Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn calls for Peters to be sacked:
The Prime Minister responded today to Winston Peters’ admission that, contrary to his earlier denials, he had been $100,000 by Owen Glenn, calling it “embarrassing”. It’s a little more than that. Not only did Peters violate Parliament’s Standing Orders on the declaration of gifts (something which Rodney Hide will be complaining about today) – he also violated Cabinet guidelines. The Cabinet Manual has extensive sections on Ministerial conduct and the acceptance of gifts. The short version: Ministers must clearly distinguish between their personal interests and their Ministerial roles, declare all pecuniary interests, and refuse all gifts except from close family members. This includes both cash and donations in kind: …
He should have declared it, and then relinquished it. He did neither. And this is something no Prime Minister should accept. The Cabinet rules on gifts are there for a real purpose: to prevent corruption, and the perception of corruption. Peters has blatantly violated those rules, and for that he must either offer his resignation or be sacked.
Plus he should be made to pay the $100,000 back. Unless Helen authorises him to keep it as a golden handshake.
Unfortunately, I rate the odds of the Prime Minister having a spine on this about as highly as I rate those of Parliament’s “all powerful” (where do the journalists get that phrase from?) Privileges Committee finding that Peters violated Standing orders. The realities of MMP mean Peters has a gun to the Prime Minister’s head – she can’t fire him, regardless of his egregious behaviour, unless she wants her tenure as PM to end prematurely in a messy coalition collapse. Unfortunately, this means she and her party get to go down with him, because I do not think that the image of a PM permitting Ministers to receive donations in brown paper bags from people who want favours from them is one the public will accept.
Clark will show no spine on this. But I think she will regret this. She should live up to her many words of the need for transparency in political financing.
I have to say I would like National to be somewhat more forceful on this also. I understand targeting Clark (esp as Peters is away) and her responses is the main priority for the Opposition, but they do need to be very very clear that this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in a National-led Government where it is okay for Ministers to personally benefit by $100,000 from someone seeking favours from them.
I/S is right that one of the weaknesses of MMP is MPs in minor parties can get away with behaviour, other parties could not.
As for the Privileges Committee, let’s look at that. I am assuming that there is absolutely no doubt the Speaker will have to refer the issue to them. The threshold is merely that here is a question to answer, and no one could possibly argue there isn’t at least a question to answer. This is not the same as saying the verdict is beyond doubt. Until we know who the cheque was actually made out to, and which bank account it went into, one can not be conclusive on these things.
So who makes up the Privileges Committee. Let us first look at who is on there will will try hard to make the thing go away:
Labour – Cullen, Dalziel, Fairbrother, Swain – 4
NZ First – Peters (will be a sub for him – any other MP except Dail Jones I predict) – 1
Greens – Turei – 1
Some may argue Turei will show integrity and actually support motions to order copies of the accounts, invite Owen Glenn to testify etc etc. But considering the silence of the Greens to date, I am not optimistic.
Now who on there may reasonably be regarded as likely to vote for a full investigation?:
National – Brownlee, Guy, Mapp, Power (Chair) – 4
United Future – Dunne – 1
Maori Party – Harawira – 1
ACT – Hide (will be Roy if he makes the complaint) – 1
So by a 7-6 majority (or 8-5 if I am pleasantly surprised), the Privileges Committee should be able to exercise some independence from the Government line. Peter Dunne is a Minister of course but I actually have considerable faith that he will be offended by what has happened and want a full accounting.
Because of this the Government will be lobbying Margaret Wilson furiously to find a way not to send it to Privileges Committee. But the problem they have is that this is a near perfect fit as a question of privilege. The paying off of a debt on an MP’s behalf is explicitly listed as an item for inclusion in the register. Winston and Brian Henry have both admitted the debts are in his name and he is liable for any shortfall. And the burden of proof here is not beyond reasonable doubt – just that there is a question to be answered.
UPDATE: Former Chair/Spokesperson of the Young Greens, George Darroch, has blogged. He notes:
David Farrar correctly notes that left blogs have for the most part have ignored the Winston Peters donation scandal. And so far, that has included this blog. I have no ordinary desire to write about that man and his party, they disgust me enough that I feel dirty even mentioning their names.
If you lie with the dogs, you’re sure to catch fleas. Labour made their bed, they shouldn’t expect sympathy.
Now, Labour Party activists will tell me that they had no options after the 05 election. I don’t believe them. The Māori Party talked with the Labour Party after the election about coming to an arrangement, most likely support on confidence and supply. It would have meant the Labour Party being humble, certainly, and the repeal of the Seabed and Foreshore Act. There would have been other things that were hard to swallow. The relations between Clark and Māori Party in the years previous, and the fact that Labour’s biggest donor Owen Glenn had also patronised the party by offering $250,000 in return for a guarantee of support probably didn’t help.
It is a very valid point. Helen Clark chose Winston over the Maori Party and the Greens. She never even tried to negotiate a deal with them.