Matthew Hooton is one of our very best political writers. In a recent Herald article on the likelihood of NZ First surviving the next election, he trotted out the fact that no minority political party in a coalition has ever survived the next election. In so doing, he overlooked one salient factor. That is that such past coalitions have always been with last term governments in which they and thus understandably, their minority Party partners have been swept from office.
At this juncture, if one’s life was on the line I’d plump for a second term for the government. And equally I’d guess NZ First cuts the 5% mustard. But, as Hooton rightly said, much depends on the outcome of the enquiry into Winston’s latest funding scandal, and that doesn’t look good.
The saving grace for NZ First is the simultaneous enquiry into the Nats on the same non-disclosure grounds and its odds on both are guilty. If so any damage to NZ First will be substantially diluted.
Disclosure of donors is obviously enormously important. But both Labour and National have always co-operated with cover-ups by turning a blind eye to donors splitting their contributions over several ostensibly unrelated parties.
That said I’m astounded at Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel’s blatant disregard of this rule, given her experience. She’s in big trouble on this one, currently also under investigation. A bad outcome which would seem inevitable, would further dilute the negative impact on NZ First.
The dumbest handling ever of this issue was that by former Auckland mayor John Banks. Banksy had a fairly legitimate excuse for failing to mention a substantial donation from Dotcom, namely that he (understandably) didn’t handle the donor filing himself. But then his subsequent claim that he couldn’t remember flying in a helicopter to meet Dotcom at his mansion destroyed all credibility. If he couldn’t remember a helicopter trip and couldn’t remember meeting the fattest man in New Zealand and couldn’t remember going to New Zealand’s largest house, all highly implausible claims, he was nevertheless dead in the water when he asserted he also couldn’t remember meeting Dotcom’s then stunningly beautiful Filipino wife. That was Tui billboard territory. For example, a few years back when Dotcom brought her with him to Parliament to address an enquiry or some such nonsense, two of our now most senior politicians were due over for a meeting with me to solicit my advice on something I had expertise in. Half an hour before the scheduled meeting I received a call from one of their secretaries saying they would be delayed for half an hour.
They duly arrived. “ OK you buggers,” I said. “What was she like in the flesh?”
Unlike Banksy, knowing the game was up they were honest. “Bloody fantastic,” was the reply.
That said, when all of this soon explodes, you will find Labour will stay quiet and leave it to the media to express outrage. Why? Because any contrived high horse behavior by the government will lead to retaliatory revelations, and they know it.
For example, our politicians hugely indulge themselves with completely unnecessary foreign travel, which trips are never reported. I regularly run across the buggers with their wives in first-class lounges. They hasten to assure me they’re flying business-class but had been invited to use the First Class facility while waiting. I press them on why they’re flying at all which is when the embarrassment starts.
Former American ambassador and Senator, Carol Mosley-Braun used to marvel at our politicians abuse of the public purse with travel. “We’d all be in jail if we did that back home,” she once told me.
To avoid such scandalous revelations, our Governments always ensure, albeit to a lesser degree, that opposition members continue with such indulgences. So where’s the media revelations you ask? The politicians cover that by ensuring plenty of trips for the journos as well.
A funnier aspect of this tacit interparty co-operation was the practice a few years back of getting rid of embarrassing MPs. This problem was solved by sending them to Canada as our High Commissioner. The opposition always shut up about their unsuitability as when it was their turn in office, they did the same thing.
The non-public revelation of these decades old scams on the public purse, in a nutshell, is because everyone including the media, has a vested interest in their continuation. Not so in Australia though, where the media constantly expose politicians’ travel and other public purse indulgences.
The only time everyone broke the silence convention was with Rodney Hide.
Rodney campaigned with some success as the scam buster, exposing these practices. But when he succumbed to temptation and had a dip by taking a girlfriend to Hawaii, the politicians and media understandably piled into him, in the process ending both his political career and the ACT Party.
ACT continues today in name only. Its weird leader is propped up by a voter conspiracy to give National another seat in the House. Effectively this too is a scam as it’s a manipulation of the system.
So overall in the light of all this, it’s probable whatever emerges from the enquiry and no-matter how damming, if a little singed, Winston will emerge from the fire and soon it will be forgotten.
Note: Since writing this, news has come through of 4 prosecutions filed by the Serious Fraud office re the Nats non-disclosure.