Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:
The work history of new Labour leader David Cunliffe has come under scrutiny after claims from National party-aligned lobbyist Matthew Hooton.
In an interview with Fairfax Media this weekend Cunliffe said that as a business consultant he had “helped with the formation of Fonterra”.
However, Hooton, who was a communications consultant working on the merger, angrily rejected this, saying: “That was untrue.”
“David Cunliffe had nothing to do with the foundation of Fonterra.”
Cunliffe responded to the allegations this morning by tweeting: “Bollocks.”
So when was Fonterra formed?
The multinational corporation was formed in 2001 from the merger of New Zealand Dairy Group, Kiwi Co-operative Dairies, and export agent New Zealand Dairy Board.
Before entering politics in 1999, the New Lynn MP worked for Boston Consultancy Group in Auckland.
Hooton conceded the firm was involved in the early stages: “It is true that Boston Consulting had a supporting role.” He claims it is “deeply implausible” Cunliffe was involved.
However, he said: “It’s absolutely true that sometime earlier in the 1990s, he might have done some dairy industry analysis. That’s entirely plausible, but to say that he helped with the formation of Fonterra is quite obviously a lie.”
Announcements about deregulation and reform of the dairy industry were made in the 1998 Budget. There were secret negotiations throughout 2000 at a hotel in Auckland airport before the Fonterra proposal was made public.
“By that time David Cunliffe had been in Parliament for more than a year…and he’d been a Labour candidate for two years,” Hooton pointed out.
An industry player close to the deal, who did not want to be named, said that BCG had carried out early work for the dairy board in 1998 around creating a single company and Cunliffe may have been involved in that.
But he said they were “shunted to one side” after that and were not involved in the 2000 talks. He said it was “embellishing” to say that Cunliffe was involved in the formation of Fonterra.
NBR also has some details (paywall) and says that any work done on models in the 1990s was quite different to the Fonterra model decided upon in the 2000s.
On the face of it, it looks like another case of padding. This is not where a claim is false, but exaggerated to make yourself look better. Many people of course do this on their CVs, but when you are auditioning to become Prime Minister of New Zealand, you face additional scrutiny.
Some people have suggested that the scrutiny is unfair and part of an attempt to knock Cunliffe down. I think they forget that John Key went through exactly the same thing in 2008.
The NZ Herald had reporters spend months investigating John Key’s background. They talked to former colleagues and acquaintances of Key’s from around the world. They eventually published their findings in a multi-page feature.Tags: David Cunliffe