Labour beware? | The Jackal

7 Jun 2013

Labour beware?

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Here is some free advice for Labour. Leave the persecution of Peter Dunne to Winston Peters to handle.

The hounding of United Future's sole MP is fast resembling an old-fashioned witch-hunt.

A witch-hunt? Clearly John Armstrong has lost the plot. The issue here is that Peter Dunne continuing to receive public money for a deregistered political party is bringing the House into disrepute. Any MP who actually has morals should be outraged!

There is no reasonable excuse for flouting the rules and allowing Dunne to keep receiving $122,000 per year of taxpayers money he's no longer entitled to.

But instead of criticizing David Carter for his entirely unacceptable decision, Armstrong is focusing attention on the response to the Speakers stupidity... Talk about biased journalism.

The rationale for Peters' pursuit of Dunne is obvious - the weakening of National's grip on power by forcing out the MP whose vote gives National a majority without having to rely on the Maori Party.

Of course there are politics being played here, but it's not the only reason for Winston Peters pursuing Dunne about the leaked Kitteridge report (PDF) and being outraged about the Speakers cronyism. I believe the overriding motivation here is that Winston Peters is an old school politician who believes in accountability.

Holding officials to account is an important function and in my opinion, parliament is in need of more watchdogs that will stand up for what's right. The reason Dunne looks so worried is because Winston won't let this matter rest, nor should he.

But the means are beginning to sully the ends. Yesterday's chaotic scenes in Parliament - which included Trevor Mallard's walkout along with the subsequent exit in similar protest of NZ First's full complement of MPs - was the result of fury with Speaker David Carter's decision to allow Dunne to keep the extra taxpayer-provided funding that he gets as the leader of a parliamentary party even though that party currently does not have the requisite 500 fully paid-up members needed to qualify.

The boycotting of parliament is an effective way to get the story some attention... Otherwise the mainstream media would likely disregard reporting such events and the public would be none the wiser about corruption at the highest levels.

Strangely, Armstrong seems to be tolerating the corruption while also recognising that it's wrong.

Sure, Carter might have got it wrong in allowing Dunne to keep the money. Equally, the Speaker might be seen as only being fair in giving Dunne a "reasonable opportunity" to put the matter right. Whatever, it all fails to add up to the sort of constitutional outrage which supposedly justified senior Labour MPs shouting "corruption".

I very much doubt there would be an equal amount of public opinion in favour of the Speaker giving Dunne an opportunity to sort his affairs out. Most reasonable minded New Zealanders would be just as aghast at David Carters' corrupt decision as the opposition if they were aware of the rules.

The Speaker is clearly ignoring Standing Orders, which state:

Every political party registered under Part 4 of the Electoral Act 1993, and in whose interest a member was elected at the preceding general election or at any subsequent by-election, is entitled to be recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes.

United Future is no longer a registered political party under Part 4 of the Electoral Act (PDF), and therefore Dunne is not entitled to continue receiving the extra $122,000 in funding per year. There is no grace period under the law between being deregistered and losing the perks.

Obviously Dunne should also lose some of his speaking rights in Parliament and membership on certain committees, which being a leader previously granted him. Anything less is a travesty.

But instead of recognising that this is the main issue, Armstrong is clasping straws:

The net result is that Labour looks like it is very much party to Peters' campaign to force Dunne out.

I really don't see a problem with Labour and NZ First agreeing on this matter... Besides, Dunne can remain in parliament as an independent. However if it's found that he leaked the Kitteridge report, the bouffant should go.

There should be no place in the House of Representatives for politicians who actively flout the rules and are only there to feather their own nest. Thankfully Armstrong seems to agree with this point of view.

Peters has already done enough to put Dunne's standing as an MP in question if the inquiry being conducted by former senior public servant David Henry finds that Dunne was the likely source of the leak of the highly sensitive Kitteridge report on the Government Communication Security Bureau to the media.

In my opinion, there's no harm to Peters' credibility in keeping these issues the focus of attention. What is apparent though is that Armstrong simply doesn't like the NZ First leader for some reason and is letting his blinkered opinion in this instance impede his journalism.

There is another telling reason for Labour to keep its distance from Peters. Would Labour be complaining about the Speaker's ruling were the political boot on the other foot and Labour needed Dunne's support?

Of course not. The public can spot such hypocrisy from miles away. And it does not like it.

Clearly Armstrong doesn't have a firm grip on public opinion and is simply making shit up. The boot would simply not be on the other foot, because any speaker from the opposition's ranks would never make such an obviously incorrect and corrupt decision.