Aug 25, 2008

What Has Happened To Principle In Our Parliament?

Excellent Editorial in today's Dominion Post. We agree with aall the words we are about to quote:

Others, such as ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and perhaps Greens co-leader Russel Norman, will try again to land a mortal blow on a merely injured NZ First Party leader Winston Peters. When the House last sat, he promised to answer questions about his party's funding, a promise he chose not to keep. In the meantime, he and lawyer Brian Henry have appeared before a privileges committee inquiry into a $100,000 donation from expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn toward Mr Peters' legal bills after the 2005 election and whether the MP should have declared it in the register of members' pecuniary interests.
The committee got no answers, either; Mr Peters and Mr Henry managed merely to muddy the waters further, though they did reveal their "blood brother" relationship - one that sees the lawyer render no bills to his client and pay bills on Mr Peters' behalf, which Mr Peters belatedly remembers he repaid.
Senior Auckland lawyers say the Law Society might well be interested in the revelations, with one QC calling the situation "extremely unorthodox".
If wimps on the privileges committee will not hold Mr Peters to account, maybe the Law Society or Serious Fraud Office will. Mr Glenn, and another donor, Sir Robert Jones, have already been in touch with the SFO, soon to be become part of the police. Given that it is perceived as too close to this Government, however, voters might have to rely on the independent auditor-general to unravel this mess.
But Mr Peters doesn't care. Last week he fulminated at the media, as usual; dumped on his colleagues, as usual; and played the victim before his dotty followers, as usual. He seems to have total faith that those who vote for him will do so again. He might be right. He is a magnet for conspiracy theorists and inhabitants of rest homes for the sadly bewildered, who might yet return him to Parliament.
That is precisely why, of course, National and Labour MPs on the privileges committee are pulling their punches. They fear they will need him after election night.
How craven. Whatever public respect politics as a profession has left is further dwindling because of the refusal of senior MPs to criticise the political show pony's inability to tell the same story twice and unwillingness to meet the standards he insists others attain.
Party leaders might be surprised at the kudos they would attract if they mutually agreed neither party would treat with him after this year's election.
That would be a stand of principle. But "principle" is a foreign word to most MPs, including Mr Peters. Mr Hide is fighting a lonely but dogged battle to make the NZ First leader accountable, and that is a disgrace.