The Prime Minister says the whole process of investigation into New Zealand First’s finances has been tainted from the outset.
What is she referring to? Does she mean those Labour MPs who argued against or voted against even asking Owen Glenn to call evidence? If they had got their way it would have been a cover up – just like the original inquiry into Taito Phillip Field that cleared him.
Helen Clark says the privileges committee process has been totally unsatisfactory in terms of any natural justice. She says for that reason she is unlikely to be forced into a decision over Winston Peters this week. She says it has become so politicised with some MPs going into committee with made up minds before they had even heard a single piece of evidence.
Dail Jones arguably yes. I doubt anyone else had a closed mind. Even I have changed my mind on what Peters may have done wrong, as evidence emerged.
But the PM also misses the point here. The issue is not so much the outcome of the Privileges Committee, but the information disclosed by its inquiries. In one sense it does not matter greatly what the Committee recommends (the House decides). What matters is what has been disclosed about the veracity of a Minister in her Government.
The process used by the Privileges Committee has exposed that Peters has lied repeatedly – to the media, to the public and to the Privileges Committee. There is no real reasonable doubt about that. The evidence that Peters knew about the donations is as firm as you can get without an actual tape recording of their conversation.
So Clark is saying she has no problems with Ministers who lie, lie and lie again. So long as their parties vote to keep her in power. This is the standard of Government Helen Clark is happy with. And Clark wants to campaign on “trust” – bring it on.
However, Miss Clark very much doubts there will be anything to justify Mr Peters’ reinstatement. She intends to continue burning the midnight oil doing his old job as Foreign Minister.
It is important for people to realise how misleading those comments are. First of all Peters is still a Minister with all the baubles of office – except actually having to do any work. Secondly he was suspended from his portfolios purely on the basis of the SFO investigation, so Helen suggesting she is being restrained by not reinstating him due to the Privileges Committee is inane.
The big issue is whether Clark will rule out Peters as a Minister after the election. So long as she won’t, then people need to be reminded: