Maurice Wlliamson on Clark, DBP and accountability.

December 7: Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga): I will start by responding to that member’s assertion about who paid for the National Party billboards by saying that it was not the Post Primary Teachers Association, it was not the engineers union, and it was not actually the Prime Minister’s office using taxpayers’ funds—something that the Labour Party did to fund just about every part of its campaign. If we go back through history we find that a number of political leaders have led massive campaigns that not long after those campaigns got under way they regretted ever having started. One that springs to mind would be John Major’s back-to-basics morality campaign. He thought it was a great idea, he fitted the charge, and within months I think he had five Ministers resign—because they were caught in women’s clothing or doing all sorts of things—and eight back-benchers.

Another campaign that springs to mind is the campaign Helen Clark waged before the 1999 election. That was to bring back a new standard in government. The quotes are unbelievable; I have them here. Here we go—here is part of the campaign speech in Taranaki – King Country: “We will restore public accountability, openness, and honesty.”, said Helen Clark. That is what she said. Here is another statement she made in May 1999 in a speech to the Labour Party congress: “I want honesty in politics. I want politicians to say what they mean, and mean what they say.”

Oh, it gets better. There are better quotations than those; there is so much material that I wish my speech were for an hour, not 5 minutes. She put in one speech the definition of the word “responsible”. Let us take Helen Clark’s definition, not the dictionary’s. She was speaking at St Andrews on The Terrace at a winter lecture series, and she said: “Responsible—I interpret as being morally accountable for one’s actions.” Now, I raise all that as background, and there are about 20 more quotes from the now Prime Minister about the new standards she would bring when Labour was in Government.

What has happened since then? Let me give members some names, and then they can work out what the new standard was—Dover Samuels, Marian Hobbs, Phillida Bunkle, Ruth Dyson, John Tamihere, and the last of this great list of luminaries, David Benson-Pope. But there is a difference. In the case of every other one of those members whose names I read, they were dealt to—sometimes when there were only “accusations swirling around”. Of Dover Samuels, Helen Clark said that he would not be able to fulfil his duties as a Minister, because there were allegations, controversy, and public debate swirling around him. So she fired him. It turned out that the allegations were not true.

Then we had Marian Hobbs and Phillida Bunkle as the double. Both got the sack because they somehow were rorting their expense claims about where they lived. It was not proven; it was just an accusation. It went on. Lianne Dalziel was sacked for telling lies. John Tamihere got the sack for some accusations about what he might have done at the Waipareira Trust, and it did not turn out to be the case. But then we get to “Mr Tennis Ball”, and what happens to him? Nothing—absolutely nothing! I think the best I can give members is the result of a Stuff poll. Members should listen to the question: “Has David Benson-Pope further tarnished his image by trying to prevent parts of a police report on bullying allegations against him from being released?”. The result was that 84.3 percent of people who responded said yes—yes, he had.

So it is not just the National Party that is attacking Mr Benson-Pope. It is not just a whole swag of editorials, which I have here, from right across the country. My colleague Judith Collins quoted from the Christchurch Press, but there are lots of other examples in papers, from the Taranaki Daily News right down to the Otago Daily Times, from the New Zealand Herald, and so on. But here is some good stuff out of the Christchurch Press editorial. Members should listen to this: “Despite all this, Helen Clark and her colleagues have decided to brazen it out. A large part of their motivation will be a desire not to give the Opposition the satisfaction of a Cabinet-level scalp.” Well, how much honesty, integrity, and decency is there in politics when the motivation is not to let the Opposition score a point when it is sitting there blatantly in front of it?

But it gets better: “Public opinion on the original matter is, in any event, ambivalent.”—that is with regard to the tennis ball incident. I actually think that had David Benson-Pope stood up on the day and said: “Look, it is possible back then that I might have done that. Teaching was different then, and who knows what happened?”, it would have been all over. The paper then says: “But to excuse Benson-Pope’s performance is to set the standards of behaviour for Cabinet Ministers at an abysmally low level.” And that is what this House is now facing—a set of standards that were supposed to be the highest, but are the lowest they have ever been.

 


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