Dunne on immigration cases

June 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter Dunne blogs:

I have always followed two firm rules for immigration – and actually all constituency – cases, aside from the obvious point of keeping clear and full records. Any letters of advocacy I write on behalf of a constituent have been drafted personally by me, rather than a member of my staff, as I am more likely to remember something I have written myself, rather than just affixed a signature to. Second and more important, I have never accepted a donation or gift in return for pursuing an immigration case. Where there have been occasions – usually after the event – where someone offered to make a donation, I have always referred them directly to the Party Treasurer. So I actually never know whether any of these offers have ever been followed up, which is as it should be.

I say this not to be sanctimonious, but because it strikes me that David Cunliffe has done neither. I do not think he had full oversight of Mr Liu’s approach to him regarding his immigration status, but I do think he – and his colleagues it would appear – had way too much involvement, more than they are letting on now, in respect of Mr Liu’s financial support. It is that ambiguity and shadiness that is doing the damage now.

Add to that Mr Cunliffe’s strident flaying of Maurice Williamson over his dealings with Donghua Liu and the firestorm of hypocrisy now engulfing him is both obvious and utterly predictable.

Good points made by Peter Dunne.

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The Whangarei Council sacking

September 17th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

A Whangarei District Council employee has been fired for nominating a candidate for mayoralty.

Jan Walters-Gleeson signed a nomination form last month for Stan Semenoff, a former mayor of Whangarei who is re-standing.

My first reaction was that the Council was wrong to do so. Employees have a right to nominate, or even to stand. But there is a complicating factor.

Ms Walters-Gleeson, who is the personal assistant to the mayor and chief executive of the Whangarei District Council, was sacked two weeks ago, Radio New Zealand reports.

Being the PA to the Mayor makes this case more nuanced. I think it is fair enough to conclude that you can’t have a Mayoral PA who nominates a challenger to the Mayor. How could you possibly have a working relationship with the Mayor after that?

I can’t fathom how Ms Walters-Gleeson could have though that there would be no consequences to doing this.

Now having said that, I think the better response from the Council would be to move her into another job, rather than sack her. She obviously could not continue as the PA to the Mayor, but could continue as a PA in another section of the Council.

Mr Dunne said her dismissal appears to be a gross breach of her rights as a citizen to participate freely and fairly in the electoral process.

“I am surprised we have heard nothing so far from the Electoral Commission, given its oversight role of electoral processes, about the infringement of Ms Walters-Gleeson’s rights as an elector.

I am not surprised as the Electoral Commission does not run local body elections, but more to the point they have no role in employment law. There is no dispute about the validity of the nomination form, just a dispute over a sacking.

According to Radio New Zealand, Ms Walters-Gleeson will fight for her reinstatement.

As I said, I think she should be employed elsewhere in the Council. But one can not expect to be PA to the Mayor when yerou sign the nomination form of a rival. It would be like claiming that an MP’s EA could nominate their election opponent, yet still be the MPs EA.  I’m not sure Peter Dunne would be too happy if his EA had signed the nomination form of Charles Chauvel!

UPDATE: I’m told the current Mayor is not standing, which makes it less of a judgement of error. I still think a Mayoral PA should not sign any Mayoral nominations forms. However the appropriate response is to transfer, not sack.

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Dom Post and Grey Power on flexi super

August 28th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Ohariu MP Peter Dunne already has one thing in his favour as he pushes for flexible National Superannuation: significant public support.

According to a Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll in February, 49 per cent of people would like to choose when they receive their state pension, with reduced or enhanced rates depending on the age they start drawing payments.

Certainly, Mr Dunne’s proposal, which the Government agreed to consider as part of its confidence and supply deal with UnitedFuture, breathes some fresh air into the superannuation debate. It is well worth the discussion kick-started by a Treasury scoping document issued on Monday. 

A more hysterical response from Grey Power:

Allowing national superannuation to start at age 60 would be a cruel poverty trap for people who are short of money, Grey Power says. …

“This latest idea from Peter Dunne is one of the more cynical, cruel and dangerous bits of stupidity I’ve heard in a very long time,” said Grey Power president Roy Reid.

“It will be a poverty trap for financially hard-pressed people already on low incomes who will be tempted to take an early but low pension with no hope of it ever increasing to the rate that people who can afford to wait until they’re 70 will get.”

Mr Reid says Mr Dunne is a typical MP who has no idea of what life at the bottom of the heap is like.

“It’s like offering a starving family a loaf of bread today, and every day hereafter if you take it now, or two loaves a day and a big box of sausages every day if you wait for 10 years to collect.”

Mr Reid says Grey Power will fight the Government if it takes up the idea – and it wants Mr Dunne out of Parliament.

My God, the hysteria. Grey Power obviously thinks elderly people are so stupid they can’t be trusted to make decisions about what is best for them.

if you are 60 and in bad health, the option of early retirement could be a massive advantage.

Of course there are potential problems, but we need a rational discussion, not mad rants.

I note also that the Grey Power President has declared he wants certain MPs to be defeated. So I hope Grey Power will be registering as a third party for the election campaign.

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Dunne on party registration law changes

August 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter Dunne blogs:

First, it was UnitedFuture, not the Electoral Commission, that raised the issue of the difficulty we were having verifying the status of some of our members. Had we just signed the annual statutory declaration that we had 500 financial members the Electoral Commission would have been none the wiser because it has no power to check the accuracy of a party’s declaration. So we were deregistered for being honest, which is quite absurd. Therefore, my Bill will require the Electoral Commission to formally audit the membership of all registered parties once every three years to ensure they do in fact have a minimum of 500 financial members, and are not just saying so in the sure knowledge they will not be checked up on.

I think it is a great idea to have the Electoral Commission audit membership claims.

The next absurdity was the Electoral Commission’s archaic insistence that we produce 500 individually signed declarations and its refusal to accept on-line memberships. That is totally out of step with today’s reality so my amendment will ensure on-line memberships will be treated as valid for registration purposes, and will make the Commission subject to the provisions of the Electronic Transactions Act, something it is currently specifically exempted from.

Also a good idea. To be fair to the Electoral Commission they have to act within the current law.

Third, I am proposing that where a party that has been registered for at least two elections is deregistered it will be able to lodge a re-registration application within 90 days, without being treated as a new party. The Electoral Commission kept telling us that UnitedFuture was clearly not a new party – having been around for nearly 20 years – but under its internal rules (not the Electoral Act incidentally) it claimed it had no option but to treat us a new party. This is clearly a nonsense – a party cannot be both an established party, yet treated as new party, at the same time.

Obviously some self-interest here. This one I am fairly neutral on. The best course of action is for parties to make sure they clearly stay over 500 members. In fact I think the threshold should be 1,000.

Definitely a bill that should go to select committee, if drawn out.

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Classy

August 7th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A group protesting at the Government Communications Security Bureau bill have taken their fight to the Wellington home of United Future MP Peter Dunne, prompting him to call them “irresponsible scum”.

Eight protesters were outside his home in Khandallah yesterday afternoon, calling on him to cross the floor and vote against the bill.

Mr Dunne, who was not home at the time of the protest, said the “hardcore group” were at his house with a loudhailer on Sunday, past 11pm on Monday night, and also yesterday morning at 7am.

MPs have electorate office swhere people can protest. To target someone’s home, and at 11 pm at night, is a very unclassy look. In fact, pretty scummy.

Protester Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati said they were at Mr Dunne’s home “to give him a taste of what it feels like to have your privacy intruded on”.

I think Peter already has a fair idea!

Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati is a Mana Party activist. She doesn’t seem to play well with others, as you can read on this blog post. She’s so disruptive the other protesters think John Key has paid her to infiltrate and disrupt them :-)

 

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Dunne sums ups Labour’s logic

August 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Peter Dunne should withdraw his support for the prime minister’s controversial GCSB Bill in the wake of the widening spy scandal, Labour leader David Shearer says. …

“I find it extraordinary that he would still support the bill given the Government has actually gone behind his back and tried to access his emails.

Actually the Government is on record as saying the e-mails should not be released without Dunne’s permission.

But Dunne is sticking to his guns, yesterday saying the two issues were unrelated and he will vote for the bill.

“Saying that the GCSB Bill should not be passed because of this is like saying that because some people jaywalk, we shouldn’t build more motorways.”

That appears to be exactly the Labour (and Green) view on transport!

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A further Parliamentary Service cock up

August 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

United Future leader Peter Dunne is considering legal action and Fairfax Media is alleging a “cover up” after it emerged yesterday that Mr Dunne’s emails with reporter Andrea Vance were sent to an inquiry investigating the disclosure of a sensitive report.

The latest twist in the Henry Inquiry saga follows earlier revelations that Vance’s phone records were sent to the inquiry, along with logs of her movements around the parliamentary precinct recorded by a swipecard.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released all emails relating to the Henry Inquiry late yesterday. One included an attachment containing emails between Vance and Mr Dunne, which was sent to the inquiry by Parliamentary Services on May 21.

About 40 minutes after the message was sent, Parliamentary Service officials tried to recall the email and asked the inquiry to call urgently.

The head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Andrew Kibblewhite said the file was deleted immediately and could not have been opened because the email system was incompatible with that used by DPMC.

Unbelievable. And note it was not authorised:

 Parliamentary Services told the inquiry on May 20 it believed it had the “necessary approvals” to release ministers’ emails. However, the next day, Mr Thorn emailed Chief of staff Wayne Eagleson to ask about Mr Dunne’s emails, adding “I am happy to provide the information as requested.” Mr Eagleson said he told Mr Thorn he was uncomfortable about authorising that because Mr Dunne was not a National Party minister, and Mr Dunne would have to give permission himself.

Which he did not.

The Henry Inquiry had asked for calls made “to and from” the ministers’ phones and Miss Vance’s but specified “we do not want the call logs for (Vance’s phones)” as it was outside conditions of the inquiry.

So twice Parliamentary Service provided private communication details, despite explicit statements that that information was not to be included!

People will try to blame this on the PM or his staff, because that is the nature of the politics game. but really, it looks pretty clear to me that the PM’s Office was very careful not to over-step the mark. The problem lies with Parliamentary Service.

However there is a political management issue here, that may involve both. This info should not be coming out piecemeal. Once it was known such information was sent by mistake, it should have all been disclosed together. But it seems DPMC (seperate to the PMO) only mentioned the e-mail incident yesterday to the PM’s Office.

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GCSB Changes

July 23rd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

John Key has announced the following changes to the GCSB Bill after negotiations with John Banks and Peter Dunne:

  • A set of guiding principles will be added, in line with requests from Mr Banks and Mr Dunne.
  • The Inspector General will be supported by a two-person advisory panel.
  • The removal of the proposed Order in Council mechanism which would have allowed other agencies to be added to the list of agencies able to request assistance from the GCSB. Any additions beyond the Police, NZSIS and NZ Defence Force will now be required to be made by a specific amendment to the legislation.
  • To ensure effective oversight in the issuing of a warrant, the Bill will be amended so the Inspector General is informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander.
  • The GCSB will be required to report annually on the total number of instances where it has provided assistance to the Police, NZSIS or NZ Defence Force.
  • The GCSB will also be required to report annually on the number of warrants and authorisations issued.
  • The Intelligence and Security Committee will hold public hearings annually to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the NZSIS.
  • There will be an independent review of the operations and performance of the GCSB and NZSIS and their governing legislation in 2015, and thereafter every 5-7 years.
  • Mr Dunne will have a role in the Government’s upcoming work to address the Law Commission’s 2010 report Invasion of Privacy: Penalties and Remedies. This work will include a review of the definition of ‘private communication’, which was highlighted as an issue by submitters on the GCSB legislation.

These are good changes. I had talked on TV about one area of concern being the proposed ability for the Govt to add other agencies onto the list of agencies the GCSB can assist with interceptions. Having Parliament, not the Government, make any changes is desirable.

Despite these significant changes, Labour appears to still be voting with the Greens against the bill. Ironic as it was a Labour Government that caused this problem with their 2003 law change.

Dunne and Banks have shown how you can have a constructive role in improving legislation.

Also the Herald reports:

Mr Key said today that he did not believe that the GCSB had engaged in the mass collection of metadata and he confirmed that it should be treated the same as communication and any collection of it would require a warrant. He planned to make a clear statement about it in the bill’s second reading.

Also welcome.

 

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Russel calls for a leak inquiry and then denounces it for being effective

July 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

When the Kitteridge report was first leaked, Green co-leader Russel Norman was outraged by the leak. He suspected it was a deliberate leak by the PMs Office or similar, and demanded the Govt take action.

On 9 April he said:

Dr Russel Norman: In light of the fact that the cover note on the report says that the appendices are legally privileged and highly classified, does he believe that the leaking of the full Kitteridge report is a serious offence? 

So he is calling it a serious offence, if the full report was leaked.

Dr Russel Norman: If it does turn out that the full report has been leaked by someone in his Government, what consequences should face the person who leaked this information, which the Government Communications Security Bureau describes as legally privileged and highly classified? What consequences should that person face? 

And he calls for serious consequences.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that so far the only member of his Government who, he has told us, has had access to this report is the office of the Prime Minister, did he or a member of his staff leak the report?

Which was a stupid allegation to make, as the leaking of it undermined the PM’s trip to China.

Dr Russel Norman: If he does not know who leaked the report, will he launch an inquiry to get to the bottom of it, given his previous support for an inquiry into a leak at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over documents that were probably quite considerably less sensitive?

So he explicitly called for a leak inquiry. He said the leak may be a serious offence, and called for serious consequences.

But now today, he has changed tune and decided that the leak inquiry was draconian, and went too far.

The Prime Minister’s inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report appears to have acted beyond the law by accessing Peter Dunne’s email account log without his permission, and the Green Party has lodged a complaint with the Ombudsmen on this issue, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

Norman seems to be arguing that the Henry inquiry should have merely asked every Minister if they leaked the report, and when they said “no, it wasn’t me”, should have left it there.

If the Henry inquiry had done that, Norman would no doubt have been calling it a cover up.

 

 

 

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Dunne now independent for parliamentary purposes

June 25th, 2013 at 2:18 pm by David Farrar

Speaker David Carter has ruled that as United Future is no longer a registered political party, it is no longer eligible to be recognised as a parliamentary party under Standing Orders. Hence Peter Dunne is now classified as an independent MP.

This means he loses $122,000 of annual leader and party funding. Also he no longer has the right to speaks on motions where all party leaders get to speak.

However the Speaker also indicated that if they do get re-registered they will likely again be recognised as a parliamentary party, so he is likely to regain his former status in a couple of months or so.

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Hide on leaking

June 16th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

It was Dunne’s basic goodness that did for him. Politicians leak all the time. Helen Clark was masterful. But they don’t get caught. That’s because they know what they’re doing.

You certainly don’t use your Parliamentary email. You don’t discuss with a journalist the possibility of leaking. That gives them the power, either through error or design, to get you sacked.

If you’re going to leak, leak; don’t leave your fingerprints all over it.

The leaking, too, has to have a point: it advances your cause, knocks an enemy off course, distracts the media from your own problems, or helps set the agenda. The leak was of no political benefit to Dunne whatsoever.

Most leaks are to disadvantage the other side. This leak disadvantaged the Government he is part of, and didn’t help Dunne at all. A few people think that maybe Dunne wasn’t the leaker – that he just helped Vance confirm the story and she had a second source. But personally I go with Occam’s razor.

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Trotter on SNAFU

June 13th, 2013 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Labour’s performance was equally demoralising. Listening to David Shearer’s opening speech, it soon became clear that he had requested the snap debate not for the purposes of elucidation, but solely for the purposes of persecution. Peter Dunne’s career is in tatters and his reputation is shot, but that is not enough for the Labour Party. Apparently, the party of the workers will not be content until Mr Dunne, like the traitors of old, is subjected to a prolonged, painful and very public execution. …

This cannot be achieved without revealing to the world the full contents of the e-mails exchanged between Mr Dunne and Ms Vance. 

Trotter notes:

The National Party’s Deputy-Leader, Bill English, could hardly conceal his delight at the prospect of Labour getting involved in such a fight. Responding to Shearer’s speech, the Finance Minister declared:

“Peter Dunne is a member of Parliament. OK. So this is the proposition of the Labour Party to the media now: any journalist who corresponds with any Minister in any Labour Government needs to know that their emails and voice messages will be open to scrutiny by the Prime Minister whenever they feel like it. That is the Labour Party proposition to the media. Well, let us just watch over the next couple of weeks. Those members might shout it in here, but out there they are going to be working very hard to get off that hook, because their relationship with the media is now at stake, and when you are in Opposition you need to be able to communicate with the media. You need to have free flow of information. You do in Government too, actually.”

Mr English’s boss put it more succinctly. Addressing the Press Gallery, The Prime Minister asked: “Do you guys seriously want me going out there foraging through your correspondence with my MPs and my ministers and other ministers and support parties? … I think that’s a step you would ferociously repel and be extremely vocal in your opposition to.”

Mr Key’s grammar is as tortured as ever, but it’s hard to disagree with what he is saying. Which really leads me to wonder what the hell is going on with Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. If Labour and the Greens can’t make a better fist of defending press freedom and the citizens’ right to privacy than the National Party, then some very serious questions need to be asked about their competency.

During World War II soldiers became so used to the Army getting things wrong that they coined the acronym “SNAFU” to describe its routine incompetence. I would hate to think that things were now so bad – particularly in Labour – that the party’s strategy for dealing with Mr Dunne could simply be written off as SNAFU:

Situation Normal – All Fucked Up.

They do seem to have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This should have been an easy win for them, but instead they over-reached, and looked ridiculous.
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Campbell vs Peters

June 11th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

If you want some humour, watch this interview of Winston Peters by John Campbell. Not sure whether it is more funny or sad.

Peter George has a transcript:

Campbell: How did he breach national security?

Peters: Well he leaked information on a very important report, to do with the malfunction of the GCSB, that’s the Kitteridge report, and then there’s the matter of moral within the GCSB, a separate matter, no no no, let me finish, you want to know how I’m going to give you a snapshot, just three, not all of them, just three. And the third one was he made reference to someone he should not have made reference to on the question of the GCSB appointments.

Campbell: Ok, let’s go through these things one at a time. The Kitteridge report, it was going to be made public.

Peters: I know what you’re trying to say, and some of your colleagues are doing the same, they’re saying…

Campbell: No wait a minute, I’m not trying to say anything, it’s a statement of fact

Peters: …over the last twenty four hour, a repetitive argument he just broke the embargo…

Campbell: You’re hearing fact, you’re hearing fact…

Peters: …let me tell you why it’s not fact, and I’m sure you’re interested in that, the ah Fairfax outlet said it was a secret report, and it was, the second thing is it was described in the State Services and parliamentary record of being such a document in it’s past precedence. Then you’ve got the fact an investigator appointed by the National Party, said as well it was classified and highly sensitive…

Campbell: Mr Peters, look, I can’t sit here and let you spout nonsense to me, absolutely, I’m going to read what David Henry said, verbatim quote. 

“On the afternoon of 27th March Mr Dunne was given a numbered copy of the Kitteridge report” – which was going to be made public – “but not the classified appendices”.

In other words he didn’t have classified material. No, you know that. Why are you sitting here tonight saying that he did?

Peters: Because you haven’t asked any questions about what happened by way of conversation within five MPs, including the Prime Minister who sat on the Intelligence and Security committee, you don’t know that, and I don’t think Mr Henry bothered to ask as well which is why I raised questions about the way he was conducting this inquiry.

I’ve been on that committee, I know something about what I’m talking about and I know what international ramifications are, and I’m not going to stand by while cynical people who said from day one there was nothing in this, now repeat that he merely broke an embargo. I’m sorry, this is out number one security agency, it interrelates with international agencies and our respect and integrity is on the line, and it’s important.

He just couldn’t answer the question, so did the normal bluster.

Campbell: Ok, what evidence is that?

Peters: That’s the evidence that backs up what I’m saying, and every day it unfolds, you will find that out.

Campbell: What evidence is that?

Peters: Well it’s evidence of, ah, improperly liaison meetings with disclosure of secret, confidential, private information, not just in one area but in a number of areas.

Campbell: Do you have the emails?

Peters: I’ve told you from day one that I have the evidence sufficient to make allegations, both to you, inside parliament because you wouldn’t publish it otherwise, and outside parliament… 

Campbell: Yes or no, do you have the emails?

Peters: Well of course I’ve got information I need to back up my…

Campbell: Yes or no, do you have the emails?

Peters: No no no, you’re not going to know, what I want you to tell me is why you aren’t asking the Prime Minister, Prime Minister, why can’t we see the information that you won’t show the public.

A nice calling of Peters’ bluff.

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Norman on Dunne

June 11th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Russel Norman has facebooked:

1. The Kitteridge report was going to be released anyway, maybe a week after it was leaked. Whoever leaked it simply gave Vance an exclusive, they weren’t releasing any secret document.

2. We don’t know what Dunne may have leaked other than the K report, including from the Intelligence and Security Cttee (ISC) of the Appendix tot he K report – Henry Report says Dunne didn’t leak the classified Apprendix as he didnt have access to it. If there is a police investigation, and it seems that NZF have complained to the police, then that seems the relevant issue. I don’t think this is the central issue but clearly my comments on it have been a cause of some concern.

This looks like a hasty retreat from his position of a few days ago when Radio NZ reported:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says the Prime Minister should ask police to determine who leaked the report, and says a police inquiry would have the power to force Mr Dunne to release his emails.

Glad to see the Greens are acting more sensibly on this now.

5. On Privileges Cttee, I’m pretty dubious about giving a bunch of MPs the right to force another MP to release their emails. If there is something criminal then it’s a matter for the police, but otherwise it is only the Kitterridge report and that isn’t sensitive. Of course if it goes to Privileges Cttee then we’ll do our duty to be fair minded about it.

It is a fair point about the undesirability of MPs voting on whether or not to force another MP to release their e-mail. That could set a nasty precedent.

6. On Dunne leaving parliament. Based on the publicly available evidence he hasnt done anything serious enough to call for him to leave parliament.

Glad to see Norman say this. This affair is a long way off the bar for an MP to resign his seat and force a by-election.

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Andrew Geddis on Privileges Committee

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

Andrew Geddis 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 Peter Dunne 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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Latest on Dunne

June 10th, 2013 at 12:33 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Shearer said he had lodged a privileges complaint with the Speaker regarding Dunne’s statement to a select committee that he did not leak the Kitteridge report into the GCSB.

Took them long enough. I indicated on Saturday that a complaint to the Privileges Committee was logical. Much more sensible that the hysterical rushing to the Police to try and get a Police investigation, for something that is not a criminal matter.

Fairfax Group executive editor Paul Thompson said politicians should tread carefully before embarking on a witch hunt. That could have a chilling effect on how journalists covered politicians.

Fairfax would protect the communications between its journalists and any contacts, regardless of whether they were the source of sensitive information or not.

“The protection of our sources is paramount,” Thompson said.

“We will resist any attempt to force us to release that sort of information.

If the issue is referred to the Privileges Committee, I don’t expect they would ask Fairfax to co-operate. And Fairfax should not.

But they can ask or order the Department of Internal Affairs to reveal the e-mails between Dunne and Vance.

Thompson also rejected suggestions there was more to the relationship between Dunne and Vance.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has claimed to see emails that were personally embarrassing but Thompson said Fairfax was “absolutely” backing Vance.

Claims are easy. He should produce them if he has them.

“Andrea is a very talented journalist, she has done some terrific work this year,” he said.

“Her handling of the GCSB report was absolutely faultless and there was nothing improper going on. We are 100 per cent behind her.”

Which is what I said on Saturday.

He also rubbished a claim by former National Party president Michelle Boag that Vance leaked the emails to Peters.

“That’s ludicrous,” Thompson said.

With respect, yes it is.

Opposition parties were likely to lodge a complaint with Parliament’s Speaker that Dunne misled Parliament last week when he told a select committee he did not leak the GCSB report.

Dunne maintained he did not leak the report, although he canvassed the prospect with Vance.

That is the issue of privilege. Whether Dunne lied to the select committee.

Prime Minister John Key said today he did not believe Dunne should quit Parliament, regardless of whether he leaked the report.

If leaking means resignation from Parliament, then the only MP left in Parliament would be Ross Robertson.

Also the PM gets no say on whether an electorate MP from another party resigns or not.

Dunne was not the first MP to leak information and he said Labour MP Lianne Dalziel had remained in Parliament after being sacked as minister for leaking material to the media.

And Winston Peters was found by the Privileges Committee to have misled Parliament (and everyone else) on his knowledge on the donation from Owen Glennto his lawyer to cover his legal expenses. He did not resign in the face of that finding. Ultimately the voters make their judgement, as they did on Peters in 2008 and will on Dunne in 2014.

“An investigation by the Privileges Committee is required to get to the truth of the matter. New Zealanders are still none the wiser as to who leaked the Kitteridge Report. All we have is an MP who has resigned as minister but refuses to co-operate with the inquiry,” Shearer said.

“The matter cannot lie here. This is why we have taken the matter to the Privileges Committee to get to the bottom of who leaked the report,” Shearer said.

That is not the role of the Privileges Committee. However their role can be to investigate if Peter Dunne lied in his select committee testimony. There is a difference.

It will be interesting to see how the Speaker rules. On the face of it, it would seem an appropriate issue to be referred to the Privileges Committee. Misleading a select committee is a serious issue.

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Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints

June 9th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour, Greens and NZ First are all somewhat hysterically saying that the report leaked (presumably) by Peter Dunne is a criminal matter, and have all rushed off to the Police to try and get him investigated.

I’ll come back to the hypocrisy of opposition parties demanding a Police investigation into a leak, but let us first deal with two recent leaks. The first is the Kitteridge report.

This was a report that was due to be released to the public. The leak changed the timing of that (and was politically very very unhelpful to the Government), but again it was a report written for public release and its classification was sensitive. What is a sensitive classification. There are six types of classifications in two categories. The two categories are:

  • National security classifications where compromise would damage NZ’s security, defence or international relations
  • Policy and privacy classifications where compromise would damage government functions or be detrimental to an individual

There are four national security classifications, They are:

  1. Top secret
  2. Secret
  3. Confidential
  4. Restricted

The Kitteridge report had NO national security classification.

The two policy and privacy classifications  are sensitive and in-confidence, and it was classified sensitive.

While the report was about the GCSB, it doesn’t mean the report was classified for national security reasons. In fact the report was due to be released publicly anyway. This makes the leaking of it a government issue, not a criminal issue. Don’t get me wrong – the leak was appalling, and a resignation is the appropriate  outcome. But talking of Police complaints is hysteria.

Now let us compare this leak to the leak of a Cabinet paper on MFAt restructuring. Unlike the Kitteridge report, the Cabinet paper was not a paper about to be released to the public. Cabinet papers are for Cabinet, and that paper was leaked even before it got to Cabinet (off memory). That leak is clearly just as “bad” a leak as the Kitteridge report, and arguably worse.

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Several on the left are critical of opposition parties demanding a criminal investigation into a leak. No Right Turn blogs:

Firstly, the idea that this leak breached the Crimes Act is utterly ridiculous. Both the offences of espionage (which peters accused Dunne of in Parliament on Thursday) and wrongful communication of official information require that the information in question “be likely to prejudice seriously the security or defence of New Zealand”. John Key was quite clear in his press conference that that was not the case, and there is no possible way in which the leak of material exposing GCSB wrongdoing could be seen in that light. So, the idea that an offence has been commited is pure bullshit, and the Greens should not be trading in it. …

A party like the Greens, committed to democracy and freedom, should be encouraging such leaks, not calling for them to be punished – especially given the shit we’re learning about what the GCSB’s foreign masters have been getting up to.

Russel Norman has sought to justify his position on the grounds that such leaks undermine the idea of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Firstly, this wasn’t an ISC document, so that’s just a non-sequitur. But more importantly, Parliament pays the bills, so it has an absolute right to scrutinise what is done with our money, no matter how secret and sensitive. And I regard it as not just a right, but a duty of politicians on the ISC to inform the public of wrongdoing. If Norman seriously believes what he’s said, then he is not doing his job properly, and should resign immediately so that his place can be taken by someone less credulous and authoritarian.

The authoritarian Dr Norman!

NBR also reports:

Labour and the Greens are illiberal in pushing for a police inquiry into the Peter Dunne affair, and have revealed themselves as anti leaks to the media, says Bryce Edwards.

“It’s incredibly surprising to see Labour and the Greens have called on the police to intervene over the leak of the GCSB,” the Otago University lecturer and commentator tells NBR Online.

“There’s always problems when the police get involved in the political and media realm. It can have a very chilling affect on politics and journalism,” Dr Edwards says.

And the next time there is a leak to say an opposition MP, how could Labour or Greens complain if there is a criminal Police investigation into it? They are so kneejerk desperate to get a media headline that day, they rarely think about the consistency of their long-term position.

Generally those that regard themselves as politically liberal will not want the police involved unless utterly necessary, says the Politics Daily compiler.

“Therefore the threshold for calling the cops into Parliament and newsrooms should be very high. It’s hard to see that this threshold has been reached in this case,” Dr Edwards says.

“Normally those that call the police in on their political opponents are from an authoritarian political philosophy. By contrast, liberals generally regard those that leak government department reports as heroic whistleblowers that are enabling the freedom of information and the right of the public to know what those in authority are doing.”

The Greens, Labour and New Zealand First have now shown that they stand opposed to leaks to the media, says the lecturer.

That’s the second commentator to use the term authoritarian. And I am unsure of the media will like the opposition (presumably) demanding that a reporter’s phone records, e-mails and other communications be seized because she received a leak.

Dr Norman says a key issue is whether the appendix to the inquiry was leaked. Unlike the body of the report, which was always scheduled to be shared with the public, the appendix is secret – and breaching it could constitute a breach of the Crimes Act.

Peter Dunne did not have the appendix. No information from the appendix has been published, so nice try inventing a make believe crime.

Labour leader David Shearer has called on police to seize Mr Dunne’s emails. His deputy, Grant Robertson, says Mr Dunne should be compelled to give evidence under oath. 

On that basis, they must also be demanding that Phil Goff have his emails seized by the Police and Goff should be compelled to give evidence under oath.

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Dunne winners and losers

June 8th, 2013 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

Wow, what a day. Who would have picked that Kim Dotcom would indirectly claim Peter Dunne as a victim. Of course in this case Dunne really victimised himself.

I thought I would look at the winners and losers in this affair. As part of that I should say that I am assuming that Peter Dunne did in fact leak the GCSB report to Andrea Vance, despite his denials. Sure he may not have given her a copy, but it seems clear he was the source for her story.

The probability that Dunne and Vance e-mailed 80 odd times in two weeks, mainly re the GCSB, that they were due to meet up the day before she published her story, that he admits he contemplated leaking it but changed his minds – well it would be an incredible coincidence that she happened to have a second source who also had a copy. I sadly have to conclude Peter Dunne is not telling the truth when he says he did not leak the report – or he is using a Clintonian definition of leak.

  Positives Negatives
     
Winston First Winston is the big winner in this. He gains two things he badly needs – credibility and relevance. One can say he is like a stopped clock – still accurate twice a day, but the reality is basically no-one believed him and he was right. The Henry report was always going to out Dunne, but Peters has managed to claim credit for it.

 

The other win for Winston is that with United Future all but dead electorally, that gives National one fewer option post 2014, which makes NZ First a more compelling option.

The only real negative for Winston is his churlish attacks on inquiry head David Henry. He accused the inquiry of being a cover up effectively, when in fact it forensically made its case against Dunne.
David Henry He did his job well, and exposed behaviour by a Minister incompatible with remaining a Minister. His reputation is enhanced. A worry that presumably a member of his team was leaking to Winston. Will there be an inquiry into the leak from the leak inquiry?
David Shearer One less option for John Key, puts Labour in a slightly better position, and Shearer’s chances of being PM elevated. Has been near invisible on this issue, and Peters stole the show.
John Key Commissioned an inquiry that actually found the leaker. Took decisive action and effectively sacked the Minister. The revelations around Dunne will dominate headlines for some days or weeks, knocking the Government’s good economic news to the back pages.

 

One less option post 2014 will increase speculation that a deal with NZ First will be needed.

 

Dunne remaining an MP and voting for the Government may be an issue for some. However the fact he is an electorate, not list, MP makes this less of an issue.

Peter Dunne Basically none. One could try to polish a turd and say his decision to release (most of) his e-mails, but protest the ones Vance sent to him is gentlemanly. Also now he is no longer a Minister, his swing vote will become more sought after. And he has finally managed to shake the gray man image.  But these are all trying to see a silver lining. Basically his political career is over. United Future is over. I can’t imagine Dunne will contest Ohariu again, and his record of being a moderate sensible MP who could serve constructively in Bolger, Clark and Key Governments is over-whelmed by this indiscretion. A sad end to a career of good service.
Andrea Vance Vance is shown as a reporter who can develop and use sources to get exclusive stories.

 

She has become a household name.

She has become a household name.

 

Other potential sources will be rather wary of her in future.

 

Speculation on the nature of her relationship with Dunne is unpleasant to deal with. I’ll comment on this in more detail below.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga
Todd McClay
Paul Goldsmith
One of them could become the new Minister of Revenue outside Cabinet. Two of them won’t be. Also possible Key will just reassign portfolio to an existing Minister such as Coleman or Joyce.

 

The leak inquiry report has resulted in much speculation as to why Peter Dunne did it. Not only did he destroy his career, the actual leak was hugely inconvenient for the Government he was a member of. It over-shadowed the PM’s trip to China, and the unauthorised leak was quite destructive.

There is speculation that the relationship between Dunne and Vance may be more than professional. Normally this stuff would not be something I’d blog about – but when the result is a ministerial resignation due to a leak inquiry, it does become the elephant in the room.

Patrick Gower asked during the Dunne press conference if Dunne was besotted with Vance. He denied this, and said their relationship was professional.

The Herald editorial wonders aloud:

If it was Mr Dunne, which is the only conclusion available from his withholding an 86-email exchange with the Dominion Post reporter, what did he or his party have to gain? Was it the thrill of beating the Prime Minister to the punch, or the desire to stop the GCSB spinning its activities in a more favourable light? Or something not political at all?

John Armstrong also asks:

Why did he tell Vance he was about to be briefed on the contents of the report?

And why were he and Vance exchanging as many as 23 emails a day while Dunne was on holiday in the United States? Was it infatuation? The ex-minister says it wasn’t.

The public may never know exactly what happened. But Henry’s short report is long enough for people to be able to draw their own conclusions.

Another Herald story draws attention to their 300 tweets in the last six months.

There is a bit of a connection of all this to the MPs vs Media debate last month, which both Andrea and I took part in.

The debate two years ago had Darren Hughes in it, debating that politics was a grubby business. Weeks later it emerged he was under investigation by the Police over a sexual assault complaint.

In this debate there was much ribbing of Andrea over the tweets between her and Dunne. It was all in good humour, but again a few weeks later there is a revelation that there was more to it than just tweeting. That Dunne was, at a minimum, a frequent communication with her by e-mail also.

Some people think, or have assumed, there was an affair. I personally think this is not the case at all. Not because there are never affairs between MPs and journalists. There are. But because of the people involved. I know Andrea and her fiancée, whom Andrea moved to NZ to be with. Having observed them together, I would be absolutely amazed if there was any inappropriate behaviour on her part.  Even if she wasn’t engaged, I don’t think she is the sort of person into older married men – to be blunt.

Of course only two people can know for sure. And I have been wrong, as I was on Dunne not being the leaker. But I don’t think their relationship was anything beyond a journalist and a source.

Gower and Armstrong have speculated that Dunne was infatuated with her. I don’t think it was infatuation, but I do think there was probably an element that he found Vance very charming (which she is) and middle aged men will often do stupid things to please young charming women. I’m certainly proof positive of that!

It doesn’t mean you’re infatuated or besotted or even wanting anything beyond friendship, but that you just enjoy the friendship and will do things to help the other person out – and in this case to a degree that you throw common sense out the window.

Of course MPs and journalists do develop relationships for purely professional reasons also. It can be handy to an MP to have a journalist whom they can talk to off the record, and get things into the media they think deserve attention. And it is useful for journalists to have sources who will give them information. This happens all the time. Helen Clark was in fact a serial leaker (she once defended this by saying that by definition the PM can not leak). The key thing with MPs leaking to journalists is you don’t leak things that damage your own party or the Government – if you are part of it. And some things you never leak – and a GCSB report is definitely one of those.

The quantity of the e-mails between Vance and Dunne is certainly well in excess of most MP journalist professional relationships. In fact what surprised me is that they were e-mailing at all. Wasn’t Dunne aware all his e-mails are archived? That some e-mails are subject to the Official Information Act. Also often staff have access to a Minister’s e-mail account.

In one sense the fact they were e-mailing so much, lends me to conclude that Dunne is not a long-time leaker, and there was no affair. An experienced leaker would never be doing it by e-mail. And if you were having an affair, you wouldn’t be tweeting each other so much!

At the end of the day I think Vance just cultivated Dunne as a source. This is what journalists do. It’s actually called good journalism.

Finally, where does this go from here. My predictions:

  • The Police complaint will go nowhere. It is not a criminal matter. The report was not classified with a national security classification.
  • Peters or Labour may try file a privilege complaint alleging Dunne has misled Parliament with his answers at select committee.
  • Dunne’s belief that e-mails between MPs and others are private and should not be released may be tested under the Official Information Act. E-mails to an MP do not come under the OIA, but e-mails to a Minister in their ministerial capacity do. Was Dunne’s access to the GCSB report in his ministerial capacity or his party leader capacity. If the former, then e-mails to and from him may be discoverable under the OIA.
  • Labour and Winston may demand that Dunne resigns as an MP for (presumably) not telling the truth. The problem with this is the hypocrisy. Lianne Dalziel was found to have lied, and she got sacked as a Minister, not an MP. Also Peters himself was conclusively found by the Privileges Committee to have lied, and he did not resign as an MP – and in fact Labour backed him. The voters of Ohariu are the ones who will decide if Dunne remains an MP – should he choose to stand again.
  • Key is more likely to promote an MP to the vacancy, then just reallocate the portfolios.  I’d say Lotu-Iiga and McClay are most likely to step up if he does, but a dark horse could be Paul Goldsmith. Goldsmith has actually written a book on the history of taxation in New Zealand – pretty useful background for a Revenue Minister!
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Dunne resigns as a Minister

June 7th, 2013 at 3:23 pm by David Farrar

BREAKING: Peter Dunne has resigned as a Minister of the Crown. Press conference at 1530 from PM and Dunne at 1600. He is remaining an MP and still voting for the Government.

On this occasion, it seems like Peters was on the money. Have to credit he got this one right.

There were 86 e-mails between Dunne and the Fairfax reporter, Andrea Vance, who had the story. He was only willing to release 44 of them, so hence he resigned.

Key says Henry unable to rule out Dunne leaked the report.

Dunne offered resignation, which was accepted by Key.

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Long may it last

June 7th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters is calling on Speaker David Carter to explain why he went against standing orders in Parliament today and would boycott Parliament until he did.

Excellent. Long may it last.

NZ First MPs and Labour’s Trevor Mallard have walked out of Parliament in protest after Speaker David Carter allowed United Future MP Peter Dunne to keep the extra funding and entitlements that come with being a party leader, despite the de-registration of his party.

Mr Carter announced the decision today but both Labour and NZ First objected, saying if Mr Dunne’s party was not registered then it clearly did not meet the rules required for those resources.

Maybe Winston should pay back the $158,000 he owes taxpayers before he tries to take the moral high ground.

As for whether Dunne is eligible to retain his extra funding, the Standing Orders are not clear on this. What Carter has effectively ruled is that as Dunne was the leader of a party when elected at the beginning of this term – that applies throughout.  I think it an arguable decision either way, but Peters is wrong to say the decision is against standing orders. The standing orders are unclear on what happens if a party is deregistered. Graeme Edgeler has blogged on this at Public Address.

After objecting, Mr Peters said that if Mr Carter did not produce the legal advice he based his decision on, then his party would boycott Parliament until that happened.

But as usual, he lied. They’re back already.

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United Future deregistered

May 31st, 2013 at 5:08 pm by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has announced:

On 31 May 2013 the Electoral Commission board cancelled the registration of the United Future New Zealand (United Future) party at the party’s request in accordance with section 70 of the Electoral Act 1993.

Section 70 says:

The Electoral Commission shall cancel the registration of a political party at the request of one of the persons specified in section 63(1) if satisfied that the request for cancellation is made by the applicant on behalf of the party.

I presume they asked to be deregistered as they no longer had 500 financial members.

I don’t think this affects Peter Dunne’s status in Parliament, or as a party leader, as they were a registered party when elected. It does mean that if he stands again, it will be as an Independent or for an unregistered party.

United Future have said:

UnitedFuture Party President Robin Gunston today announced that the party has asked the Electoral Commission to cancel its registration as a political party while it clears up inconsistencies in its confirmed membership numbers.

“While we have well over the 500 members required under Section 71 A of the Electoral Act for a political party to be registered, there are inconsistencies in the party’s records around current addresses and the financial status of some of those members,” Mr Gunston said.

“Quite simply, this meant that we could not, hand-on-heart, sign the required statutory declaration to swear to our membership.

“For that reason, we have asked the Electoral Commission to cancel the party’s registration while we confirm the numbers.

Personally I think the threshold should be at least 1,000 members.

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The GCSB leak inquiry

May 31st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters is demanding the release of phone records to pinpoint the source of the leak in the Government Communications Security Bureau inquiry.

Mr Peters has used parliamentary privilege to accuse UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne of leaking a report by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge into potentially illegal spying by the GCSB.

Mr Dunne has categorically denied the allegation but has confirmed he has been spoken to more than once by inquiry head David Henry.

Other ministers who received the report have said they were not interviewed by Mr Henry.

In Parliament yesterday, Mr Peters questioned Mr Henry’s failure to take evidence under oath, or keep an electronic record of witnesses’ answers to questions.

He also questioned the failure to examine phone records of “particular ministers”.

“All the evidence is in those phone records, and your minister is gone,” Mr Peters told Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

Mr English said later it was entirely up to Mr Henry whether to seek phone records.

I should make it clear that I would be absolutely amazed if Peter Dunne leaked the GCSB report. It would be remarkably out of character.

But it would be good to find out who did leak it. And I would expect an inquiry to look at phone records. They won’t prove or disprove anything, but they could help with the inquiry.

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A cowardly smear

May 29th, 2013 at 3:23 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key is standing by United Future leader Peter Dunne and says he accepts the revenue minister’s word that he did not leak a report into the Government Communications Security Bureau.

NZ First leader Winston Peters today used parliamentary privilege to accuse Dunne of leaking the report by cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge to Fairfax Media.

The report revealed that more than 80 New Zealand citizens may have been illegally spied on by the bureau.

An investigation was under way by former top public servant David Henry to try and find the source of the leak.

Speaking of Dunne today, Key said: “He’s given an absolute categoric assurance he didn’t do this; I accept him at his word.

“I’ve worked with him for a long period of time and the entire time I’ve worked with him I’ve found him to be extremely trustworthy.”

Peter Dunne would be the near the bottom of any list as a potential leaker.

But let’s be clear. Winston Peters is not just asking if Dunne is the leaker, but has asserted it:

After having attempts to question Dunne repeatedly thwarted, with committee chairman Todd McClay ruling that the questions were beyond the scope of the hearing, Peters directly accused Dunne of leaking the report.

“My assertion is you did leak the report,” Peters said.

This is a cowardly and defamatory smear. It is especially cowardly because Peters has a long record of suing people for defamation (and threatening numerous more that he will do so) yet he cowers under parliamentary privilege to defame Dunne.

The media should ask two questions of Peters, and keep asking them:

  • Do you have a shred of proof for your assertion?
  • Will you repeat your allegation outside of Parliament?

Peters has a long long history of just making shit up. Recall the fleet of limos he claimed WINZ had? A fiction, with no proof. But this is worse. He is defaming an individual, not an organisation.

He does it because he knows the media will report it, and his strategy is to stay in the headlines. He doesn’t care if 90% of NZ hates him, because all he is targeting is the 10% who may vote for him.

Recall that Peters lied several dozen times in 2008 with his claim he had no knowledge of Owen’s Glenn’s donation to his lawyer to cover his legal fees. there was overwhelming proof that he in fact brokered the donation, yet he lied to the media, the public and the Privileges Committee time and time again about it.

So why do the media give his assertions the time of day? Wouldn’t it be great, if they just said that we won’t report what you claim, unless you provide proof to back it up? You have lost the privilege to be trusted, because you lied day and night to us for four months.

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Dunne on food in schools

May 9th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Pete George has an e-mail from Peter Dunne on why he is not backing the food in schools bill:

I fully understand what is intended by this essentially laudable proposals, but I think it is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child. That is not the issue – rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem.

At one level, the idea of meals in schools is superficially attractive, but it is essentially palliative, and does little to deal with the circumstances of these children on a long term basis.

Then there is the question of which group of children should we be focusing on. After all, not all children in schools will come from the same socio-economic backgrounds. So, should such a programme be applied universally, which would be as expensive as it would be impractical, or should it be more tightly targeted?

And if so, how? Should, for example, it just apply in low decile schools, even though there will children in those schools from a higher socio-economic status who would not need such a programme?

In that event, what about low-income household children in higher decile schools? Or, to get around income definition problems, should the children of beneficiaries be the only ones eligible?

Whatever way one looks at the issue, the definitional problems are massive, and strongly suggest that such a programme would not only be unsustainable, but also impractical, and in a number of cases potentially inequitable.

That is why I take the view that a much more realistic and workable approach is to target directly, through early identification by community agencies, at risk families and to work with them to help them  get the support they need to properly feed their children.

That support could take any number of forms, depending on individual circumstances, including direct assistance with the provision of food, at one end of the scale, through to such things as life skills advice on cooking, for example, and proper budget advice at the other end of the scale.

Such a targeted approach is far more likely to succeed in the long term, and benefit directly at-risk children, and would have my full support. 

Sounds sensible to me. Slogans rarely make good policy.

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Dunne’s balance of power

April 25th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

United Future leader Peter Dunne says he is probably the most lobbied MP in Parliament, as his party has held the balance of power for more than 10 pieces of legislation this parliamentary term.

Mr Dunne’s crucial vote has sealed major law changes including the Government’s flagship asset sales legislation. On the other hand, the minister will oppose Government law changes such as the introduction of charter schools, and has helped private member’s bills from the other side of the House to get over the line.

With Act usually voting along the same lines as National, the ruling party relied on United Future’s vote for a majority in the House.

Mr Dunne admitted that he wielded power that was disproportionate to his party’s one-seat representation in Parliament.

“I’m quite conscious of … not trying to overplay the hand. On the other hand, you don’t want to be silent either.

If someone has to have the balance of power on many issues, I’m glad it is someone like Peter Dunne.

On the one hand, Peter doesn’t overplay his hand. he doesn’t extort the Government for $500 million for pet projects like Winston used to. He asks for a few moderate initiatives and agreements.

And when it comes to individual bills, he does judge them on their merits. He supported Mondayisation and (so far) paid parental leave extension.

He won’t vote against the Government on something that is absolutely critical to them (such as asset sales), but will vote against when the Government can’t persuade him that their view is best.

He initially planned to oppose a bill which aimed to deter people-smuggling.

The National-led Government had a majority on the Immigration Amendment Bill with the support of Act and the Maori Party, but wanted all of its coalition partners onside.

Mr Dunne forced National to change the definition of a mass arrival of refugees from 10 people to 30 people, and also to make changes which made the bill less punitive.

A good example of being constructive to improve a bill.

His key vote has also made him a lightning rod for criticism, in particular on the partial asset sales legislation.

Yet he made it clear before the election he would vote for the legislation subject to certain conditions. He got elected on that basis.

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