Little things are big things

August 17, 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?

December 31, 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

October 9, 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.


October 8, 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

August 6, 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.


August 4, 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

April 21, 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.

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