Editorials on Field

August 6th, 2009 at 11:13 am by David Farrar

All four major daily newspapers devoted today’s editorial to . Good – the first ever conviction of a corrupt MP, should not pass without major scrutiny.

First the Herald:

One of the prime consequences of the Field case should be the removal of immigration decisions from a Beehive desk. It is wrong that individual cases can be taken to a minister – usually a junior minister and often not in the Cabinet – who has the power to overrule the decisions of officers who have applied the general rules and polices the Government has set.

No doubt the ultimate power is preserved for a minister in case bureaucratic consistency causes the occasional political embarrassment, such as the admission of an undesirable or the exclusion of someone who attracts public sympathy. But if exceptions need to be made at times, better they are made by an independent public panel than a politician in a quiet office accessible mainly to his parliamentary cohorts.

I think you do need a final decider who can apply some common sense to situations, as strictly applying pre-set criteria can cause some perverse outcomes in immigration cases.

However what I would do is have greater transparency around MP representations to the Minister. Publish a regular table of how many representations an MP has made, and how many decisions favourable to their efforts were granted. If that had been in place for Field, we would have seen early on that his colleagues were greenlighting a massive proportion of cases he advocated – far more off memory than any other MP. That should have rung bells.

Secondly The Press:

Instead he will go down in history as the first man in New Zealand politics to be convicted of bribery and . The jury unanimously found him to be guilty of 11 out of the 12 counts of bribery and he faced, and also guilty of 15 counts (out of 23) of obstructing justice arising out of his attempts to cover up his wrongdoing. Rather than serving his constituents, he was found by the jury to have corruptly exploited some of the most vulnerable of them.

And this exploitation was lauded by his colleagues as working hard and a tribute to his integrity – even after they had been detailed by Ingram.

Among the most shameful aspects of this sorrowful affair was the attempt by the Labour government of the time, when the scandal first made the headlines, to trivialise it. The prime minister, Helen Clark, set up an inquiry, but it was woefully underpowered, with terms of reference set very narrowly and no power to compel testimony. When it nonetheless reported back detailing a range of abuses by Field and suggesting strongly that it had been misled, Clark and other Labour leaders continued to support Field in the House.

It was perhaps just poor judgement to initially support Field against unproven allegations. But to carry on supporting him after the Ingram Report detailed his wrong-doing was a huge failure of leadership. And they did it again after the Privileges Committee exposed Winston’s lies. To their shame every single Labour MP voted to believe Winston despite the fact he changed his story so many times, as documents kept contradicting it.

Thirdly is the ODT:

An inquiry ordered by Miss Clark, but with ludicrously narrow terms of reference, found he had exercised poor judgement but was not guilty of criminal misconduct.

However, more allegations followed, including that he had falsified information given to the inquiry, and a police investigation led to his trial in the High Court.

Actually Ingram made quite clear in his report that he had serious doubts over some of the information and testimony of Field.

Thus was the great political hope of Pacific Islanders – and of the Labour Party in 1993 when he was first elected – brought down to the level of common criminal, the first New Zealand politician to be convicted of corruption, now facing possibly a lengthy jail term.

There can be little sympathy for Field.

The challenge is to make sure there will not be a second.

An finally the Dominion Post:

He was, according to then prime minister Helen Clark, probably only guilty of “trying to be helpful to someone”.

A jury has disagreed, and Taito Phillip Field has become the first New Zealand MP to be convicted of accepting bribes and acting corruptly.

Clark’s comment was stupid and unwise, but at least she had the defence of saying it when the allegations were first aired. Far far more serious was the continued defence of Field after the Ingram Report detailed his activities. For that there is no defence.

Field’s crime struck at the heart of our system of government. That those he used his office to take advantage of were among the most vulnerable of people immigrants desperate to stay in New Zealand makes his behaviour all the more abhorrent.

Sadly, the affair reflects badly not only on Field, but on those politicians who put pragmatism and keeping his vote ahead of principle, and tried to close the issue down rather than do the right thing. Miss Clark was initially dismissive, using her favoured “move along, nothing to see here” strategy. When people didn’t, she launched a narrow inquiry under Noel Ingram QC.

The terms of reference made the conclusion inevitable. Clark did not count though on how thorough Ingram would be at documenting abuses, even if they were not related to Field in his capacity as a Minister.

Despite the constraints on Dr Ingram and a distinct lack of co-operation from some of those involved his report made it clear that something was terribly amiss in the way Field had been handling immigration issues to everyone but Labour MPs, that is. They continued to defend him.

MP Russell Fairbrother told Parliament the report was a tribute to Field’s integrity. Deputy prime minister Michael Cullen praised him as a hard-working member. Miss Clark continued to peddle the line that the issue was done with.

I urge readers to go back and read the Ingram Report if they have the time. If I was an MP I would rather resign than be forced to get up in Parliament and claim the report was a tribute to Field’s integrity and that he had done nothing wrong. Such a line was preposterous and insulting.

And to this day we still have not had a word of regret from Labour. Not just regret for the corruption, but for defending action that goes to the core of what Labour claims it stands for – protecting poor vulnerable people from exploitation. When one of their own is the exploiter, they went silent. It was only Andrew Little, some weeks later, who started to make the case that regardless of the legality, Field’s actions were reprehensible.

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23 Responses to “Editorials on Field”

  1. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    Yeah – and already we have apologists saying that NZ law doesn’t take into account Samoan cultural practices of giving money and gifts for favours from people in positions of power. I would have thought that was a good thing.

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  2. Alan Wilkinson (1,878 comments) says:

    The clean up of immigration policy and operation needs to go far beyond the Herald’s suggested addition to the bureaucracy.

    Simply, immigration should vet people for honesty and capability. Full stop, bar humanitarian consideration of family relationships.

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  3. beautox (422 comments) says:

    Makes me sick that Clark’s actions bordered on criminal negligence with respect to Field and Peters, yet she gets rewarded with a glowing reference from NZ and the chance to suck on the teat at the UN. She wouldn’t have got the job if it were widely known how bad here judgement was.

    On second thought, she’s probably just the kind of person they are looking for, pathetic corrupt organisation that they are. And at least it not the NZ public teat she’s sucking on now.

    But still think she deserves to be in jail. Along with Cullen for his wreckless spending of public money. Bah.

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  4. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    Great post. Labour’s shame. Slam dunk.

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  5. joe90 (273 comments) says:

    Michael Bassett on yesterdays nine till noon is well worth listening to.

    Michael Bassett MP3

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  6. tvb (4,432 comments) says:

    The Labour Party are only thinking of the next days headlines so brazen were their comments. BUT they could hardly say he was guilty of something and they needed his vote. I am not sure what they were supposed to do in all the circumstances. One thing for sure John Key is a lot more robust in the standards he expects of Ministers. But let us see how robust those standards are when he depends on the vote of an electorate MP.

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  7. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    joe90 11:57 am,
    “Michael Bassett on yesterdays nine till noon is well worth listening to.”

    I agree – heard him yesterday too.
    Among other things, he mentioned that certain minority groups [and by implication perhaps all minority groups] eg Pacific Islanders, as in Field’s case, have a sense of not being bound by NZ laws when contrasted to their own ‘cultural’ practices. He also mentioned Maori in the same context regarding Koha, and that PIs have something similar, and thus Field, and his supporters, possibly feel that those that worked for him were, in essence, providing ‘koha’ in thanks for his help.

    Dr Michael Bassett then went on to say that in NZ we are ALL subject to the laws of the country, and that we must guard against different rules for different groups.

    I sometimes wonder whether the fact that we, as a society, pander to basically ALL minority groups we therefore generate a sense of ‘entitlement’ amongst these same groups. And then when the majority of society try to impose the ‘laws of the land’ upon said minorities that ‘we’ are labelled as – racist, sexist, elitist, homophobic, islamophobic, child beaters/abusers, fundamentalists, Christian bigots, right wing radicals, birthers, greedy baby boomers, behind the times, etc.

    If we don’t get tough with those minorities that harbour a sense of entitlement, and strongly push their views/agendas on the majority, then we forfeit our right to complain when the ‘chickens come home to roost’.

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  8. petal (706 comments) says:

    Q. What were these people who write editorials doing AT THE TIME?

    A. Cowering.

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  9. donkey (43 comments) says:

    I was sent this email minutes ago and the sender is sincere in their view.

    Bribery

    (n) Bribery is the practice by which a person who can take decision or action on behalf of others by virtue of his authority or position is influenced by paying or offering monetary benefits for influencing him to take an action or decision which he would not have done otherwise. Eg. Offering money to the police officer to record a wrong verification report

    http://www.legal-explanations.com/definitions/bribery.htm

    Question:

    How can it be proved that Field was bribed by the Thai Tiler to a take decision or action on behalf of him which would not have otherwise been done had he (the Tiler) not offered monetary benefits? The case lacks any credible evidence.The tiler cannot even remember when he alleges that Field offered to get him immigration help in exchange for tiling work. It could be argued that Field had an obligation as an MP to try and help him and he had already done so prior to any discussion of the Samoan tiling work job.

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  10. Whafe (650 comments) says:

    donkey – dont be an ass, it is all about his agenda, his agenda was in the toilet………….. He is a dodgey bastard, whom labour covered up for, red belly lying bastards

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  11. beautox (422 comments) says:

    > How can it be proved that Field was bribed by the Thai Tiler

    Well donkey, he was found guilty by a process call “trial by jury” where the evidence is presented and then the jury decided.

    > The case lacks any credible evidence.

    How do you know? Were you in court? Given that the trial started in April and has only just finished, seems like a long time time if there was no credible evidence.

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  12. wreck1080 (3,924 comments) says:

    Ha ha the donkey is actually an ass. Tried to fool us but an ass cannot be a donkey.

    I think the Taito Fields citizenship (and dependents after hearing their threats) should be transferred to the Thai Tiler and his family.

    The Tiler is a much worthier citizen.

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  13. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    donkey is quoting something he was emailed, don’t shoot the messenger… oh, to late, he’s dead.

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  14. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    donkey – nice … you should forward the email on to Shane, David and Rick

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  15. Chris2 (766 comments) says:

    MP’s should not be permitted to make any representations for people unlawfully in NZ.

    MP’s are paid to represent NZ residents, not illegal aliens or those here on temporary or student visas.

    They can’t vote, so they have no right to representation.

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  16. John Ansell (874 comments) says:

    Clark is complicit in Field’s corruption by denying it, defending it, and deliberately preventing it from being proven until after the election.

    That’s two elections in a row she’s tried to influence by dodgy practices (once successfully, once not).

    Had this been revealed to the UN earlier, they’d probably have made her Secretary-General.

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  17. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    Just more of the same Labour malfeance.

    Their silence is deafening. I actually think Klarks deflection of the Peter’s issues was much worse.

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  18. John Ansell (874 comments) says:

    David, your idea of publishing a table of MP representations should also be extended to, among other groups, judges and teachers.

    It would be good to see which judges repeatedly slap serious offenders on the hand with wet bus tickets, and which teachers can and can’t make kids learn.

    Any group that knows its actions are being measured and exposed will try harder to give the public the service they require.

    It’s ironic the way schoolteachers fight tooth and nail to prevent their records being available to parents, when they have no such trouble measuring their students.

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  19. Murray M (455 comments) says:

    I’ll repeat what I said on a previous blog, I hope Field gets to share a cell with that hori who was selling dodgy visas to PI overstayers.

    Chris2 @ 9.47pm – fucking A

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  20. Rich Prick (1,705 comments) says:

    Has any one else noticed that its just that little ginga fellow fronting for Labour lately. Has Goff something to hide??

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  21. Rich Prick (1,705 comments) says:

    Oh and Chris Carter better front up too. I want my $250k back.

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  22. david (2,557 comments) says:

    donkey, your correspondent is missing one thing in his/her eagerness to revise history, The definition taken of “monetary benefits” is too narrow. You could say “money or money’s worth” and it would be closer to the mark but whatever way you slice it, Field gained monetary benefit through the increased value of his properties. The benefit is measurable and was gained for no other consideration than the use/abuse of Field’s position as a senior member of the government of the day.

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  23. slightlyrighty (2,475 comments) says:

    Rich Prick notes the same thing that I do, and that Phil Goff has been absent since the verdict. He has not been in the house either from what I can discern. Where is he, and why is he not fronting?

    It appears well known within parliament, if Hansard is any reference, that Goff travelled to Samoa with Field and withheld information on persons involved in the whole matter from the Ingram report, at least that is what questions raised by Lockwood Smith would indicate in 2006.

    We have an MP convicted of corruption, some incidents of which occurred in the presence of, if not the knowledge of, the man who is now the leader of the opposition.

    If John Key was in this situation as opposition leader, what would Labour have done? Look what they did to Don Brash.

    Why the low profile Phil? Where are you Phil? Why is the little ginga the only person from labour talking to the media Phil?

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