Monday, 25 November 2019

"I See No Evil; I Hear No Evil"

Jacinda Ardern Faces Litmus Test Over Winston Peters

Political donations appear to have been hidden inside a secret slush fund controlled by a coterie of Winston Peters' trusted advisers.

Duncan Garner

. . . The questions surrounding Winston Peters and NZ First will force the prime minister to make a call on whether they've breached electoral law. And that could lead to an early elections, says Duncan Garner.

In 2008 it was a donations scandal that rocked Peters and, by association, Helen Clark. I was there. It was disastrous.  Clark tried to wash her hands of it, claiming she had no ties to Peters, but he provided her with the numbers to be the PM, and Clark and Labour were dragged down daily by the constant leaks and information that challenged Peters and his ability to tell the truth.

Truth is Labour suffered by association after Peters denied receiving a $100,000 donation from the expat Kiwi transport and logistics billionaire Owen Glenn.  Peters said, at the time, the $100,000 was given to his lawyer, Brian Henry, to cover legal fees. He said Henry did not tell him about it, and that it did not need to be declared.

Henry told Parliament's privilege committee that the money was paid directly to cover a legal debt, and did not need to be declared. During a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the same donation controversy, Henry also gave evidence.  Glenn contradicted Peters' statement, testifying before Parliament's privileges committee at the time that Peters had solicited the donation and that he knew about it.

And here we go again.
Jacinda Ardern must stand ready to look at all possibilities, and I don't rule out an early election should Peters and his party fail the truth test with the Electoral Commission.

I hope they have the nuts to be brave and courageous in their investigation of Peters and his murky party structure and this foundation that sought and funnelled funds to somewhere.   Jacinda Ardern can't turn her back on Peters and say "Nothing to do with me", says Garner. It has everything to do with her, as she's only there because Peters chose her.

Maybe it was the party funding machine, but is that still OK? National says no way.  Remember, Labour made itself the electoral finance moral guardian by passing new laws a decade ago, so standing idly by now is far from acceptable or consistent. It is politically convenient to look the other way and say Peters is within the spirit of the law, but that's code for it's also outside the law.

Ardern and her inexperienced government already face enough challenges without this distraction. But she can't run or hide, and her links to Peters go beyond politics. She owes him one.  She will be forced to make a call whether Peters has breached the law and, even if he hasn't, the fine print matters on what the experts say.

But for Ardern to stand aside and say "Nothing to do with me" is farcical, and we aren't that stupid. It has everything to do with her, as she's only there because Peters chose her.  She will feel a sense of loyalty, and back him by saying nothing. But silence isn't good enough, and neither are weak weasel words.


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