Andrew Geddis on Privileges Committee

June 10th, 2013 at 4:27 pm by David Farrar

blogs at Pundit:

In other words, the first call on this issue is going to be Speaker David Carter’s. And I suspect it’s going to be a pretty tricky one to make. There is the question of whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest that actually lied when he said he was not the source of the leak. Because while the Henry Report said that it couldn’t rule Dunne out as the leak’s source, it didn’t say he was. So while a number of commentators have joined the dots and concluded he did it (and therefore lied in his response to Peters), there isn’t any official finding that this is the case.  

Furthermore, even if there is some evidence in the Henry Report to support a conclusion that Dunne may have lied when he said he wasn’t the leak’s source, did he “deliberately attempt[] to mislead the House or a committee” by doing so? Recall that he was before the Finance and Expenditure Committee in his role as Revenue Minister, to answer questions relevant to his responsibilities in that portfolio. Winston Peters then began badgering him with questions relating to the Kitteridge Report leak.

Geddis continues:

Given this fact, the question then becomes whether a witness before a select committee misleads it if she or he falsely answers a question that wasn’t relevant to the committee’s proceedings in the first place. Or, instead, did Peter Dunne simply deliberately attempt mislead Winston Peters … in which case, there’s no contempt of Parliament involved. Because contempt relates to the work of the House of Representatives as an institution, not to the individuals within it: it isn’t, for example, a contempt of Parliament for an MP to tell a barefaced lie to another MP during a public debate on the campaign trail … but it is for a Minister to lie to an MP who asks her or him a question in the House.

So there’s an at least tenable argument that even if you think Dunne lied, he didn’t lie to the House (or a committee of the House). I which case, there is no contempt and so no question of privilege to be considered.

I agree it i going to be a tricky call to make. No doubt if Carter declines, he will be attacked by the Opposition as Geddis notes:

Hanging over all this is another issue, however. It isn’t even a week since the Speaker, David Carter, made his decision that United Future could continue to be recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes. As I noted in this post, and as others have noted elsewhere, the reasoning for that decision is  somewhat odd. Furthermore, it caused a (probably overdone) eruption of opposition anger against the Speaker. In the light of this, can David Carter really afford to find that the complaint against Peter Dunne doesn’t involve a question of privilge? What future for his role in the Speaker’s chair if he is seen to make two quick rulings in Peter Dunne’s favour?

I would hope the decision is made on its merits, not on how it will be perceived.

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30 Responses to “Andrew Geddis on Privileges Committee”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    As the allegation is one of misleading a committee, Carter can ask the Committee whether it considers the matter should be pursued. It will presumably say it won’t, and that may resolve the matter, it won’t be the Speaker ‘protecting’ Dunne, but the permissibly partisan membership of the FEC.

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  2. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    ‘There is the question of whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Peter Dunne actually lied when he said he was not the source of the leak.’

    All new to me, but is it the Speaker’s role to determine that their is sufficient evidence beyond prima facie? The Speaker’s role is surely distinguished from that of the Privileges Committee?

    ‘Dunne may have lied when he said he wasn’t the leak’s source, did he “deliberately attempt[] to mislead the House or a committee” by doing so? Recall that he was before the Finance and Expenditure Committee…’

    This also isn’t clear. What is the Finance and Expenditure Committee if not a committee. This seems to be going into territory that it is all right to ‘mislead’ in some Parliamentary circumstances and not others. The example of the campaign trail is not relevant to any argument about what Parliament or a Committee is, overall would it meet public expectation that an MP (Minister in fact) can mislead other Parliamentary members, The House or indeed the public? I think there is a reasonable public perception that the answer to that is a big ‘no.’

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  3. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    I don’t know what way Carter would swing on this, but I wouldn’t mind if it goes to the Privileges Committee.

    But then it will become very interesting, as Geddis points out:

    Thus, if it wants to see all the emails that Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance sent to each other, it could either require Dunne to provide them himself, or else require parliamentary services to do so (as I understand it, Dunne claims the emails were sent to his parliamentary email address … hence his reason for not giving them over to David Henry).

    That is, the Committee can do this if it wants to see them. But will it?

    That is where matters could get really interesting. Because, there’s some good arguments against even the Privileges Committee snooping into an MP’s communications with people outside the House – arguments that you would expect Peter Dunne would strongly put to the Committee.

    And some on the Committee may think that these arguments are good ones, such that the Committee should not use its power to require that the emails be disclosed. In which case, the decision on whether or not to do so will come down to a vote.

    The committee is National 4+Act 1=5, Labour 3+Green1+NZ First 1 = 5, and Maori 1.

    That could come down to a left/right split as depicted with Tariana Turie with the deciding vote, but I suspect itmat not be that simple. There’s a very important principle of free and protected communicatiion here.

    A lot of pressure could (and should) go on Dalziel, Hipkins and Parker to look at the bigger picture, but Shearer has sort of um committed them to going along with the stupidity.

    The NZ First member is Winston.

    Labour can be deaf to outside advice but Greens have shown they will listen, as Norman has softening his police inquiry stance and being very soft on whether this shuld happen. Kennedy Graham may get a Green directive that forced exposure of MP and journalist emails is a verybad idea ans will not go down well with the troops.

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  4. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    What if Dunne confesses before this goes to the committee? They wouldn’t need any evidence, but they presumably can then reprimand him. What would be a likely smack on the hand?

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  5. Black with a Vengeance (1,868 comments) says:

    He lied to Key, and that is the crime for which he was punished…end of story!

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  6. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    ‘What if Dunne confesses before this goes to the committee? They wouldn’t need any evidence, but they presumably can then reprimand him. What would be a likely smack on the hand?’

    Wouldn’t be a bad idea for his own self-worth, and put his career back in some order but with that he’d have to go. On the face of it, if he has anything to confess that is between him and his conscience, the kiwi public being what they are have a sense of fairness about such things – and he of course has taken pride in being seen as sensible, the public would see his actions as speaking louder than words.

    He’s having a week off, no doubt he’s tired and considering whether he wants to go back into the snake pit – perhaps retirement beckons.

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  7. NK (1,259 comments) says:

    Oh this is an easy one.

    The Speaker will refuse to send it to the privileges committee after taking advice on the matter. Peters will ask to see that advice, backed up by Mallard. The Speaker will refuse to disclose it. Peters will then storm out of parliament and take his MPs with him, followed by Mallard. He will then cry about “a shabby day for democracy”.

    Groundhog day anyone?

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  8. Manolo (14,165 comments) says:

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Send the matter to the Privileges Committee for all to see.

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  9. Johnboy (17,015 comments) says:

    In the meantime all us stokers shoveling coal (or other more eco-friendly fuels :) ) into the boilers of SS New Zealand will get on with our back breaking toil keeping the ship of state just above foundering while all you politico/legal wankers pull your puds over Dunne.

    Sit back and look at yourselves in the bloody mirror!

    You are not a pretty sight! :)

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  10. Kea (13,552 comments) says:

    Johnboy, Dunny never got this much attention in his entire political career. Thinking with his dick has actually worked rather well for him.

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  11. Johnboy (17,015 comments) says:

    Always worked well for me too Kea.

    Do you think he was reading my mail? :)

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  12. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    This is easy…

    From now on, parliamentary committees need to ask every minister appearing before them (especially future NZ First, Green, and Labour ministers) if they’ve ever leaked a document at any stage in the past. If the answer is yes, then they need to ask for a full list of documents with dates and recipients. Any lack of disclosure or incomplete disclosure results in a complaint to the Speaker, a complaint to the police, and immediate resignation of all portfolios. And the police will make all the minister’s private correspondence public and force the minister to answer their questions, on the threat of being jailed. This committee questioning will take place regardless of other agenda items that the minister is addressing.

    Also, this will have torpedoed Dalziel’s Christchurch mayoral bid. There is no way that Labour could promote the candidacy of a disgraced former leaker. If they did then their double standards will make them a laughing stock. Errr… more of a laughing stock.

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  13. mikenmild (12,326 comments) says:

    davidp
    I don’t follow you re Dalziel. She leaked, resigned and was later reinstated in the cabinet. Seems she paid the price for her indiscretion. It may be that some voters in Christchurch would not vote for her because she once leaked information, but I shouldn’t think it would be a defining issue in the mayoral election.

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  14. peterwn (3,332 comments) says:

    Privileges committee should fine the UnitedFuture party $15,000, same as NRL fining the Warriors $15,000 when a player leaked on the field.

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  15. Viking2 (11,669 comments) says:

    About the Peter’s family. then.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10889596

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  16. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    mikenmild>I don’t follow you re Dalziel.

    Her Labour Party colleagues didn’t report her to the police, or demand that she resign her seat, or talk about a snap election.

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  17. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    If anyone is worried about politicians who tell lies over and over and anyone who might have wondered about Winston Peters’ credibility watch this:

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Peters-Dunnes-leak-illegal-totally-improper/tabid/367/articleID/300949/Default.aspx

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  18. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    Pete G… Assuming that is Peters’ appearance on Campbell Live, he has pretty much rehabilitated Dunne in a single session of bullying sleazy dishonesty. No wonder Shearer has gone awol, rather than be associated with Peters and the vile Russel Norman.

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  19. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    Yes, that’s Campbell Live. I can’t remember seeing such a bad interview by anyone. All it took to expose him was for someone to insist on simple answers to questions fundamental to the issue. Peters never answered, as per usual, but he exposed himself totally.

    I don’t know how National can even think of Government with him involved.

    The options for next year are looking worryingly sparse.

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  20. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    eer Pete George, it’s Dunne that has resigned his portfolio. You’re off down the track of making comparisons to Peters, have to do better than that.

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  21. KevinH (1,253 comments) says:

    Campbell tried to play the man and not the ball in his questioning of Peters, i.e. shoot the messenger, and by accusing Peters of talking nonsense Campbell lost the opportunity to pursue the issue more rigorously. Campbell could of asked how long has Peters being in possession of the evidence of the leaks and what Peters would do regarding the leaks i.e. Pursue it through a privileges committee or lodge a complaint with The Speaker or Police or Parliamentary Services.

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  22. s.russell (1,649 comments) says:

    The image that comes to my mind is skinheads putting the boot into a man on the ground…

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  23. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    Nostalgia-NZ – I’m not comparing, there is no comparison between Peters and Dunne.

    There’s only a possibility Dunne will remain an MP until the election, and I think very little chance after that. If he did make it back he would be minimal risk for the new Government, he is proven as a reliable partner (with a bit of a recent hiccup). I’m ambivalent about Dunne’s and UF’s chances, it’s of interest, that’s all.

    Peters may or may not make the threshold. But he is being widely considered as National’s most likely (and necessary) partner option next time round. I find that bloody scary. Peters has always been high risk, and he looks to be worse than he ever has. That interview should be compulsory viewing for every National MP and party official now and again two months before the next election.

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  24. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    KevinH – Peters has already laid a complaint with the police (and he says he expects them to come up with the evidence).

    And Shearer has lodged a complaint with the privileges committee. The Geddis link at Pundit goes over that.

    Whether Peters has eny evidence or has seen any evidence is kinda important for him to have any credibility. He hasn’t got either. He has been making things up – in other words lying. Interview after interview.

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  25. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    KevinH>Campbell could of asked how long has Peters being in possession of the evidence of the leaks and what Peters would do regarding the leaks

    There were two things that I wished Campbell had asked:

    1. You’re possibly the most dishonest politician in the country. How could you possibly expect us to believe that you have proper evidence on faith alone, especially considering your evasive answers to simple questions?

    2. You’ve said that the unproven Dunne leak was serious because it related to national security. But someone has been leaking to you on national security matters, and you’ve used these leaks for political purposes. Why don’t you do the proper thing and turn this person in to the police so that the leaks can be plugged? Is the political advantage of NZ First more important than the security of the country?

    Not really relating to the Campbell interview… But Ferguson the retired Air Marshal and the old boys club at GCSB seemed to be the source of most of the early leaks regarding the Dotcom affair and the appointment of Fletcher. Their motive was clearly that they were pissed off that the CEO job didn’t go to a retired general who was one of their mates, and that the GCSB culture was going to change. Is it possible that Ferguson and his mates are still leaking? Presumably the Kitteridge report was doing the rounds at GCSB. It isn’t hard to imagine a copy passing from the old boys club to Ferguson to both Peters and Vance. Slightly more of a stretch… it is possible that GCSB are logging ministerial e-mails.

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  26. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    ‘There’s only a possibility Dunne will remain an MP until the election, and I think very little chance after that. If he did make it back he would be minimal risk for the new Government,’

    I think you understand politics better than I Pete, yet I can’t see how Dunne can remain in Parliament with any credibility intact now, let alone after another election. He needed to come clean big time, defeat the speculation and lay everything out on the table because there is an excavation going on into every move he has made, not just recently but probably for years. I think he was stoic when he resigned but he left too much unsaid, effectively ham-stringing himself in my opinion. If he wanted a road ahead to remain open to him he had to ‘tell’ warts and all. Key has already given him a thumbs down.

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  27. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    davidp. I think you are missing the point, just as Pete George has though he might be simply be trying to divert the issues. It doesn’t matter what Peters or any other politician has done or might do in the future, there is only one item on the menu and it starts with D.

    Of course there is resistance from within the GCSB, who would expect otherwise, but that resistance doesn’t mitigate in favour of Dunne. I think it may well be that he’s aware of something not ‘up to scratch’ with the GCSB or it’s political master which probably bothers him. But we all know that if politics is in fact a type of warfare then it at least has the similarity of the will for survival. It looks like Dunne compromised himself by not being fulsome with the truth when he resigned, there are likely to have been reasons for that – not all of which favour him.

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  28. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    I’m not trying to divert from the issues. Dunne has gone quiet, so we are waiting to see what his fate is.

    In the meantime, Peters continues to show what a lying unreliable politician he is. As Key says:

    Peters’ Dunne ‘guess’

    PM doesn’t believe Winston Peters has copies of emails that led to Peter Dunne’s resignation as a minister.

    Peters has claimed to have seen emails that were personally embarrassing for Dunne. But Key questioned that.

    ‘‘I don’t believe that’s correct. I’ve never seen them, I can’t see why Mr Dunne would give it to him, I can’t see why Andrea Vance would give them to him.’’

    He said last week Peters was talking about phone records and they did not feature in the Henry report into the leak of the Kitteridge report into the GCSB.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8776490/Dunnes-portfolios-handed-to-MP-McClay

    And Andrea Vance has made her thoughts clear:

    @avancenz

    @CampbellLiveNZ he no more has them than he had the teapot tapes.

    That’s an ongoing story as Peters tries to continue a witch hunt – he wants to try and pin a number of leaks on Dunne, but his claim of evidence on the Kitteridge leak is so unreliable his other claims simply can’t be trusted. He has no evidence on those either.

    And Fairfax also refuted those claims, saying that there are multiple sources for the different leaks.

    Everything today points to Peters as a liar and making false allegations.

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  29. Warren Murray (316 comments) says:

    I regard Winston’s behaviour as utu against those who contributed to his fall in 2008. Dunne was on the Privileges Committee which found he lied then. Even as he feasts on Dunne’s carcass, he is eyeing up John Key in 2014.

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  30. iMP (2,455 comments) says:

    I think we’re all agreed, peters has now overplayed his hand. And the piranhas are turning…

    http://conzervative.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/peters-overplays-his-hand-th-piranhas-turn/

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