Saturday, 23 June 2018

Corruption and Incompetence

Dirty Smells

Incompetence and corruption are two unacceptable nasties which are beginning to show up on a regular basis in NZ politics.  The present government is in disarray as it scores own goals left, right, and centre.  

Kiwiblog has called attention to the most recent imbroglios on the part of the government.  The first is a straight out attempt to slide a clause into a piece of legislation which would have brought pecuniary advantage to just one individual company--which happened to be owned by a mate of cabinet minister, David Parker.
Matthew Hooton sums up well what the Government tried (but failed to do). They tried to have an exemption to their ban on overseas house buyers law for just one company. A company owned by a mate of David Parker, and whose interests were lobbied for by Jacinda Ardern’s former Acting Chief of Staff.

Matthew Hooton
on Wednesday
This scandal is far, far worse than the previous government's dealings with Warner Bros, Sky City or the Saudi sheik because - on the face of it - there doesn't appear to be any argument the public interest was involved.  It seems that an attempt was made to insert a clause into a government bill solely and specifically to favour a property development being led by a friend and business associate of the Economic Development Minister.
One of the lobbyists who successfully secu...
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There are questions about why Labour MPs on a Select Committee agreed to grant a special exemption from the overseas buyers' legislation for a lavish Northland beachfront property development where are valued at up to $4.5 million.

This should be, as Matthew says, a major news story. I hope National pursues this further as the conflicts of interest in this are huge, as well as the hypocrisy.  [Kiwiblog]
One troubling aspect to this deceptive act of corruption is that the Minister in question has form.

Here is a transcript from Parliament from 21st March, 2016:

Urgent Debates — David Parker—Resignation from Executive 

Madam SPEAKER: I have also received applications from the Leader of the Opposition and Rodney Hide to debate the resignation of David Parker. This is a particular case of recent occurrence involving ministerial responsibility, and I agree that it requires the immediate attention of the House. The application is therefore accepted. Dr Brash lodged this application first, so I call on him to move that the House take note of a matter of urgent public importance.
RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am interested that you say Dr Brash lodged his first. What time did he lodge his application with your office?
Madam SPEAKER: The member can come and look at it at the Table. As I recall, it was a day or so ago. I am quite happy for the member to come and look at the correspondence.
Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) : I move, That the House take note of a matter of urgent public importance. Yesterday David Parker resigned as Attorney-General, saying that he was ashamed that over each of the last several years he has lodged false documents with the Companies Office. This morning he resigned his other ministerial positions. I say at the outset that lodging false documents at the Companies Office does not make Mr Parker an unmitigated crook and it does not make him an inherently evil man. Although I do not want to impugn the integrity of anybody else in this House, let me be so bold as to suggest that there are one or two other people in this House, potentially on both sides of the House, who may have been inadvertently guilty of lodging a false document with the Companies Office—though, probably not for 8 or 9 years in a row—but for a lawyer to make a false statement is a serious matter. Lawyers are the professionals we depend on in our society to ensure the accuracy of the documents that they sign. They should not sign documents knowing them to be false under any circumstances. For the most senior law official in the land, the Attorney-General, to have done so not once but on several occasions, is a serious matter. Mr Parker was right to tender his resignation. I commend him for that. . . . 

DAVID PARKER (Labour) : I would like to explain to the House the circumstances surrounding my resignation. As I summarise it, the Investigate magazine article that came out yesterday effectively accused me of three things: firstly, that I swindled Mr Hyslop out of his money and caused his demise; secondly, that I attempted to bribe him; and, thirdly, that I filed inaccurate returns to the Companies Office. In terms of the first two allegations—that I swindled Mr Hyslop somehow and attempted to bribe him—I categorically reject those allegations and I will return to them. On the point of annual returns, that is different. I accept I have made a mistake and that is why I have resigned, and that is an issue I will return to as well.
In the early 1990s I retired from legal partnership to pursue business interests. I became involved in four ventures that involved Russell Hyslop, none of which succeeded. In relation to three of those ventures, I was left carrying the burden of sorting them out following Russell’s bankruptcy. I did so to the best of my ability. It took about 3 years. The outcomes were not what anyone desired, least of all me, but I made the best of what was a bad situation. I only just stayed afloat myself. Indeed, I contemplated taking the easy way out by voluntarily filing for bankruptcy myself and letting someone else sort out the mess.
I decided not to do that, and managed to avoid it at the suit of other people only by working very hard. I returned to work full time as a lawyer, while also attending to the resolution of the failed ventures. At the same time, I was involved in other ventures that were succeeding. I sold all but one of them, which at the time was not of great value. I ploughed all of my earnings into dealing with the consequences and keeping my head above water. I looked at selling my own house, but it was fully mortgaged to the bank and would not have released any money to creditors. ., . . 
In terms of the allegations of bribes, Mr Hyslop distorts what happened. I never offered a bribe. I did try to reach agreements with Mr Hyslop, and I give an example. One of the developments the company had was a subdivision of land in Dunedin. It was obvious to me, if not to Russell Hyslop, that he was insolvent and that in due course he would lose his house in terms of bankruptcy. I wanted to help his family by obtaining a section on to which he could have moved a house— from another property that the company owned—that was scheduled for demolition or removal. That could have been achieved legally and at comparatively low cost. That did not proceed. Indeed, the land was sold, as one lot prior to subdivision, to another developer with whom Mr Hyslop was involved. That relationship soured too, and Mr Hyslop and he are now embroiled in litigation. . . . 
In terms of the annual returns members might ask how this came to pass. It seems silly. Well, Mr Hyslop was a shareholder and director and he went bankrupt. The official assignee took no interest in Mr Hyslop’s shares in the company, because they were worthless. The affairs and conduct of the company were left to me. For the first 2 years I sent the relevant resolution to the official assignee before I filed the annual return. Yesterday, going from recollection, I said that I did that once. It now appears I did that twice. In subsequent years I cut a corner and I did not put the form to the official assignee. Why did I do that? Well, in my mind the official assignee, who stood in the shoes of the bankrupt, Mr Hyslop, had no interest in the company. I did not think about the issue clearly enough. If I had, the consequence I now face would have been easily avoided.  [Emphasis, ours]
Carelessness and shady practice are what stands out here.  A cynic would observe that it appears that David Parker is at it again.  Inserting special exemptions into legislation to favour the business interests of a mate appear at the very high end of corruption.

The second egregious failing is ongoing government incompetence in managing the business of the House of Representatives. 

Again, Kiwiblog exposes the shambles.  Readers can peruse David Farrar's account at leisure.  But one aspect stands out.  We have given Chris Hipkins, a very senior minister in the government, the moniker Hapless.  He seems to be an artful dodger, making mistakes at every turn, often (it would seem) in paroxysms of intemperate anger. 

But instead  moved an amendment:
That the motion be amended to delete all the words after “That” and replace them with “That it be an instruction to the committee that the remaining questions on the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill be put without further debate.

Yep the Leader of the House is trying to use the Government majority to remove the right of the Committee of the House to scrutinise and debate individual clauses and parts. That is almost unprecedented and outrageous. Basically and act of desperation as he has left things so late, he resorts to trying to stop the House scrutinise the legislation.
This is an attempted abuse of urgency far worse than probably any Government since Muldoon has done. And recall how Labour used to complain about just normal use of urgency. They are now trying to have a new form of urgency – one without debate.
This morning Hipkins withdrew his amendment as even the stupidest Minister must realise how awful this attempt to stop the Committee of the House scrutinising a bill looks. But it doesn’t change the fact he did try. Basically he lashed out under pressure and scored a huge own goal.
Incompetence can be best dealt with by sustained public mockery.  Corruption, where favours are secured for friends, is of another order entirely. 

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