The media smell blood, and not without some justification, there is a perfect storm of Michelle Boag, Nick Smith and Winston Peters:
Winston Peters alleged yesterday that there’s more to this, hinting that the relationship with Bronwyn Pullar may go deeper than just knowing each other through the National Party.
Smith said “his private life is his private life”. What does that mean? Was he in a relationship at some stage with her?
If he was then that surely makes this worse.
So this morning John Key should haul Smith into his office and ask him the following;
- What was the nature of his relationship with Pullar?
- Was it more than a friendship?
If the answer is yes – Smith must go on the spot.
If the answer is no, he must still go. Ministers should NEVER use their position to go into bat for their friends.
It is the first rule of being a Minister.
Smith knows the rules. He’s been here for 20 years. He’s not a junior Minister. We rarely use the word corruption in NZ. But in my opinion it’s a corrupt practice to use your Ministerial powers and warrant to advance the interests of a friend.
Duncan is dead right here. Anyone who has friends who are ministers or MPs, if they are indeed a friend, should never place their friend in a position that could cause potential embarrassment.
Tracy Watkins isn’t pulling any punches either and her wording is very emphatic:
John Key’s refusal to cut Nick Smith loose over revelations that he intervened in a close friend’s long-running battle with ACC while still ACC minister will come back to haunt him.
Yesterday, Winston Peters labelled it cronyism, a shabby little deal and a case of National ministers looking after their mates – and the bad news for Mr Key is that it looks like all those things and worse.
Presumably Dr Smith would have been gone by lunchtime had he still been ACC minister when his letter on a ministerial letterhead supporting the claim of National Party activist Bronwyn Pullar emerged.
That may have been the reason Mr Key failed to move against him yesterday, even as the story over whether or not the letter was on a ministerial letterhead changed. But it doesn’t lessen the size of Dr Smith’s error or the scale of his misjudgment.
The NZ Herald editorial is scathing:
Nick Smith is one of the Government’s more experienced ministers. It is staggering that he saw fit to write in support of a friend’s ACC claim when he was the minister in charge of the corporation. His judgment plainly deserted him that day and it deserted him again when the letter – which was sent to medical assessors – came to light this week.
“Ministers still have friends,” he said, “and providing there is no inappropriate influence, it is quite appropriate for them to provide information or evidence for medical assessments and other legal processes.”
It is not “appropriate” for them to do any such thing when the medical assessments and legal processes involve the agency that must answer to the minister.
Nick Smith is a political corpse…he is starting to stink up the joint.
There is a valuable lesson though in all of this…having any association with Michelle Boag only ends in disaster.