowed, especially in light of the truckies' protest and the yet-to-be-confirmed economic recession. However polling by Fairfax did not start until the following week, by which time some of the anger at the government may have subsided. I also note that polling has been conducted entirely during a Parliamentary recess, at a time when the government is not being called to account on a daily basis.
However Labour has nothing to get too excited about. Last night's Roy Morgan poll still had a gap of 20 points, and although the Fairfax has narrowed to 16 points, National can still govern alone in the absence of New Zealand First. The Greens are marginal at 5%, which gives them little breathing space to cut deals with the government.
The resumption of Parliament next week should be fun, fun, fun!