September 23rd, 2008 at 5:42 pm by David Farrar

The House has just voted to censure Winston Peters 62 – 56 as recommended by the Privileges Committee. It has also instructed him to file amended returns for the periods ending 31 January 2006, 31 January 2007 and 31 January 2008.

Anderton abstained and everyone except Labour First voted in favour.

Even Taito Philip Field voted to censure Peters. Now that has to hurt!

This is not an ending. It will be very interesting to see what new gifts he reveals in the amended returns.

PM has not read report!

September 23rd, 2008 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

This is amazing. Rodney Hide has just questioned Helen Clark on whether she is happy with the $40,000 donation to Peters from a donor through the Spencer Trust. Peters tried to block it half a dozen times but he finally got to ask it.

Clark’s response was she has not seen the wiring diagram from the SFO that was in the Privileges Committee report.

So the PM has not even bothered to read the report. This takes her hear no evil, see no evil to new levels. That $40,000 strikes cast grave doubt on the integrity of decision making around the racing portfolio and the PM declares she hasn’t even looked at the evidence.

I mean seriously just when you think the standards can not drop any lower, they do.

So Helen Clark has cleared Winston Peters from any wrong doing, and she did it without even needing to read the report of the Privileges Committee. She will presumably be voting against the report – also without reading it.

Reaction to Privileges Report

September 23rd, 2008 at 1:51 pm by David Farrar

I’ll start with Colin Espiner:

On the privileges committee report, I think the committee did an excellent job. It cut through all the Peters verbiage and red herrings and bluster. It simply didn’t believe him and rightly found him guilty of misleading Parliament. It recommended his censure. That is an extremely serious step, and any minister of the Crown would be sacked for such a finding.

Indeed. Someone commented the last Mp to be censured was in 1975. Could the historians amongst us find the last time a Minister of the Crown was censured and lost his job.

Except Winston Peters. Labour’s handling of this crisis has been nothing short of shameful. Every day Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy on the committee, Michael Cullen, have found a different excuse for why Peters should not be sacked. There is simply no wiggle room left. So instead they’ve started attacking the committee itself. And this is perhaps the most shameful approach of all. The privileges committee used to be seen as beyond reproach – powerful, elite, Parliament’s highest body. Its decisions were unquestioned.

Labour claims the committee has been politicised and it has – by Labour and NZ First. The only attempt to hijack its findings was made by those members, not those who questioned Peters and found his answers wanting. How Labour can say it is National that has hijacked the committee when its own support parties – the Greens and United Future, and the Maori Party – all sided with National and Act beggars belief.

I think it is the maxim that if you repeat a lie enough time, then some people will believe it.

If, in Parliament today, Labour again attacks the committee and tries to vote down its findings, Parliament will have reached a new low in my opinion. Labour should accept that it lost the fight at the committee and respect its majority verdict. That’s what happens in our justice system when you’re found guilty by a jury of your peers.

I predict Labour will spend most its time attacking John Key and not taking the censure seriously.

Next we have John Armstrong:

Winston Peters’ letter of resignation as a minister ought to be on the Prime Minister’s desk this morning.

It won’t be. However, the damning report of Parliament’s privileges committee demands nothing less, even though its finding that Peters is in contempt was not unanimous.

You really have to wonder sometimes why Helen Clark refusesto take any meaningful action against Peters. Instead she runs attack lines on his behalf against the Privileges Committee and the SFO.

But he cannot get such accusations to stick when it comes to the Greens, United Future and Maori Party representatives who made up the remainder of the majority view. Those parties had no axe to grind with Peters. They simply reached the only conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence – that Peters had “some knowledge” of Glenn’s intention to make a donation.

The next time Clark runs the line that the Privileges Committee finding is politically motivated, ask her why Peter Dunne (one of her Ministers) and Russel Norman support the finding?

The big question is whether she can ever trust him again. With National not wanting a bar of him, it would now seem inconceivable that Peters could again become a minister even if Labour wins the election.

Not at all. If Peters makes it back and can give her a fourth term, of course she’ll have it back. Why else would you go through all the pain now, if not to do a deal later.

Labour’s reluctance to upset Peters with rigorous questioning during his appearances in front of the committee was understandable given Labour’s dependence on him for the past three years and conceivably for the next three as well. But it is to Labour’s eternal shame that it behaved thus.

In the end, the majority verdict is a victory for principle over expediency and for the integrity of the privileges committee.

Eternal shame is a good phrase.

We also have Frog from the Greens:

It does make me wonder weather the Team LPG fanboiz should really be getting so grumpy at Green supporters for not wanting to declare our undying love to Helen Clark and Labour. Because it seems from its recent behaviour that Labour has already found its preferred coalition partner, and it’s Winston Peters, come what may. But then I guess Labour doesn’t have so much to gain from a internet campaign for Team LNZF?

Can one imagine Helen Clark defending a Green MP to the extent she has defended Winston?

You also have comments from two of the MPs on NZPA. First Peter Dunne:

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he had gone into the committee with an opinion: “I entered the committee thinking this was probably a beat up.”

But after hearing evidence he changed his mind.

Mr Dunne said Mr Peters had repeated opportunities to give his side.

“Really I think the committee genuinely tried to get to the bottom of what went on and reached its conclusions accordingly.”

Mr Dunne said crucial for him was contradictory evidence and then “cute” recall of events by Mr Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry after evidence was presented.

So Dunne went from thinking it was a beat up, to deciding on the evidence that Peters knew about the donation and should have declared it.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman disagreed [with Helen Clark]. He said he went into the inquiry with an open mind and based his decision on the evidence put before him.

So is Helen calling Russel tainted or unfair?

Dr Norman said the committee’s chairman, National MP Simon Power, ran a fair process.

In fact even Michael Cullen went out of his way to say that Simon Power was very fair as the Chairman. I think that is a huge credit to Simon for the way he has conducted himself.

As one minor example of his integrity I was talking to him on an unrelated issue a few weeks ago. I had heard on the radio that Owen Glenn would be testifying but not whether or not it would be in person or by video conference. So I just asked Simon whether it was in person or not as I happened to be speaking to him. Simon, just to avoid even the possibility or suggestion of having an inappropriate conversation, just referred me to the press release the Committee had put out. Now I wasn’t asking for anything which wasn’t public, but Simon erred on the side of caution by not even answering my question but just referring me to the press release. He has bent over backwards to be fair and impartial in this matter.

Finally, I note that Jim Anderton is going to show a tiny amount of spine and abstain rather than vote against the Privileges Committee recommendations. Don’t give him too much credit though as he repeat the bullshit from the PM that the process has been unfair to Winston. He does at leats ping Peters for his hypocrisy:

“NZ First was clearly accepting donations at a time when it was attacking everyone else for taking money from big business. For that the party has some explaining to do to the voting public,” Mr Anderton said.

Perhaps Mr Anderton could offer an opinion on whether he, as a member of the Cabinet, felt he should have known about the donations from the Velas to Peters, when he voted to go along with Winston’s generous funding for the racing industry?

The honest minor parties

September 23rd, 2008 at 7:30 am by David Farrar

It is of huge significance that the Maori, Greens and United Future parties all voted not just to recommend Peters be censured, but to state they believe he lied to the Privileges Committee. This leaves Labour isolated with NZ First, and puts paid to Winston’s hysterical cries about “echoes of Zimbabwe” as if he is some sort of victim.

There is an echo of Zimbabwe all right – a politican who thinks he is above the law, who is unaccountable and untouchable, and is protected by the ruling party.

All five parties in the majority deserve congratulation for not shying away from their duty, each for a somewhat different reason.

  1. ACT for having the guts to pursue Peters in the face of explicit threats from Peters, and laying the complaint with  the Speaker.
  2. National for putting aside potential Government by ruling out Peters and NZ First, and saying that even if doing a deal with Peters could put them into Government, they would rather stay in Opposition.
  3. Peter Dunne and United Future for being willing to condemn the behaviour of a fellow Minister of the Crown.
  4. Russel Norman and the Greens for putting what’s right ahead of what is best for the centre-left. If only Labour could ever do the same.
  5. Te Ururoa Flavell for also doing what’s right, despite potential solidarity with Peters personally as Peters is of Ngati Wai descent. It would have been very easy to use this as an excuse to abstain.

Now assuming their recommendations are accepted by the House 63-58, then the question arises as to whether those minor parties could support a Government that includes Peters in it. I mean, if you have just voted to (politely) condemn the man as a cheat and a liar, then how credible would it be to support a Government which has him as a Minister?

So it would be interesting to ask Jeanette or Russel if there are any circumstances now in which they would support a Government that had Peters in it. Likewise for United Future and the Maori Party.

It is obvious that Labour can not be easily shaken from their position that they will keep Peters on, no matter what. But the minor parties can remove that choice from them by maing it an either/or (which is what Peters did to the Greens last election ironically).

Politically it would be better for National if Labour were not forced to rule Peters out. Winston as a Minister will be a good tool to bash them with. And imagine the fun we can have at Meet the Candidates meetings asking Labour candidates to defend Peters.

To quote Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn:

Typically, Winston is unrepentant to the end. And sadly, Labour is backing him all the way. Which is a good reason to be contemptuous of them as well. Some things are more important than politics, and political transparency is one of them. Sadly, Labour seems to have forgotten that. And they deserve everything they get from the public as a result.

But there is a greater good here. Keeping Peters out of power is more important than getting a National-led Government. One just can not have a Minister of the Crown who gives false evidence to the Privileges Committee, let alone one who receives personal $40,000 gifts from people in an indsutry he uses his portfolio to pour money into.

So even though it will remove a stick that one can bash Labour with, it is important for the integrity of our democracry that Labour rules Peters out. And if they won’t do it willingly, then let us hope the honest minor parties will force them to do it.

The Privileges Committee Report

September 22nd, 2008 at 8:20 pm by David Farrar

The Privileges Committee report has just been released and is online here.

I will comment on it shortly once I have read it. It is 280 pages long.

By a majority vote, they have recommended Peters be censured by the House. I can not recall the last time an MP was censured.

The majority includes United Future’s Peter Dunne, the Greens’ Russel Norman and Te Ururoa Flavvel from the Maori Party. This is every party on the Privileges Committee except members of Labour First. Note Peter Dunne is a Minister in the Government and the Greens have a co-operation agreement with Labour and the Maori Party abstain on supply and confidence.

They note on the issue of Henry refusing to disclose who suggested Henry approach Glenn for money:

We have received advice that legal professional privilege relates to communications made for the purpose of conveying legal advice and that it does not relate to the identity of a client, particularly when the issue does not relate to the communication of legal advice.

We note that legal professional privilege should not be used as an excuse to withhold information requested by the Privileges Committee, particularly in circumstances where this privilege does not apply.

They make the point that they have required a high standard of proof for their findings, as the allegations are serious – beyond the normal balance of probabilities.

They have determined that there was no debt from Peters to Henry, so no adverse finding there. But they have found the $100,000 constituted a gift as it benefited Peters:

We consider that the payment was of benefit to Mr Peters. Mr Henry’s work on the election petition did not create a direct legal obligation for Mr Peters to pay Mr Henry’s fees. However, Mr Henry told us that Mr Peters “knows that he owes me in the moral sense…”,18 and most clients would acknowledge such a moral obligation to pay a barrister.

A third-party payment to a member’s barrister benefits the member by discharging the moral (and potential legal) obligation to make payment and also by enabling the barrister to provide more assistance to the member in the future. Further, in these particular circumstances the payment contributed to funding an election petition which, if it had been successful, would have been of political benefit to Mr Peters.

They further note:

It is clear that the intent of the donor in this case was not to benefit the barrister. It was the member’s legal expenses that were being contributed to, not the barrister’s wellbeing. Mr Henry’s actions on receipt of Mr Glenn’s money were also unusual. Mr Henry wrote a “pro forma” invoice for GST and income tax purposes. We do not believe this is the normal response of the recipient of a gift. For a GST invoice to have been written, there must have been a taxable supply of services by Mr Henry. The relevant services were received by the member (or his solicitor, Mr Gates, on his behalf).

Together, these elements show clearly that the payment constituted a gift to Mr Peters.

On the issue of whether Peters knew:

The majority of us believe it is extremely unlikely that Mr Peters and Mr Glenn could have had a conversation on that date without the issue of a donation being raised, even if the original contact with Mr Glenn had been by Mr Henry, as claimed by Mr Peters and Mr Henry. The majority of us consider that the sequence of telephone calls followed immediately by an email containing bank account details indicates that the topic must have arisen during one or both of those conversations. It would have assisted our consideration if Mr Peters or Mr Henry had been able to recall more detail of their telephone conversation. Given the evidence before us, the majority of us concluded that Mr Peters had some knowledge of Mr Glenn’s intention to make a donation.

And their conclusion:

The majority of us find that Mr Peters had some knowledge of the $100,000 donation. Further, we find that Mr Peters, having an understanding of the arrangement by which funds were raised by Mr Henry, needed to make an honest attempt to file a correct return. For both these reasons, the majority of us find that a contempt occurred.

The proposed penalty:

Making a false or misleading return is a serious matter, akin to misleading the House. The majority of us therefore recommend that Mr Peters be censured for knowingly providing false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests, and ordered to file, within seven days of the House so ordering, amended returns for the years ended 31 January 2006, 2007, and 2008 covering any gifts, debts, or payments in kind that he has not previously registered. We request that the registrar ensure that the amended returns are published, recording that they are made subject to an order of the House.

This could be interesting, as it means any other donation to Peters legal fees, in excess of $500, has to be disclosed – if the House accepts the recommendation.

Now on the part regarding who paid for the $40,000 to Clarkson. Brian Henry is saying that as the cheque was from Wayne Peters’ trust account, he saw this as a reimbursement by Winston personally. Hilarious.

Now onto the letter from the SFO. The Director makes it very clear he got advise on whether to inform the Committee, and he has also bent over backwards to be fair to the donors who paid the $40,000 by redacting their names. He even asks the Privileges Committee not to order him to supply further information, even though he acknowledges a request from the Privileges Committee over-rides the secrecy provisions of the Serious Fraud Act.

The money laundering around the $40,000 is fascinating. Brian Henry did pay the $40,000 but the day before he sent Thompson WIlson (the law firm where two of the Spencer Trustees then worked)  his bank account details.

The Spencer Trust only has $15,400 being left over donations from Donor A. Then Person B (not Winston Peters we are told) lent the Trust $24,600 so they could pay $40,000 to Brian Henry  on 5 April.

Donor A (almpost certainly the Velas) then donated 4 cheques of $9,999 on the 7th of April 2006. Each cheque was from a different subsidiary company.

This allowed Person B’s loan to be repaid on 7 April.

What this means is that Donor A (almost certainly the Velas) personally donated $40,000 to pay off the $40,000 debt Peters owed Clarkson. He has to now declare this on his amended returns.

This raises massive issues relating to the conduct of his portfolios. The whole idea of disclosure is that the transparency it brings to whether Government decisions are affected by donations or gifts to an MP.

So the Minister for Racing in 2006 had Donor A – almost certainly the Velas, pay a $40,000 debt on his behalf. The Velas are multi-millionaires in the racing industry.  And the Minister of Racing convinces the Government – against Treasury advice – to provide lots of money to the racing industry.

Does Helen Clark not think that this gift should have been disclosed as it strikes at the heart of decision making in her Government? And no it is nothing to do with NZ First – this is a personal gift to the Minister of Racing from persons massively affected by the policies he is responsible for in his portfolio.

Helen actually has three decisions to make. They are:

  1. Does she sack Peters as a Minister for breaking the Cabinet Manual and not disclosing a $100,000 gift (let alone the multiple lies Peters has told)
  2. Having the $100,000 gift declared, does she allow Peters to keep it? Probably as it was paid to Henry, not Peters – but here is the big problem for her.
  3. The $40,000 from the Velas (assuming it is them) has to now be filed on the Register by Peters. Clark has to now decide whether she lets him keep the $40,000.

Here is the Cabinet Manual quote from section 2.79:

Ministers who accept gifts worth more than the prescribed value must not only disclose them to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, but also must relinquish them, unless they obtain the express permission of the Prime Minister to retain them.

So it is clear Helen has to decide whether Peters keeps the $40,000 gift (payment of a debt) from the Velas.

Now how corrupt will she look, if she says it is okay for her Minister of Racing to take and keep $40,000 from a family/company which has benefited hugely from the decisions of the Minister of Racing. He managed to force through millions of dollars of funding of racing prizes, against the advice of Treasury.

Clark has to make a decision on this. Peters has to relinquish the gift unless she gives her express permission he can keep it.

No wonder Winston wanted the SFO evidence suppressed. It was bad enough that NZ First had benefited by huge donations from the Velas, but to have it revealed that Peters personally was gifted $40,000 from them is hugely damaging.

Now it is possible the donations were not from the Velas but read the SFO letter and it looks highly likely. We should know more when Peters does his amended returns.

And as you consider all this, consider what depths the ethical standards of the Clark Government have descended to. Clark condones a Minister who:

  1. breaks the rules of the Register of Pecuniary Interests
  2. breaks the rules of the Cabinet Manual
  3. fails to disclose a $100,000 gift
  4. tells multiple lies about it
  5. gives false evidence to the Privileges Committee
  6. benefits with $100,000 towards his legal fees from a billionaire whom he then lobbies to be made Consul to Monaco
  7. has a $40,000 debt paid off by a company/family that benefits greatly from policy decisions he makes as Minister of Racing
  8. has filed false donation returns to the Electoral Commission

Any one of these should be enough for dismissal arguably. But Clark is keeping him on despite all of the above. Could standards possibly get any lower?

A legal analysis of the NZF complaint

September 22nd, 2008 at 2:59 pm by David Farrar

As people will have read, NZ First is outraged that the SFO has revealed to the Privileges Committee that the evidence given by Peters and Henry is false. I mean shame on the SFO – how dare they reveal the truth. What sort of law enforcement body do they think they are.

So NZ First have complained to the Police about the SFO. Now this is of course a media stunt -designed to maybe convince the most stupid 5% of the electorate. For the benefit of the other 95%, I’ll link to Dean Knight – a public law specialist at Victoria University.

Dean makes four points:

  1. s39 of the Serious Fraud Act does not apply as the information given to the SFO was not protected under some other Act (which is linked to the SFO’s coercive power to require information protected under other legislation)
  2. s36 might apply as it refers to a wider set of information but 36(2)(e) allows the Director to disclose to “any person who the Director is satisfied has a proper interest in receiving such information” and Dean says a committee of Parliament fits this definition
  3. Regardless the letter to the Privileges Committee is covered by parliamentary privilege under the Bill of Rights 1688
  4. Those complaining about the letter may be in contempt of Parliament as Standing Order 400w includes ” assaulting, threatening or disadvantaging a person on account of evidence given by that person to the House or committee”

So Peters and NZ First may be in contempt of Parliament (again) due to their attacks on the SFO for telling the truth to the Privileges Committee. If Parliament wasn’t about to dissolve, it would be worth an MP writing to the Speaker about!

Clark confirms Peters stays regardless of Privileges

September 22nd, 2008 at 10:19 am by David Farrar

Helen Clark has confirmed, according to NewstalkZB, that she is keeping Peters on as a Minister regardless of the outcome from the Privileges Committee.

The Prime Minister says the whole process of investigation into New Zealand First’s finances has been tainted from the outset.

What is she referring to? Does she mean those Labour MPs who argued against or voted against even asking Owen Glenn to call evidence? If they had got their way it would have been a cover up – just like the original inquiry into Taito Phillip Field that cleared him.

Helen Clark says the privileges committee process has been totally unsatisfactory in terms of any natural justice. She says for that reason she is unlikely to be forced into a decision over Winston Peters this week. She says it has become so politicised with some MPs going into committee with made up minds before they had even heard a single piece of evidence.

Dail Jones arguably yes. I doubt anyone else had a closed mind. Even I have changed my mind on what Peters may have done wrong, as evidence emerged.

But the PM also misses the point here. The issue is not so much the outcome of the Privileges Committee, but the information disclosed by its inquiries. In one sense it does not matter greatly what the Committee recommends (the House decides). What matters is what has been disclosed about the veracity of a Minister in her Government.

The process used by the Privileges Committee has exposed that Peters has lied repeatedly – to the media, to the public and to the Privileges Committee. There is no real reasonable doubt about that. The evidence that Peters knew about the donations is as firm as you can get without an actual tape recording of their conversation.

So Clark is saying she has no problems with Ministers who lie, lie and lie again. So long as their parties vote to keep her in power. This is the standard of Government Helen Clark is happy with. And Clark wants to campaign on “trust” – bring it on.

However, Miss Clark very much doubts there will be anything to justify Mr Peters’ reinstatement. She intends to continue burning the midnight oil doing his old job as Foreign Minister.

It is important for people to realise how misleading those comments are. First of all Peters is still a Minister with all the baubles of office – except actually having to do any work. Secondly he was suspended from his portfolios purely on the basis of the SFO investigation, so Helen suggesting she is being restrained by not reinstating him due to the Privileges Committee is inane.

The big issue is whether Clark will rule out Peters as a Minister after the election. So long as she won’t, then people need to be reminded:

More changes to Winston’s stories

September 21st, 2008 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young has a very useful blog entry analysing what Winston says now, and what he said before the truth came out.

As readers will know, Winston is outraged because the SFO passed on evidence to the Privleges Committee that proved Peters and Henry lied. In Winston’s world it is outraegous if law enforcement agencies expose his lies.

Audrey notes:

Peters confirmed that the Spencer Trust had reimbursed his lawyer Brian Henry the $40,000 Henry had personally paid for costs awarded against Peters in the Tauranga electoral petition, talking to drive-time host Larry Williams on Friday night:

This is quite crucial because if anyone but Peters paid that $40,000 debt then beyond doubt that had to be declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

”Mr Henry paid the money initially. He was later reimbursed out of the trust account from the Spencer Trust funds. In that sense yes,” Peters said. ”But that was a trust to assist the New Zealand First Party and any actions it might take. What’s wrong with that?”

What is wrong is Winston failed to disclose this. Just as NZ First failed to disclose donations from the Spencer Trust.  This is not a series of one off “mistakes”.

The great service done by the SFO investigation has been to expose the failure of NZ First and Peters personally to disclose funding from the Spencer Trust. And in case anyone really thinks it was all a mistake – consider the fact that these “mistakes” only came to light due to the SFO. Peters did not at any stage move to correct on his own initiative his public statements. He only admits to something once law enforcement agencies pry it out of him.

It means that the information Peters gave in a speech on August 20 to supposedly “clarify” what had been said about the $40,000 at the privileges committee two days earlier was actually not true.

“Mr Henry paid the money [$40,000] to ensure the bill was paid in time – and he was later reimbursed by myself,” Peters told Grey Power in Upper Hutt.

“He checked his records yesterday and found this was indeed the case.”

A clarifying letter was sent to the privileges committee to that effect.

People should be very aware of this point. The lie which has been exposed by the SFO is not about what was said at Privileges Commitee in response to Russel Norman. Most people would accept that you could be mistaken when responding to an unexpected query on the spot.

But what we have here is Peters claiming two days later, in a formal speech, that he had “checked the records” and Peters had reimbursed Henry. And they were so certain of this info, they sent a letter to the Privileges Committee stating this.

Their claim and letter was false. The Prime Minister once again keeps Winston with his baubles of office despite the fact he has been exposed at deliberately deceiving the public and the Privileges Committee. This was no mistake made in the heat of the moment. It was a statement made two days later which they claimed was based on a check of records.

Peters’ admission about the reimbursement also raises questions about whether the $40,000 should have been declared to Parliament in 2007 in the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

There is no question that it should have been.

We now know the Spencer Trust was run by Winstons’ brother, law partner of his brother and a staff member in Winston’s office. And it paid personal bills on behalf of Peters. So Audrey reminds us of this press conference:

Q: Mr Peters are you seriously saying that people are meant to believe that you don’t know what the ST is used for?
A: Yes I do. You know why? Because those are the facts.
Q: We asked your brother yesterday and he wouldn’t answer the question.
A: Well Audrey you should show a bit of knowledge, experience and a bit of commonsense, right? Go and ask him again.
Q: Who should we ask?
A: You’re entitled to ask it all the questions you like.
Q: But you’re not answering them.
A: How can I answer them if I’m not in charge of the trust.
Q: Because you know what that trust is using the money for.
A: Sorry I don’t.
Q: Really?
A: Well I just said no I don’t.

And as you read what are really bare faced lies (unless you think Winston can somehow not know that the Spencer Trust paid a $40,000 debt on his behalf), remember once again that Helen Clark has no problems keeping Peters on.

Audrey also goes back to the original Privileges Committee hearing when Brian Henry lied and insisted he paid for it personally (you would know the difference between paying $40,000 out of your own pocket and temporarily paying $40,000 and getting reimbursed). He obviously did not want to admit the Spencer Trust effectively paid for it, so in response to an incredulous Wayne Mapp:

Mapp: Are you seriously suggesting that you would’ve paid $40,000 in court costs which were against Mr Peters and you advised Mr Peters of that fact, and that Mr Peters would not have understood that that would’ve effectively come out of the $100,000 – well the donations received?

Henry: Mr Mapp, I’m not ‘seriously’ saying it; I am saying it. I’m not suggesting it. I’m telling you exactly what I did…..So don’t slur it – this is what I did. I’d like to finish with Mr Mapp….Mr Mapp I am telling you what I did. So please do not slur it or belittle it by saying ‘Are you seriously suggesting….’ This is actually what I did. You mightn’t like it but that’s what I did.

Such outrage, all faked.

Whale Oil also blogs about further revelations from Spencer Trustee Grant Currie. On radio Currie said that they spent money on behalf of NZ First, after consulting with “someone” who was not a duly elected office holder of NZ First. That someone would be McClay on behalf of Peters I suspect.

You have to wonder if there is a single MP or office holder in NZ First with any spine? The party president didn’t even know of the Spencer Trust. Money meant for NZ First went into the trust, and then spent on behalf of the party bypassing the authority of the NZ First President and Board.

The SFO evidence

September 19th, 2008 at 6:41 am by David Farrar

No wonder Peters and Cullen are both highly upset at the SFO.  The Herald speculates that the SFO may have told the Privileges Committee that the Spencer Trust paid the $40,000 court costs that Peters paid Bob Clarkson.

If this is true, it is devastating for Peters and his Labour defenders.

The $40,000 is crucial because there is no doubt it was a debt owed by Winston Peters personally to Bob Clarkson. There is an arguable case about whether money given to Henry is paying off Winston’s debts as Henry claims he never invoices Peters. But there is no doubt over the $40,000.

After Brian Henry testified that he paid the $40,000 to Clarkson, it then became clear that this meant Peters had broken the Register’s rules by not declaring that Henry had paid $40,000 on his behalf. But suddenly two days later Peters and Henry claimed Peters had repaid Henry so there was breach on that issue.

If the Herald is correct, and the Spencer Trust reimbursed Henry for the $40,000, then what does it mean?

  1. That Peters broke the rules of the Register by not declaring The Spencer Trust in his annual return.
  2. That Peters and Henry both lied when they claimed Peters had paid Brian Henry back
  3. That Winston has such control of the Spencer Trust, that he can get it to pay his personal bills

Now in an attempt to divert attention from the evidence, Peters and Cullen are going on about a letter that may have been sent by an anonymous SFO staff member some months ago to Ron Mark, criticising Mark for supporting the SFO being wound up.

It was wrong for that staff member to write such a letter, and they should be given a kick in the behind. However this is not exactly the crime of the century. Thousands of state employees have written letters to MPs on issues affecting their employer – anyone remember thousands of firefighters collecting petitions for a referendum to stop their restructuring? However one does expect a higher level of standards from SFO staff and the Director should kick butt now he knows of the letter.

But for the Attorney-General to refuse to express confidence in the SFO Director, due to the actions of one staff member, is appalling. Make no mistake Cullen is not concerned by the letter – he is aghast the SFO may have told the truth to the Privileges Committee and damaged the Government. Cullen is reacting as an accessory after the fact, not as the Attorney-General.

If the Herald is correct, and the SFO does have information that the Spencer Trust paid (back) the $40,000 debt to Bob Clarkson, it would have been outraegous for them to sit on that information. They are reported as having asked the Auditor-General and the Clerk of the House whether they should inform the Privileges Committee of evidence that contradicts the public version of events by the Foreign Minister. Both agencies presumably said “Of course you should, it would be wrong to allow the Privileges Committee make a decision on false information”.

On a minor note

September 18th, 2008 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

One key issue in the Privileges Committee inquiry has been the $40,000 payment to Bob Clarkson for costs. This was ordered by court in the name of Winston Peters, so anyone paying it on his behalf most certainly would need to have been declared.

Brian Henry says he personally paid the $40,000 – meaning he should have been listed in Winston’s register.

After media and blog attention focused on this, Brian and Winston claimed a couple of days later that it was all sorted out as Winston had repaid Brian shortly thereafter.

My question is, was this ever submitted formally to the Privileges Committee, and if so was any proof of repayment supplied? Anyone know?

So what really happened

September 18th, 2008 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on what Winston claims happen. It is fit only as a bedtime story for five year olds, or the Prime Minister.

Today I am going to blog what I think actually happened, and how Winston created this trouble for himself. This is based on the evidence to date, and some guesswork.

He started off only being hypocritical, but in hiding that hypocrisy he eventually told a lie, and then to cover that lie up, he had to tell many many more. Here is my timeline of events:

  1. In August 2005 Peters asked for a meeting with Glenn. They met, and then his staffer Roger McClay asked for a donation to NZ First which was declined. It is fascinating that NZ First tried to solicit money from Labour’s largest donor prior to the 2005 election. One can speculate on why they thought this would be productive and whether this indicated they had already decided to back Labour, but that is not germane.
  2. In late November 2005 a staffer (probably Roger McClay) approached Glenn again for a donation to the petition. That staffer probably had the discussion with Glenn, that Henry claims he had. They do not want to reveal that it is probably Roger McClay as the thought of Winston not knowing the fundraising details of his own staff is even more unlikely than their other stories.
  3. In December 2005 Peters directly solicited a donation for the Tauranga electoral petition, pretty much the way Owen Glenn describes it with a phone call on 5 December, another call after that, and then the 14 December call. All the evidence supports this. The reason Glenn now said yes is because he saw it as helping Labour, and he checked with Mike Williams who said it would not be unhelpful.
  4. Peters obviously took the call from Glenn, and then told Henry to send the bank account details.
  5. The request to Glenn to keep the donation confidential was important. The NZ First brand was built on anti big business donations, and accepting $100,000 for legal expenses would weaken their brand.
  6. If Glenn had said yes to the original request to donate to NZ First, then that would have been paid to the Spencer Trust I am sure. It was vital that the public never know of the funding from big business. Peters and Henry had constructed things very carefully so they could avoid disclosure (arguably) legally. At this stage nothing has been done wrong, save the hypocrisy and maybe the failure to disclose on the Register of Interests (the way they structured it gives them an arguable case though).
  7. Then on 15 February 2008, Owen Glenn revealed he had donated to another political party (which is how he saw it). That got some minor interest in the media as to which other party.
  8. Even worse on 19 February 2008 he revealed he was in line to become Honorary Consul to Monaco, that Helen had already approved it, and he was just waiting for Winston to “get off his arse and do the paperwork”.
  9. At this point Peters would have realised it would be a bad look if the public realised Glenn had donated $100,000 to benefit Peters, and he was under consideration for Consul. Plus it undermines their no big donor brand. So he would be worried. But as long as Glenn kept the confidence it was al okay. Only Peters and Henry (and maybe McClay) knew of the donation. The media could guess but could not prove.
  10. But then disaster struck in the form of Dail Jones on 20 February 2008. He revealed to the media that there had been a large mystery donation to NZ First in December 2007 and that it was closer to $100,000 than $10,000. Owen Glenn also refused to rule out donating to NZ First, saying through his PR firm that people should speak to the party. This created huge media interest.
  11. Now people (including me) started adding 2+2 together to get 5, and thought the December 2007 donation was from Owen Glenn. Peters furiously denied it. Peters was right ironically.
  12. Peters was furious as the allegation was wrong. There were two secret donations – not one. And Dail Jones had accidentally come close to exposing both of them. The allegation that the Nov 2007 donation was from Owen Glenn was wrong, but to prove it wrong would have meant revealing the Spencer Trust. No wonder he was furious at Jones (to be fair to Jones he just told the truth and if you run a secret trust without your Party President in the loop, you run the risk he may blunder into it)
  13. Now again at this stage no lies had been told. It was all hypocritical but Peters denials had been correct.
  14. The next day Helen talks to Owen Glenn and he informs her of the donation. She rings Peters and he denies it to her. Now probably in Peters’ mind he did not lie, only deceive. He would have been careful to use language which ruled out a donation to the party or to him, but not to his legal fees.
  15. The fact he doesn’t contact Glenn to ask what this is about, is incidentially proof he obviously knew. If he did not know, he would have asked. Now again at this stage no major lie, just some deception.
  16. On 24 February he does another half lie denying there was any mystery donation at all. In fact there was – from the Spencer Trust. Peters probably justifies this because the Spencer Trust is not a mystery to him, and he knows the $80,000 was made up of individual Vela cheques of $10,000 into the trust, so in his mind there was no big anonymous donation.
  17. On 28 February 2008 we have the infamous “No” press conference. In hindsight this was a fatal mistake. By going so over the top, he cut off his wriggle room for later. He thought he was on safe ground denying Owen Glenn donated to NZ First, but he also said No to Guyon Espiner saying “Can I just clarify with you. Are you saying you have never received one dollar from Owen Glenn or any associate of Owen Glenn” and that was right on the edge of being a lie. The trouble with having a big No prop, is you can’t suddenly stop using it, so he waved the No sign again. A big mistake.
  18. Now at this stage Peters has not told a fully formed lie – many half lies, but he looks to have got away with his denials as no one asked exactly the right question. Again it is because Peters knew exactly what the donation was about, that he could so carefully deny it.
  19. Then in July 2008 someone leaked to Audrey Young the e-mails between Owen Glenn and Steve Fisher where Glenn says “Steve – are you saying I should deny giving a donation to NZ First?? When I did?”. She published these on 12 July 2008.
  20. Peters responds that Glenn did not donate to NZ First. This is technically true. Glenn referred to NZ First when he should have said Winston’s legal bills. Winston is a great nit picker and puts huge reliance on the difference. At this stage again no outright lie from Peters.
  21. But he again becomes his own worst enemy when on 14 July he attacks the NZ Herald can calls on Tim Murphy and Audrey Young to resign. He offers them a look at the party books. He does this because he knew the donation went into Brian Henry’s account. But he is most unfair in attacking the Herald. He knows that email is from Owen Glenn, and they reported it in good faith. It is not the Herald’s fault that Glenn used loose language around his donation. His attack is over the top and Peters at his worst. It is one thing to deny the accuracy of the e-mail by playing semantic games, but it is another thing to try and take the moral high ground as Peters did.
  22. On the 16th of July he again reassures Clark again there has been no donation to NZ First. Still not lying (but certainly deceiving) as the donation was to his legal fees.
  23. Around this time Peters and Henry would be terrified that Glenn will eventually speak to a journalist and reveal details of his donation.  The Herald also prints a further leaked letter from Glenn to Peters and they must wonder what else is still to emerge. I have little doubt phone records will show them in constant communication that week. So they decide to pre-empt it by announcing it on 18 July 2008.
  24. That day Peters’ mother dies. I do not think so badly of them that they choose to announce it that day because of her death. I think they had already decided on that day (Peters had been overseas and they wanted to do it when he was back in NZ) and decided to carry on, even after she died. That’s still pretty low though. With the NZF conference starting the next day they needed to get it out of the way.
  25. Peters and Henry had a big big choice ahead of them. Do they reveal that Peters knew of the donation? They could argue that he had never denied a donation to his legal fees. Technically he had never lied until then – only deceived. But Peters would know that having waved that no sign around at the press conference and called on the Herald staff to resign and apologise, he would get somewhat crucified if he revealed he was playing at semantics and he did know of a donation – but it was to his legal fees, not him or his party (as he saw it). Ironically in hindsight that would have been the path of less pain.
  26. So they made a fatal mistake. They told a bare faced lie. They both did. On 18 July 2008 they announced that Brian Henry only informed him of this at 5 pm that day. Peters explictly said that up until then he had been “unaware of the source of any of the donations for legal expenses”. That was the start of the end. Up until then they were only half lies, or deceptions (in politics there is a difference).
  27. They had to ten resort to further lies, to back up the big lie. How did Henry get in touch with Owen Glenn?  On 20 July they claimed a tip off from someone whose name Henry could not recall, but was not Peters or Mike Williams. Another deception which turned into a lie. They probably mean McClay, and he probably was involved at first but as the e-mails and phone calls prove Peters was in the loop the whole time. It was not a case of McClay or Peters knowing – they both did.
  28. Incidentially on 21 July the Vela donations came to light, but that is a story for another day.
  29. Peters lied again on 25 July when he said in a written statement “The Glenn contribution went to my barrister Brian Henry. As soon as I learned of it I informed the Prime Minister and alerted the media.” Once you tell one lie, you have to keep lying.
  30. Peters and Henry both lied again to the Privileges Committee on 19 August 2008, saying again he never knew of the donation. Note neither of them gave testimony under oath, so they can not be done for perjury.
  31. Henry also claimed on 19 August “I phoned Owen Glenn and he forwarded $100,000 which was paid to me on account of my fees”. This has been proven false. Glenn phoned Peters.
  32. Owen Glenn’s letter was published on 26 August 2008, along with one from Peters’ respomding to it. Peters again lies repeating that he had no knowledge of any donation.
  33. On 28 August Helen Clark reveals she knew back in February 2008 of the donation, from Owen Glenn.
  34. On 4 September another Glenn letter is published. He details the phone call and e-mail. Peter Williams tables a statement claiming Brian Henry spoke to Owen Glenn on two occassions.
  35. On 9 September Glenn testifies and provides proof of the phone call from him to Peters and the e-mail seven minutes later from Brian Henry.
  36. On 10 September, Peters testifies again. Peters admits to conversation with Glenn but denies money discussed.
  37. On 16 September Henry testified again. He admits that the client in the e-mail was Peters but still insists somehow Peters never knew of the donation. Phone records also prove Peters called Henry straight after the Glenn phone call.

I am pretty confident that this is close to what happened. It explains everything. Peters at first did not lie but he then realised he had gone too far in playing semantic games with the media to reveal he knew of a donation to his lawyer. So on 18 July he told a lie. And that one lie on 18 July led to dozens and dozens more lies as they tried to concoct a story about how Glenn could have donated without Peters knowing. I suspect they also exchanged conversations with McClay for conversations with Henry.

The moral of the story is the same as for Richard Nixon – it is the cover-up that gets you in the end!

Winston’s story

September 17th, 2008 at 10:07 am by David Farrar

Poor old Helen. Just like Chris Trotter, she can’t work out what happened. She needs more time.

As a public service to Helen, and all readers, I am summarising Winston’s position below. Winston keeps insisting that he never had any idea at all of the $100,000 donation until 18 July 2008 when Brian Henry told him. So below are all the elements you have to believe, for Winston to be telling the truth.

  1. Laura Ede is lying when she says Peters called Glenn on 5 December 2005.
  2. Laura Ede is also incompetent as she sent Owen Glenn an e-mail asking him to phone Peters back, when Peters never called.
  3. Brian Henry did call Owen Glenn in late November 2005, and Owen Glenn is lying when he says he never spoke to him.
  4. Brian Henry can not prove this call because he was staying in a motel at the time, and he can not remember which one it was.
  5. Brian Henry as a barrister, does not keep receipts of his expenses, as that would tell him which motel he made this disputed call from, and the bill would have details of the calls made.
  6. Owen Glenn is wrong when he says he spoke to Peters after that alleged 5 December call, and they discussed the electoral petition.
  7. Owen Glenn is a liar when he says there is no way he would have ever donated $100,000 to Winston’s legal fees, without the request having come from Winston.
  8. Owen Glenn did call Peters on 14 December 2005, but they never discussed a donation. Owen Glenn is lying when he says beyond doubt they did, and the fact they even discussed it in enough detail that he upped the donation from $70,000 to $100,000.
  9. By pure coincidence Peters called Brian Henry one minute after that phone call, but they never discussed money or the donation.
  10. Also by pure coincidence Brian Henry e-mailed Owen Glenn 40 seconds later his bank account details, as he had his memory jogged about the earlier conversation with Glenn (the one Glenn and Ede deny and Henry can not providence any evidence of).
  11. It is normal when asking for a donation to just send bank account details.
  12. The reference to “Further to the call between you and my client at 1.30 pm” did refer to Winston, after claiming it did not, but no donation was discussed with Winston. Brian Henry mentioned the call by accident, and in reality it had nothing to do with the donation.
  13. Even though Henry now says the reference to “my client” must be Peters, there is still a mystery second client who originally put Henry onto Glenn, and this mystery client will not reveal their identitiy even though doing so would exonerate both Peters and Henry. Their need to remain secret is so powerful that it outweighs the fact he or she could clear Peters and Henry from potential disgrace.
  14. Paul Moroney (brother of Labour MP Sue Moroney) is lying when he did an affidavit witnessing Peters thanking Glenn after Glenn asked if he got the money. Glenn is also lying when he recounted the thank you at Karaka.
  15. Owen Glenn donated $500,000 to Labour, $100,000 to Winston’s legal bills and lent Labour another $100,000, but then turned on them because they did not make him Consul to Monaco and because his lawyer once testified on behalf of Fay Richwhite, his lawyer coached him to perjure himself at the Privileges Committee.
  16. Glenn never ever mentioned to Winston Peters in all their other meetings and conversations that he had donated, as Glenn is of course known as the soul of discretion.
  17. When the media reported Owen Glenn in February 2008 as having donated to another party, Brian Henry never clicked that he was referring to the $100,000 Glenn gave Henry for Peters’ legal fees.
  18. Winston Peters never thought to check with Brian Henry if he had received money from Owen Glenn and that this is what he could be referring to.
  19. Even after the Prime Minister rang him and told him that Owen Glenn said he had donated money, Peters still didn’t think to check with Henry.
  20. Peters also had no curiousity about why Glenn would tell the Prime Minister he had donated money, and never thought to ask Owen Glenn (whose number he had). Despite being genuinely in the dark about the donation, he never thought to check with Glenn.
  21. Brian Henry let Winston go into a press conference and deny that NZ First had received any money at all from Owen Glenn – not even a dollar, and did not feel he had an ethical, moral or professional duty to tell him of the personal donation to Peters’ legal expenses.
  22. Brian Henry was aware the Winston Peters was considering appointing Owen Glenn as Consul to Monaco, and did not think the fact Glenn had donated $100,000 to Peters’ legal expenses was something that should be disclosed.
  23. After the NZ Herald on 12 July printed the e-mail from Owen Glenn, Brian Henry still said nothing to Peters despite it being glaringly obvious what he was referring to.
  24. Winston Peters genuinely believed the e-mail was fake, even though the Prime Minister had told him of her personal conversation with Owen Glenn where Glenn stated he had donated to Winston.
  25. Winston Peters was not denying the e-mail’s accuracy because he knew the donation was to his legal fees, and not NZ First itself. He still at this point in time had absolutely no knowledge of any assistance from Glenn in any form.
  26. Winston Peters never thought of doing the obvious when the e-mail was printed and contact Owen Glenn to ask him if the e-mail was real, and what the hell he was on about?
  27. Winston Peters never wondered why Steve Fisher was so desperate to make sure Owen Glenn did not contradict what Peters said?
  28. Even after Brian Henry saw Winston denying everything, claiming the e-mail is fabricated and calling Audrey Young a liar, he still didn’t think he needed to urgently inform Winston that the e-mail was referring to the $100,000 donation for the Tauranga electoral petition in Peters’ name.
  29. It took Brian Henry seven days to manage to talk to his close personal friend and long standing client, to let him know that he had information which verified the e-mail in the Herald, which is why they waited until 18 July 2008 to announce the existence of the donation.
  30. Winston Peters at no stage ever knew of the donation until 18 July 2008.

This is an update on a earlier list I did on19 July.

And as I pointed out them, to beleive Winston’s story you have to believe not some of the above, but pretty much all of the above.

This is basically the story that the Prime Minister finds so compelling she can not make her mind up whether or not it is true or not.

UPDATE: As the Prime Minister is still striggling with this very difficult decision, she may like to also read John Armstrong’s column.

Just as the Moon is made of cheese and fairies live at the bottom of the garden, Winston Peters’ lawyer, Brian Henry, wants to believe that the now notorious phone call from Owen Glenn to Peters never discussed a donation from the business tycoon to pay the legal bills of Henry’s client.

I think this indicates a degree of scepticism. John is obviously finding it difficult to believe the story above.

However, the rest of us don’t live on Planet Winston where black is white, white is what you want it to be and the story changes as fast as the shop-until-you-drop former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos changed her shoes.

It’s a funny thing. When you tell the truth there is normally no need to then change your story.

Winston’s story

September 16th, 2008 at 4:41 pm by David Farrar

This Tremain cartoon, taken from Homepaddock, sums it all up.

The TVNZ midday news saw political reporter Jessica Mutch try to explain what the Peters/Henry story now was, and you could see the palpable disbelief.

Colin Espiner blogs a line he stole from brother Guyon:

My dear brother Guyon has pinched a few lines off me over the years, so I’m going to nick one of his: The only testimony Brian Henry could have delivered before the privileges committee today that was less credible is if Winston Peters’ lawyer had simply said: “My dog ate it.”

Well the dog ate the phone bill from the mystery motel he claims to have ring Owen Glenn from!

New Zealand First insiders and Peters himself had talked tough over Henry’s recall to the committee this morning, claiming to some journalists that the lawyer would provide evidence this morning that refuted Owen Glenn’s version of events. He did nothing of the sort.

Indeed, everything Henry said and offered this morning in the way of evidence simply corroborated Glenn’s version of events.

You have to wonder what sort of morons talk up in advance evidence that actually proves their Leader lied, and corroborates what Owen Glenn said. Either they didn’t know what Brian Henry was going to say (which means they have blind faith) or they didn’t understand how damning it would be for Peters and Henry.

In my opinion, Henry offered doubt today but it was not reasonable.

Indeed. Reasonable doubt means exactly that – is it reasonable. No reasonable person can really doubt that Peters has lied. And as it so happens the Privileges Committee does not even need to satisfy the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”. They merely need to satisfy “on the balance of probabilities”.

Will this finally be enough for Clark to sack Peters? I doubt it.

I doubt it also. She needs Peters after the election, so that means minor stuff like lying the public, lying to the media, false declarations, and lying to the Privileges Committee are all forgiveable by Clark.

UPDATE: NZPA quotes the Laboru Party MPs trying to defend Winston:

Labour MPs said the way Mr Glenn and Mr Henry referred to each other by first names in emails showed familiarity.

So these MPs have no shame? no standards at all? They are so desperate to protect Winston (and incidentially declare their largest ever donor to be a liar) that their defence is that first names were used in emails.

This is so pitiful, I won’t even bother pointing out the gaping flaws in their argument. I’ll let readers do that for me.

Henry changes story

September 16th, 2008 at 11:37 am by David Farrar

From Stuff:

Winston Peters has produced a phone record which backs up billionaire Owen Glenn’s timeline of events around a $100,000 donation towards the New Zealand First leader’s legal costs.

His lawyer Brian Henry today conceded to Parliament’s privileges committee the pair’s recollection of events was poor and their earlier story did not now seem correct.

And not just their earlier testimony under oath, but everything they have said is cast into doubt.

The email, produced by Mr Glenn, shows Mr Henry referred to the phone conversation with “my client” at the precise time of the phone call.

Mr Henry has previously denied the “client” was Mr Peters.

But today in a video-linked appearance before the committee Mr Henry changed crucial parts of his story.

He acknowledged that Mr Peters must be the client referred to.

Now remember he denied multiple times Peters was the client. He denied this directly to the Privileges Committee.

Phone records from Mr Peters which he promised the committee last week and which were released today show Mr Peters called him one minute after he finished talking to Mr Glenn.

Mr Henry’s email was sent one minute after his phone call with Mr Peters ended.

The truth comes out. Not that it wasn’t already out for 99% of NZ.

Mr Glenn has said Mr Peters asked for the $100,000 donation in their phone call.

But Mr Henry today gave the committee a different explanation, although he acknowledged he had little recollection of the actual events.

He said he had spoken to Mr Glenn in either late November or early December asking for a donation.

Prove it. Where is the phone log?

He said the phone call from Mr Peters on December 14, which was presumably coincidental, reminded him to follow up with Mr Glenn, which he immediately did.

“That jogged my memory to seek a donation,” he said.

This is just so much bullshit. Their story has changed so many times, to fit the facts, it is just beyond belief.

Now let us make this simple for Helen:

  1. Owen Glenn phoned Winston at 1.27 pm
  2. That call ended at 1.33 pm
  3. Winston phoned Brian Henry at 1.34 pm
  4. That call ended at 1.39 pm
  5. At 1.40 pm Brian Henry sent Owen Glenn the bank account details for the donation

I am sure Helen or Michael Cullen will find a way to put it all down to an innocent explanation.


NZPA also report:

Mr Glenn has denied having any dealings with Mr Henry, prompting calls for Mr Henry to produce phone records to back up his claim.

But Mr Henry said the call was made around the time of Mr Peters’ Tauranga electoral petition, between November 22 and December 1, 2005, and he was staying in a motel that only kept phone records dating back to 2006.

Well this is very easy to resolve. The motel may not have kept phone records, but Telecom certainly will have. Not that there is any real doubt, but if the Privileges Committee thinks Henry is telling the truth (this time!), then they can easily verify it by asking Telecom (and Telecom cannot refuse) to supply the phone records for those 10 days for the motel. Telecom keep these records for at least seven years.

Peters safe

September 16th, 2008 at 6:17 am by David Farrar

Helen Clark has made clear she will not be sacking Winston Peters, and in fact will keep him on after the election. The Dom Post reports:

Prime Minister Helen Clark further distanced herself from Mr Peters yesterday, but set a high hurdle for sacking him by saying it would take a “devastating development” at today’s privileges committee hearing for her to act.

Now this is a bizarre hurdle as the only person appearing today is Brian Henry, who will presumably come up with the fifth or sixth version of events about how Winston knew nothing. Only if a witness hostile to Peters was testifying could there be any chance of a devastating development.

The reality is the phone call and e-mail prove beyond reasonable doubt that Peters knew of the donation, and that he was the one referred to by Henry as “my client” as the times match.

Helen Clark has shown herself willing to condone Ministers who lie not once, not twice, but repeatedly to the public. And then she declares the election is about trust!!

I cannot walk away from the truth

September 12th, 2008 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

That is the quote from the brother of Labour MP Sue Moroney. He says:

Champion horse trainer Paul Moroney says he approached Owen Glenn with his recollection of Winston Peters thanking him for the $100,000 donation because “I cannot walk away from the truth”.

Mr Moroney said when the story broke and he saw Mr Peters’ continued denials he realised he had crucial knowledge. “I said to people: ‘I am staggered by what’s happening here’.”

He then made a “personal decision” to tell Mr Glenn what he knew knowing he was coming to New Zealand to appear before Parliament’s privileges committee – but never spoke to him directly, dealing only briefly with an assistant.

So he was not asked by Glenn to confirm Glenn’s story. He came forward on his own volition, because he could not walk away from the truth.

Mr Moroney said he expected a backlash from the racing community as Mr Peters was a popular minister.

“This is not about the racing industry. This is about the truth. And I cannot walk away from the truth.”

And he told the truth even though it was not in his best interests to do so.

This is a key point to remember.

Owen Glenn saying that Peters solicited the money does not advantage Owen Glenn. If anything it has disadvantaged him. Paul Moroney saying he witnessed Peters thanking Glenn does not advantage Moroney, it disadvantages him.

Winston Peters saying that he knew nothing about the money advanatges Peters massively.

Mr Moroney said he realised he had put his sister, Labour MP Sue Moroney, in an “awkward position”. He had informed her of his knowledge about three months ago without telling her the full story.

Now who thinks that Sue Moroney would not have told Helen Clark that her brother witnessed Winston thanking Glenn for the donation?

The Editors have no doubt

September 12th, 2008 at 8:13 am by David Farrar

All three major daily editorials today are on Peters, and none of them believe him.

The NZ Herald::

The silly thing throughout has been that had Mr Peters told the truth at the outset, no harm would have been done. Nobody could have really believed his career survived on his small party’s membership fees. Had he admitted, when asked, that he had needed help with a legal bill, who could have blamed him?

But Mr Peters’ instinct was never to be candid. He seemed to have a congenital aversion to the straight answer. Invariably he treated questions from the press as a personal affront, to be met with verbal jousts, semantic denials and obfuscation. His “testimony” on Wednesday night confirmed one other peculiarity about this former lawyer – he is remarkably inarticulate. Swallowing words, blurring the point and scrambling sense. This, wilfully or involuntarily, contributes to the fog of evasion. His appearance failed to rebut a single piece of Mr Glenn’s evidence.

Telling the truth would have been much wiser in hindsight for Peters.

Enough of him. New Zealanders should consider today what a debt we owe Owen Glenn. He cared enough for his good name in this country to come here and clear it. In doing so he will surely rid us of a politician who misused his considerable talent and charm to mislead the public on important policies, sow fear and suspicion of change and survive on a populism that has turned out to be not only destructive but dishonest.

Destructive and dishonest. Not a bad summary.

The Dominion Post has had enough of what it calls this nonsense:

Mr Henry insists that Mr Peters was not the “client” referred to in the e-mail and, therefore, Mr Peters should be taken at his word when he says he did not ask Mr Glenn for money.

Before Mr Glenn produced his phone records, that was an improbable, but conceivable, explanation of events.

It is no longer, unless Mr Henry expects the committee to believe that while talking to Mr Peters, Mr Glenn was also conducting another conversation with someone else who just happened to be making representations on Mr Peters’ behalf without the MP’s knowledge.

Yes, he was on two phone calls at the same time. Well this is what Helen Clark seems to believe.

For too long, he has trifled with the truth and danced on the heads of legal pins. By doing so, he would like his supporters to believe he has simply been refusing to dance to the tune of petty bureaucrats and the news media.

But what he has, in fact, been doing is showing contempt for Parliament, the law and the public. Remember, it was an audience member who asked Mr Peters at a Grey Power meeting in July to explain why NZ First had not declared money received from the Spencer Trust, a shadowy legal entity administered by his brother Wayne.

Mr Peters replied that: “Everything that [NZ First] was required to do within the law has been done,” has now been shown, by the party’s own admission that it broke electoral law, to be false.

Indeed. And there may well be others laws broken with their false returns.

And the Press calls the PM an obfuscator and ditherer:

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, continues to obfuscate and dither over whether to sack the suspended Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, says The Press in an editorial.

Again the key issue is not whether she will sack him. It is whether she will rule him out post-election.

Now, despite the compelling evidence presented by Glenn which Peters abysmally failed to rebut, Clark continues to suggest there is enough there to cause her to have doubts. This is nonsense. Clark is failing to act not because there is any real doubt any more, but out of political calculation, because she may need Peters in future. In doing so, she badly compromises her own reputation for political integrity.

A less charitable person might say it confirms her own political integrity reputation!

Having worked hard before his appearance to confuse the issue by suggesting that Glenn might somehow have misremembered events or got muddled, Labour continues, by pointing to minor discrepancies or errors, to try to generate a smokescreen around his evidence and cast doubt on it. But unless there is some dramatic new evidence that has not yet been revealed, no honest, objective observer who saw and heard Glenn this week, and watched Peters’ reply, can any longer doubt the matter.

It is ironic that Helen Clark whines and whines that National should not be on the Privileges Committee. Because if any group of MPs could be seen to be acting as advocates for one side, it is the Labour MPs who seem to be unpaid Counsels for Winston Peters.

The New Zealand First party itself has shown, by the evidence that has now emerged of inaccurate election donation returns not just once but in election after election, that it too apparently believes it does not have to play by the same rules as everyone else. This has happened so often that it is hard escape the belief that it is a deliberate tactic designed, for electoral advantage, to bamboozle the party’s supporters about the source of its income.

The rhetoric of parts of Peters’ privileges committee evidence, suggesting a malign conspiracy against him, was clearly a warm-up for what is likely to be the theme of his election campaign. It must be hoped that voters have the sense to see through it and ensure that we have had the last of him in government and of New Zealand First in Parliament.

That would indeed be a good thing.

The pundits have their say

September 11th, 2008 at 7:00 pm by David Farrar

As amazingly it looks like Helen may not sack Peters at all now, three journalists have their say. First Audrey Young compares the testimonies:

There is one piece of evidence that could possibly salvage Peters and Henry and that is a record of a phone call, if one existed, from Henry to Glenn in the last three months of 2005.

It would not be hard for Henry to authorise his phone company to release that to the committee in order to save his “blood brother” and himself.

Any half decent lawyer would have produced this weeks ago. Actual evidence, as oppossed to conspiracy theories, are what is needed. If such evidence is produced, I suggest the Privileges Committee should ask the phone company in question to authenticate the evidence.

Doubtless there are some holes in the testimony of both Glenn and Peters but on the whole, you could drive a Tonka toy through Glenn’s and a Mack through Peters’.

Nicely put.

Peters suggested that just because some people at a lunch at the Karaka sales did not hear Peters thank Glenn for his donation, then he couldn’t have thanked him.

Or that because Peters has good manners (well, especially where wealthy folk are concerned) if he had known about the donation he would have thanked Glenn for it.

Yep, that was his serious argument. That he would have thanked Owen earlier than Karaka if he knew of the donation. This is why I compared it to a five year old.

Once Clark reads the transcript of the hearing, she will see that Peters does not really have a defence.

Or just read the NZPA story on how he gave three different explanations during the one session.

Colin Espiner blogs:

The difference between his testimony before the committee and that of Owen Glenn was stark. Glenn relied on facts – emails, phone logs, sworn statements from witnesses. He went through his evidence carefully and methodically. He answered questions directly, without embellishment. There was no exaggeration. He stuck to his story. He was a very credible witness.

Peters, on the other hand, led the committee a merry dance. He disputed virtually every point of Glenn’s evidence, but with nothing besides his own self-described faulty memory to back up his evidence. There were no phone logs, no emails, and only a statement from his own lawyer in his defence – and even that appeared to contradict Peters’ evidence to the committee.

On television later that night, Peters looked half-way believable in the short clips that were shown. But to sit there and watch him desperately try to explain why his lawyer Brian Henry had emailed Glenn with his bank account details just minutes after Peters had finished speaking to the billionaire was to witness a drowning man gasping for air.

He floundered, he splashed, he spluttered. But in the end Peters simply couldn’t find any credible explanation for Glenn’s hard evidence. The best he could come up with was that he might have told Henry to email Glenn, at Glenn’s request, but he had no idea why or what for and didn’t think it proper to ask.

Frankly, if the committee members believe that then they also believe in the tooth fairy.

Yet Helen still clings on to Winston.

And Bill Ralston:

He admits having a phone conversation with Glenn but cannot recall if money was discussed. In fact he thinks they didn’t discuss money. What then did they talk about? He cannot recall.

Within minutes of that phone call Brian Henry, on the advice of his “client”, emailed Glenn with bank account details for the money to be paid. Peters has no idea whom the “client” might be that Henry refers to and no idea why Henry might be sending bank account details to Glenn.

This is just nuts. Compared with the clear concise testimony given by Glenn to the committee, backed by physical evidence, Winston Peters’ statements lack any credibility and he produced no physical evidence to rebut Glenn.

Nuts indeed.

It makes Richard Nixon look like the model of integrity and truth.

More on Peter’s evidence

September 11th, 2008 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Winston claimed last night it was all a conspiracy because Owen Glenn’s lawyer, Geoff Harley, represented Fay Richwhite 15 years ago at the WInebox. That was desperate enough, but the Herald reveals:

Dr Harley did not act for Fay Richwhite but was called by Fay Richwhite lawyers to give evidence as a tax law specialist.

Also Whale Oil points out an intriguing problem with the memo tabled by Peters from Marco Marinkovich. It is dated 29 August 2008. One part reads:

Vodafone records (attached) indicate I TXT Owen on that number on Saturday 23 December 2006.

But go to page 4 of the attachment and you will see that Vodafone e-mailed the Vodafone records yesterday on 9 September 2008.

So as Whale Oil points out, how do you write a memo on 29 August referring to an attachment you only received 11 days later? Time travel?

Presumably the memo was written in the last two days, but why then was a seemingly fake date put on it?


September 10th, 2008 at 11:01 pm by David Farrar

I didn’t attend tonight’s hearing as I correctly predicted Peters would bluster, and even at the very end refuse to tell the truth. The universal reaction from those who did attend (and thanks for all the texts and e-mails) who briefed me was that Peters was pathetic, and produced no relevant evidence at all apart from a fanciful story.

Having looked at the video, and read his tabled statements I have to say that a very dim five year old could have managed a better defence.

Essentially Winston argues that yes Owen called him on the 14th of December but they never ever talked about money. And oh yes he probably did phone Brian Henry to say send your contact details to Owen, isn’t sure if he did but if he did that is because Owen asked for them, and he had no idea at all what it was about, and Brian somehow decided to send his bank account details instead.

Clark may wait for the Privileges Committee to formally report, but her language indicates she may move tomorrow.

Stuff reports:

“I believe now that Mr Henry had called him on December 5 to solicit the funds and I believe Mr Glenn is aware of this which is why no evidence has been produced.

Yet no record of such a call has been tabled by Mr Henry. They have had several weeks to furnish any proof of Brian Henry having ever phoned Owen Glenn. They have produced none.

Responding to questions from Napier Labour list MP Russell Fairbrother Mr Peters said he had no knowledge of Mr Glenn having donated money to NZ First until July 18, 2008.

“I thought at the time why would Mr Glenn be giving money to me? Mr Glenn is a Labour man. Why would he be giving money to NZ First?” Mr Peters asked.

Now recall that after he met with Owen Glenn in Sydney, his parliamentary staffer, Roger McClay, wrote to or e-mailed Owen Glenn asking for a donation to NZ First. So this mock surprise, is of course mock.

The NZ Herald reports:

Mr Peters again denied any prior knowledge of a $100,000 donation to NZ First or to himself from Monaco-based billionaire Owen Glenn.

And he maintained the allegations were a conspiracy against him.

Owen Glenn’s lawyer yesterday represented Fay Richwhite 15 years or so ago at the Winebox hearings. So obviously it is all a conspiracy sting operation masterminded by the lawyer and Sir Michael Fay.

“This is an attempt to undo the people’s will, bring down a government and govern alone,” said Mr Peters.

Hmmn, so National arranged three years ago for the donation to Winston, hoping he would be stupid enough to lie about it, so they could use it to undermine the Government. My God, how cunning.

Mr Peters said Mr Glenn also made mention he had a horse running in the Melbourne Cup and may have asked for lawyer Mr Henry’s contact details.

So Peters says he asked for Brian Henry’s contact details, he then immediately told Brian of this request, and Brian e-mailed Owen Glenn, and instead of sending his contact details, he accidentally sent his bank account details!

Anyway for those who want a laugh, here are the three documents tabled by Peters.

  1. winston-peters-statement
  2. brian-henry-letter
  3. memo-to-peters-re-2006-meeting-with-glenn

Armstrong on Privileges hearing

September 10th, 2008 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong gives an excellent commentary on the hearing:

Winston Peters is teetering on the brink. His three long decades in politics are just one short meeting of Parliament’s privileges committee away from ending in abject disgrace and utter humiliation.

Peters will never admit he has done anything wrong though. He was defiant in the House yesterday.

Glenn has stuck to his story throughout. He has now backed it up with copies of relevant emails and phone logs. He has been up front. He has volunteered information. To put no finer point on it, his account rings true.

In contrast, Mr Peters has offered denials which have been found wanting. Accepting his story has required suspending disbelief. His story has kept changing.

Yet Helen has persisted in her innocent explanation belief.

That Glenn’s version of what happened is convincing could be ascertained by the rather desultory efforts by Labour MPs on the committee to help Peters by trying to pick holes in it.

That reached a low when Russell Fairbrother, a vastly experienced barrister prior to becoming an MP, suggested to Glenn that he could have been talking to Wayne Peters, the NZ First leader’s brother, when he rang Peters’ cellphone.

It was a moment of farce during testimony which has pushed Peters deeper into political strife – if that is possible.

I think I would have actually laughed out loud if it were not for the fact that the Privileges Committee can send people to jail!

If he cannot provide believable explanations to counter what seems to be irrefutable evidence that he in fact solicited the donation from Glenn, then he should resign his current status as a minister without portfolio and his party should think seriously about whether he is fit to stand for Parliament again.

It won’t. There is no NZ First without Peters.

To some degree that is a pity. There is room on the political spectrum for a centrist socially conservative party. NZ First without Peters is a party once could actually work with constructively. If they sacked Peters. But as Armstrong says, that is almost impossible to concieve.

The “someone stole Winston’s cellphone” suggestion

September 10th, 2008 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

Reading the NZ Herald this morning, it strikes me how ludicrous Labour’s attempted defence of Winston was:

Yesterday Labour MP Russell Fairbrother, a member of the committee, suggested Mr Glenn may have confused Winston Peters’ with his youngest brother Wayne in a vital phone call about the donation.

Wayne Peters laughed out loud when told of the suggestion.

Wayne Peters had the right reaction. Poor Owen – first Labour MPs suggest he can’t tell Winston apart from Sir Howard Morrison, and then they suggest he can’t tell Winston apart from Wayne Peters on the phone.

Mr Fairbrother said he had no evidence to believe it was Wayne Peters, but had asked Mr Glenn “to test his evidence”.

Of course he had no evidence. It was a desperate attempt to find a way to clear Peters. This was not an off the cuff comment made once. Glenn was asked at length by Fairbrother and Cullen about whether Peters identified himself, what did Glenn mean by a first person conversation etc etc.

After the breakfast he called Mr Peters on his cellphone – he produced the phone record yesterday – to say yes to the donation and spoke to him for more than six minutes. The call finished about 1.32 NZ time.

About eight minutes later, Mr Glenn received an email from Mr Henry saying “further to your discussion with my client at 1.30 NZ time I provide my bank details … “

Tonight Winston will explain how one of his staff members answered his mobile phone for him, impersonated Winston, negotiated the donation upwards from $70,000 to $100,000, immediately phoned or e-mailed Brian Henry to tell him about the donation, and then totally forgot to mention it to Winston.

Mr Glenn’s evidence about consulting Mr Williams contradicts Mr Williams’ claim that the first he knew of a donation was on July 12 – when the Herald published emails from Mr Glenn to PR man Steve Fisher confirming he had given a donation.

It is now apparent that Mike WIlliams, and in all probability Helen Clark, not just knew about the donation in 2005, but actually approved it. Owen Glenn was adamant on this point that he would not have donated without Labour’s okay.

This makes you wonder about who in Labour authorised the $250,000 offer to the Maori Party, in exchange for them agreeing to support Labour?

Mr Williams said last night his recollection was that they had discussed the likely outcome of Mr Peters’ electoral petition.

“I have no recollection of being asked or offering any comment on whether or not Mr Glenn should provide financial assistance to Mr Peters and I certainly did not discuss that possibility with anyone else.”

If people are having trouble working out who to believe, I suggest they re-read this post and this post regarding his performance on Agenda this year. Nine lies confusions in one interview. Plus the confusion he had over whether Owen Glenn had donated to the party since 2005. And the confusion last election over the pledge card when they told the Chief Electoral Office they would include it as an election expense and then recanted.

The short version

September 9th, 2008 at 8:50 pm by David Farrar

What happened today is very simple.

  1. Owen Glenn proved that he made a phone call to Winston Peters at 1.26 pm NZST on 14 December 2005. The call ended at 1.33 pm.
  2. At 1.40 pm on the same day – just seven minutes later – Brian Henry sent Owen Glenn the details of the bank account the $100,000 was paid into.
  3. A Paul Moroney swore an affidavit that Winston Peters and Owen Glenn did meet at Karaka in January 2006, that Owen Glenn told him of the donation to Peters, and that Peters thanked Owen Glenn for his help. Incidentially Paul Moroney is the brother of Labour MP Sue Moroney.

Anyone who thinks that somehow Winston Peters was not aware of the donation is not just naive or misguided, but fundamentally dishonest. The attempts by Labour to suggest that someone else may have answered Winston’s mobile phone, pretended to be Winston, arranged the $100,000 donation, passed the details onto Brian Henry – all without telling Winston – are so far fetched that journalists were having trouble not laughing out loud.

The big new information that got revealed is that Owen Glenn met with Mike Williams the day of the donation, sought his approval for the donation and is adamant he would not have made the donation without permission from Williams. It is almost inconceivable that Williams would not discuss such an issue with Helen Clark. We already knew she knew about the donation in February 2008 – she may in fact have known as early as December 2005. It will be impossible to prove what Williams told Clark, but regardless we do know that Mike Williams knew all about this from day one.

Whale Oil has the affidavits online.

The Glenn hearing

September 9th, 2008 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

We are all queued outside waiting to be allowed in. Huge amount of media here. No sign of Glenn yet.

Glenn has arrived and we are now in the room.

Glenn has just named Williams as having agreed helping Peters would help Labour.

Also tabled an affidavit from a witness to Peters thanking Glenn.

Glenn has confirmed again he would not have donated without having the ok from Mike Williams.

There is also a phone record showing a call to or from peters office phone around the time of the donation.

My God how desperate. Russell Fairbrother is suggesting he was accidentally talking to Wayne Peters who had borrowed Winston’s cellphone and sounds like him!!

Glenn says that Mike Williams was going to clear his donation with colleagues. It is unthinkable that would not include Helen. So she may have known since 2005.

Glenn says he likes Winston who is a great character. This is about telling truth.

Cullen also pushing the notion that someone else answered Winston’s cellphone and pretended to be him.

Has just said Peters is very skilled at asking for donations. Remember Peters says he nevers solicits donations.

On Radio NZ later today

September 9th, 2008 at 1:55 pm by David Farrar

National Radio is going to have me on at around 4.40 pm today (during Jim Mora’s panel) to report on impressions from the Privileges Committee hearing with Owen Glenn. It might be earlier if things wrap up earlier.

I doubt I can update from the hearing (which is a pity) so NZ Herald and Stuff are probably best places to look for reports.

The hearing may be not very exciting. Winston is not appearing. Owen Glenn will repeat what he has said in his earlier statements. He may not have documents to prove it, because receiving a phone call by its nature tends not to be documented, and it did happen three years ago. What will be interesting is whether the Labour MPs aggressively go after Owen Glenn and try and discredit their largest donor in order to protect Winston.