Little’s statement/apology

I’m trying to understand what Andrew Little is trying to achieve with his ‘apology’ to Earl and Lani Hagaman.

A defamation case that the Hagamans are taking against Little is due to proceed in the Wellington High Court on 3 April.

The apology is just a part of a media statement Little issued yesterday. He has done it as a Labour Party statement as Leader of the Opposition so it seems to be a political statement more so than a personal apology.

LittleStatementHagaman

This was also issued as a press release via Scoop:

Statement re Earl Hagaman

Andrew Little
Leader of the Opposition

MEDIA STATEMENT

24 March 2017

So it is a Labour Party press release from Little as Leader of the Opposition. It is a political statement rather than a court statement or a personal statement and apology to the Hagamans, although an apology of sorts is included in it.

In June last year, Mr Earl and Mrs Lani Hagaman issued defamation proceedings over media statements I made about the award in September 2014 of a hotel management contract in Niue to the Scenic Hotel Group (in which they were shareholders and directors) followed by a $7 million upgrade.

It was a matter of public record that Mr Hagaman had donated $101,000 to the National Party in that same month. This generated considerable media interest.

Little tried to generate public interest in it with this statement on 18 April 2016.

LittleStatementAuditorGeneral

The accusations in that generated media interest, and it generated objections from the Hagamans.

As Leader of the Opposition, I considered I had an obligation to respond to media questions on the issues which related to government actions.

He also has an obligation to base any serious accusations against political opponents and against private persons on facts.

I referred the matter to the Auditor-General because I believed the public was entitled to be reassured.

It appeared that Little referred the matter to the Auditor General to try to get the AG to find evidence to support his accusations.

My focus was, and has always been, on holding the Government to account.

It looked more like he was trying to smear the Government, Ministers and the Hagamans with no evidence. Little had said that the timing of the donation “stinks to high heaven”.

Throughout, the Hagamans have vigorously maintained there was no connection between the award of the contract to Scenic and Mr Hagaman’s donation.

By April 21 “Scenic Hotel Group founders Earl and Lani Hagaman are considering legal action over Mr Little’s claims about the timing of a donation from Mr Hagaman to the National Party a month before the hotel group was awarded a contract in Niue.” NZ Herald.

The Auditor-General did not establish any connection.

From a letter from the Auditor General to Little dated 7 September 2016:

LittleAGLetter

Letter: Response to request for inquiry into awarding a management contract for a hotel in Niue

So despite “The information you subsequently provided to my Office on 27 July and 2 September has been considered as part of preparing this response” the Auditor-General found no problems.

In those circumstances, I thought the matter should be resolved. Over the last three months, I have made a serious effort to do that. Today I want to publicly apologise unreservedly to Mr Hagaman for any hurt, embarrassment or adverse reflection on his reputation which may have resulted from my various media statements. I have offered that apology to the Hagamans.

There is no retraction there, and no apology for getting things wrong. Just ‘sorry if you were upset about my various media statements’. If Little’s “serious effort” to resolve things have been anything like this then it’s no wonder it is scheduled for Court.

I have also offered to make a substantial contribution towards the Hagamans’ costs; an amount I am advised, was greater than would likely have been awarded by the Court.

Little is trying to defend his attempts at negotiating an out of court settlement in public.

He has conceded that a “substantial contribution towards costs” is appropriate. The way things are going those costs will be mounting – in a statement yesterday the Hagamans claimed “we’ve spent more than $200,000 in legal fees in preparing for this case”.

My offers of an apology and redress have been rejected and the matter will now have to be resolved in court. That is unfortunate.

Unfortunate for Little. It sounds like he is trying to portray himself as a victim of misfortune.

I strongly believe everybody’s time, not least the Court’s, could be better used.

A remarkable comment given Little’s initial and subsequent actions, including his latest statement. The Auditor-General’s time could have been better used than on a politically motivated smear attempt.

I want to make it clear that the object of the criticism was the actions of the National government and that I intended to reflect no impropriety on the part of Mr Hagaman.

No reference there to Mrs Hagaman, or to their company.

The Hagamans and Scenic Circle were just some collateral damage in a political hit? He may not have intended to reflect on their impropriety or otherwise but you would have to be a fool to not see that naming them would reflect on them.

I accept that no connection has been established between the donation and the award of the management contract and the hotel upgrade.

He is not admitting he got it wrong so his apology is hollow. All he is doing is saying he has established no connection and the Auditor-General found no connection. He is implying that he could have been right but there is no evidence to support his accusations.

I propose to make no further statement until the proceedings are resolved.

That’s about the only sensible thing that Little has said in his statement.

Little is digging a deeper hole here, and he is flying the Labour flag over it.

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26 Comments

  1. David

     /  25th March 2017

    I know he is a lawyer but this clearly is not an area he has even a smidgen of competence but this is a political statement trying to address a legal issue and its worrying that he doesnt have the brains to recognise this. Well written PG

    Reply
    • Yesterday when I posted on it I though “silly bugger”. But after thinking it over I think his statement is quite alarming in it’s lack of perception in a number of ways.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  25th March 2017

        I still think it’s ( it is ) just a question of getting the right amount of grovelling into the next apology, & possibly the financial compensation, right.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  25th March 2017

          He’d better hurry up.

          That ‘if…..’ weakens everything that comes after it.

          Reply
  2. Ray

     /  25th March 2017

    Having admitted guilt or rather no lack of evidence of crime as he alleged, Andrew Little (or maybe the Labour Party) is going to take a hiding in Court.
    Just wondering if this fake apology is all about positioning the Party to take the fall!
    Roll on the election.

    Reply
    • I think Little may be trying to claim he was acting as a Leader of the Opposition should in holding the Government to account, except that the Hagamans are holding him to account.

      And he may be trying to justify taxpayer funded legal expenses because he was just doing his job.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  25th March 2017

        Making sure that taxpayer money isn’t wrongly or stupidly used is a good thing. This wasn’t, and when it was obvious that there was no connection between the two-what government would be that stupid for a donation of that size ?-there was no apology. If there had been, we’d all have forgotten it long ago.

        Reply
  3. He’s dog tucker.
    Had a year almost to apologise.
    This last minute apology is BS and hopefully he’ll suffer.

    I thought he had some legal training?????
    Obviously not

    Reply
    • Probably no defamation law experience, apart from being on the receiving end of defamation proceedings fro Judith Collins. He extracted himself from that but doesn’t seem to have learnt well from it.

      All his training lately seems to have been on playing politics and that shows.

      Reply
      • Pete Kane

         /  25th March 2017

        What does it say for his advisors throughout it all? And his own judgement re staff and wider counsel? (Nothing against Andrew at a personal level – he seems a nice enough guy.)

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  25th March 2017

          Even I know about defamation, and so do most others here-being a lawyer isn’t necessary to know when something’s defamation.

          He may be a nice guy, but he’s pig-headed enough to be an Ulsterman*. I was surprised that his family wasn’t from the North of England.

          * my family’s from there !

          Reply
  4. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  25th March 2017

    Good point – he has not apologised to Mrs Hagaman.
    What a fool.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  25th March 2017

      I hadn’t noticed that, He is a fool. A business like that is likely to be owned by both partners.

      If it isn’t, fair enough. But it would be better to assume that it was run by both and apologise to both.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  25th March 2017

        getting pretty liberal with denigration and ….assumptions ..lady.

        Reply
    • John Schmidt

       /  25th March 2017

      I think this pretty much explains his real view on Women and why he surrounds himself with Men, I am surprised that this has not already been picked up. Barefoot and pregnant comes to mind.

      Reply
  5. Duperez

     /  25th March 2017

    I seem to remember an occasion Mr Key under criticism saying he “wasn’t being PM at that moment” or somesuch.
    Little as Leader of the Opposition is presumably in a perpetual state of holding the Govt to account. No surprise there. The thing is there are boundaries to what one can do? What are they?
    The David Carter explanation in excusing what some say are excesses might say “This is a robust chamber for robust debate.” Does stating something directly no-holds-barred differ than posing questions which could pose implications?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  25th March 2017

      Hard to say. What do you mean?

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  25th March 2017

      Key had so many hats .P.M,Member for Helensville,Father,private individual.Little makes any trivial error and they are baying for his blood.

      Reply
      • This defamation proceeding has become far from trivial for Little, and he has himself to blame.

        And it’s not the first time, although last time he averted a court appearance.

        How many times was Key threatened with defamation?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  25th March 2017

          not sure.His comments about Treasury and a number of legal opinions were sailing close to the wind.Then there is always ponytail gate.Littles case is a storm in a tea cup.The circumstances of the Nuie hotel deal and the players deserved scrutiny.Look at Neville Body,paid $2.3mil as a consultant re selling state houses.Talk about conflicts of interest.Batted away with the old ‘commercially sensitive’ argument.

          Reply
      • When are you going to stop referring to Key, the very ex PM? This has literally nothing to do with him and everythimg to do with Little and his astoundingly ignorant and defamatory statements about the Hagamans.

        Reply
    • Gezza

       /  25th March 2017

      Oh, sorry duperez, I get your drift now I think.

      Maybe a better comparison might be with Winston who has a bit of a history of allegations in which he names individuals.

      He seems to have got away with a few without producing anything of substance to substantiate them.

      I think he’s careful to make sure he says it in the Chamber in The House.

      Repeating them outside seems to be a lot riskier. I’m not sure how much protection the House gives, but there seems to be some.

      Reply
      • I believe there are significant protections in the house, and that’s usually where Peters makes his accusations and insinuations.

        He doesn’t seem to do it so much now but he seemed to often make big accusations but rarely front up with evidence. I think he fed the media hoping they would do it for him.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  25th March 2017

          Yes, I think maybe the trick is you make your accusation or insinuation in the House, and then outside it, you simply refer to your statement(s) in the House.

          Reply
      • Gezza

         /  25th March 2017

        Absolute freedom of speech in Parliament
        In New Zealand’s democracy there are limits on freedom of speech, such as those in the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Defamation Act 1992. However, words spoken as part of parliamentary proceedings are subject to absolute freedom of speech. Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688 provides “That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.” This protects not only members of Parliament, but also witnesses and advisers at select committee meetings, from being sued for defamation or otherwise being held legally liable for what they say in a parliamentary proceeding. The Parliamentary Privilege Act 2014 (section 10) defines what “proceedings in Parliament” are, that is “all words spoken and acts done in the course of, or for purposes of or incidental to, the transacting of the business of the House or of a committee.”

        However, if the words said in parliamentary proceedings (the House and its committees) are repeated elsewhere, the protection of parliamentary privilege does not apply. Procedures are in place for both the House and select committees to ensure natural justice (fairness of process) is observed. These allow right of reply to those who consider their reputation has been damaged by statements made under privilege. Arguments continue about whether there are enough protections against unfair allegations. This must be weighed against the need for the House and committees to be free to hear of any matters that may affect the business under consideration.

        Elected representatives make important decisions and they are better able to do this where information and opinions can be disclosed without fear of legal consequences.

        The privilege of free speech in Parliament carries an obligation to use it responsibly. The House has the ability to punish for contempt; an example of contempt would be to mislead the House or a committee deliberately (see below).

        https://www.parliament.nz/en/visit-and-learn/how-parliament-works/parliamentary-privilege/

        Reply

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