David Cunliffe has given two conflicting explanations about what he knew before meeting a sex offender in Queenstown.
Audrey Young (NZ Herald on Monday):
… the Labour leader threatens to be distracted by internal ill-discipline and criticisms over his judgment, including the holiday itself and a meeting last week with a prominent New Zealander given name suppression on charges of performing an indecent act.
Mr Cunliffe confirmed to the Herald last night that he had arranged for the person – whose case has been the topic of media coverage – to meet a Labour candidate but said he had no idea about the controversial background until yesterday.
“If I had known of the suggestion, no such meeting would have taken place.”
Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB on Tuesday):
Mr Cunliffe admits a prominent New Zealander’s possible sexual offending had been raised with him before he met with the man in Queenstown last week.
The Labour leader says the meeting went ahead because no proof had been supplied.
“There is a suspicion that a person who asked to meet me and my candidate down there might be a person in that category. All I can say is had I known that, and we did ask around if there was any reason not to meet, we wouldn’t have had the meeting.”
One of those versions at least cannot be accurate.
Rodney Hide, who publicised the offending, said in in his column (Sunday 13 July):
I know something of this case. I certainly know the attacker. And I know some of our leading politicians know him and know, too, of his attitude and behaviour towards women. It was a topic of conversation when I was in Parliament.
He also said in his column on Sunday (20th):
After my column, various low-level political operatives asked me who it was. It was tittle-tattle for them, I thought, but then I realised they were checking whether the predator was on their team. They expressed no concern for the victim and no outrage.
Through the week, our “prominent” New Zealander’s media mates rang journalists to minimise his offending. The spin was that the judge didn’t believe the woman and, sure, their mate had made a forceful pass, as he does, but not an assault. Yeah, right.
These are the enablers. They defend, minimise and excuse sex crimes.
His victim is clear: “He is a dirty b****** and people should know … For me, it’s not over – I want his name out there.” And of him? “There is no remorse there; absolutely no remorse whatsoever.” Sound familiar?
From the stand up interview yesterday that Soper was reporting on:
Soper: Why did you meet in Queenstown with a prominent New Zealander who’s been up for sex chargers?
Cunliffe: Well I am subject to the same rules around name suppression that you are. There is a suspicion that a person who asked to meet me and my candidate down there might be a person in that category. All I can say is had I known that, and we did ask around if there was any reason not to meet, we wouldn’t have had the meeting.”
Soper asked more questions:
Soper: He’s well known though, I mean we, most of us know so why didn’t you know?
I’m sure that political journalists made a point of knowing.
Cunliffe: I should ask you Barry, shouldn’t I. I will next time.
Soper: No no no, it’s a fair point though that ah, many people…
Cunliffe: We asked around Barry and we had no indication of any risk of that nature.
Hide claims political operatives were asking about it. Soper claims “most of us know”. Cunliffe and those advising him may have been some of the few who didn’t know – by why the heck didn’t they find out? Especially when “the possible sexual offending had been raised with him before he met with the man”.
It could be a lack of awareness or competence in Team Cunliffe but it’s difficult to understand how they didn’t know – and it’s difficult to understand why they didn’t make sure they knew.
And why has Cunliffe’s explanation changed between Sunday and Tuesday? Maybe he could have another go at clarifying what he meant.
There’s a tricky question to ask about Cunliffe’s Queenstown visit that must be looked at completely separate from the above.
Why did Cunliffe have a meeting with Labour Clutha-Southland candidate Liz Craig and an ex National MP?