The Herald reports:
Labour Leader Andrew Little says he alerted the Prime Minister’s office about allegations concerning Mike Sabin in late November.
Mr Little said he first heard about Mr Sabin’s personal matters soon after he became Labour leader on November 18.
“My office received two pieces of information, independently of each other, that a National MP was under investigation.”
He said that he made the decision to notify the Prime Minister’s office and this chief of staff did so at the end of November.
He said he was confident he had a note on file showing his chief of staff had contacted the Prime Minister’s office by November 28.
Mr Little: “My concern is that if the Prime Minister was aware of information that meant that Mike Sabin – being the chair of the law and order select committee – was compromised, then he should have acted as soon as it was apparent that there was that conflict of interest.”
But Prime Minister John Key said Mr Little was mistaken and that Mr Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, had contacted his chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, about it on December 3 – although Mr Eagleson knew already.
Mr Key said he himself had found out on December 1.
“We’ve never denied that my chief of staff knew in late November. I was told in very early December.”
All dates were well after the September 20 election in which Mr Sabin was returned as MP for Northland and after Mr Sabin had been appointed chairman of the law and order select committee on October 22.
They’re quibbling over whether it was 28 November or 1 December or a few days after that. It doesn’t matter.
They key issue is whether it was known when he was nominated as Chair of the Law & Order Select Cmte. And even if you accept Little and McCarten’s dates, it was five weeks after that.
And that is no surprise. There is no way they would have nominated him for Chair if they had known. You’d be idiotic to do so. There were many other MPs who could have taken that role.
Mr Key said yesterday he may have stood Mr Sabin down in early December if he had been a minister but at that point did not believe it was necessary for Mr Sabin to be removed as a select committee chair.
“The reason I didn’t was because I thought on balance, given the information I had at that time, the course of action I took which was to let things ride and see how they progressed was about the right course of action. If he was a minister I probably would have taken the step of standing someone down, but as a select committee chair, I don’t think so.”
Especially as the select committees basically don’t meet in December and January. He found out in December, let the Police investigation take its course, and when it reached a certain stage, Sabin resigned – as is appropriate.
Mr Key said it would have been “useful” if Mr Sabin had told the party about the personal matter earlier “but he didn’t and we didn’t know about it.”