Trainer heard Peters thank Glenn


The Herald reports that horse trainer Paul Moroney has backed up Owen Glenn’s version of his part in the New Zealand First donations debacle.

Mr Moroney said in an affidavit to Parliament’s Privileges Committee today that he was at a lunch at Karaka in 2006 at which Winston Peters thanked Mr Glenn for his help.

Mr Glenn has also produced a phone record from 14 December 2005 showing that he called Mr Peters’ mobile, a conversation that Mr Glenn says was to “inform him that I agreed to contribute”.

He also said he had consulted with Labour Party president Mike Williams before contributing so to make sure it would not be seen by Labour as “being unhelpful to its own interests”.

Mr Moroney in his affidavit said that on 31 January 2006 he was at the lunch at Karaka with Mr Glenn and Mr Peters.

He stated: “During the luncheon discussion, part of the conversation between Mr Peters and Mr Glenn involved Mr Peters thanking Mr Glenn for his help to him.

“Mr Glenn had told me before the lunch that he was meeting Mr Peters over the lunch, because he had made a donation to assist Mr Peters fund his legal expenses concerning the Tauranga election result. I recall Mr Glenn telling me that Mr Peters had contacted him to ask for his help with this.”

The committee is yet to hear Peters’ response and regardless of what they find the court of public opinion might be more interested in what Glenn said before he appeared:

Mr Glenn earlier today indicated he was offended by the way he had been treated by Mr Peters and Prime Minister Helen Clark, who he told of the donation in February. Helen Clark did not reveal she was told until recently, instead saying she took Mr Peters at his word that he had not been given a donation.

Asked if he was offended, Mr Glenn said “well, wouldn’t you be?”

He said he was keen to clear the air, but had a “clear conscience” over his role in giving the donation, and it was up to Mr Peters to deal with the legalities of it as the recipient.

“I’m not responsible for [Mr Peters.] I did what I did and I’ve got a clear conscience. I didn’t even know what the rules of engagement were for receiving donations.”

Mr Glenn has previously donated to the Labour Party, including $500,000 in 2005 and an interest-free loan of $100,000 subsequently.

He would not rule out donating to political parties again, but indicated a change in the personalities involved would be required.

“One thing about politicians – they come and go.”

He said he was saddened it had come to a question of his honesty, saying it was “like a school yard squabble.”

“I would have thought our MPs would behave in a better manner all round. They should be running the country. I think New Zealanders have a right to be better represented.”

That’s a very sad indictment on everyone involved in the whole debacle.

[Update: Tim Donoghue from the Dominion Post covers Glenn’s evidence here.

Glenn confirms Peters solicited donation


Barry Soper has just told Larry Williams that Owen Glenn confirmed his previous letters to the pirvileges committee: Winston Peters asked him for a donation and he would not have given it had the request not come from Peters personally.

Glenn also said that he’d checked with Labour Party president Mike Williams before agreeing to the donation.

That definitely conflicts with Peters’ version of events.

Electoral panel cover for Labour agenda


The electoral panel Labour appointed last week and the consultation process it is to oversee looks like it is open and transparent but it is merely cover for its long held and self-interested agenda to introduce public funding for political parties.

John Armstrong says that while Labour has made no secret of its desire for the tax payer to fund political parties it is also aware it would suffer a public backlash if it tried to introduce it.

Finally, it has put its foot in the water, carefully making any introduction subject first to a major and (for New Zealand) unique public consultation exercise.

On the face of it, Labour would seem to deserve a small bouquet for this exercise. A panel of experts comprised of an electoral law specialist and two political scientists will report back to Parliament after a 70-strong representative “citizens’ forum” – the selection method has still to be worked out – has discussed possible options for changing existing ways of funding parties, including state funding.

But Labour is basically doing it this way to cover itself and therefore more out of political necessity than out of any generosity to critics of state funding. Labour also deserves a large brickbat. As it did in formulating the Electoral Finance Act, it has shut other political parties – principally National – out of the process by which it decided to set up the public consultation exercise.

Not a pretty picture is it? Acting out of political necessity, from self interest and without consultation.

National is miffed that Labour is getting away with giving the appearance of consultation while having again broken the convention that there be multi-party consensus on changes to electoral practises and electoral law.

That convention has been breached by National in the past. But that is no excuse for Labour continuing to do the same thing.

Changes to electoral practices and electoral law should have the widest possible buy-in from political parties in Parliament. Consensus is important both to buttress the credibility of the electoral system against undue criticism and to avoid constant chopping and changing to parts of it.

Constitutional matters are too important to be captured by party political interests. Stability and contancy require cross party and public support.

National argues financially-stretched Labour, in getting state funding on to the agenda, is simply putting its self-interest ahead of the public interest. More so because the panel’s review will not include existing taxpayer funding that parties get for their MPs through Parliamentary Services.

Labour, however, is punting that once state funding is in place, it will be difficult for National to dump it because it too will be a big beneficiary of the taxpayer-funded largesse.

All the more reason for National to stick to its principles and oppose state funding to ensure it isn’t introduced.

Friday’s announcement establishing the panel of experts shows some political cunning from Labour.

National might want to make state funding an election issue, but Labour will urge that such a recommendation will be for the panel to make.

That will be lost on many voters. It will be much easier for National to sell its opposition to state funding than for Labour to explain it’s leaving it to yet another committee.

National counters such a recommendation for state funding is likely because the chairman, Otago University’s Andrew Geddis, has previously expressed enthusiasm for the idea. That is a warning shot across Geddis’s bows that National will be watching the panel’s work closely.

Labour has also been clever in making the panel produce its final report by the end of October next year.

That not only helps take the issue out of the coming election campaign. It will make it easier to legislate the necessary law change introducing state funding in time for the 2011 election – presuming Labour is still in a position to do so.

National has everything to gain by making sure it is an election issue because it can argue that a vote for Labour is a vote for tax payer funding of political parties.

ETS high cost no benefit


Brian Fallow’s column in this morning’s Herald points out the uncertainties over the cost of carbon.

The price the Government is assuming for the purpose of reporting its liability under the Kyoto Protocol in the Crown accounts is €11 ($23) a tonne.

But the high-quality, low-risk units New Zealand companies with obligations under the scheme are expected to favour are trading for €20.

And is the money being paid for this hot air going into research or developments which will improve the environment? No, and it might even make it worse:

It would be a perverse outcome for the global climate if growth of the pastoral farming sector in New Zealand were hobbled by climate change policy here, only for the demand for dairy products and meat it might have satisfied to be met instead by production elsewhere in the world whose carbon hoof-print (emissions per litre of milk or kilogram of meat) is greater.

Agriculture isn’t the only area where exporting emissions is likely and that’s because of a basic flaw in the Kyoto protocol. It takes a country by country approach to a global problem which means carbon emissions might be reduced in one place but increased elsewhere by moving production.

We pay the economic and social cost and the whole world pays the environmental cost because the ETS will add to the costs of production, transport and consumption but won’t reduce emissions.

It’s an expensive feel-good achieve-nothing fraud.

And today’s excuse is…


Inventory 2 has a guessing game over at Keeping Stock where he’s asking for suggestions for the diversionary tactics which Labour might employ to divert attention from Owen Glenn’s appearance before the privileges committee.

That inspired me to start another: what will today’s excuses be?

We’ve already had variations on: I didn’t know, I took his word, there was a conflict of evidence, we had a staff change, no-one told me, no-one asked me, it was nothing to do with me, it’s a media beat-up, it’s the vast right wing conspiracy at work and you’re picking on me. We’ve also had doubts cast on Glenn’s intelligence and character.

So what will it be today?

Imaginary chocolate fish will be awarded for the most creative, the most realistic and the most amusing suggestions. As for truth – if anyone came up with that I’m not sure we’d recognise it.

Benson-pope still mute on future


The longer Dunedin South MP stays mute on his future the more speculation grows that he will seek re-election.

Mr Benson-Pope was replaced as the party’s candidate by public relations consultant Clare Curran.

Former Dunedin South and St Kilda MP Michael Cullen was in the city on Sunday to launch Ms Curran’s campaign.

While both spoke highly of Mr Benson-Pope, it must be on their minds whether the MP will not go quietly into the night and instead stand, perhaps as an Independent Labour candidate.

Ms Curran tells anyone who will listen that Mr Benson-Pope is more interested in the mayoralty of Dunedin than remaining in Parliament.

But the local government elections are two years away and Mr Benson-Pope has to fill in his time somehow before then.

If a National-led government takes power after the election, any hope he might have of a lucrative official appointment will disappear.

A clique of Labour MPs seems to think Mr Benson-Pope may stand. He continually avoids answering any questions, direct or otherwise, about his plans but he does make a point of urging people to cast their party vote for Labour.

A pointer to his future might lie in the McBride St window of his office. It says: Dunedin South Office, David Benson-Pope.

The word “electorate” has been blacked out and all Labour Party logos have been removed. Ostensibly, this is to comply with the Electoral Finance Act.

But as I blogged last week, the EFA does not interfere with an MP’s electorate work; and if the signage had been breaching the Act it would have been doing so since January 1.

OUSA president-elect disqualified


Otago University Students Association president-elect Jo Moore has been disqualifed from next year’s presidency.

The association’s rules mean the next highest polling candidate Edwin Darlow will become president in 2009.

You can read ths story here.

Research could help infertility and contraception


There’s a design fault in females.

We spend 40 odd years potentially being able to have children when most probably only want to conceive a couple of times.

Then some women who’ve spent years trying not to have children find, when they want to become mothers, that they can’t without medical scientific assitsance if at all.

And while there are all those deseprately wanting to have babies who aren’t able to, there are others who find they’re preganant and don’t want to and tragically some have children they can’t, or won’t care for.

University of Otago scientists have made a discovery which might help with a couple of these problems because their findings could result in new treatments for infertility and also lead to new contraceptives.

An Otago University group, led by Prof Allan Herbison, of the physiology department, has shown for the first time the key ovulation-triggering role of kisspeptin, which is a small protein molecule in the brain.

In 2003, researchers overseas found that the then recently-discovered molecule, dubbed kisspeptin, was vitally important in kick-starting puberty.

The Otago group, working with Cambridge University researchers, has now just published the first evidence that kisspeptin signalling in the brain is also essential for ovulation to occur in adults.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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