Dom Post on Field and Labour

The Dominion Post looks at both Field, and those who got off:

Bravo. Justice Rodney Hansen has resisted the temptation to let disgraced former MP Taito Phillip Field off with a slap on the wrist and sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment. …

As Justice Hansen said, he betrayed the trust placed in him as an MP and undermined the institutions it was his duty to uphold.

Jail time is warranted. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world in which political corruption is not endemic. By his actions, Field threatened to erode standards that have served New Zealand well.

The court’s sentencing notes are very interesting. The appropriate penalties for the crimes were deemed to be five years for the bribery and corruption and four years for perverting the course of justice.  This would be a total of nine years.

Justice Hansen said nine years would be excessive as the two categories of offending are closely linked, even though they are distinct. It is because they are distinct the two penalties are cumulative, not concurrent. He said that seven and a half years would be the appropriate sentence for the offending.

He then deducted a further 18 months off to take account of mitigating factors, so got to the final sentence of six years.

However, if Field has got his just deserts, others have got off lightly. Those others are the senior members of the Labour Party who ran interference for him for almost 18 months and who are now ducking for cover.

They won’t even say if they agree he broke the law.

Readers might remember that former prime minister Helen Clark was slow to act when questions were first asked about Field’s conduct, perhaps because the 2005 election was in the offing, and that when she did, she established an inquiry with narrow terms of reference and without the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Hence Field was able to claim he had been vindicated by an inquiry that found no evidence he had misused his position as minister for personal benefit.

And no other conclusion was possible given the terms of reference as he had no portfolio responsibilities in the area. The issue always was whether he had misused his position as an MP, not a Minister. The framing of the inquiry was designed to clear him.

Deputy prime minister Michael Cullen appeared to agree. Field’s “fundamental fault was to work too hard for the many, many hundreds of people who come to his electorate office on immigration matters”, he said.

And he said this after he had read the numerous abuses of office detailed in the Ingram Report.

What he overlooked, deliberately or otherwise, was the numerous questions the inquiry raised about Field’s conduct as an MP as opposed to his conduct as a minister.

And which Labour has never condemned. He used his loyal Thais as slave labour, and Labour has not a word of criticism. How sincere are the about the need to raise the minimum wage, when they defended their colleague who was found to be paying no wages at all!

Field’s sentencing closes a sorry chapter in politics. He has shamed himself, his family and the Samoan community, which was so proud when he was first elected to Parliament.

The blame lies not with the Samoan community, however, but with Field and the Labour Party, which, for political reasons, tried to shield him from scrutiny long after his position became untenable.

And we are still awaiting a clear statement from Labour that they agree Field was corrupt, let alone an apology for their defence of him. One can only conclude they do not think his behaviour was corrupt.

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