The hypocrisy of Winston Peters

Last week Mr. Jan Trotman, kept man of  St Marys Bay issued a press release railing against gambling:

Rt Hon Winston Peters says that gambling is a scourge of communities, preying on families and at-risk individuals throughout New Zealand.

“Deregulation to allow greater advertising of gambling will significantly impact on families, communities and the most vulnerable in society,” says Mr Peters.

“This is a good deal for Sky City but a raw deal for the community and taxpayers”

Mr Peters says that these deals negotiated by the government drops it into the pockets of the gaming industry.

“The government is gambling with the future of New Zealand and the people will be the losers,” says Mr Peters.

Would this be the same Rt Hon Winston Peters who was doing his level best to help the gambling industry in 2005:

Peters revealed to the Herald yesterday that a $30 million-plus package a year to horse racing was already in place.

The New Zealand First leader might have to work hard to prove himself with the cynics when dealing with the rest of the world, but the new Racing Minister had accomplished his aims for racing even before being sworn in yesterday afternoon.

In a stunning declaration, Peters said New Zealand First’s demands for the racing industry had been agreed to during his party’s negotiations with the Labour Party in the past two weeks.

And they encompass pretty much all of what racing has been looking for, and failed to receive, from recent successive Governments.

“There was no use taking on the racing portfolio if we couldn’t deliver on our promises,” Peters said.

“I would never have signed up for racing if I hadn’t been confident of that. My demands have already been agreed to by the Labour Party.”

In that simple statement racing has had its best news in decades.

Peters said all five points in New Zealand’s First’s racing policy on its website are in the bag.

His “demands” for the gambling industry were:

  • Remedy the anomaly in gaming legislation by putting gaming on the same foot.
  • Implement an improved depreciation regime for stallions (write-down over two years) and broodmares (including provision to fully depreciate a mare 12 years or older in the year of purchase).
  • Provide a tax advantage for on-course betting.
  • Review the Racing Act 2003 and clarify governance and management roles.
  • Provide interim measures in conjunction with the Racing Board to ensure a smooth transition to the amended taxation regime.

So gambling wasn’t a scourge of communities when he was propping up racing and betting at racecourse and putting gaming on the same footing, nor was it a scourge when he was subsidising and raising stakes for races.

New Zealand’s premiere harness races will receive a stakes increase totalling $1.6 million this year, Racing Minister Winston Peters announced at the Harness Racing New Zealand annual conference today.

“Government funding of $750,000 boosted by $850,000 of club and industry money will raise the stakes of key harness racing events by a total of $1.6 million in 2008/09,” said Mr Peters.

“Big-money races provide the bedrock around which highly successful racing carnivals can be built, bringing proven, serious economic benefit not just to the racing industry but to the economy as a whole and local communities in particular.

Those would be racing carnivals where people get more races to place bets and gamble…clearly not a scourge on communities when Winston peters is promoting it. Then again perhaps he was influenced by his large donations from racing interests:

Hogan, whose personal fortune has increased from an estimated $70 million to $100m in the past year according to the NBR Rich List, had become a fully fledged campaigner for the party by the time of the 2005 election, writing pro-NZ First articles in industry publications and paying for newspaper advertisements explaining why racing folk should block-vote for the party.

“I don’t deny that at the time when we were pushing very hard to get changes to the tax take that I did spend a few dollars with advertisements in the paper,” Hogan told the Sunday Star-Times last week.

“It wasn’t done… to get around the rules. There were no political donations. I might have spent eight, 10, 12 or 14 thousand dollars contributing to advertisements. At that time, you certainly didn’t have to declare it.”

The Electoral Commission says the rules at the time stated that if the advertising was done with the agreement of the party, it should have been declared, but expense returns did not require itemisation. At the last election, NZ First had an expense limit of $1.8m and returned total expenses of $417,227.

However, if the value of the advertising exceeded $10,000, it should have been returned as a party donation. NZ First made a nil return that year.

Hogan says the advertising was his own initiative. “Certainly it was not by any request from Winston, it was me `push push push’.”

NZ First had previously benefited from generous donations by the Vela family, owners of horse breeding and sales company NZ Bloodstock and with an estimated worth of $180m. According to the Dominion Post, cheques totalling at least $150,000 from Vela accounts, including the family’s fishing and thoroughbred companies, were written out to NZ First from around 1999 to 2003.

The paper has alleged that some of the cheques were handed to Peters, and that not all of the money made its way into the party’s bank account. Peters is threatening legal action over the claims and told a press conference on Friday that all the money from the Velas was lawful.

There is a word that you can use to describe the selling of policy for large cash donations, it is corruption. When corruption and hypicrisy are added together you have a serous problem.

This is why I want an Independent Commission Against Corruption established. They should look at issues like this I have outlined above, they should look at political parties wilfully breaking electoral law, they should look at contracts and bids from local body to government and they should look at establishing a register of lobbyists.

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