Labour hypocrites hit with their own ‘cash for access’ scandal

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

When in opposition the Labour party ran almost weekly hit jobs on National for hosting cabinet clubs. They labelled them as cash for access, alleging by inference that there was some sort of corrupt practice going on.

Now they’ve been busted doing the exact same thing: Quote:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a post-Budget speech at a $600-a-head Labour fundraiser at the exclusive Wellington Club, drawing comparisons to the previous National Government’s “Cabinet club” scandal.

According to several attendees, about 40 people, including party supporters, business figures and corporate lobbyists, attended the dinner hosted by Labour president Nigel Haworth on Wednesday, at which Robertson was the key attraction.

A similar dinner is due to be hosted at the even more exclusive Northern Club in Auckland on Thursday night.

National leader Simon Bridges has accused the Government of hypocrisy, after Labour once described National’s events, which appear similar to the one attended by Robertson, as “cash-for-access“.

The concern is that wealthy figures are able to gain access and insight that is not available to the general public. End quote.

I don’t have a problem with these sorts of events, but I do have a problem with hypocrisy. Labour made much of this, along with the members of the Media party who entertained the outrageous claims of the then opposition. Now they stand charged of the same ‘offences’. Quote:

Events such as this also come close to the line in terms of the rules for ministers.

The Cabinet manual states: “holding ministerial office is regarded as a full-time occupation and is remunerated as such. Accordingly … accepting additional payment for doing anything that could be regarded as a ministerial function is not permissible”.

This means that if Robertson was attending in his ministerial capacity, rather than as an MP, Labour would be unable to use the event as a fundraiser.

A spokeswoman for Robertson refused to make any comment, describing the dinner as “a party matter”.

The Prime Minister, who is charged with ensuring Cabinet rules are being adhered to, has not responded to requests for comment. End quote.

So much for openness and transparency. Looks like Jacinda Ardern is going to go the way of every other politician who has uttered such sentiments. Quote:

At the Wellington Club dinner, Robertson spoke about May’s Budget and future Budgets. He also signalled policy announcements set to be announced in the coming weeks, one person who attended claimed.

Another person at the dinner described Robertson as “extremely on message”. After his speech, Robertson went table to table for more private conversations with small groups. End quote.

Sounds like he was there as Finance Minister. Quote:

Haworth said, as Labour president, it was his right to invite any party member to a dinner.

The dinners were part of a series of events Labour ran and $600 was the standard price, he said.

He refused to reveal how much profit the party made from the event, saying “that’s for us to know”.

Haworth said Robertson should not be speaking about party matters, given he was there as an MP, not finance minister.

“He was there, invited by me, as a senior member of the party.”

He insisted that Robertson’s speech was “about the economy, much more generally” rather than the Budget, before adding that “of course the Budget came into it”.

Wednesday’s Wellington Club dinner was the first of its type since the election, Haworth said. End quote.

And likely the last after they’ve been busted. But Haworth is lying if he says it was for party members, because I know of several who went who definitely aren’t party members. Like I said, I have no problems with the dinners, it is the lying and the hypocrisy I have a problem with. Quote:

While in Opposition, leading Labour MPs described revelations about National’s “Cabinet club” – where supporters paid large sums to hear ministers speak – as a “cash-for-access scandal”.

No one from Labour has attempted to draw a distinction between Robertson’s dinners and the National Party events.

Both National and Labour have justified the events as saying ministers attend the events in their capacity as MPs, rather than as ministers.

But Labour has previously mocked the distinction. Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta, who was a minister in the Clark Government, said in 2014: “In my experience of that position, you are a minister at all times, day or night.”

Haworth said guests at the dinner “mainly” saw him. “We tailor the speaker to the audience very much, or back, to the theme, very much.”

Two people who attended said Haworth simply introduced Robertson and David Talbot from UMR, Labour’s polling company.

Haworth did not believe those attending gained influence over Robertson.

“I have no reason to believe that’s the case. There’s never been an example or evidence given to me that it is the case.” End quote.

So, why the big fuss when in opposition then? Quote:

National leader Simon Bridges accused Labour of hypocrisy.

“Labour sought to kick the crap out of us for somewhat similar sorts of events. Now they’re deep in it.”

It was “deeply ironic” that Labour was giving speeches at the venues Robertson was speaking at, Bridges said.

“All this talk in the election campaign and recently about the squeezed middle and equality and the need to do more with urgency in the way that supposedly – although I disagree – National wasn’t. Then they’re highfalutin it at the fanciest clubs in New Zealand at big prices per plate.”

Bridges said the average New Zealander probably would not understand what it meant for a minister to be at an event in a personal capacity.

“I’m not having the Labour Party on for having fundraising events. Partys do need to do it, and there is a line here that I appreciate is fine, around ministers versus MPs and those Cabinet rules issues,” he said.

“I think the National Party learned a lesson around Cabinet Club and the like and changed our policies accordingly. But [Labour] were the guys who had us on about it. They’re doing the same thing, at high prices, in the fanciest clubs in the land.” End quote.

Credit to Bridges. He isn’t complaining about the functions or the attendance of a minister, he is complaining about the hypocrisy. He is spot on in his approach and one that Labour won’t be able to reconcile. They made such a fuss over it, the left-wing blogs still go on and on about it, and now Labour are donkey deep doing the same thing. I can’t wait to see how they try to spin it, especially as Bridges has taken exactly the right approach.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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