Guest Post: Is it corruption or a different operating system?

February 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Jadis:

While it may come out that Countdown Australia have been using illegal tactics against local New Zealand suppliers I suspect something else may be going on.  From my years of experience working with (and against) lobbyists, politicians and corporates on either side of the Tasman, New Zealanders have a slightly different way of operating than our Australian cousins. 

At a very simple level, Australian politicians, lobbyists and corporates seek to ‘win’ by being aggressive and often bullying their opposition into submission.  It could be suggested that Countdown’s people are an example of this.  The interesting thing is they don’t think they are doing anything wrong or unusual because this is the norm in their Australian environment.  Some in the New Zealand commentariat may even think “New Zealanders need to harden up!” It becomes interesting when we look at what the usual New Zealand operating system might be.    

New Zealand politicians, lobbyists and corporates are more likely to use diplomacy and manipulate positions behind the scenes – not obviously right in front of you (or in the media like the Australians so often do).  I’ve enjoyed talking down Australian counterparts explaining to them that being a bully is not how you get a ‘win’ in New Zealand.  Indeed the best wins are the ones where the opposition may not even realise that levers were manoeuvred in various ways – against them. 

Sure, New Zealanders have to put their own ego aside but fordo so for the “greater good” and yes, bottom lines.  It is amazing just how much can be done using fairly polite and diplomatic ways.  It is no surprise that the likes of Rt Hon Helen Clark and Chris Liddell are at the top of their games in the world because… you know what, they aren’t pricks to deal with but still (in some clever way) get their own firm position implemented.  I’d also argue that Rt Hon John Key adopts similar techniques – being very clear of his own position while adopting multi-level approaches to solving the problem.  You don’t get the moniker of ‘Smiling Assassin’ for no reason.

There is a very good reason that New Zealanders are often at the front of deals (for various multinationals) in Asian countries.  We are respectful, we gather information and we look for ways to work together and not necessarily against each other.  Of course, the good operators also know how to crush the opposition using those same techniques.

So, that leads me to the Americans.  Like it or not their way is still via the chequebook and you know what… they are good at it.  They also have size on their side.  Kim Dotcom does not employ clever and calculated German techniques to getting his own way.  He uses the good old fashioned American chequebook.  Of course this only works as long as you have dollars in the bank.  How long can a person promise that people can be paid for helping him?  Or that he has any ability to help them in return? 

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NZ remains least corrupt country

December 6th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Transparency International has found the NZ public sector remains the least corrupt in the world. The top 10 countries are (100 means perfect):

  • New Zealand 91/100 (+1)
  • Denmark 91 (+1)
  • Finland 89 (-1)
  • Sweden 89(+1)
  • Norway 86 (+1)
  • Singapore 86 (-1)
  • Switzerland 85 (-1)
  • Netherlands 83 (-1)
  • Australia 81 (-4)
  • Canada 81 (-3)

At the bottom is Afghanistan, Somalia and North Korea on 8.

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Perceptions of corruption

July 11th, 2013 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Transparency International has done a global survey on perceptions of corruption. The results for NZ are here. The percentages thinking each type of institution are corrupt were (with result for Australia in brackets):

  1. Political Parties 46% (58%)
  2. Media 43% (58%)
  3. Business 36% (47%)
  4. Religions 35% (44%)
  5. Parliament 33% (36%)
  6. Public service 25% (35%)
  7. Police 24% (33%)
  8. Judiciary 20% (28%)
  9. NGOs 19% (23%)
  10. Health services 17% (20%)
  11. Education systems 16% (19%)
  12. Military 11% (25%)

A pity they can’t break the score for political parties down by party!

Australians perceive corruption more often in every category. Interesting that the media features so highly.

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NZ least corrupt again

December 6th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Daly at Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s reputation for clean government continues to sparkle, as the country again comes out best in Transparency International’s global corruption perceptions index.

It is the seventh year in a row that New Zealand, either on its own or tied with Nordic countries or Singapore, has topped the index for having the lowest perceived levels of public sector corruption.

In the 2012 report, released today, New Zealand is first-equal with Denmark and Finland.

The winners were helped by strong access to information systems and rules governing the behaviour of people in public positions, Transparency International said.

This year’s index used an updated methodology that provided greater clarity on how it was constructed, making it easier to trace how data was rescaled for inclusion.

For the future, local chapter Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) recently launched a so-called national integrity system assessment to provide a more nuanced and detailed report on the country’s vulnerability to corruption.

The assessment would provide the most detailed information yet about factors that caused New Zealand to consistently rank at the top, TINZ chairwoman Suzanne Snively said.

It would measure how well various state and non-state institutions contributed to preventing or mitigating corrupt activities, looking at institutions such as the media, parliament, political parties, the judiciary, the public service, and the private sector.

“The results will show where the integrity of New Zealand society and government is strongest and weakest,” Snively said. 

We had the odd corrupt official, but as far as I know we have never had institutional corruption where there is a wide-spread cover up. Basically we have a very healthy culture.

Denmark, Finland and Sweden all got 90 out of 100. At the bottom on 8 was Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan.

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Supreme Court rejects Field appeal

October 28th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour’s line that Taito Philip Field was only guilty of being a hard working MP trying to help his constituents has had another setback, with the Supreme Court dismissing his appeal. The Herald reports:

The judges said in their finding there must be a “de minimis defence” available for people such as MPs whereby gifts of token value – such as a rugby jersey – were acceptable.

However, the services Field had received were worth about $50,000, and that could not be considered de minimis.

“While we are satisfied that the acceptance of gifts which are de minimis should not be considered corrupt … the acceptance of other benefits in connection with official actions is rightly regarded as corrupt irrespective of whether there was an antecedent promise or bargain,” they said.

“In the present circumstances, given the substantial nature of the benefits, no such defence was tenable.”

The reason I keep banging on about Field is because Labour to this day have never ever said that his behaviour was corrupt. Even after the Ingram Report came out, the party leadership defended him. Even after the verdict their only comment was they acknowledged the verdict. Their actions stood in total contrast to how ACT dealt with Donna Awatere-Huata (whose offending wasn’t even in her capacity as an MP).

But unless Field pops up as a member of a future Workplace Commission, this is probably the last post on him as he should now fade from view.

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Hypocritical ******

September 18th, 2010 at 1:53 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Act Party has been “thoroughly” discredited and its ministerial positions should be removed, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

Now I have been critical, both on this blog and on radio, of Rodney’s decision not to force Garrett to make his offending known before the election. It was an error of judgement, and ACT have been damaged by it.

But I’m sorry, it is just too much to have Labour get sanctimonious on this, and declare that because of this, Rodney is unfit to be a Minister.

Need I remind people of Taito Philip Field – the MP found to have committed numerous corrupt practices while a Labour Minister and MP.

Field’s offending was not 26 years before he became an MP. It was while he was an MP. Field’s offending was not incidental to him being an MP – it was corruption in the course of his MP duties. And it was corruption aided by his Ministerial colleague who rubber stamped almost every immigration application made by Field.

And what happened when allegations were made. The Labour leadership defended Field. They said he was only guilty of working too hard.

And even after the full scale of his offending was made clear by the Ingram Report, the Labour leadership still defended him. If Rodney Hide is unfit to be a Minister, then Helen Clark and Michael Cullen were equally unfit to be Ministers.

Even worse, Labour never booted Field out for his criminal offending. He only got booted out when he talked of not standing for Labour.

And the final indignity came after he was found guilty of 11 charges of bribery and corruption (and 11 of perverting or obstructing the course of justice). Labour not only refused to apologise for the huge shame Field was, but they refused to even accept he was guilty. I’m not making this up – go check the records. The only comment they would make is they “acknowledge” the verdict.

So yes Rodney made a mistake, and yes ACT is damaged. But for fucks sake the last thing we need is a lecture in ethics from the party that gave protection and defence to a corrupt MP. If Labour ever get around to actually apologising for their defence of Field, then maybe they get to be taken seriously on ethical issues.

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UK Labour suspends four

March 24th, 2010 at 9:46 am by David Farrar

The Independent reports:

LONDON – Three former Cabinet ministers were suspended from the Labour Party yesterday over accusations they were ready to use their position to influence Government policy in return for money.

Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon had the parliamentary whip removed from them by party chiefs after being caught on camera by an undercover television investigation into lobbying by politicians.

The “cash for access” storm, which has overshadowed Labour’s election preparations, took a dramatic turn after the programme was broadcast yesterday.

The Labour Chief Whip, Nick Brown, and the party’s general secretary, Ray Collins, ordered their suspension pending a full investigation into the claims. Margaret Moran, the MP for Luton South, who featured in the programme, was also suspended by the party.

Three of the four MPs suspended are not obscure Backbenchers, but were high profile Secretaries of State.

Byers under Blair was Treasury Chief Secretary, and then Trade & Industry, Transport and Local Government Ministers. His former political advisor is the notorious Jo Moore who on 11 September 2001 sent out an e-mail advising people it was a good day to bury bad news stories.

Patricia Hewitt replaced Byers as Secretary of State for T&I and then became Health Secretary.

Geoff Hoon served under both Blair and Brown with portfolios ranging from Defence Secretary to Leader of the House, to Transport Secretary.

All three are high profile members of UK Labour – not quite household names, but very much part of the brand. Hard to see how this will not hurt them in the polls.

One Conservative MP was also stung as agreeing to lobby for money, but he has never held senior role, so most of the focus has been on the ex Ministers.

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NZ least corrupt

November 19th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Transparency International has effectively ranked New Zealand as the least corrupt country on Earth. That’s obviously a good thing. But to some degree they can be self fulfilling prophecies as much of the data is based on perceptions of corruption.

So to be absolutely precise NZ was perceived as having the lowest level of corruption in the public sector of the 180 countries surveyed

The top five countries are:

  1. New Zealand 9.4
  2. Denmark 9.3
  3. Singapore 9.2
  4. Sweden 9.2
  5. Switzerland 9.2

The bottom five are:

  1. Somalia 1.1
  2. Afghanistan 1.3
  3. Myanmar 1.4
  4. Sudan 15
  5. Iraq 1.5

Countries I have been in recently:

  1. USA 7.5
  2. Turkey 4.4
  3. Kuwait 4.1
  4. Thailand 3.4
  5. Egypt 2.8

As I said above, this doesn’t mean we are corruption free. Taito Philip Field is an example of how that is not true. It is more than any corruption is not systemic.

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This week’s NBR online column

October 9th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Most of my NBR online columns I can do in a couple of hours. This one is a lot longer than normal and has taken half a day or so. Even got up at 3 am to finish it!

It is on the sentencing of Phillip Hans Field, and has (if I can say so myself) a nice mixture of research (including how the British House of Commons in 1695 first made bribing an MP an offence), explaining why the sentence is longer than many people expected and then diving into the politics and comparing how Labour dealt with Field and ACT dealt with Donna Awatere-Huata.

The column is here. Some extracts:

Field was convicted of 11 charges under s103(1) of the Crimes Act 1961, being “Corruption and bribery of member of Parliament”. This has been an offence under New Zealand law since at least 1908. Its history though in fact goes back to 1695 in the United Kingdom, when the House of Commons resolved that offering a bribe to a Member of Parliament shall be a high crime and misdemeanour which subverts the English constitution, and that an MP accepting such a bribe shall be a matter of privilege.

In New Zealand, both offering and accepting such bribes are deemed serious crimes with a maximum sentence of seven years jail. …

As Field’s offending was unique in New Zealand’s parliamentary history, the Judge had no direct precedent to guide him in sentencing. The closest cases he could find was a Customs officer who took bribes and got four years jail. However he, unlike Field, pled guilty and co-operated fully. Without that he would have got six years.

An overseas precedent was a Canadian MP who got five years jail for a one off 10 years $10,000 bribe. Closer to home a New South Wales Minister got ten years for taking bribes to let prisoners out early.

You can read the sentencing notes here.

And then I look at how ACT handled things, compared to Labour:

Some time ago I phoned up then ACT Leader Richard Prebble and asked him if he could detail to me everything they did to force Awatere-Huata out. I explained I wanted to contrast their resolve to condemn such corruption, with Labour’s defence of Field.

I was staggered when Richard said he did not want to be held up as a role model. He explained that he actually felt guilty that they didn’t do more. Perhaps they should have asked questions earlier he said, as there was the odd rumour about her.

I leave readers with that comparison. One party that went all the way to the Supreme Court to force a corrupt MP out of Parliament, and then still felt guilty that they didn’t do more.

And another party that received a 158 page report detailing the numerous abuses and lies of one of their own MPs, and resolved to defend him. Desperate not to upset a core constituency their leader said one day he could be a Minister again. Their deputy leader said his only crime was to work too hard. They posed with him for the TV cameras as he claimed to be exonerated. And then two years later after he is sentenced to six years jail, the new leader and deputy leader still refuse to condemn him. They refuse to say whether or not they think he did in fact break the law. They refuse to express any remorse, shame or disgust over not just his behaviour, but their party’s behaviour in defending him.

Can Labour ever be deemed fit to hold office again until they do so?

Your views and answers can be left at NBR.

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Dom Post on Field and Labour

October 8th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dominion Post looks at both Field, and those who got off:

Bravo. Justice Rodney Hansen has resisted the temptation to let disgraced former MP Taito Phillip Field off with a slap on the wrist and sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment. …

As Justice Hansen said, he betrayed the trust placed in him as an MP and undermined the institutions it was his duty to uphold.

Jail time is warranted. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world in which political corruption is not endemic. By his actions, Field threatened to erode standards that have served New Zealand well.

The court’s sentencing notes are very interesting. The appropriate penalties for the crimes were deemed to be five years for the bribery and corruption and four years for perverting the course of justice.  This would be a total of nine years.

Justice Hansen said nine years would be excessive as the two categories of offending are closely linked, even though they are distinct. It is because they are distinct the two penalties are cumulative, not concurrent. He said that seven and a half years would be the appropriate sentence for the offending.

He then deducted a further 18 months off to take account of mitigating factors, so got to the final sentence of six years.

However, if Field has got his just deserts, others have got off lightly. Those others are the senior members of the Labour Party who ran interference for him for almost 18 months and who are now ducking for cover.

They won’t even say if they agree he broke the law.

Readers might remember that former prime minister Helen Clark was slow to act when questions were first asked about Field’s conduct, perhaps because the 2005 election was in the offing, and that when she did, she established an inquiry with narrow terms of reference and without the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Hence Field was able to claim he had been vindicated by an inquiry that found no evidence he had misused his position as minister for personal benefit.

And no other conclusion was possible given the terms of reference as he had no portfolio responsibilities in the area. The issue always was whether he had misused his position as an MP, not a Minister. The framing of the inquiry was designed to clear him.

Deputy prime minister Michael Cullen appeared to agree. Field’s “fundamental fault was to work too hard for the many, many hundreds of people who come to his electorate office on immigration matters”, he said.

And he said this after he had read the numerous abuses of office detailed in the Ingram Report.

What he overlooked, deliberately or otherwise, was the numerous questions the inquiry raised about Field’s conduct as an MP as opposed to his conduct as a minister.

And which Labour has never condemned. He used his loyal Thais as slave labour, and Labour has not a word of criticism. How sincere are the about the need to raise the minimum wage, when they defended their colleague who was found to be paying no wages at all!

Field’s sentencing closes a sorry chapter in politics. He has shamed himself, his family and the Samoan community, which was so proud when he was first elected to Parliament.

The blame lies not with the Samoan community, however, but with Field and the Labour Party, which, for political reasons, tried to shield him from scrutiny long after his position became untenable.

And we are still awaiting a clear statement from Labour that they agree Field was corrupt, let alone an apology for their defence of him. One can only conclude they do not think his behaviour was corrupt.

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Field gets six years

October 6th, 2009 at 2:20 pm by David Farrar

Former Labour MP Taito Phillip Field has been sentenced to six years jail. He got four years for bribery and corruption and two years for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He is the only MP to ever be convicted for crimes in his capacity as an MP.

The sentence is a bit longer than what I thought he would get, but entirely appropriate considering the nature of the offending- the fact he did it as an MP, using his office as an MP.

In total Field was found guilty on 26 charges.

The sentencing of Field is effectively the last chance for Labour to apologise for their defence of Field. I blogged on their woeful actions in defending him, and attacking those who exposed him, when he was found guilty. One can forgive them their initial defence before the facts were known, but they behaved shamefully after the Ingram Report came out, exposing what he had done. Dr Cullen repeated the line that all he is guilty of is working harder than the National MPs opposite. The smugness in the face of such a damning report was part of why Labour lost. Helen did not even rule out that he may return as a Minister – and again this is after she read the report.

UPDATE: Labour have put out a PR:

Deputy Labour Leader Annette King made the following statement on the sentencing today of Taito Phillip Field.

“This sentence demonstrates that all New Zealanders are equal under the law.

“Taito Phillip Field has been judged by his peers. He must now serve the sentence handed down in the Auckland High Court.”

Labour will not be making any other comment on this matter.

Why not? This offending happened while he was a Labour MP. It was not incidental to his job. this was not offending in his spare time. This was corruption relating to his job. And Labour defended him when this wrongdoing was exposed by Ingram. That may be embarrassing, but that is not a reason to refuse comment. I hope the media are not spineless on this, and allow Labour to get away with no comment. There is no way they would let John Key not comment if one of his MPs was convicted of corruption *as an MP*. The next time Phil Goff does a press conference, or media standup, or walks down the corridor to the House, he should be asked if Labour regrets defending Taito Philip Field after he Ingram report came out.

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The left on Taito Phillip Field

August 7th, 2009 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Well the silence from most left blogs on the shame of Taito Philip Field has been illuminating. Public Address just did a one line post on their discussion board announcing the verdict. Red Alert remains strangely silent. The various Labour Party members blogs have said nothing much. Of course this is similiar to their comments at the time. Nowhere did they call out for their party to do the right thing and stop defending Field as a man of integrity whose only crime was to work too hard.

There was one notable exception. No Right Turn has, not surprisingly, covered Field in detail from the very first allegations, and decried both Field and his apologists.He was the first to suggest Field’s action represented criminal offending – back in Sep 2005.

Some extracts from what he said back then:

On 8 August 2006:

It’s official: the Labour Party supports corruption. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from Helen Clark’s refusal to consider internally censuring corrupt MP Taito Philip Field. …

I expect all political parties in New Zealand to take a hard line against corruption, and when this sort of case comes up, to condemn it and any member involved. Labour’s refusal to do so sends a clear message: that they will turn a blind eye to corruption in order to retain power. This is simply unacceptable, and such a party is not worthy of anyone’s vote.

And on 15 August 2006:

As for the argument that a by-election would threaten the government’s majority, what of it? There are some things more important than being in government – and maintaining the integrity of our political system against corruption is one of them. If Labour can’t stay in power except by looking the other way on this sort of thing, then arguably it shouldn’t be in power at all.

Also of interest in a post from Bryce Edwards, who quotes David Lange in 1997 highlighting dodgy electoral spending and donations returns from Field in 1996. Even back then people were raising issues.

UPDATE: Another honourable exception to the silence was Jeremy Greenbrook-Held. He said in July 2006:

I’m embarrassed that I’m a member of the same political party as this man, and, for the record, would love to see a full privilages committee inquiry into his conduct as an MP. It is not worth loosing Margaret Wilson as speaker to cover this up.

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Editorials on Field

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

All four major daily newspapers devoted today’s editorial to Taito Philip Field. 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 corruption. The jury unanimously found him to be guilty of 11 out of the 12 counts of bribery and corruption 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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Labour’s apology for defence of corrupt exploitative MP

August 5th, 2009 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

Well I would blog it, but there isn’t one. Instead we have a range of reactions from Labour that vary from no comment to trying to rewrite history.

What is especially shameful isn’t just that the Labour leadership and other MPs defended a corrupt MP. But they defended an MP who was exploiting the most vulnerable members of society and treating them as close to slave labour. He got his mate the Associate Minister to get them into NZ, and they worked unpaid for weeks or months on end making Field richer.

Field was everything the Labour Party claims to be against. And all his sins and abuses were detailed by Ingram. And even then they defended him. Clark even said he could return to the Ministry one day – compare that to Key on Worth.

Labour Ministers said there was no issue about his having slave labour work for free on his properties as hey were contractors, not employees!! And never at that time was there a denouncing of what Field did – because they needed his vote.

So did we get it last night. No. First Eddie from The Standard tried to rewrite history in a fashion that could make for a George Orwell novel. He said:

Good on Clark for sacking him as a minister when the allegations first came out.

She never sacked him. And even after the Ingram report came out, she refused to rule out he could be re-appointed to the Ministry.

Another liar at The Standard claims I invented the quote from the PM “the only thing of which Taito Philip Field is guilty is being helpful“.

What a disgusting lowlife. A sycophant who won’t criticise his own party for their disgraceful defence of Field, he just invents lies. Here is the full story on 13 September 2005 from Newstalk ZB. It is in the NZPA database and is no #1436468. I don’t expect an apology because I wouldn’t accept one from the anonymous coward.

Helen Clark says Taito Philip Field was making representation on someone’s behalf with regard to Thai man in Samoa The Prime Minister says the only thing of which Taito Philip Field is guilty is being helpful.

The Labour MP and State Minister has become involved in the efforts of a Thai man seeking residency. The man is waiting in Samoa for his application to be processed after he was denied refugee status.

Sunan Siriwan has been given a job by Taito Phillip Field to tile a house in Samoa.

Mr Field has written in support of the man to Associate Immigration Minister Damien O’Connor.

Helen Clark says Mr Field was making representation on someone’s behalf as MPs often do. She says if they cannot do that, they might as well shut the electorate office doors.

Then we have the Labour MPs, instead of their apologists. The Herald reports:

The man who replaced him as MP for Mangere, Sua William Sio, said he acknowledged the court’s decision, but would not comment further.

Wow that is a condemnation. Maybe he held back as his own office staff are under investigation over an alleged immigration scam.

Labour leader Phil Goff said: “It’s disappointing that a parliamentarian was found guilty of that conduct.

“The verdict is an indication that whatever you are in society you are equal under the law … the law has followed its course.”

Disappointing? It is a disgrace. And not a word on Labour’s defence of Field as a man of integrity whose only sin was to work too hard. And not a word of sympathy for Field’s victims – the so called “strugglers” Labour claims to champion.

Stuff reports:

Labour chief whip Darren Hughes said the party acknowledged the verdict, but had no further comment.

Labour have had months to prepare for this verdict, and this is all they can say.

Unless someone from Labour’s parliamentary wing  does a sincere apology for their behaviour over Field, the conclusion many people will reach is they are unfit to hold office again, and that their so called concern for the welfare of vulnerable New Zealanders is insincere.

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Field’s guilt and Labour’s shame

August 4th, 2009 at 5:10 pm by David Farrar

In a shameful first, a (former) New Zealand Member of Parliament has been found guilty of corruption in relation to his duties as an MP. He championed the cause of poor people, while illegally exploiting them.

But the same is not just with Taito Philip Field, but with the Labour Party. Because they defended him time and time again. I draw a contrast between how Labour responded to corruption allegations against Field, and ACT against Donna Awatere-Huata (and hers were allegations that were not even about her role as a MP).

ACT demanded Donna explain herself, and when she could not they suspended her from Caucus, and then used the Electoral Integrity Act to have her thrown out of Parliament. They even went all the way to the Supreme Court of New Zealand, to to defend their actions in getting her thrown out of Parliament they were so appalled and disgusted by her behaviour.

And now let us contrast that with Labour’s shameful response. I’ll give Labour the benefit of the doubt and assume no Labour MP was aware of what had been happening until One News broke the story on 12 September 2005. In reality I think it is highly probable Associate Immigration Minister Damien O’Connor did know. The NZ Immigration Service overseas offices sent warning notes to him. The claim his staff never showed them to him is probably a convenient fiction. I have worked in Ministerial offices and know what sort of stuff would never ever be kept from the Minister, and official warnings about a Ministerial colleague is not one of them. But this can not be proven, so let us deal just with what we do know for sure:

  1. 12 Sep 05 – One News airs allegations
  2. 13 Sep 05 – PM Helen Clark says “the only thing of which Taito Philip Field is guilty is being helpful“. Yes the PM immediately went into bat for him despite the damning allegations. Her first response was to defend what he had done, not establish the truth.
  3. 14 Sep 05 – Field tells NZPA there was no corruption on his part and no investigation was needed as he had been open with the facts. The PM refuses to order an inquiry due to the looming election, in case it affected the vote in South Auckland. Note that Jenny Shipley in 1999 sacked a Minister two days before the election, after a conflict of interest in relation to immigration issues was raised publicly. Shipley did not hold off doing the right thing just because of an election.
  4. 20 Sep 05 – Clark agrees to an inquiry into the allegations. However the terms of reference are set incredibly narrow – only if Field had a conflict of interest as a Minister. As Field did not hold portfolio responsibilities for immigration, it was always a foregone conclusion he could not be found to have a conflict of interest as a Minister.
  5. 21 Sep 05 – evidence emerges that Field’s wife was being paid from his parliamentary budget, despite this being a breach of the rules.
  6. 21 Sep 05 – Noel Ingram appointed to do the inquiry with a report back date of 4 October 2005. Clark wanted this out of the way quickly and had set terms of reference that made the outcome inevitable. She also gave the inquiry no powers to compel testimony.
  7. 18 Jul 06 – on the eve of the release of the Ingram report, Clark is asked if Field will be staying on as an MP, and she says “I am sure he will”. So even after having read the Ingram report, she saw nothing of concern excepts for some minor “errors of judgement”.
  8. 18 Jul 06 – the Ingram report is released. Ingram details a huge number of abuses and exploitation by Field. He also makes it very clear that he doubts some of what Field told him and that some of the testimony was manufactured. The report of course inevitably says there was no conflict with Field’s ministerial duties – no surprise as he had no portfolio involvement with immigration.
  9. 18 Jul 06 – Clark says Field is not barred from returning to a Ministerial role one day.
  10. 18 Jul 06 – in an estimates debate, Labour MP Russel Fairbrother says “There is no evidence to doubt what Mr Field says. The overall conclusion is that we have a member of Parliament who works very hard and very diligently, and who cooperated fully with the inquiry”. Fairbrother continues his defence of the diligent Field by saying “So what we have is simply a thorough report, by a very experienced Queen’s Counsel, that upholds the integrity of Taito Phillip Field. Taito Phillip Field is a hard-working member.” And even better he concludes “This is a report that Mr Field can wave around as a tribute to his integrity, and it suggests he will continue to be a profitable and good member of the House”. That is what tht Labour MP said at the time.
  11. 18 July 06 – then we had the Deputy Prime Minister in the same debate. Dr Cullen said “Phillip Field handles more immigration cases than probably the whole of the National caucus put together. Why? Because he works hard—unlike that lazy, shallow member [John Key] —on behalf of his constituents.” Dr Cullen holds Field up as an example that all MPs should aspire to.
  12. 18 Jul 06 – we then hear again from Dr Cullen during a snap debate: “the fundamental fault Mr Field committed was to work too hard on behalf of the many, many hundreds of people who come to his electorate office on immigration matters.” Yes Dr Cullen, despite having read the damning Ingram report, touts Field as a wonderful MP whose only problem was he cared too much for his constituents. The same ones he has been found guilty of bribery charges about. Finally Cullen concludes “He works harder on those matters than I suspect the entire National Party caucus does on constituency cases. If that is what he is guilty of, then I am sure he is happy to plead guilty to working hard on behalf of his constituents.
  13. 19 Jul 06 – Clark rules out a further inquiry into Field as “unnecessary”
  14. 21 Jul 06 – Margaret Wilson refuses to refer report to the Privileges Committee despite the massive amount of issues in the report that could be a matter of privilege.
  15. 24 Jul 06 – Helen Clark said “The Government has not been embarrassed by the Taito Phillip Field controversy”. It is true they were not embarrassed, but they should have been. They should have hung their heads in shame they defended Field for so long
  16. 25 Jul 06 – the Government says there is no need to have the Labour Department investigate Field as his helpers were contractors, not employees, and hence minimum wage laws did not apply. Yes Labour Ministers defended Field exploiting immigrants and paying below the minimum wage, on the basis they were contractors. Does this give you some idea of how sincere they are on such issues?
  17. 27 Aug 06 – Sunday airs more allegations against Field
  18. 31 Aug 06. Police announce they are investigating, And Field stood down from Caucus. He is later expelled from Labour – not for any of the multiple abuses detailed in the Ingram Report, but for the cardinal sin of not ruling out standing for another party at the election.

Even if Field’s actions has not been found to be illegal, I blogged on 31 August the huge difference between mere legality and ethically. Long before the Police investigation, the Labour Party should have denounced Field. Instead Clark, Cullen and the rest of the Labour Party defended him. That is why these convictions are their shame.

This would also be a good time for all MPs to come together and declare this should never happen again, and support an Independent Commission against Corruption that can investigate abuses of office by parliamentarians, senior officials and agencies.

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