The Southland Times might have its tongue in its cheek but it makes some very good points:
The length and breadth of the country, lawyers must be explaining to their stony clients why they don’t have the same relationship Winston Peters has with his “blood brother” Brian Henry, QC, writes The Southland Time in an editorial.
In either case, no bill is presented to his client, so it’s not his debt.
Outstanding. Mateship at its finest. And it works particularly well when there isn’t any impertinent suggestion of the public having any legitimate interest in this.
Mr Peters’ relationship with Mr Henry was presented to Parliament’s privileges committee as one that removes the NZ First leader from expectations of accountability.
He has been hauled before it to answer allegations that he broke the rules that require MPs to disclose debts and gifts. The explanation goes that he didn’t ask about, wasn’t told about, and therefore could hardly expected to know about, let alone declare, the likes of the $100,000 that expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn seems to think he donated to NZ First.
And if Mr Glenn is confused on that point, well then whomsoever’s problem that is, it shouldn’t be Mr Peters. Apparently.
Even if it transpires he’s off the hook legally, Mr Peters is unlikely to be able to keep enjoying this state of blissful ignorance — a political nirvana if ever there was.
Behind the circumlocution, New Zealanders will have little difficulty recognising a dodgy practice.
At very least, this matey relationship inappropriately removed Mr Peters from a loop that, for accountability’s sake, he should have been in.
Mr Peters’ defence is akin to a child insisting he hadn’t heard what his parents said, but only because he’d stuck his fingers in his ears and gone “la-la-la-la-la!” to avoid hearing it.
He didn’t know anything about any donations? Okay, but he surely knew about there being some sort of system in place to explain the fact that he never had a bill.
Not even Mr Peters’ fiercest foes would deny his intelligence.
And you don’t need much of that to know that when you’re engaged in serious legal action, serious bills are mounting up somewhere. If these aren’t coming anywhere near you, then a degree of curiosity about what happens to them is not just appropriate, it’s politically necessary.
Peters now says he’s in the clear because he paid the money back. I’d want to see the paper trail before I’d accept that and even it if does prove he’s right there are a lot more questions yet to be answered.