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Williamson resigns as minister over call to police after Donghua Liu charged

Maurice Williamson says he has no intention of resigning as an MP despite being forced to resign as minister after allegedly interfering in a police investigation involving a large National Party donor, Donghua Liu.

Mr Williamson, a National MP since 1987, resigned as a minister after it was revealed he called police investigating a domestic violence incident involving Mr Liu, whose citizenship he had lobbied for.

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Mr Liu was charged with assaulting a woman and assault with intent to injure after an incident at a Newmarket hotel. He appeared at a Family Violence Court at Auckland District Court in December and was bailed to his $2 million Auckland home.

Prime Minister John Key announced his acceptance of the minister’s resignation this morning.

At a press conference this afternoon, Mr Williams told reporters he will not be giving up the Pakuranga seat he has held for 27 years.

"I've been selected as the candidate here in Pakuranga. I feel I probably let the good people of this electorate down a bit with this, but I hope they'll put their trust back in me. They always have," he said.

"I hope to regain that trust and I'll be standing in the next election."

Mr Williamson said he had not tried to influence the police. He said he was contacted by someone who knew the family about the domestic violence incident and contacted police to find out the status of his case..

"When I hung up I literally did not see that that was anything other than what a member of parliament would normally do," he said.

"It is clear to me now that that was an error of judgment and regardless of what I actually said, it could be interpreted I was trying to influence the issue."

Earlier today Mr Key said he will appoint a new minister outside the cabinet early next week and in the meantime, Nick Smith will act in the building and construction portfolio, Nathan Guy in land information, and Simon Bridges in customs and statistics.

“I have been made aware that Mr Williamson contacted police some time ago regarding their investigation of Mr Donghua Liu,” Mr Key said. “Mr Williamson has assured me that he did not in any way intend to influence the Police investigation.

“However, Mr Williamson’s decision to discuss the investigation with police was a significant error of judgment.

“The independence of police investigations is a fundamental part of our country’s legal framework.

“Mr Williamson’s actions have been very unwise as they have the potential to bring that independence into question.

“I have advised the Governor General to accept Mr Williamson’s resignation as a minister.

Mr Key says in a statement he plans to address the resignation and surrounding events at a press conference in Auckland later today.

Mr Williamson was a minister outside the cabinet, with responsibility for the portfolios of building and construction, land information, customs and statistics.

He is one of National’s most senior MPs, being first elected in 1987. He and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully are the only remainders from that intake.

Mr Williamson was not a “high flyer” in Prime Minister John Key’s government – despite his seniority, he was kept outside the full cabinet and was given mostly minor portfolios.

His name has often been mentioned as a  candidate for the Auckland mayoralty, replacing Len Brown, though locals believe it is more likely that  Phil Goff will be the next mayoral candidate.

Mr Williamson plans to hold a press conference at 1.30pm.

Connection to Mr Liu

Mr Williamson has previously lobbied -- against official advice -- to grant Mr Liu citizenship. The wealthy businessman is behind a proposed $70 million hotel project to rejuvenate a run-down site in Newmarket.

The proposal stalled after Mr Liu unsuccessfully lobbied to loosen business immigration rules for wealthy foreigners, which Mr Williamson also supported.

He was arrested after an incident involving his partner and her mother at the Boulevard Hotel late last year. He pleaded not guilty to assaulting a woman and assault with intent to injure.

Mr Liu was granted citizenship in 2010 after Mr Williamson and Auckland mayor John Banks lobbied Internal Affairs minister Nathan Guy. One of Mr Liu's companies donated $22,000 to the National Party some time after citizenship was granted.

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Comments and questions

This is a textbook case on how to deal with a scandal. Maybe Labour should take some notes. Get out in front, announce your mistake and resign within a few hours. Now National can quickly put this behind them and get on with campaigning, without giving the opposition a chance to drag Maurice through the mud. I'm sure Maurice's quick resignation will be rewarded in the future with a ministerial role after the election.

I read this report announcing resignation as MP. I assume so as approval from Gov Gen was requiredt. A ministerial responsibility after election is unlikely then.

Williamson resigned as a minister, not as an MP. The GG is not required to "accept" an MP's resignation (the Speaker gets told about that one), but as the GG appoints ministers, is required to accept a minister's resignation - on the PM's "advice", of course.

Er.......excuse me? Judith Collins??

The gap between standards applied to Collins and standards applied to other ministers is now a crevasse, which smiling John may soon fall down

Should never have happened in the first place. Dodgy politicians doing dodgy deals with dodgy Chinese, too much of it in government right now.

This Donghua Liu needs to have his citizenship revoked and be deported. New Zealand does not need questionable characters like him here.

Agree. Can any legal experts advise if it is workable?

Indeed. One Dot Com is more than enough.

I take it you are familiar with the charges laid against Mr Liu and the case then? Or are you just judging based on trial be media?

Yet more sleaze involving Chinese interests and NZ politicians. First Collins and now this. The problem for the NZ public is that this only represents what we are finding out - who can guess at the iceberg like proportions of the sleaze which remains undiscovered.

Agreed the average NBR commenter seems to have the philosophy of "its ok for dodgy dealings with questionable characters as long as it is handled in a first class manner by PR merchants and spin doctors".

What is it with National politicians and their inability to keep their hands out of the xiaolongbao?

It will be interesting to see how labour will try to make political collateral out of this. It will be the usual personal attacks rather than the actual issues

they should make political capital from that is the name of the game. How can National Ministers continue to think they are a law unto themselves. this is what lead to the downfall of labour, arrogant and full of themselvers.

Well done John Key for sorting it so quickly. Crowd Pleaser there is always rubbish under any stone. Don not judge all people rubbish because of a few rotten eggs

Mr Williamson is dead wood he's had his time, time for him to move on and bring someone new in.

It's really hard to avoid the conclusion that there's a repeated pattern of behaviour here. Ministers of the Crown are appointed for their ability to lead, and create value for New Zealand. Not to feather their own nests via the privileges bestowed upon them by trusting voters.

What other "serious errors of judgement" should we expect from National Ministers where Chinese wealth is a factor? It's not good enough, and makes NZ look like any other corrupt banana republic.

It is very clear that Williamson had to go. His conduct was an abuse of his position and completely unacceptable. Reading the heavily redacted police emails it is clear that Williamson did indeed influence the police to review the prosecution. "Poor judgement" does not accurately describe the conduct. A different process of justice for the influential and supposedly rich is not acceptable to any right-thinking New Zealander.

JK said that he "been made aware that Mr Williamson contacted police some time ago". Question is whether JK pushed before the media exposed it. Hhmmm.

All in all a big positive for National.
Mr Williamson should now join the other surplus baggage and announce his retirement from politics at the next election..

JK will be spewing with his cabinet, the opposition have had nothing, absolutly nothing to go on, with Judith C and now this giving them headlines, momentum could build, voters dont look at policy, its personality and perception mostly.

We sell citizenship, university degrees, our most productive farmland. Apart from thinking of ways of getting an easy buck, National is bereft of ideas to govern. Come back Winston, all is forgiven.

When Judith Collins is floundering in the water, Key throws her a life ring; but when it comes to Maurice Williamson, Key throws him an anchor. The difference between a minister inside Cabinet and one who is not.

Was he not just doing his job though? Constituent gets arrested; nobody sure what is happening with investigation as police are just saying "it is under investigation", goes up to local MP who phones police to discuss.

This sort of thing is what we elect MPs for - to be our representatives to the apparatus of the State.

Didn't Mr Dotcom call his local MP from his jail cell asking for help?
Mr Banks didn't lift a finger, despite having two of Mr Dotcom's cheques in his back pocket.
Clearly, the price for help from one's MP is a little more than two $25k cheques.

I don't think that Banks was Dotcom's MP; but regardless of this part of the point of electing people to represent us is that we can call on their assistance when we wish for representation.

I'm sure Mr. Williamson had the hours of 9 to 11 each morning blocked out in his calendar every day to phone the various arms of the state leviathan on behalf of his constituents.

It wouldn't matter if the Pakuranga local was a 21 year old in trouble with WINZ or a wealthy National party donor. I'm sure the amount of time and effort expended on the matter by Mr. Williamson would be the same regardless.

Labour gave citizenship to a few dodgy Chinese characters so they'd have to be careful about throwing mud!

Why don't we auction off a fixed number of permanent resident places to the highest bidders (subject to the usual criminal checks, etc) every quarter? That way we would see how much NZ citizenship is really worth and it would all be above board.

What an idiot. And this will no doubt come at a cost to all the so-called little people that Maurice (as do all senior members of Parliament do) was helping with their various constituency problems. A little bit of a shove and a push here and there with the bureaucracy can make a very real difference for some people and the struggles they are having in their lives. But ringing the Police? Oy vey!

Act should have a crack at that seat.. If they polled well there the party vote would lift and bingo - National would clean up in the election.

National are looking more and more unsavory, and John Key is not going to be able to keep pretending these gross abuses of power are simply peccadilloes, by trying to pass over them as soon as possible.

There is the whiff of corruption n the ai r- and yes- bending over backwards to allow dubious Chinese into the country on account of their wealth is part of it. Those who commit crimes should deported.

Seeing Maurice Williamson being interviewed on Campbell Live, he looked anything but convincing with the excuses and explanations regarding his relationship with Mr Liu. He looked wide-eyed and florid; a sure sign that he wasn't being entirely truthful.

Yes I quite liked the statement that the two weren't friends due to various barriers such as language.

The implication being of course that Mr Williamson was friends with only Mr Liu's money...