Helen Clark’s startling admission Owen Glenn told her he’d made a donation to New Zealand First has prompted calls for her to give evidence to the privileges committee, but not all its members are sure that’s a good idea.
MPs crucial in deciding whether Prime Minister Helen Clark will be called to appear before Parliament’s privileges committee this week are not interested in a political side show, the Otago Daily Times was told yesterday.
Miss Clark did not go as far last night as ruling herself out of appearing before the powerful committee, but she raised doubts about her ability to add anything material to the investigation about a $100,000 donation to suspended Foreign Minister Winston Peters by expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn.
The donation “clearly occurred”, but whether it went into a lawyer’s fund for fees or whether it was a gift was not something she could shed light on.
Miss Clark also called into question the impartiality of the privileges committee, saying it was the first time in her 27 years in Parliament where an Opposition MP (Simon Power) chaired the committee and his leader, National Party leader John Key, was publicly drawing conclusions about what the outcome of the hearing should be and then acting on those conclusions.
National has five MPs on the committee and all of them would be expected to vote to call Miss Clark. Labour has four MPs and New Zealand First has one. They would be expected to vote against calling the Prime Minister.
That would leave National chasing two of the other three votes from Green co-leader Dr Russel Norman, United Future leader Peter Dunne and Maori Party MP Hone Harawira.
Political sources indicated that two of those MPs were unlikely to vote to call Miss Clark if it only meant National could conduct a political sideshow before Parliament rose for the year.
If the two MPs believed there was something of significance Miss Clark could add, they would vote for her to appear, but they would seek assurances from the chairman that the “narrow field of inquiry” would be adhered to.
“We want no chance for National to take pot shots,” a source said.
The committee is due to meet at 8am on Thursday.
Parliament is due to go into urgency today, raising questions about whether the committee will have time to meet. Without another meeting, the inquiry would die before the election.
Committee members could be granted leave to attend the committee while the house was in urgency, or there was some time available on Thursday night. However, that was also a “very political” decision.
National Party leader John Key said the committee should call Miss Clark and that the Prime Minister had a duty to appear.
She also had a duty to do a whole lot more about her knowledge of the Glenn donation a whole lot earlier but she didn’t.