Liu case going septic for Labour

July 4, 2014

The Liu case is becoming more septic for Labour:

A former Labour Minister intervened three times in the immigration bid of Donghua Liu including waiving the English language requirement for the millionaire businessman.

Damien O’Connor, in his role as the associate Immigration Minister, wrote three letters to Liu’s advisor Warren Kyd – the former National Party MP – before deciding to grant residency against the advice of officials the day before the 2005 election.

The West Coast MP has said he cannot remember why he granted residency to the businessman whose links to both National and Labour have created political waves this year.

But letters released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show Mr O’Connor was being lobbied by Mr Kyd on behalf of Liu in the lead up to the tightly fought election. . .

The first, dated June 1 2005, . . .

A second letter to Mr Kyd, dated August 9 2005, reveals Mr O’Connor said “it is not my normal practice to intervene in the established immigration application process, however, I have decided to make an exception in this case. . .

A third letter to Mr Kyd, dated September 16, 2005 – the day before the election – stated Mr O’Connor had considered the case carefully and “decided to intervene”.

“I am therefore instructing the Department of Labour Immigration Service to grant residence to Mr Liu as an exception to policy. The grant of residence will be subject to Mr Liu completing an application form, paying an application fee and meeting health and character requirements”.

The residency was granted under the terms of the Investor Category at the time.

Mr O’Connor has told the Herald he cannot remember the circumstances in which he granted Liu’s application.

To forget one letter might be understandable, forgetting two looks distinctly careless and three is simply not credible.

Labour needs its annual conference this weekend to go without a hitch.

It’s already starting with criticism of closing most sessions to the media and now it will have the shadow of the Liu controversy hanging over it as well.


Lost in translation?

June 25, 2014

The Herald updates the Labour donations story:

Donghua Liu has issued a new statement to the Herald confirming “close to” $100,000 in total payments to Labour and its MPs – including anonymous donations – but clarifying that the money was not for one bottle of wine.

Liu, to whom Labour gave permanent residency against official advice, says his earlier signed statement on the wine auction was “capable of two meanings” and after repeated inquiries from the Herald he says he wants to clarify what he spent the $100,000 on.

The signed statement obtained by the Herald on Sunday said that at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser, he “successfully bid on bottles of wine including one bottle signed by the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, with a contribution of close to $100,000”.

The previous sentence in the signed statement said dinner and a boat trip on the Yangtze River in 2007 with a group including Rick Barker, the Minister for Internal Affairs at the time, which Liu estimated to cost between $50,000 to $60,000.

Today, Liu said: “I did say I made a contribution of close to $100,000 and that is my closing comment in my statement…that is how much I believe I have donated in total to Labour and some of their MPs during their last term in Government.”

He said the figure was the total payments to Labour and its politicians which included the wine auctions, a $2000 donation to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, the Yangtze River trip and anonymous donations to MPs. . .

It is possible that the difference between giving to the Labour Party, shouting one of its MPs a trip and donating to the rowing club the MP’s daughter belonged to was lost in translation.

Those might have been differences without distinction in China but that isn’t the case here.

However, if he gave nearly $100,000 there is still around $40,000 unaccounted for.

It might have been given to different electorates, MPs or candidates in smaller amounts.

Although under current rules that wouldn’t make any difference to the declaration the total given to the party whether as a whole or in different amounts at different times to different people or groups within the party must be added up and declared.


Yesterday, this morning, this afternoon . . . .

June 23, 2014

Labour said it would announce its list yesterday afternoon.

That changed to this morning.

Now former party president Mike Williams has just told Kathryn Ryan that the list will be released at 3pm this afternoon.

The timing isn’t significant the party management is.

One suggestion for the delay was that the party couldn’t handle the list ranking while dealing with the fallout from the Liu donation allegations.

It is just as likely to be a problem with telling MPs and candidates

Whatever the cause for the delay, how can a party that is once again demonstrating problems running one of its most important internal activities smoothly hope to convince voters it can run the country?


Show us the money

June 22, 2014

Last week wasn’t one of Labour’s finest and it would be hard to get a worse start to this week than the news that Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

The embarrassing revelations are contained in a signed statement from Liu, which the Herald on Sunday has obtained.

They come at the end of a horror week for Labour, already under pressure after the New Zealand Herald revealed that Liu paid $15,000 for a book at the same fundraiser in 2007. Labour has said it had no record of any donations from Liu. And leader David Cunliffe had to fight to keep his job after revelations he wrote a letter for Liu’s residency, despite previous denials. . .

he latest developments have sparked calls for a police inquiry.

“This is scandalous from the public’s perspective. There has to be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police one or a parliamentary one,” said political commentator Bryce Edwards. “There must be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police or parliamentary.”

Asked about a potential investigation under electoral finance laws, Liu’s lawyer Todd Simmonds indicated that Liu was comfortable with his financial support and would cooperate with any inquiry.

Cunliffe last night dodged questions, saying it was a “matter for Labour Party’s head office”. Labour Party general secretary Tim Barnett said the party had no record of the donation.

Liu’s signed statement was dated May 3, two days after Williamson’s resignation. It said:

• Liu paid “close to $100,000” for wine at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser;

• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

• That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.

Barker previously told the Herald that he could barely remember having dinner.

Last night Barker, now a regional councillor, said the revelations came “as a surprise and a complete reversal” of Liu’s previous comments.

Edwards said while it was not clear if Labour had broken any laws, public confidence in the party had been dented. . .

Edwards added that although the blame did not lie with Cunliffe personally, he had to deal with egg on his face. “It does create a charge of hypocrisy because he’s campaigned strongly against the Government relationship with Donghua Liu and it appears Labour’s relationship is just as deep.”

Liu yesterday told the Herald that his donations had been in good faith without any expectation. “It is over to the politicians to make any appropriate declarations. . .

MPs  don’t always, perhaps even usually, know the details of who gives how much money to their parties.

That is to separate them from any accusations of money for favours.

But if the NZ Herald could get a photo of Liu’s wife accepting a bottle of wine from an MP, surely someone in the party could have too before they started slinging mud at National?

Surely someone who was there could remember the event and if not the exact sum, that it was a biggie?

Surely someone in Labour – whether currently involved or not –  who had the party’s interests at heart would have remembered someone paying close to $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a fund-raiser and reminded Cunliffe of that before he led the charge and devoted weeks trying to dirty National instead of concentrating on what really matters.

In his last few interviews he’s finally got his lines straight on that – the sideshows he’s tried to orchestrate to dirty national aren’t what matters but his problem is hypocrisy and poor political management do concern voters and he and his party are continuing to show both.

Before this latest revelation, Duncan Garner called Labour under David Cunliffe a train wreck.

. . . When Cunliffe utters a word or two these days the collective intake of breath among his MPs is simply frightening.

He’s had a host of gaffes this year – and the best he’s looked was when he shut up and stood in the background while his wife, Karen Price, talked about the birds (chickens) and the bees in an interview at their home.

Cunliffe was parachuted into the job of leader, not because his MPs really wanted him – most dislike him – but because Labour Party members and union affiliates were desperate for someone to articulate their values.

To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement. After this week’s horrors he looks unelectable as the next prime minister. He’s genuinely gone from bad to worse. . .

John Armstrong said Cunliffe has steered Labour on to the rocks:

When it comes to casting aspersions, few insults are as venomous, vicious or more driven by utter contempt than accusing someone of being a “scab”.

That is particularly the case on the left of the political spectrum where the battles of old between capital and labour provided the source of the term to describe those who broke rank from the union and who were then ostracised forever.

A workforce which is now largely non-unionised has made such name-calling far more infrequent, and at times sound rather dated.

But there was nothing quaint about the leader of the Labour Party this week insinuating colleagues who did not give him their full support were scabs.

It was astonishing. It implied treachery in the extreme. What the outburst really revealed was someone looking for scapegoats for his own self-inflicted woes. . .

It wasn’t the letter written 11 years ago and forgotten about that did the damage.

It was that he’s fronted months of attacks on National for links to donors without the political nous to ensure that he and his party were squeaky clean first.

Where the leader’s chief of staff and supposed political strategist Matt McCarten was in this mess is not obvious. But whether or not he was let down by others,  Cunliffe led the attack without having first secured his own position.

Mud clings to the hand that throws it and this week Cunliffe managed to splatter himself, and his party with it.

But having steered the ship on to the rocks, he’s not about to hand over the captaincy, and it’s doubtful anyone could be found willing to accept responsibility for the leaky boat.

Today’s revelations have endangered the boat even more.

Liu said he donated a large sum of money to Labour. The party says it has no record of it.

That’s a very big breach of electoral law and raises a very big question – if the party has no record of the donation where did it go?

And to add to accusations against the party which tries to show itself as welcoming of diversity, let’s not forget the Labour used someone who was granted residency by a Labour Immigration minister to score political points and there’s a nasty undertone, deliberate or not of xenophobia in their attacks:

“However, because I’ve built relationships with politicians, made donations, because it’s election year and, dare I say, because I’m Chinese, I suppose I’ve been an easy target for some to gain some political mileage and score some points.”

In the last election campaign, Phil Goff was let down by his then finance spokesman, Cunliffe, when he was asked to show us the money for his policies.

Less than three months from the next election, the party is going to have to show us the missing money or confirm that a party which can’t account for money it’s been given for its own use can’t be trusted to handle money it takes from taxpayers for public use.

 


It’s about trust

June 19, 2014

The focus has gone on a letter David Cunliffe wrote 11 years ago.

That he couldn’t remember having written it – when probably all he did was sign it – is not surprising.

That his staff couldn’t find the letter suggests their record keeping isn’t as good as it could be which is bad.

That someone knew about the letter, and didn’t tell anyone in the party suggests the party has enemies within, which is worse.

But the issue of the letter is trivial.

What is far more significant is the money Donghua Liu donated to the party which wasn’t declared.

If he donated more than the limit for disclosure then failure to disclose it is an electoral offence.

What will be equally concerning for the party is that Cunliffe and other MPs have wasted weeks tying to damn National for links with Liu when they too had received money from him.

Someone in the party was giving Cunliffe a large amount of rope which has tripped him up and may yet not just hang him but strangle the party too.

Trust matters.

If there’s such abuse of trust inside Labour, they can’t possibly expect trust from outside.

There will be absolutely no comfort for Labour, or the left in the latest Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll:

Labour’s support has slumped to its lowest level since the 2011 election, with leader David Cunliffe battling for survival after it emerged he intervened in a residency application for Chinese businessman Donghua Liu.

In the latest Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos political poll, the party has dropped 6 percentage points to 23 per cent. National is soaring on 56 per cent, which would allow it to govern alone. Click here for full graphics. 

Cunliffe has failed to stop his party’s slide in the poll since he took over as leader in September, and is now facing election humiliation. His support as preferred prime minister slipped to 11 per cent, down two points. Prime Minister John Key edged ahead, up three points to 51.4 per cent. . .

stuffpoll

 

 

 

 

 

The polling was done before the Liu allegations were made public.

However, there is no cause for complacency from National when you look at the response on whether or not it’s time for a change in government.

change

 

 

 

 

 

There are more people thinking it’s not time for a change than thinking it is, but there’s enough people who aren’t sure to tip the balance.

All this mud Labour slung failed to make a hit on National but it has dirtied itself and it has also added to the disenchantment many people have with politicians and politics in general.

Rather than getting the so-called missing million who didn’t vote last time to turn up this time, Labour’s stupidity is likely to result in even fewer people bothering.

Trust matters and people who don’t trust the people or the process aren’t likely to vote at all.


“Lius” truth?

June 18, 2014

David Cunliffe is in the news for all the wrong reasons, again.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says he did not lie about writing a letter on behalf of controversial businessman Donghua Liu.

A letter from the Labour leader to immigration officials on behalf of Liu was first revealed by the Herald after documents were released under the Official Information Act earlier today.

Mr Cunliffe – who said this week he had never met Donghua Liu or advocated on his behalf – told reporters he did not recall writing the letter.

He said that “I have not lied about anything to do with Mr Liu”, and he would not resign.

“I did not advocate for him. A letter has just come to my attention which is eleven years old.

I simply asked how long a processing process would take.”

Mr Cunliffe said he still had no recollection of meeting Mr Liu.

“I simply do not recall ever having met him.” . . .

There is nothing wrong with the letter.

MPs write this sort of missive frequently to help constituents who are having trouble with government departments.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with him not recalling the letter.

Who would remember one of many such letters written 11 years ago?

The big problem is Labour’s record keeping.

Labour expended a lot of time and effort criticising National links to Liu when he had donated to Labour.

Someone in the party must have known that.

Someone in the party must have known about the letter.

That someone didn’t tell Cunliffe who now looks as is he’s been “Lius” with the truth.

That it might have been by omission rather than commission is irrelevant when it joins a list of other mis-steps and mis-spokes.


How much, how often?

June 18, 2014

The plot thickens in the saga of Donghua Liu’s donations to the Labour Party:

A Labour Cabinet Minister presented a bottle of wine to the partner of businessman Donghua Liu at a fundraiser for the party.

The Herald has obtained a photograph of Rick Barker with Juan Zhang, who has two children with Liu, after he won an auction for the bottle at an Auckland restaurant in June 2007.

It is not known how much Liu paid for the wine – believed to be signed by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark – and Mr Barker said he presented auction prizes several times at Labour fundraisers. . . .

Two sources have told the Herald that Liu paid $15,000 at an auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark.

Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said a check of the party’s records showed no donation from Liu under his name.

However, he said it was possible he made donations at the local electorate level and had not been recorded by the party’s central administration. . .

It doesn’t matter at what level of the party the donations are made nor whether it’s a single donation or several.

Once a donor gives more than the disclosure threshold – which was $10,000 in 2007 – it must be declared.

At the very least this shows sloppiness in Labour’s record keeping and is yet another example of the party acting in the apparent belief that electoral law doesn’t apply to it.

We’re left wondering how much did Liu give to the party, how often and how much was given by who else that wasn’t disclosed as the law requires it to be?


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