Reaction to Privileges Report

I’ll start with Colin Espiner:

On the 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, , 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 (one of her Ministers) and 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 , 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?

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