The letters to the privileges committee from Owen Glenn and Winston Peters tell two different stories. Which one will Helen Clark believe?
Tracy Watkins points out that Peters’ future is in her hands:
The question now is whether Clark will cut her foreign affairs minister loose – or delay till the privileges committee issues its findings. But on the face of Glenn’s testimony she has little room to manoeuvre; her foreign affairs minister’s version of events surrounding the soliciting of money from a man who is also known to have expressed an interest in the position as New Zealand’s honorary consul to Monaco, differs greatly – and puts Peters job squarely on the line.
It is an allegation that goes to the heart of his credibility. Clark would seem to have little choice but to suspend Peters till the matters are cleared up, one way or another. She has suspended other ministers for less.
Peters has always said that Glenn donated $100,000 to his legal fund after being approached by his lawyer, Brian Henry. He says he knew nothing about this donation till Henry informed him in July.
This is what Glenn says:
“The payment was made by me to assist funding the legal costs incurred personally by Rt Hon Winston Peters MP concerning his election petition dispute, at his request. Mr Peters sought help from me for this purpose in a personal conversation, some time after I had first met him in Sydney.
“I do not know Mr Henry. I do not believe that we have met. I do not recall that I, or my assistants, had any discussion or communication with Mr Henry other than to receive remittance details.”
This is what Mr Peters says in relation to Glenn’s statement that the donation was made at his request.
“[This] is not factual and does not coincide with my recollections. I believe that I met Mr Glenn many years ago and on the weekend of 13 August, well before the 2005 election, in Sydney, Bledisloe Cup weekend which is the only time I met him in Australia. ”
Only one of them can be telling the truth.
Karl du Fresne has some advice for the privileges committee:
They can start by asking a simple question: who has more to lose by telling the truth? Or perhaps I should turn that around and ask: who has more to gain by not being truthful? On the face of it, Glenn has nothing to gain by deceiving the committee. On the other hand, Peters is fighting for his life politically.
He also notes:
A disturbing sub-plot in the controversy is that the New Zealand First caucus meets today to decide whether to support Labour’s carbon emissions trading regime. This decision will have profound long-term economic consequences for New Zealand, and it calls for the most cautious and thoughtful deliberation. What chance of that when the embattled party leader and his increasingly insecure MPs have their minds on the much more immediate issue of their political survival?
The full text of the letters from Glenn and Peters follows the break.
Owen Glenn’s letter to the Privileges Committee
Mr Simon Power MP
House of Representatives
19 August 2008
RE: Complaint concerning my donation to Rt Hon Winston Peters MP
Dear Mr Power,
I refer to your letter of 19 August 2008 concerning what I understand originated as a complaint made by Mr Rodney Hide MP. I do not know Mr Hide. I have not had any communication with him.
I am happy to cooperate with you about the $100,000 payment that I instructed to be made on or about 20 December 2005, which I believe was to the practice account of Mr BP Henry, an Auckland barrister, detailed below.
I wish to make no comment on any of the seven matters listed in the bullet points in your letter. I can provide a statement of the facts concerning the payment. I do not wish this letter to be treated as being private or secret. The facts of the matter are simple. I am happy for them to be public information.
The payment was made by me to assist funding the legal costs incurred personally by Rt Hon Winston Peters MP concerning his election petition dispute, at his request. Mr Peters sought help from me for this purpose in a personal conversation, some time after I had first met him in Sydney. I agreed to help in the belief that this step would also assist the Labour Party, in its relationship with Mr Peters. I supported the Labour Party.
I have never made any donation to the New Zealand First Party. I declined an earlier request to do so.
I understand that Mr Henry is Mr Peters’ lawyer. I do not know Mr Henry. I do not believe that we have met. I do not recall that I, or my assistants, had any discussion or communication with Mr Henry other than to receive remittance details. I expected to receive those details, following my agreement to assist Mr Peters meet his legal costs. My office was given bank account details for payment ASB #123030 Acc# 0678019-50 BP Henry Practice Account, Remuera Branch. The payment instruction on my Westpac account was given accordingly, on my authority.
Mr Peters subsequently met me socially at the Karaka yearling sales, I believe in early 2006. He thanked me for my assistance.
I also consider it prudent that I take legal advice in New Zealand. I have requested a Wellington barrister Dr GJ Harley to assist me with your enquiry and with any other that my follow. If there are any other particular matters that you would like me to address, please let me know what they are.
Because I travel frequently, email communication is the most convenient and effective for me. I am happy to answer any further questions in correspondence.
Owen G. Glenn
Winston Peters’ letter to the Privileges Committee
26 August 2008
Mr Simon Power MP
Dear Mr Power
I refer to Mr Owen Glenn’s letter 19 August 2008.
I have not spoken to Mr Glenn since the New Zealand Herald article of 12 July earlier this year.
Addressing Mr Glenn’s letter and in the less than 24 hours I and my staff have had to check the facts I can advise as follows:
Paras 1-3 require no response save the date 20 December 2005 in para 2 should, from Mr Henry’s evidence, read 22 December.
Para 4, line 2 “at his request” is not factual and does not coincide with my recollections. I believe that I met Mr Glenn many years ago and on the weekend of 13 August, well before the 2005 election, in Sydney, Bledisloe Cup weekend which is the only time I met him in Australia. The “personal conversation” I believe relates to his conversation with Mr Henry, and the “Labour Party, in relationship with Mr Peters”, seems odd now because months before December 2005 New Zealand First had entered a confidence and supply agreement with Labour on 17 October 2005.
Para 5, I have no knowledge of where and by whom any donation to New Zealand First was requested. I note Mr Glenn does not say I made it, or any donation was made, which is the substance of the New Zealand Herald 12 July allegation. Reported email in the New Zealand Herald, in fact contradicts his comment in his letter before you about donating to New Zealand First.
Para 6, for obvious reasons I cannot be of help here, not being part of the discussion or communication between Mr Henry or Mr Glenn.
Para 7 relating to the Karaka Sales 2006 appears to be a year out. I recall that in 2007 (and my diary confirms this) Mr Glenn and two others joined the table in which I and a friend shared a sit down lunch with about 8 leading names in the horse racing fraternity.
In my evidence to the committee and in my press statement of 18 July I did not thank him until my lawyer advised me on 18 July 2008.
My press statement of 18 July refers to my public appreciation of his help.
Rt Hon Winston Peters
Leader New Zealand First.