I guess the Sunday papers tomorrow will have more details around Paula Bennett’s family relationship with Villami Halaholo as she has released today two letters she wrote in 2007 and mid 2008 to the Parole Board on his behalf.
John Key has also done a release, and sees nothing improper with her advocacy when she was an Opposition MP. However he has chided Bennett for not revealing the letters to him last week when this issue first went public.
So there are two issues here – the letters, and the revealing of them. Let’s quote from the letters:
My daughter is no fool and she started laying down the law pretty heavily on him. If he wanted to be with her then he needed to make some pretty major changes in his life – and he started to. For every couple of steps forward in the early days he would take the odd one back and the night of the incident (that he has since been convicted for) has been his biggest step back ever and has in retrospect been a positive turning point in his life. It would have been easy for us to turn our back on him at that stage and leave him to grow up in jail, but we can be pretty stubborn ourselves, and my daughter and I believed that it was a complete error of judgment on his behalf, he could move forward, but it was up to him. He moved into my residence at that time as a border and he committed himself to staying out of trouble, obeying the law and finding work.
And he has done that. For the last two years he has made significant and consistent changes in his life. Viliami got himself a job. At first he was temping and working in a factory, when this temporary job came to an end, he went out and found another one and has been working overtime and what ever hours he can to provide for his family.
If he has gone from breaking the law to being in employment and working hard, that is a good thing. And you would expect Paula as the baby’s grandmother to want the father in the family, if he has turned himself around. Of course we don’t know if he has behaved in prison, but imagine this will be known to the Parole Board.
So the issue is more the process one of not revealing the advocacy after the initial stories last weekend. And this can be a headache because there is nothing worse than deciding how to respond to an issue, if you do not know all the facts.
I’m a believer in taking a fairly harsh inquisitorial role when “issues” arise. The way I would handle it is to have a staffer sit down with the affected persons and ask them everything they can think of. When did you first meet him? What exactly has he done? Who as affected? How often have you had to help him out? What letters have you ever written about him? Who knows about X? etc etc. Such a session may take some hours, but in my experience it is better to know too much than not enough.
In this case, the existence of the letters doesn’t seem particularly significant. It is what you would expect from family members, and being an MP is not a reason not to advocate. However being a Minister is such a reason, as they have executiye authority within the Government.Tags: John Key, parole, Paula Bennett, Villami Halaholo