Let me see if I have this right.

Helen Clark claims she can’t remember when she was first briefed on Owen Glenn’s wishes to be made Consul – a relatively recent event, and a pretty significant issue.

While Helen is also claiming there is something sinister about the fact that may have got wrong who paid for a meal 20 years ago when he was 26, and the date he left a job.

Let’s first deal with what is an undisputed fact – John Key had nothing to do with the . Here is what the then SFO Director said:

Mr Key was simply one in a “vast array of innocent people, potential witnesses, in a massive fact-gathering exercise. I feel compelled to fully support the reported comments of John Key in relation to the H-Fee transaction. It should not need to be said that John Key was completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever. For any politician to hint or suggest otherwise would be absolutely rubbish and pure mischief-making’

Also from the same story last August:

Yesterday Labour Ministers were denying any knowledge of the H-Fee rumours and Labour Party president said the news was “a bolt from the blue” for him.

This is the same Mike WIlliams who is reported today:

In a drive to pin down Mr Key’s involvement in the case, Labour Party president Mike Williams took time out from the heat of the election to fly to Melbourne last week to search documents relating to a court case over the H-Fee.

So get this. The Labour Party President – a man paid almost $200,000 a year by the taxpayer for his multiple board appointments actually flew to another country to search through 20 year old court documents in a desperate attempt to smear John Key. This is Labour’s plan for the future.

And the best he could find was inconsistency over who paid for dinner.

Also worth remembering the SST last year:

Former Equiticorp boss Allan Hawkins and Australian-based expat and former Merchant Finance executive Ken Jarrett have both confirmed Key’s claims he had nothing to do with H-Fee.

So there is no proof at all that Key was in any way involved. It is an attempted guilt by association smear.

So what is this so called neutron bomb. At best it is three minor inconsistencies. Let’s take them one at a time:

Date of Departure

Yes John Key originally said he left in 1987,and in fact it was 24 June 1988. But the Herald themselves had the correct date in their 15 page profile on him in July 2008. So the correct date was already out there.

Before or after the H-Fee

Key said he left before the NZ H-Fee, which was on 7 Sep 1988. This is correct regardless of whether he left in 1987 or June 1988.

There was an earlier H-Fee in Jan 1988 for A$40m. Yes Key still worked for Elders then – but that earlier fee took place in Australia and Key was working in New Zealand. In his own words:

Mr Key says the Labour Party’s desperate attempt to link him with this issue again now appears to revolve around an earlier H-Fee transaction which took place in Australia while he was working for Elders in New Zealand.

“I was not involved in, or even aware of, that earlier transaction. Labour is clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel and will stop at no lie or innuendo.”

And remember that *everyone* says Key was not involved – the SFO, the then head of Equiticorp and the then finance head for Elders where the 26 year old Key was working.

This is again an attempt at guilt by association.

Who paid for the meal?

Mr Key told the Herald last year that Mr Jarrett had denied being in the country when that meeting took place. He said in the interview last year he was able to back-up Mr Richards’ story that Mr Jarrett was in the country because he – Mr Key – had paid for the lunch and had the credit card bill to prove it.

In fact, the court records show that Mr Richards paid for the lunch, not Mr Key.

Oh my God a dispute over who paid for lunch 20 years ago.

Mr Key said today that he always held the belief that the credit card used was his, but conceded it could well have been Mr Richards’.

Oh God Key may have been wrong on some details of a meal 20 years ago when he was 26. This is far far more serious than Helen Clark claiming amnesia over when she was first lobbied to make Owen Glenn Consul.

Finally for those who are going to try and make a capital case out of the fact there were some inconsistencies between people at the lunch, I quote from this e-mail sent to me by a lawyer a few minutes ago, quoting a standard summing up from the crown:

Reminds me of crown summing ups – “now the defence will no doubt point out to you that there are inconsistencies in the stories told by the crown witnesses.  We accept that, of course there are inconsistencies.  It’s human nature.  People can only give their memories, their recollection and such things are never perfect.  Indeed, if the stories were exactly the same there would be cause for concern.  That would suggest collusion.  No, what you have heard is unvarnished recollections.  What is important is that there is clear agreement on…”

I really hope someone asks Mike Williams who paid for his digging trip to Melbourne.

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