Horan has to act

18/05/2014

The NBR asks – Will Horan drop the hammer?

It starts by listing the happenings which have made this a horror year for Winston Peters then goes on to say:

Affable TVNZ presenter turned failed MP Brendan Horan could hold the country’s fate in his hands — or at least the outcome of the next election.

Mr Horan tells NBR he’s still trying to decide whether to push ahead with a complaint over Winston Peters’ apparent failure to disclose his financial interest in racehorse Bellazeel.

Having called for Judith Collins’s head for failing to fully comply with her obligations under the Register of MPs’ Pecuniary Interests, it would be untenable for Mr Peters to stay on if  found to have committed the same offence (in reality, of course, Mr Peters would claim conspiracy or some other excuse, but the embarrassment and awkwardness could well push his party under the 5% threshold).

Registrar Sir Maarten Wevers, who oversees the registry of MP’s financial interests, says he cannot look into the matter of his own account. Standing Orders require a formal complaint to be made by an MP.

And Mr Horan is the only one likely to lay the potentially career-ending complaint. . . .

If he’s got grounds for a complaint he’s honour-bound to make one.

If he hasn’t the very slight hopes he might have had of retaining a seat in parliament will be dashed.

And on the face of things, there’s a pretty good case for Sir Maarten to at least have a poke around.

Mr Peters has defended his non-disclosure, saying his interest in the racehorse was a small, short-term syndicated lease, purchased in a charity auction in 2008. The NZ First leader says the lease has since expired and Bellazeel — sired by famous racehorse Zabeel — is no longer running.

According to TVNZ’s report, Mr Peters told reporters earlier this week, “I did have an ownership for a short time but it’s been out to pasture for years.”

Yet NZ Racing records that Bellazeel raced as recently as January. 

In fact, the five-year-old bay mare — sired by the famous Zabeel — has had quite a chipper time of it over the past few months, with two wins and a third from seven starts in the 2013/14 season, earning prize-money of $20,175.

In all, Bellazeel has raced 15 times and won three races, winning $31,575.

And Mr Peters has been fuzzy on timing, his exit from the syndicate is presumably a recent development; NZ Racing still lists him as a co-owner.

What’s holding him back?
So what’s stopping Mr Horan pushing ahead with a complaint? . . .

He made the first accusations under parliamentary privilege but then went too far with fresh ones without that protection:

He went on Radio NZ and, in a live interview, made new accusations against Mr Peters regarding consultants and spending. 

Mr Peters turned his lawyers on RNZ.

The state broadcaster posted an apology to its website the same day, which it also read out multiple times on air.

Having taken his attack a step too far, Mr Horan now seems to have over-compensated in the other direction. . .

There is no downside for him taking the complaint to the registrar if he’s got grounds to do so.

He has to act, providing he’s got facts to back it up.

If he doesn’t he’ll play right into Peters’ hands because it will look like the allegations he made were baseless.


For want of a horse . . .

15/05/2014

Former New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan has accused that party’s leader of not making a full disclosure of his pecuniary interests.

Independent MP Brendan Horan says Winston Peters must come clean about his own pecuniary interests and his own use of taxpayer money before making spurious allegations against other people.

The 5 year old bay mare Bellazeel is owned by Mr Peters and others, and has a successful racing career. So far in the 2013/14 season from seven starts, the horse has had two wins and a third place, earning prize-money of $20,175. Mr Peters has conspicuously failed to declare the horse in his pecuniary interests return.

“Mr Peters needs to take an honest look in the mirror. He is a prime example of why our Parliament needs to be subject to the Official Information Act,” Mr Horan says.

Brendan Horan says he is also concerned that the New Zealand First Leader could be misusing taxpayer funds. “I am concerned at reports I am hearing regarding overseas junkets, use of contractors and consultants, and other serious mis-spending. Certainly Mr Peters refuses to follow normal practice and report to his caucus on how the Leaders Budget – some $2.5 million in the current Parliament – is being used. I challenge him to open the books so that taxpayers can be sure the money is being used only for proper purposes.

“Real parties are open with their MPs about what funding is being used for and allow them to bid for funding for projects. That doesn’t happen in Winston’s party where Mr Peters like Smaug secretively guards the budget as if it was his own personal treasure,” said Brendan Horan.

 

Peters’ responded in his customary way:

“The allegation made against me today via the news media that I should have declared a small, short term lease interest in a racehorse is worse than just bunkum, it is a deliberate attempt at character assassination.

“That attempt is again bound to fail.

“The details are:

1. No declaration is required to own a horse, let alone lease a 10 per cent share in it.

2. At a charity auction I bought that share in a lease, which has expired.

3. I did not seek to get a tax rebate on the charity.

4. The difference between my outlay at the auction and my personal returns on the horse was a 400 per cent deficit.

5. I never had an ownership share, but a short-term leased share in a syndicate.

6. The New Zealand Racing Board has confirmed with me that my interests appeared in a syndicate lease, which is never ownership.

7. The auction took place in late 2008 and even if there was a requirement to declare, which there is not, I was not in parliament for declarations in 2009, ie, good night nurse on this one. . .

Whether he bought the horse at a charity auction and whether he owned it outright or shared a lease of it is irrelevant.

So too is the date he bought the share – what matters is whether he still had a share in the lease it after he returned to parliament in which case he should have declared it.

. . . Mr Peters said it “cost him a fortune for a minor share” and lost him “a lot of money”.

MPs must declare all property, directorships, gifts, shares and any other interests each year, regardless of whether they are profitable.

Mr Peters said part-owning a racehorse was different to being a director of a company.

“You’re not talking about the same thing. If you look at the declarations, they are all over different descriptions.

That’s because they cover a multitude of different interests in different things.

“If you are trying to say that somehow I was not involved in full disclosure, you couldn’t be more wrong. They don’t say [to] declare all your losses, do they?”

Declaring all directorships, gifts, shares and any other interest regardless of whether they’re profitable does seem to cover the horse.

Asked what charity he bought the horse for, he said: “I suspect I’ve forgotten. They put it up on an auction and I said ‘I’ll be up for that’.” . . .

No-one is questioning that the purchase was at a charity auction and which charity probably doesn’t matter.

What matters is whether he owned a share in the horse, or the lease of it, when he was an MP because if so he should have declared it.

An English king (was it one of the Richards?) supposedly lost a battle for want of a horse.

Peters is unlikely to lose anything over the want of a declaration of the horse even if the allegations are true.

Political tragics might enjoy watching him getting a taste of the medicine he so enjoys dishing out to others.

But it’s unlikely to matter to most voters, and certainly not the deluded who support him and who will no doubt see this as another conspiracy against their hero.

P.S. Pete George has the headline of the day on this with Winny horsed by his own petard.


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