When the snooper is snooped upon

August 1, 2013

Is there more than a little irony in the outrage over the release of a journalist’s phone records when journalists in general try to find secrets as part of their work and the one in question was dealing with leaked material on spying?

The snooper has been snooped upon and to her credit, Andrea Vance can see the potential for wry humour:

In other circumstances I could probably find something to laugh about in revelations that the journalist who broke a story about illegal spying was snooped on by Parliament’s bureaucrats.

Let alone the irony that the reporter in question previously worked for the News of the World, the tabloid at the centre of a privacy violation scandal. . .

But she’s angry and has a right to be.

Journalists are paid to find out things people don’t necessarily want other people to know.

To do this they use sources who may wish their connection with the story to remain in confidence and the release of Vance’s phone records is an abuse of that.

The opposition is trying to find a conspiracy at the highest level, the government and parliamentary services say is was a mistake by someone at a low level.

The seriousness with which the matter is regarded is confirmed by the referral of the whole matter to parliament’s Privileges Committee.

Is it too much to hope that it might also find out how Winston Peters knew about the phone records long before the matter became public?

There are many questions and different versions over what was done by whom, among them is whether Peters did really get any records.

However, if he did, it’s difficult to believe that it was by accident.


Speaker refers Leigh case to Privileges Committee

September 27, 2011

Speaker Lockwood Smith has referred the Erin Leigh case to the Privileges Committee.

The Supreme court ruled that advice from officials to ministers was not covered by absolute privilege, Dr Smith said the issue raised serious matters which he would refer to the privileges committee for consideration.

The court ruling allowed Ms Leigh to sue for defamation. That doesn’t mean she was defamed but it leaves her free to take a case but unfortunately the cost of doing that has stopped her taking the matter any further.

I hope the Privileges Committee not only looks at the implications of the ruling but at the behaviour of the MPs and state servants which prompted the case.

A report on the court decision is here.

Kiwiblog has a Q&A from Ms Leigh.

Duncan Garner says she deserves an apology, and a payout to not only cover costs, but  to reflect damages.


Greens won’t sit with Peters

November 3, 2008

Green party co-leader Russel Norman says his party won’t work with a Labour government if Winston Peters is in cabinet.

“I think that if we get to the position post-election where Winston Peters is being proposed as a minister, or if he gets back in, I think he can’t sit around the cabinet table until we clear this issue up,” he said.

“I think the latest allegations are actually the most serious yet because they are allegations of money for policy.”

At last they’ve found their principles and they’ve left Labour isolated.

The Maori Party and Jim Anderton haven’t gone this far but the former voted in favour of the privileges committee censure of Peters and Anderton abstained from the vote so Helen Clark and Labour are the only ones who are still supporting him unconditionally.

Unless there’s a huge reversal on the trend showing in the polls Labour will need the Greens to form a centre-left government but they’ll almost certainly need New Zealand First as well.

The Greens are also calling for a commission of inquiry into the funding scandals involving NZ First. That would be a very good idea regardless of whether or not the party returns to parliament.


Pledge spectacular failure

September 26, 2008

The ODT looks at the accusations against John Key and concludes:

Whether people accept his word remains to be seen but Dr Cullen is making his best efforts to show an intent to mislead and his accusation and Mr Key’s admission will generally work in favour of the Labour Party’s present election stance of asking voters whom they should trust.

But that can work against Labour and others, and in the context of the Winston Peters affair few MPs emerge with any credit whatsoever.

The attitude of the Prime Minister, who sacked ministers Lianne Dalziel and David Benson-Pope for lying to or misleading the public, is not untypical, for she has adopted a different quantifying scale with Mr Peters. . .

. . . Miss Clark’s response to this, when questioned by journalists, was that she did not intend to waste any more time on the matter.

That may be the safest political course in an election campaign, but Miss Clark also criticised the privileges committee hearing and described it as “tainted” before it had made its final report, a shameful attempt to influence one of our legal institutions.

She was not alone. Mr Peters himself, Dr Cullen and several other members of the committee, which represents a cross-section of parties in the House, felt moved to comment on the procedures, the evidence, and the accused, and their own conclusions during the hearings which, had the matter been heard in the High Court, would surely have invited a citation for contempt.

Indeed, contempt is a word many voters might well be employing to describe the poisonous state of affairs where the MPs’ behaviour and standards have sunk so low as to bring the very concept of the “people’s representatives” into serious disrepair.

“Our mission,” declared Helen Clark when opening her successful 1999 election campaign, “is to clean up government, and to clean up Parliament . . . the public’s faith in the democratic process must be restored.”

That is a pledge which voters should now measure, nine years later, and judge it to have been a spectacular failure.

Labour asks us to judge them on their record. But many of the promises they’ve kept were election bribes which shouldn’t have been made in the first place. and the most important one on restoring public faith in democracy has not just been ignored, it’s been torn up and ground into the mud.


He stays, we pay

September 23, 2008

Yesterday Helen Clark said she didn’t believe  the findings of the privileges committee would lead her to either sacking Winston Peters or reinstating him as a Minister.

That’s a pretty strong hint that she will be unmoved by the committee’s majority report  which found Peters had provided misleading information about Owen Glenn’s $100,000 donation.

If so, he will continue as a Minister without any responsibilities but with all the perks until the election and we taxpayers will carry on paying for it all.


More teeth less politics

September 22, 2008

The privileges committee is often described as powerful, but that’s a misnomer.

It’s tabling its report on Winston Peters and the donations debacle tonight and it is expected to be divided along party lines.

That’s not surprising but it is wrong.

If serious questions about the conduct of MPs are settled not on the facts but by party politics then they aren’t settled at all; and a committee that can’t settle serious questions isn’t powerful.

If the privileges committee as it is set up now can’t be apolitical then parliament needs to investigate and implement an alternative that can.

The committee needs to be powerful, but until is has more teeth and less politics it can’t be.


It’s a long story

September 16, 2008

 

Brian Henry admitted to the privileges committee  this morning that he and Winston Peters had a poor recollection of events and:

. . . their earlier story did not now seem correct.

He acknowledged that Mr Peters must be the client referred to but said that did not conclusively show Mr Peters’ solicited a donation towards his legal fees.

Not conclusively? What about beyond reasonable doubt?

As Keeping Stock  puts it this story get more bizarre by the day; and Matthew Hooton suggests there might be another chapter involving the IRD.

 


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