Sep 12, 2008

Enough Of This Nonesense

We repeat today's Editorial from the Dominion Post. Again we agree with every word.

On the 14th of December 2005, Auckland barrister Brian Henry sent a brief electronic message to expatriate businessman Owen Glenn that began: "Further to your discussion with my client at 1.30nzt I provide my bank details." Ironically, The Dominion Post says, it is that message from Winston Peters' "blood brother" that is casting the darkest cloud over the NZ First leader's political future.
Because at precisely 1.30pm New Zealand time, phone records supplied to Parliament's privileges committee by Mr Glenn show that he was engaged in a conversation with the NZ First leader. It is the conversation in which Mr Glenn says he offered to contribute $100,000 toward Mr Peters' legal costs.
What followed makes perfect sense if Mr Glenn's version of events is accepted. Mr Peters put down the phone, called his lawyer and Mr Henry e-mailed his account details to Mr Glenn so he could deposit the money in Mr Henry's account.
But Mr Henry insists that Mr Peters was not the "client" referred to in the e-mail and, therefore, Mr Peters should be taken at his word when he says he did not ask Mr Glenn for money.
Before Mr Glenn produced his phone records, that was an improbable, but conceivable, explanation of events.
It is no longer, unless Mr Henry expects the committee to believe that while talking to Mr Peters, Mr Glenn was also conducting another conversation with someone else who just happened to be making representations on Mr Peters' behalf without the MP's knowledge.
Prime Minister Helen Clark's course of action is now clear. Mr Henry has been invited to reappear before the privileges committee on Tuesday. When he does, he should bring with him two pieces of evidence. The first is telephone records showing when he first called Mr Glenn to ask him to contribute toward Mr Peters' legal costs, records which, if they exist, will disprove Mr Glenn's assertion that he has never spoken to Mr Peters' lawyer.
The second is the name of the "client" who advised him to approach Mr Glenn on Mr Peters' behalf.
If Mr Henry is unable, or unwilling, to provide either, the prime minister should sack Mr Peters from her ministry.
For too long, he has trifled with the truth and danced on the heads of legal pins. By doing so, he would like his supporters to believe he has simply been refusing to dance to the tune of petty bureaucrats and the news media.
But what he has, in fact, been doing is showing contempt for Parliament, the law and the public. Remember, it was an audience member who asked Mr Peters at a Grey Power meeting in July to explain why NZ First had not declared money received from the Spencer Trust, a shadowy legal entity administered by his brother Wayne.
Mr Peters replied that: "Everything that [NZ First] was required to do within the law has been done," has now been shown, by the party's own admission that it broke electoral law, to be false.
Miss Clark should call the election.
Not only will it give her the political benefit of diverting attention from Mr Peters' evasions, half-truths and falsehoods, it will give the public the opportunity to pass judgment on his shenanigans.