Another NZ First Donation Goes Back

18/06/2008

The first of the nine charities to which NZ First donated money, in the mistaken belief this means it no longer owes $158,000 to parliamentary services, has repaid the $10,000 it recieved.

Not surprisingly Peters reckons someone got to Cystic Fibrosis:

“The real issue is who got to them,” he said. “It’s a very sad day when people put petty politics ahead of human interest.”

Goodness me, the master of petty politics doesn’t understand the real issue is that donating to charity does not absolve the party of its debt to parliamentary services.

Audrey Young said she was tempted to feel a smidgen of sympathy for Winston Peters because the charity had asked for a donation.

But I have resisted temptation. Peters dreamed up a stunt that he believed would inoculate himself from criticism – who wants to bag groups like Cystic Fibrosis Association?

Yet all he done is draw more attention to a stunt that has backfired.

He has dragged yet another charity into the midst of a political row. This money was always going to be contentious and tainted in the view of some because so many people believe it rightly belongs with taxpayers.

He sought to keep the charities a secret from the public, knowing that news is anything someone doesn’t want you to know, especially something a politician doesn’t want you to know.

Speaker Margaret Wilson has agreed to keep his secret. She knows which groups have received which money but says it Peters’ secret for him to disclose – or words to that effect.

It is time for someone to do the right thing.

It is indeed and Keeping Stock has a link for on-line donations to Cystic Fibrosis should anyone wish to support them for putting principle before their genuine need for money. So do Kiwiblog,  and Whaleoil. And Not PC links to the charity’s website.

Is it too much to hope that inside Winston’s cloud of hypocricy there may be a silver lining in that this is the action that finally allows voters to see through him? The media and bloggers already have: 

The Dominion editorial says:

But giving $158,000, taken from the public purse, to outside organisations does not constitute repayment of a debt. Nor does refusing to name the recipients, something he had previously undertaken to do, lend credibility to the exercise. Mr Peters says he has decided not to name the charities because he does not want them bothered by the “prying media”.

That is a one-fingered salute to those who hold to the quaint notion that politicians should be accountable for how they spend public money.

It is also unsatisfactory. Who is to say that NZ First does not regard the Re-elect Winston Campaign in Tauranga or, for that matter, NZ First itself, as charities?

By retrospectively changing the law, the Government obviated the legal requirement for politicians to repay the money they unlawfully spent. But the moral obligation to comply with the law of the day remains. NZ First has not met it.

If no other benefit arises, Mr Peters’ reluctance to do the right thing serves as a useful reminder of how a politician positioning himself to once again act as a post-election kingmaker, operates.

And Inquiring Mind  notes: Peters yet again demonstrates not only arrogance, but total contempt for the media and indirectly for the public, as according to him they should only ever know what he wants them to know.

Annie Fox  doesn’t understand why NZ First hasn’t been struck off for not paying the money back. It’s because they colluded with Labour to change the law to make their illegal use of public money retrospectively legal.

I doubt that Winston and his party will admit defeat and repay Parliamentary Services, but the other eight charities which received donations can follow the lead given by Cystic Fibrosis and Starship (which turned down the initial donation last year).

Then it will be up to voters to deliver the final blow at the ballot box.  


Her own words or someone else’s?

04/06/2008

The Hive asks if anyone believes that Winston Peters wrote the article on the Proliferation Security Initiative which appeared in yesterday’s Dominion.

 

I can’t find it on line so can’t comment. However, politicians don’t usually write their own press releases and opinion pieces are generally their own thoughts but may or may not be in their own words, even if its got their name above them. A personal tribute is a different matter, if it says it’s a tribute by someone then it ought to be by them and that’s what I was expecting when I saw this in the first edition of Mindfood: 

 

The Right Honourable Helen Clark recalls the extraordinary life of “Sir Ed” and why the late mountain conqueror, explorer and humanitarian will always loom large in the New Zealand consciousness.

BY The Honourable Helen Clark | Mar 17, 2008

 

After the death of a highly respected public figure a Prime Minister has a fine line to tread between what’s required by the official role and political opportunism. I though Clark got it right after Sir Edmund’s death but I don’t think she has with this tribute.

 

Media reports gave me the impression that Clark knew Sir Ed well so when I saw the headline in the magazine I expected a personal insight with a few anecdotes. Instead, it’s an impersonal account that any journalist could have written from cuttings.

 

So is it her personal tribute or one written by her staff? I’d expect a Prime Minister to be busy enough without writing tributes, and it certainly doesn’t read as if it was written by someone who knew Sir Ed. That doesn’t mean she didn’t write it; but why bother doing it if she couldn’t make it personal; and why would an editor want a tribute from the PM if it didn’t tell us anything more than could have been covered by someone who hadn’t known the subject?

 

Does it matter? Prime Ministers and former academics aren’t necessarily renowned for deathless prose so it may well be her own words , and if so it reinforces the impression of someone who lacks warmth and the personal touch. If it isn’t her writing then she’s done the magazine and its readers a disservice and it would show she hasn’t learnt from the forged painting episode.

 

Ian Wishart makes a great deal of this in Absolute Power.  I’ve read the book and agree with commentators who say it is the right wing equivalent of Nicky Hager’s Hollow Men in that both authors appear to have started with a point of view and found the evidence, to back it up.

 

However, I think Wishart makes a fair point about “paintergate”. It wasn’t just one painting when she was a busy Prime Minister (which wouldn’t have made it right, but might have been easier to understand); she eventually admitted to about half a dozen art works over 20 years and when confronted with it didn’t seem to understand she’d done anything wrong.

 

It’s not like signing a bottle of wine because the label clearly shows who made it. The signature on a painting or other work of art is part of its provenance and in the absence of any indication to the contrary it’s a statement that it is the signatory’s work. You’d think a Minister of Arts would know this and understand its importance.

 

You’d also think that anyone who was asked to produce various works of art over a 20 year period might have come up with several acceptable alternatives to paying someone else to produce them then signing them as if they were her own. Why not say she couldn’t paint but offer to help the charities in another way? Or say she couldn’t paint but was happy to donate someone else’s work; or simply do a daub?

 

 That she didn’t certainly isn’t a hanging offence and I think the police were correct in concluding that the consequences of charging her for forgery would have far outweighed the alleged crime. But what she did was wrong and she didn’t appear to accept that; so when I read the impersonal tribute I wondered if it was really written by her or one of her media team because if she didn’t really understand what was wrong with forging art, she might not also understand you shouldn’t put a by-line to a tribute written by someone else.


Extra weeks holiday election bribe

01/06/2008

I heard a radio news bulletin last week mention that public servants were to get an extra week in annual leave but had missed any other reference to it.

 

Have now found it on The Hive  where Queen Bee says it’s a response to falling support for Labour in Wellington and points us to this Dominion story which says all public servants not already entitled to five weeks leave would receive it after five years service.

 

ACT leader Rodney Hide labelled the move an election bribe, saying Labour was losing votes even among the civil service and this was a “desperate attempt” to shore up support.

The new provisions will apply to the 35 public service departments which, at June last year, employed about 44,000 staff, or 42,000 fulltime equivalents.

Under the changes, staff with five years’ continuous employment will get five weeks’ annual leave, with one-off long service top-ups of two weeks after 10 years, then one week for every five years after that.

New Zealand already has a productivity problem and this will aggravate it. With four weeks annual leave plus 11 days statutory holidays all workers already have the equivalent of six weeks holiday. If you employ four people you are a worker short for almost half the year, if you employ many more than that you really need an extra staff member to cover the others’ holidays.

That is if you can get them to take holidays. Anecdotal evidence among employers suggests many employees don’t want four weeks holiday for a variety of reasons, not least of which is financial. A lot of people live from pay day to pay day, and can’t afford to have a holiday because they have no spare money for additional costs.


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