Aug 6, 2008

Tell The Truth, Mr Peters

Today's Dominion Post Editorial repeated in full

For more than a fortnight, NZ First leader Winston Peters has refused to answer legitimate questions about how his political party is funded, The Dominion Post writes.
He has threatened The Dominion Post, its editor and investigative reporter and in typical fashion sees questioning of the inconsistency between his public stance and his private actions as part of a plot to bring down him and the Government.
But instead of clearing up the issues swirling around him - more serious than those for which Prime Minister Helen Clark sacked another minister - he has, again in typical fashion, threatened the newspaper with legal action and resorted bizarrely to Alice in Wonderland fantasies. We will not be intimidated.
Mr Peters steadfastly refuses to explain how the party is funded - a fair question since it became known some wealthy Kiwis have donated undeclared money to it; the existence of the "Spencer Trust", administered by a brother; and whether the party is hypocritical in accepting money from big business while railing against the practice by others.
Let us spell out some facts Mr Peters inexplicably cannot grasp. The pressure will not cease till he answers key questions about the existence and purpose of the Spencer Trust, a vehicle apparently used to pay some party bills, and why substantial donations to him and/or his party have not been declared as the law demands, especially since he apparently keeps assuring the prime minister he has done nothing illegal.
Mr Peters' and NZ First's ethics and honesty lie at the heart of this unsavoury mat ter. At the very least, he, his MPs and the party are guilty of gross hypocrisy. Official scrutiny might reveal if they are guilty of worse. ACT leader Rodney Hide has sought to involve the Serious Fraud Office and wanted Parliament's privileges committee to hold an inquiry; the Speaker has agreed. Donor Sir Robert Jones says that if he does not get a straight answer about his $25,000 donation, he will involve police.
The childish game Mr Peters insists on playing at present means it is hard to conclude other than that he is a liar and that his actions or those of his party verge on the corrupt.
Today's revelations only aggravate perceptions about Mr Peters' integrity.
But Miss Clark and National leader John Key are also tainted by their refusal to denounce his behaviour and his obfuscation, though their reasons for soft-pedalling are transparent - voters might yet return him to Parliament as a needed coalition partner, and they, too, are funded by secret trusts, though both at least declare the fact. Only ACT and the Greens deserve credit for their obvious distaste for what is poisoning New Zealand politics.
The serious mess in which Mr Peters has embroiled himself this time will dog him till the election, only three months away. So it should.
He can, of course, change that - he could clear the air and tell the truth. We again invite him to do just that. If he opts to do otherwise, the moniker "slippery", which Miss Clark has tried in vain to pin on Mr Key, will properly apply to the leader of a party on which she relies to keep her Government in office. It is an appalling look.