‘Do not go there’. That was the warning given by Prime Minister John Key to Labour MP Chris Hipkins in response to no fewer than four questions from the Opposition over allegations of impropriety in what is increasingly being dubbed ‘cash for access’. Andrea Vance summarises the claims and counter-claims, which involve the National, Labour and Green parties – see: 'Cash for access' claims fly.
The latest MP to be the subject of allegations is Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse – watch the interview with him on TV1’s Breakfast programme – see: Immigration Minister discussed policy with Chinese businessman. The allegations are also summarised in Herald journalist Isaac Davison’s piece, MP confirms meeting with Donghua Liu.
Patrick Gower looked at the evolving nature of the ‘cash for access’ claims today in his Week in Politics discussion on TV3’s Firstline programme. It is also worth watching the video of Hipkins’ question to Key from Parliament TV or reading the Hansard transcript of the exchange in Questions for oral answer: compliance with Cabinet Manual.
Key was responding to the ‘Cabinet Club’ allegations that access to ministers is being purchased by wealthy party supporters. Key’s response was effectively a classic Realpolitik rejoinder – ‘you do it too’. It’s worth quoting him at length on this: ‘Political parties right across Parliament attend events that are fund-raising events. People always have interests—of course they do; that is the real world. In the same way, the Labour Party accepted $60,000 from Phillip Mills—Labour and the Greens accepted $60,000 and $65,000 respectively—and very soon afterwards the Labour Party started promoting green growth. We know that Shane Jones, for instance, had his leadership bid funded in part by the oil and gas sector and, again, very soon came out and started talking about that. I have quite a long list. If Labour members really want to invite me to table all of those, they are welcome to do that, but I just make one little warning to them: do not go there. But if you want me to, I am more than happy to’.
The defence that all parties are guilty of dodgy practices, at a minimum, is forcefully rejected by leftwing blogger No Right Turn: ‘if other parties have similar arrangements, then they're guilty as well, and we need to get rid of them too. There is no place in our democracy for politicians who corruptly sell access. It is that simple’ – see: Government for sale. No Right Turn believes the ‘solution is greater transparency: make [them] disclose every meeting and every dollar, and make it a crime punishable by jail time to keep it secret’. Meanwhile, new ‘fact-check’ blog NZfactcheck attempts to answer the question Do National Ministers Attend Cabinet Club Meetings in their Ministerial Capacity? and comes to the conclusion ‘maybe’. For a partisan view of the widening allegations, see Labour MP Louisa Wall’s blog post, When does corruption start damaging National?
How are other political parties handling money? The newest political party, Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party – which polled 1.5% in Wednesday’s Roy Morgan poll – is in the news after placing a newspaper advertisement looking for candidates who ‘will put the welfare of New Zealanders before corporate interests, foreign powers or former school chums’ – see Felix Marwick’s ‘Prime Minister Wanted’. Dotcom is promising to pay candidates a full MP’s salary just for standing – something which National supporter and Kiwiblog author David Farrar is strongly against: ‘This will be a first. It seems every single person involved in the Internet Party is being paid to be involved. Candidates will be effectively personally paid by Kim Dotcom. That means they must of course do whatever he says. This is not a genuine political party. It is a wholly owned company’ – see: Even the candidates are on the payroll.
Meanwhile, New Zealand First is asking its election candidates to sign a contract forcing them to pay the party $300,000 in damages if they leave the party once in parliament but stay on as MPs, in light of the Brendan Horan situation. Radio New Zealand’s Demelza Leslie reports that law professor Andrew Geddis believes ‘the courts would throw the contract out on public policy grounds because it effectively amounts to New Zealand First twisting a member's arm to quit Parliament’ – see: NZ First radically changes its rules and Michael Fox’s NZ First penalty said to be unenforceable. See also Andrew Geddis’ blog post, I'm right, Winston's not, so there and Gordon Campbell’s On New Zealand First’s loyalty pledge.
New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin is also in the news after receiving a $35,000 annual salary from 2011-2013 as a local council board member – see National supporter David Farrar’s A bit misleading.
What has been the fallout from the resignation of Maurice Williamson and the revival of the Oravida affair? The latest Roy Morgan poll came out on Wednesday, the results of which are summarised in the NBR’s Labour-Greens move ahead of National as scandal engulfs govt.
Left-leaning commentator Selwyn Manning believes the poll is evidence that the Opposition has ‘sustained a turn around of fortunes after being seen as a credible government in waiting bloc’. He says: ‘In one month, since the Roy Morgan April 17 poll, National has seen its lion’s share of support collapse from what was then said to be National’s (then on 48.5%) biggest lead over Labour/ Greens (then on 40%) since July 2013’ – see: National’s Support Collapses Over Collins+Williamson Scandals – Roy Morgan Poll.
Of course, it is worth being wary of taking a single poll too seriously, as Labour advisers Rob Salmond in The Morgan poll, today and later, and Greg Presland in Latest Roy Morgan are at pains to point out. Both Salmond and the NBR point to next week’s Budget as the next key event, with the NBR saying that the government will be hoping it ‘will act as a circuit-breaker’ after the news of the last fortnight.
Finally, for some social media reaction to allegations of ‘cash for access’ in the National Party, see my blog post Top tweets about National’s Cabinet Club and other political fundraising issues.
Vernon Small (Stuff): A crushing time for Collins
Jane Clifton (Stuff): Collins show exposes selective hearing
Mamari Stephens (Sparrowhawk): A connection between Konrad, Judith & Maurice? You betcha.
Tim Watkin (Pundit): Why the Collins case is about then, not now
John Armstrong (Herald): Survival of the walking dead
Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): Key pulls chain on Crusher Collins
Vernon Small (Stuff): Ambassador noted limited Oravida contact
Simon Wong (TV3): Collins confirms health scare
Laura McQUillan (Newstalk ZB): Collins blunts health scare questions
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Mallard and Collins at loggerheads
The Standard: Culture of Impunity
Matthew Beveridge:Is it any wonder?
Rob Salmond (Polity): Collins' timeline of meddling
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Robertson wrong
Greg Presland (The Standard): Judith Collins the walking dead
Rob Salmond (Polity): Trevor
Vernon Small and Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Poll puts Labour-Greens alliance in front
Rob Salmond (Polity): The Morgan poll, today and later
NBR Staff (NBR): Labour-Greens move ahead of National as scandal engulfs govt
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): What the latest Roy Morgan Poll means – Could MANA/Internet Party be the difference?
Louisa Wall (Daily Blog): When does corruption start damaging National?
Newswire: National support drops in poll
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): National drops in latest poll
Audrey Young (Herald): National takes 6 point dive
Vernon Small (Stuff): National slumps in Roy Morgan poll
Greg Presland (The Standard): Latest Roy Morgan
Pete George (Your NZ): Poll bad for National, still not flash for Labour
Selwyn Manning (Daily Blog): National’s Support Collapses Over Collins+Williamson Scandals – Roy Morgan Poll
Steve Braunias (Stuff): What's the harm in a phone call?
Karl du Fresne (Stuff): Williamson part of a pattern
Isaac Davison (Herald): MP confirms meeting with Donghua Liu
Michael Fox (Stuff): Liu gave immigration views to Govt
Patrick Gower (TV3): Woodhouse discussed immigration with Liu
Simon Wong (TV3): Possible conflict in minister's meeting – Cunliffe
Taylor Sincock (TV3): Legal highs banned from shelves
Ben Heather (Stuff): Legal high industry's massive profits
Isaac Davison (Herald): Illegal-high users fair game: Ryall
Brian Rudman (Herald): Hard line on animal tests paints Key into corner
Duncan Garner (RadioLIVE): Let the ‘Synthetic High’ black market begin
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the synthetic drugs ban
Russell Brown (Hard News): A law gone awry
David Kennedy (Local Bodies):Illegal Highs, Knee-Jerks and the Greens
Mike Wesley-Smith (TV3): Synthetic high users stockpile before ban
The Guardian: New Zealand in U-turn on designer drugs
Marama Davison (Daily Blog): What are the risks if we ban legal highs?
Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): The Soap Box: It does sound a bit dodgy...
Andrea Vance (Stuff): PM plays hypocrisy card in cash row
Radio NZ: Key a regular at Cabinet Clubs
Tova O’Brien (TV3): Key: 'Nothing wrong' with Cabinet Club donations
Andrea Vance (Stuff): 'Cash for access' claims fly
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Shock horror – electorates used MPs for fundraisers
No Right Turn: Government for sale
Keeping Stock: How would you feel...?
Dan Satherley (TV3): People will 'adapt' to Christchurch – Bennett
Rachel Smalley (Newstalk ZB): Classic election-year policy
Jan Logie (Frogblog): Giving money to beneficiaries – if only.
Steven Cowan (Against the Current): The New Swaggers
Lynn Prentice (The Standard): Handouts to make them go away
James Weir (Stuff): Governor warns of currency action
John Anthony (Stuff):Website offers 'highway to China'
Isaac Chotiner (New Statesman): “Marx? I never really managed to read it” – an interview with Thomas Piketty
James Weir (Stuff): Unemployment holds at 6 per cent
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Leeway possible over milk powder exports
Brian Fallow (Herald): Wheeler fires exchange rate warning shot
Paul McBeth (NBR): Jobs growth, high participation rate show migrants finding work
No Right Turn: Still 42,000 out of work under National
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Stagnant Unemployment rate suggests Rockstar economy out of drugs
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): More jobs
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): 'Prime Minister Wanted'
Kurt Bayer (Herald): Dotcom's promises to prospective MPs
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Even the candidates are on the payroll
Danyl McLauchlan (Dim-Post): Suspicious
Radio NZ: Spy boss quiet on Snowden speculation
Adam Bennett (Herald): GCSB head: 'We don't do that stuff'
Radio NZ: Spy boss denies mass surveillance
Shane Cowlishaw (Stuff): Spy boss won't say if Snowden has NZ files
Tobacco plain packaging
Brendan Manning (Herald): Plain cigarette packs could reduce Maori health gap, committee told
Brendan Manning (Herald): Kids drawn to brightly-coloured cigarette packs, Committee told
Simon Day (Stuff): Plain pack smokes will 'harm brand'
Labour’s monetary policy
Audrey Young (Herald): Labour refuses to provide estimates on KiwiSaver plan
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Unions want exemptions from higher retirement age
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour still refusing to calculate impact of VSR
3 News Online Staff (TV3): More cash for Canterbury support services
Radio NZ: State of council's books to be revealed
Lois Cairns (Stuff): Brownlee questions figures
Lois Cairns (Stuff): Christchurch in financial strife
Michael Fox (Stuff): NZ First penalty said to be unenforceable
Radio NZ: NZ First radically changes its rules
Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): NZ First MP's letter to police a mistake
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A bit misleading
Radio NZ: Chancellor wants Maori tertiary reps
James Ireland (Stuff): I carry my history, culture with me: tattooed candidate
Radio NZ: Maori employment rates improve
Anne Gibson (Herald): Fast-track plan for 18,000 homes
Josh Fagan (Stuff): Auckland housing development fast-tracked
Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): A Different Address: Mai Chen assesses Auckland’s future.
Jody O’Callaghan (Stuff): Childhood centres in complaints to stay secret
Radio NZ: New body 'offensive' - teachers' union
Nicholas Jones (Herald): Ditch 'flawed' Pisa school tests, say academics
Louise Berwick (Stuff): Peters launches into Nats' candidate choice
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Parliament gets ready for earthquakes
Pattrick Smellie (Stuff): English has a point, but can he make it?
Dave Burgess (Stuff): Unknowns of seabed mining test environmental staff
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Fonterra botulism probe progresses
Sophie Rapson (Progress Report): The 38%
Rob Salmond (Polity): Kiwiblog on non-voters
Ben Clark (The Standard):Save Invermay
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): MPs’ Pecuniary Interests
Susan St John (Herald): Don't let glow vanish from golden years
Vaimoana Tapaleao (Herald): A good place to be a mum
Catriona MacLennan (Herald): Cap an easy way to protect vulnerable from loan sharks
No Right Turn: Member's Day
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish):Five!
Andrea Vance (Stuff): MP faces complaint over fake testimonial
Muriel Newman (NZCPR): A Climate of Irrational Assumptions
NZFactCheck: Were the 2010 tax cuts fiscally neutral?
NZFactCheck: Does John Key donate his salary to charity?