National and Ethics

Political Parties in power always think they can get away with everything, and this means they start making ethical lapses of judgment. Then they try to ignore or cover up the ethical lapses. Inevitably they get bitten on the arse when the voters decide the formerly much loved party are as big a bunch of venal crooks as the last lot they had to turf out, and they kick out the government.

This happened with Labour and their protecting of the corrupt Winston Peters and Taito Phillip Field, the handling of the Madeleine Setchell drama and the pledge card rort and much more.

National seem to be taking the same approach as Labour, ignore or defend ethical lapses. Firstly we have a senior party official with suppression orders over domestic violence. Next we have a “Mr B” having suppression orders over the names of his dogs who were involved in a dog napping drama.

Then we have the very public problems of Sanford Fisheries.

One of New Zealand’s biggest fishing companies, Auckland’s Sanford Ltd, faces a criminal jury trial tomorrow in Washington DC, charged with conspiracy and oil pollution charges.

It is alleged that – driven to make money – the crew of Sanford’s biggest tuna boat, San Nikunau, dumped oil waste while fishing or at night so it couldn’t be seen and that they faked entries in the oil logs to cover it up.

In pre-trial motions US District Court Judge Beryl Howell has also heard claims that witnesses giving evidence against Sanford fear the consequences.

Sanford face a seven-count indictment which, if successful, could see the company lose San Nikunau, forfeit nearly US$25 million (NZ$30m) of gross earnings as well fines of up to US$500,000 on each count.

Sanford managing director Eric Barratt, who is in Washington, last month told Sanford shareholders – including National Party president Peter Goodfellow who is also a director – that the firm “will vigorously defend these charges on various grounds.

Sanfords has also had negative publicity around the alleged use of “slave” foreign fishing crews.

National ignoring these ethical issues may work in the short term but in the medium term they will lose votes as Labour suddenly remember that they are ethically pure and start bashing away on ethics.

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