The more I think about it, the more appalling it is that she said or did nothing. Let us first dispose of her claims that she had no choice but to accept Peters’ word.
- The convention of accepting the word of an MP, only applies in the House itself. There is no such convention in the wider political sphere.
- More importantly, accepting someone’s word only applies up until there is evidence which contradicts that word. The direct testimony of Owen Glenn that he donated $100,000 to assist Winston Peters is evidence.
- In previous cases where the evidence contradicts what the Minister says, Clark has asked to examine the evidence. She had her staff examine media tapes of Benson-Pope’s interviews to determine he had lied, and sacked him.
- This was not a case where one had to accept the word of Glenn over Peters or vice versa. A donation is a provable fact and she could have gained absolute proof with a single phone call.
- She could have urged Peters to contact Glenn to find out why he thinks he donated. That would be the 100% logical thing to do, unless you suspected Glenn was right and Peters was lying.
Now let us look at all the things one may have expected an ethical Prime Minister to do. Did she do any of the below?
- Seek legal advice from the Cabinet Secretary or the Solictor-General as to whether she had an obligation to disclose Glenn’s revelation that he had donated $100,000 to assist Peters.
- Inform the Electoral Commission that she has information which warrants investigation as to the accuracy of NZ First’s 2005 return. OR
- Inform the Registrar of MPs Pecuniary Interests that she has information which warrants investigation as to the accuracy of Winston Peters’ 2005 return.
- Inform the Secretary of Foreign Affairs that Owen Glenn had told her that he had donated $100,000 to assist the Foreign Minister, and that this created a conflict of interest for Peters in determining whether or not to appoint Glenn Consul to Monaco
Just as bad, she sat there while Winston Peters did his infamous “No” press conference, knowing that Owen Glenn had told her it was yes.
And even worse on the 18th of July, when Peters announced the $100,000 donation, she knew conclusively he was lying as Peters said the first he knew about the donation was earlier that day when Henry told him. But he knew, at a minimum, back in February when the PM told Peters what Glenn had said.
People need to understand that the entire last six months has been a charade. When Winston Peters pretended to be angry at the allegations, Clark knew that Glenn had told her that he has donated.
Even when Peters outrageously slandered the NZ Herald, accussed them of fabricating the Glenn e-mail, and demanded Murphy and Young resign, Clark stayed silent. It was an inaction unworthy of the highest office in the land.
Peters was actively considering Owen Glenn for a diplomatic appointment. Clark had been told by Glenn that he had donated $100,000 to assist Peters. This created a huge conflict of interest. But it seems Clark sat on this information. Doing so undermines the integrity of her Government.
And finally we have the hypocrisy. The rhetoric about how we needed the Electoral Finance Act to stop secret donations to political parties. And two months after that law was passed, Helen Clark learnt of a huge $100,000 secret donation. Even worse she learnt of it from a man seeking favours from the Minister he claimed to have donated it to benefit. But did she do anything at all? Did she demand the donation be revealed as she had just spent six months vowing that such donations be exposed? No she just sat there and asked no questions, and allowed Peters to keep denying it.