What’s to apologise for?

Memo to Editor of NZ Herald: You can’t say “gotcha” when you haven’t. Winston Peters is slippery as a mud-wrestling weasel, and seems cleverer than you right now. Stop digging until you’ve actually got the bastard.

It was bad enough that the Herald’s Friday report on Owen Glenn’s donation to cover Winston Peters’ legal expenses was so concerned with “we wuz right” gloating that it glossed over crucial facts. Now we have a self-serving Herald editorial that calls on Peters to “stop digging” and apologise, especially to the Herald.

But, once again, the Herald glosses over the important details (just as it ignored its own culpability in the disclosure of inmates’ personal details in another report on Saturday).

Let’s see what Audrey Young wrote originally:

“Controversy over secret political funding is likely to be reignited by private emails that suggest Labour’s biggest donor also gave money to NZ First.

“The emails suggest repeated denials by Foreign Minister Winston Peters that his New Zealand First Party received a donation from businessman Owen Glenn appear to be incorrect.” (Emphasis added)

Note that she talks of a donation from Owen Glenn to NZ First. The problem is that the one thing that we know for sure — listening Herald? — is that Owen Glenn did not give any money to NZ First. He gave it to Winston Peters’ lawyer. Which is not the same thing at all, never mind even that Owen Glenn thought that he was donating to NZ First.

The Herald plays a very strange little game today. They write, “But we have been surprised at his behaviour since he was forced on Friday to concede Audrey Young’s disclosures are true.” They’re wrong. He wasn’t forced to concede that “Audrey Young’s disclosures are true”, because they’re not, as we’ve just demonstrated.

At least, they say, that’s what he should have done. Only then do they acknowledge that there is something more to the story, but they dismiss this as “wriggle room in semantics.” Maybe, but trying to buttress its case by discussing what Owen Glenn thought that he was doing is pretty weak stuff on the Herald’s part. I’m starting to think that the Herald and Peters deserve each other.

Not that Winston Peters’ arguments stand much scrutiny either. He maintains that, “A donation was made to a legal case which is a massive difference … ” and “[Glenn] made a donation to a legal action…”

Not so fast Winston. You can’t donate anything to “a legal case” because it’s not a legal entity. We still need to find out whose account the money went into, and whether the subsequent donation of the residue should have been declared in Peters’ annual returns of his pecuniary interests as an MP, or NZ First’s return of donations (see “enough wiggle room?” post below.)

[Update: On a saner note, John Armstrong opines that Peters’ bombast and aggressiveness may be counterproductive, at last. Hope so, but we’ve yet to see solid evidence of this.]

[Update 2: It occurred to me, given the strange tone of the Herald’s editorial, that Fran O’Sullivan might have authored it (see “News from the Weird” post below). So I popped over to the O’Sullivan echo chamber a.k.a. The Hive, and sure enough, they can’t agree enough with the Herald. Weirdly, they also think that PM Clark would be in “deep doo doo land” for saying it “appears” that Peters has broken no rules should a breach be proven. Sorry, but what is it about the word “appears” that you find so difficult to understand QB? Should a breach be proven, then this just demonstrates that appearances can be misleading.]

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5 Responses to “What’s to apologise for?”

  1. Inventory2 Says:

    As I’m sure you’re aware JP, the Tauranga electoral petition was between Winston Raymond PETERS (Petitioner) and Robert Moncrieff CLARKSON (Respondent).

    From my limited legal knowledge, costs of a legal dispute are the reponsibility of the individual. Therefore, if Owen Glenn made a donation of $100k to Winston Peters’s legal fund, he actually made a donation to Winston Raymond Peters. Peters, and Peters alone benefitted from the donation. That would also suggest that if Peters hasn’t filed a return of ALL donations to the legal fund (said to be in the order of $200k), he is in some strife.

  2. jafapete Says:

    Yes I2, Peters as an individual was responsible for any costs of his action.

    It doesn’t necessarily follow that Glenn therefore made a donation to Peters as far as I can see. I’m not a lawyer either, but if Peters owed the lawyer, and the money was given to the lawyer who used it to reduce the amount Peters owed, it need not have been given to Peters, even though it benefitted him. But, as I stress above, there are questions about whether the intitial donation should have been declared, and whether the subsequent donation should have been declared, by Peters and the Party respectively. But the answers depend on information that we don’t have.

  3. adamsmith1922 Says:

    Whether he gave to the lawyer or Peters is to my mind irrelevant in the context of transparency.

    Peters campaigns on a platform of moral rectitude, plainly not the case here.

    He was for the EFA on the grounds of transparency.

    If he had won the election action his position would have been improved as would that of NZ First so to that extent one could argue that NZ First had an interest in the ‘donation’.

    Peters arguments over the money not going to him are very much like his arguments over repaying the $158,000.

    Basically, Peters seeks to ignore the morality and ethics of the issue and behave as if he is above the law.

    I do not care whether he is NZ First, National, Green or Labour quite frankly that is not acceptable.

    Any politician who condones Peters actions in this regard is to some extent tainted by association.

    Further, if he gets away with his jesuitical construction then it will be wrong. Further it will expose the appalling mess that our electoral finance laws remain in.

    Whilst I have no regard for Helen Clark, I am surprised at her ongoing public support for Peters, I should have thought she should just say ‘no comment’ on the matter.

    My wife heard Peters lawyer interviewed on Morning Report and thought he was not very credible.

    At the end of the day the issue is not to some extent the legality, but whether public opinion will accept his protestations and if they do, it will further encourage Peters to bluster, bully and pander to much of the lower common denominator in the national psyche with his increasingly crude populism and xenophobic, racist hyperbole.

    I do not think it very difficult to compare Peters with Oswald Mosley, both gifted, both once seen as leaders, both leaders of cults, both personally charming and both incapable of seeing the error of their ways.

  4. Inventory2 Says:

    I take your point JP, but surely, it is the INTENT of the donation, and not the physical place where it goes which is pivotal here. Peters had a personal liability for the legal costs of Peters v Clarkson, which included costs of $40,000 being awarded against him by the learned Justices. Glenn paid the money to Henry or to some other solicitor in consideration of that debt. Glenn’s donation reduced Peters’s debt to Henry and to Clarkson. Therefore Peters directly benefitted from it, even though the money never physically passed through his hands.

  5. barnsleybill Says:

    Events have overtaken this post JP. I would be interested in your take on today’s revelations. The byzantine complexities of the finances of Winnie and his party seem to have fused into a big unfathomable mess.
    The Vela link really stinks when you look at the racing cash in this years budget. parliamentary services have some questions to answer and I would pay to get Glenn in front of a mike right now.
    I would not be shocked if he announced that he will not be standing in Tauranga and will instead be retiring.

    Bill, Good point at the end there. I wouldn’t bet against you.

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