Little things are big things

17/08/2010

A reading often used at wedding includes the line: the little things are the big things.

That is at least as applicable to politics as marriage.

A pair of underpants played a major role in Tuku Morgan’s undoing. I have no idea how Len Brown runs the city he’s mayor of but I know far more than I want or need to about his coffee habit.

Yet Phillip Field hung on for months in the face of charges which eventually led to his conviction for corruption and Winston Peters clung on to the baubles of power with major questions over his behaviour and trustworthiness.

Perhaps the little things are the big thing because we can all relate to them, our own lives are full of them.

That could be one of the reasons the media focuses on what might seem to be very minor matters while giving at best cursory attention to major ones.

But little things are often silly things for which to risk losing a lot.

While never condoning major wrong doing, we might understand how someone thought a big gain was worth the risk. It’s much harder to understand why people risk their reputations and maybe even their careers over trifling expenditure which they could well afford themselves.


Should our greatest be good?

31/12/2009

Are honesty and integrity important?

Does the type of person someone is count at least as much as what s/he does?  Should s/he be be judged not only on what s/he does but the way s/he does it? Do not just  deeds but character matter?

Should our greatest people also be good?

If they are getting our highest honour they should and that is why I am disappointed that Helen Clark has been made a Member of the Order of New Zealand.

I wouldn’t have minded if she’d been made a Dame, although her aversion to titular honours would have precluded that.

My disappointment isn’t because of politics. I don’t agree with a lot of what she did but redistribution and encouraging dependency on the state are consistent with her socialist views.

It’s what some of her actions say about her character that’s the problem.

She didn’t just forge one painting. She admitted to signing “about half a dozen” works of art which she hadn’t produced “over 20 years” and then couldn’t understand what was wrong with that.

She didn’t support the police who drove too fast to get her from Waimate to Christchurch.

She used taxpayers’ money illegally to pay for Labour’s campaigns, changed the law to make that spending legal and passed an Act in an attempt to allow that spending to continue while restricting what other individuals and groups could spend.

She backed Phillip Field in the face of strong evidence against him and did her best to thwart the inquiry into his actions.

She continued to back Winston Peters as a minister long after he showed he could not be trusted.

The Order of New Zealand is restricted to just 20 living New Zealanders.

If one of our 20 greatest isn’t also good it reflects very badly on the rest of us.


Only one of the guilty in the dock

09/10/2009

Former MP Phillip Field was in the dock.

But the Dominion Post editorial makes it clear he wasn’t the only guilty party.

However, if Field has got his just deserts, others have got off lightly. Those others are the senior members of the Labour Party who ran interference for him for almost 18 months and who are now ducking for cover.

Readers might remember that former prime minister Helen Clark was slow to act when questions were first asked about Field’s conduct, perhaps because the 2005 election was in the offing, and that when she did, she established an inquiry with narrow terms of reference and without the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Hence Field was able to claim he had been vindicated by an inquiry that found no evidence he had misused his position as minister for personal benefit.

Deputy prime minister Michael Cullen appeared to agree. Field’s “fundamental fault was to work too hard for the many, many hundreds of people who come to his electorate office on immigration matters”, he said.

What he overlooked, deliberately or otherwise, was the numerous questions the inquiry raised about Field’s conduct as an MP as opposed to his conduct as a minister.

Field was convicted  of 11 counts of bribery and corruption and 15 of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

No-one is suggesting his former colleagues were complicit in the crimes. But they too behaved shamefully by attempting to thwart the inquiry into his actions.

They compounded their shame by continuing to defend him when, in spite of being hamstrung by narrow terms of reference, the Ingram inquiry raised very serious questions over Field’s conduct.

New Zealand has a very good repuation for a lack of corrpution. That depends not just on people not acting corruptly, it also depends on other people’s determination not to tolerate such acts.

Labour’s support of Field was corrupt and their inability to say sorry sicne makes it worse. They weren’t guilty of a crime but they were guilty of trying to prevent him being held to account.

Hat Tip: Kiwiblog 

P.S. David Farrar devotes his NBR column to this issue too.


Consistency

08/10/2009

If the law is to respected there needs to be consistency in the consequences imposed for breaking it.

The abuse of power and trust by Phillip Field was serious and deserved serious consequences.

But it is difficult to understand why the crime he was found guilty of led to a sentence of six years in prison when people found guilty of violent crimes get lesser sentences.

The only consistency in this whole sorry saga is Labour’s refusal to say sorry for backing Field and obstructing attempts by then opposition Immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith to get to the truth.

There are times when Doing the right thing must always come before political considerations and party loyalty. This case is not just a sad reflection on Field, it’s also a very sorry reflection on his colleagues who defended the indefensible and set up the Ingram inquiry to fail.

This point is well made by Kiwiblog, Adolf at No Minister.


Editorials on Field

06/08/2009

The ODT  says:

However much it might be argued that he was a victim of cultural difference, as an MP he swore an oath to uphold New Zealand law.

He therefore knew the rules and the borders that cannot be crossed.

His peers have judged that he knowingly broke those rules and crossed those borders: if he is a victim, it is of his own arrogance, his own greed and his own lust for status.

The Press says:

For all the shallow cynicism that New Zealanders like to profess towards their politicians, it is undeniable that the country has possibly the least corrupt politics of anywhere in the world.. .

Among the most shameful aspects of this sorrowful affair was the attempt by the Labour government of the time, when the scandal first made the headlines, to trivialise it. . .

. . . Labour’s foot-dragging was dictated by a desire not to offend an important political constituency. But whatever the motive, it was not good enough. The country’s political and administrative integrity will only be preserved by constant vigilance. If there is a lesson to be drawn from Field’s sad case, it is that when such allegations arise they must be dealt with vigorously and promptly.

Sadly, the affair reflects badly not only on Field, but on those politicians who put pragmatism and keeping his vote ahead of principle, and tried to close the issue down rather than do the right thing. Miss Clark was initially dismissive, using her favoured “move along, nothing to see here” strategy. When people didn’t, she launched a narrow inquiry under Noel Ingram QC.

Despite the constraints on Dr Ingram and a distinct lack of co-operation from some of those involved his report made it clear that something was terribly amiss in the way Field had been handling immigration issues to everyone but Labour MPs, that is. They continued to defend him. . .

. . . Under Parliament’s own rules, all members are deemed to be honourable members. Field’s corruption has shown that up as the fiction it always was. His Labour colleagues’ handling of it simply added to the insult of his crime.

The Herald says:

The verdict says we have a culture of public service that allows no favours in return, and that is a culture that rules all.

Summing that up:

MPs must obey New Zealand law regardless of what is acceptable in their own countries and cultures; we are still one of the least corrupt countries in the world and Labour is tarnished by this sorry episode too.


Shame

04/08/2009

Former MP and Minister outside cabinet Phillip Field has been found guilty  of 26 charges.

Field, former MP for Mangere, was found guilty of 11 of 12 charges of bribery and corruption as an MP after the Crown said he had Thai nationals carry out work on his properties in return for immigration assistance between November 2002 and October 2005.

He was also found guilty of 15 of 23 charges of wilfully attempting to obstruct or pervert the course of justice. The charges related to his evidence to an inquiry into the work on his homes.

Crown Prosecutor Simon Moore is correct when he says:

“This has been a really important case, and bribery and corruption strikes very much at the heart of who we are as a people.”

The case is a nasty blot on our democratic fabric not just because Field is the first person found guilty of corruption as an MP but because of the way then Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Labour colleagues sought to protect him and hobble the Ingram Inquiry into allegations against him.

Kiwiblog has done an excellent post detailing what happened and when, concluding with:

Long before the Police investigation, the Labour Party should have denounced Field. Instead Clark, Cullen and the rest of the Labour Party defended him. That is why these convictions are their shame.

This would also be a good time for all MPs to come together and declare this should never happen again, and support an Independent Commission against Corruption that can investigate abuses of office by parliamentarians, senior officials and agencies.

The call for an Independent Commission against Corruption is seconded by Whaleoil.

Keeping Stock says:

And sadly, we can no longer claim to be a country where our politics are free from corruption. That will be Taito Phillip Field’s legacy to New Zealand, and to the Pasifika people he purported to represent.

Roarprawn asks:   He is the first but will he be the last?

No  Minister says (and shows): A good day for Tui.

Oswald Bastable says: Official – there is corruption in NZ politics.

PM of NZ notes: Only guilty of trying to help.

UPDATE: Fairfacts Media posts on The Guilty Party.

                  Macdoctor posts on Dishonour.

                 Dim Post says The Only Thing Taito Phillip Field is Guilty of is Corruption.

                Something Should Go Here highlights the Gobsmackingly Dishonest Quote of the Day.

UPdate 2:

              Monkeywithtypewriter posts In Praise of Ingram.

             Stephen Franks writes Reflections on Field’s Corruption.


Field trial on hold because jurors can’t afford the time

21/04/2009

The trial of former Labour MP Phillip Field has been delayed because too many potential jurors said they couldn’t afford to serve.

The trial against former Government minister Taito Phillip Field is in “limbo” after half the jury was discharged this morning.

Seven jurors – five women and two men – were stood down by Justice Rodney Hansen at the High Court at Auckland this morning after they indicated the trial would have placed them in too much hardship.

The trial has been set down for three months.

Even three days off work could be too costly for some people unless employers were prepared to bridge the gap between the compensation jurors get and normal pay.

When trials stretch into weeks and, in this case, possibly months it puts a strain on people’s finances and also impacts on their workplaces which are left to cope without a staff member or forced to employ a temporary replacement.

Some employers are prepared to top up the pay for their staff while they’re on jury service so they’re not out of pocket but not all can afford to do this, especially for prolonged trials; and if they have to employ a stand-in they end up paying twice.

Few if any self employed people could afford more than a very short time off work either and parents of young children or other fulltime care-givers would find it difficult if not impossible to arrange alternative care for any length of time too.

Unless there is a change in the system, including recompense which matches, or nearly matches, wages forgone, juries will comprise only unemployed and retired people.


A cautionary tale of the fishy kind

31/08/2008

Helen Clark ponders alone in despair

Her dearest dream’s turned into a nightmare

She thought she was popular and competent too,

But now she’s stuck knee deep in donkey do.

 

She ruled as PM which is what she desired

If anyone threatened her then they were fired

Ruth and Leanne were stood down when they failed

She couldn’t risk having her plans derailed.

 

Dover Samuels went fast and didn’t return

He was left on the back bench his lesson to learn

Phillida Bunkle, Marion Hobbs too

Were cast out from cabinet on their sins to stew.

 

She stood by BP when the first mud was thrown

But lest some spattered her, he was out on his own.

David Parker had a whoopsy so she dropped him fast

But let him come back when the danger had passed.

 

Phillip Field’s another who got into trouble

And eventually she left him alone in the rubble.

It took her a while, perhaps she was slow

But when polls started falling he had to go.

 

Harry Duynhoven, was another who went

And John Tamihere was forced to repent.

The message was clear: you falter – you fall

You’re out of cabinet if you drop the ball.

 

But she stuck with Peters through good times and bad,

Though many’s the day he’s driven her mad.

She put up with his bluster and held her tongue

When often she wished that he could be hung.

 

She draped him with baubles and stoked up his pride,

And accepted his word that he’d never lied.

Allegations have swirled but she stood aloof

Not trying too hard to seek out the truth.

 

But as the dirt that was thrown began to stick

She wanted him gone lickety split.

When all else had failed she at last told him “go”

But when you look at the facts, ‘twas only a show,

 

Portfolios passed over, the hard work he shirks.

But he’s still a Minister and keeps all the perks

Whatever was said only those two can tell,

But something has got a strong fishy smell.

 

Corruption’s a strong word, but something’s not right

As conflicting evidence comes into light.

And clinging to power is not without cost

Clark’s paid for it now with credibility lost.

 

Any day soon she’ll set a date

And voters will have in their hands her fate.

There’s still a faint chance they’ll buy her spin

And give her enough votes the election to win.

But win it or lose it one thing’s for sure

She and Winston are deep in manure.

John Key’s in the right and he’s standing strong

While Helen and Winston are left in the wrong.

 

And perhaps looking back she’ll see her mistake

In letting him of so many baubles partake.

If you sup with the devil it’s something you’ll rue

Especially if he’s supping a rotten fish stew.

 


Casualty list

30/08/2008

Stuff has a list of Helen Clark’s ministerial casualties. The ones who have been sacked, suspended, stood down or forced to resign under her leadership since 1999 are:

June 28, 2000 – Dover Samuels

October 31, 2000 – Ruth Dyson.

February 23, 2001– Marian Hobbs and Phillida Bunkle (Alliance)

July 23, 2003 – Harry Duynhoven.

February 20, 2004 – Lianne Dalziel.

November 4, 2004 – John Tamihere

May 16, 2005 – David Benson-Pope.

October 19, 2005 – Taito Phillip Field

March 20, 2006 – David Parker.

July 27, 2007 – David Benson-Pope (again).

August 29, 2008 – Winston Peters.

If losing one minister may be regarded as a misfortune and two looks like carelessness, what can be said about losing a dozen?

The explanations for the ministerial falls from grace on Stuff is here and The Herald has photos here.


ETS passes 2nd reading

28/08/2008

The Bill which will introduce the Emissions Trading Scheme passed it’s second reading with 63 votes in support and 56 against.

Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and the Progressive party voted for it. National, United Future, Act, the Maori Party, Gordon Copeland and Phillip Field opposed it.

The Maori Party  media release on the Bill makes interesting reading:

We remain strong in our belief that, fundamentally, the ETS is still just an Emissions Trading Scheme, when what is required is an Emissions Reduction Programme,” said Co-leader Tariana Turia.

“A 2% reduction in emissions over ten years is simply fiddling while Rome burns. The time for scheming is over. Now is the time for a programme of action,” said Mrs Turia.

“A real Emissions Reduction Programme will require significant changes in our lifestyle, but the alternative, of doing almost nothing, will be a lot worse,” she said.

Doing something is not always better than doing nothing – this something will sabotage the economy for little or no environmental gain

“A sound programme would be comprehensive, covering all industries and all gases. The government’s scheme is on the right track in that respect.

“But a scheme worth supporting would also be fair to all industries and consumers, and transparent, so everyone can see how the costs and credits have been allocated,” she said.

“Pollution is a cost of business that should be identified at source, and that business must be held responsible. Any cost they pass on to consumers will at least encourage environmentally responsible choices. The principle must be that polluters pay, because the purpose of the programme is to cut emissions.

But there’s no point in levying what is effectively a tax on primary production when science has yet to come up with much in the way of effective ways to counter emissions.

“Instead we have deferred liability and masses of free credits going to the biggest industries and the worst polluters for years to come. This negates any incentive for them to make changes. This is not ‘polluter pays’ – it’s ‘pay the polluters’,” said Mrs Turia.

“Credits to assist export-exposed industries to adjust to the new regime should be allocated on the basis of need – not by blanket donations and exemptions to huge corporate lobbyists.

“Those free credits could be invested by the government in speeding up energy savings and moving to renewable sources, in building resilient and sustainable communities, and supporting poor and vulnerable people who will be worst affected by the social and economic upheaval,” said Mrs Turia.

“The government is not willing to fully explain the disastrous consequences of doing so little to save the planet, for fear of a voter backlash. We have to know the truth, so we can make the tough decisions that are needed right now.

Of course there would be a voter backlash if it was understood that the ETS will impose such huge costs for little or no gain.

“We are told the Green Party and NZ First have signed up to it. I predict that the concessions won by them will seem like a mere thirty pieces of silver, once the full impacts of climate change start to be felt,” she said.

“We maintain our original position – that we need a radical rethink of the whole approach. This scheme represents a failure of leadership.

The need to make drastic changes to curb greenhouse gas emissions is what defines this moment in our history. We have no time to lose. The common interest must prevail in the pursuit of environmental justice, and social and cultural wellbeing,” said Mrs Turia.

Regardless of the science, the politics requires action. Good leadership would have achieved cross party consensus which balanced costs and benefits. But bulldozing through this legislation will do economic and social harm with little or no environmental good to show for it.

Hat tip: The Hive


Wee parties looking shakey

18/08/2008

Vernon Small  says the Maori Party is the only one of the wee parties likely to have many MPs after the election.

The Greens are widely expected to reach the 5 per cent threshold needed under MMP to stay on Parliament, but have dipped under that in the latest poll.

At the moment the small parties have 23 seats out of 121 – 24 if you include political refugee Taito Phillip Field.

On these numbers, no more than eight or nine seats – four or five for the Maori Party, Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne and probably Rodney Hide – would go to parties outside Labour and National in a 123-seat House.

That is a drop from 19 per cent of the seats to 6.5 per cent.

Facing an election wipeout that delivers a near first-past-the-post election result, the minor parties are struggling to offer the electorate something relevant.

They are also handicapped by the Electoral Finance Act. Unable to spend their own money and without the people power which enables National and Labour to return to the old fashioned door knocking campaigns the wee parties aren’t able to get their messages across.

In 2002, when a Labour landslide was in prospect, voters turned to United Future and NZ First to curb Labour’s power after it fell out with the Greens over genetic modification.

At the start of the campaign, Labour had been polling at or above 50 per cent, but on election night that fell to 41 per cent.

Labour’s core support is holding up, but if the polls continue to show it won’t lead the next government it is possible that it will lose more support to the wee parties by those wanting to moderate National.

With one eye on that result – and in preparation for a possible collapse in Labour’s vote if it looks doomed – United Future and NZ First have started talking up their role in “keeping National honest”.

NZ First leader Winston Peters’ has said that National cannot be trusted on superannuation, despite Mr Key’s promise not to touch it.

Even Hone Harawira – seen as the Maori Party MP most hostile to National – has talked about working with National.

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said last week his party would be needed to moderate the extremes of National or Labour.

NZ First has said it will talk to the bigger party “first” – which seems certain to be National.

Mr Peters has in the past preferred “clean” coalitions involving the smallest number of parties, but Labour believes his recent track record would not rule out a multi-party deal to return Helen Clark to office.

However, NZ First party insiders insist it is committed to talking to the biggest party first.

The Greens are a longer shot for National though they might strike a deal to abstain, or displace another support option for National, if a Labour-led administration is out of the question.

Jim Anderton’s Progressives are indivisibly tied to Labour, while it is inconceivable ACT would ever prefer Labour to National – though it sees electoral benefit in criticising National for being too centrist.

Perhaps this is why Helen Clark is delaying the announcement of the election date. The shorter the campaign the less opportunity there is for the wee parties to gain ground at Labour’s expense.


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