…Prime Minister Helen Clark should be telling Mr Peters to abandon his usual policy of evasion, bluster and bullying, and answer clearly and honestly the serious questions that surround the funding arrangements of his party.
She should start with telling Mr Peters that his continued presence in her Government depends on him being able to satisfy the privileges committee that he has done no wrong, and at the same time, tell her members on the committee that she expects them to pursue the issue with as much vigour as the Serious Fraud Office is. With 48 per cent of those polled saying he should be stood down, and only 37 per cent wanting him to stay, he is a liability now, and Miss Clark should be minimising the collateral damage to her party by stopping his shenanigans or stopping his enjoyment of the baubles of office.
Alas, I suspect the Labour MPs will ask few questions, or patsy ones if they do.
Now the Herald:
Parliament polices itself through a “privileges committee” of senior members from the different parties. Tonight, the committee begins an inquisition of Winston Peters that should raise questions of financial accountability that he has chosen not to answer in public. The hearing tonight will be open to the press at his request, but neither he nor his lawyer, Brian Henry, is taking the exercise very seriously. Mr Henry has said, “Nothing about the privileges committee bothers me at all. It could be a bit of fun.”
I hope MPs will ask detailed questions, which will allow them to come to a conclusion. At a minimum they need to get very clear details of why the money was donated, who it was paid to, what accounts did it go into, and what bills were covered by it.
The questions these facts raise are too serious to ignore even if the attention is working to Mr Peters’ political advantage. In many other political systems they are questions no public figure could ignore; courts and constitutions would hold him to account. Here we have only the privileges committee, unless the Serious Fraud Office, which Labour and NZ First are about to abolish, decides to investigate.
The MPs on the Privileges Committee need to, in my opinion, ask detailed foreesnic questions over the money, and not let it get distracted by theatrics.
An issue that should also be canvassed is if the rules around the Register of Interests are so flimsy that a $100,000 donation from person seeking a diplomatic appointment from the Foreign Minister, need not be declared by the Foreign Minister if it goes towards his legal bills, then what use is there in having a Register? Can anyone argue that this sort of situation should not be disclosed?Tags: anonymous donations, Dominion Post, MPs Register of Pecuniary Interests, NZ Herald, Owen Glenn, Privileges Committee, Winston First