Three people want name suppression lifted, two don’t

Three of the four people charged by the SFO over donations to the National party want their identities revealed. That means one doesn’t.

And the Labour youth camp assaulter wants his identity kept secret, although the judge has hinted that suppression may end after the election.

NZ Herald: National Party donations accused want suppression lifted

Three of four men facing Serious Fraud Office charges over two $100,000 donations to the National Party have applied for a judge to lift their name suppression.

The change of heart comes after the men brought an urgent application for suppression on January 31, just two days after the SFO filed charges against the group.

Judge Eddie Paul granted all four temporary secrecy and said in his judgment the hearing was rushed through after 5pm in the Auckland District Court after journalists indicated they would identify the accused in the next 24 hours.

“It seems to me the Criminal Procedure Act anticipates that there is some restraint exercised by the media until the first appearance so that the proper exercise of defendant’s rights can be exercised. Publication now would, in my view, abrogate those rights and that simply cannot be permitted.”

However, three of the men have today asked a judge to revoke the order, according to a public relations firm hired by the trio.

“Three of the four defendants appearing in court next week following a Serious Fraud Office investigation into National Party donations have applied to have the name suppression orders associated with the case lifted,” a statement by Pead PR reads.

“Legal counsel for the three defendants confirmed the application is before the Auckland District Court and is currently being considered by a judge.”

Obviously that leaves one still wanting to remain unidentified. One could presume that’s the one charged with supplying false information to the SFO but that’s not necessarily so.

The Labour youth camp assault is back in court over ongoing name suppression.

NZ Herald: Young man fights for secrecy in Labour Party summer camp scandal

A young man who pleaded guilty to assaulting two others at a drunken Labour Party summer camp argues his identity should be kept forever hidden.

The High Court judge considering the appeal has also contemplated suppressing his name until after this year’s general election as the case is kicked about like a political football.

Suppression dependant on an election is a bit concerning.

The now 22-year-old was discharged without conviction but also declined permanent name suppression by Judge Russell Collins at his sentencing last November.

His lawyer Emma Priest today appealed the decision in the High Court at Auckland before Justice Christian Whata.

Priest said there had been “extreme media” coverage of the case, and the trial was “highly politicised”.

During last year’s trial, the young man reached a deal with prosecutors after facing five charges of indecent assault, which related to four people: two men and two women.

He pleaded guilty to two amended charges of assault under the Summary Offences Act for the events at the young Labour event near Waihi in February 2018.

The assault charges were for the allegations against the two men. The charges against the two women were dismissed.

But victims aren’t happy.

After the sentencing, one of the victims was interviewed by Newstalk ZB, which Priest said today was not a “fair statement of what happened in the court”.

In the interview, the victim said the case had became a political football.

“If I’ve gone through this without justice, what about everyone else that goes through the system?” he said.

“I would have liked for him to actually have been given a consequence that reflects his behaviour.”

But I’d be surprised if a suppression decision can be based on charges that were withdrawn.

But Priest said her client did not want to engage in defamation proceedings or go to the Media Council.

“He just wants it all to go away.”

Most people who have been in court due to illegal actions would like it all to ‘go away”.

However, Justice Whata told Priest: “What you’re asking the court to do is suppress something that is highly topical.

“Actually, that’s why we have freedom of speech.”

He said public discussion of the case might be deemed as unfair to the offender but could also be seen to be unfair to the complainants.

Justice Whata said he was conscious there should not be any perceived special treatment for anyone in political parties.

He contemplated continuing suppression until after this year’s election.

“We’ve got an election coming up, and dollars to doughnuts this will be all over that and his face associated with it.”

Justice Whata reserved his decision on suppression and said he couldn’t promise a result in the near future as he “gave it careful consideration”.

Sounds like the judge is tending towards lifting suppression, but is inclined towards kicking the can down the road for a while, possibly until after the election.

But this could have an effect on suppression in the above donations case, where I think it is important that everything is out in the open.

 

Open Forum – 19 February

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Slater, Lusk connection to The BFD confirmed

After staying under cover for a year Cameron Slater has started to openly comment and post at The BFD. And Simon Lusk’s association with the blog has also been as good as confirmed.

When Whale Oil was shut down and The BFD started up in February last year they tried to distance Slater from the new business, to try to avoid legal and financial problems – Slater had just declared himself bankrupt, and the company that owned Whale Oil, Social Media Consultants Limited had been put into liquidation. Just before liquidation Slater was removed as director and shareholder, leaving his wife Juana Atkins as sole director and shareholder.

Slater didn’t openly contribute to The BFD, but Atkins was had a prominent role under her pseudonyms SB and ‘spanish bride’. The content and style of some of her posts had a Slater look to them.

The pro-NZ First and anti-National agenda that Slater had been running at Whale Oil gradually emerged at the BFD, with familiar styles and targets.

Posts started to appear under the name Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary (who uses a photo of explorer Xavier Mertz who died in Antarctic in 1913), They had a similar style to some of the Whale Oil posts that had appeared under Slater’s name. And they continued the anti-National and pro-NZ First agenda.

A recent post by Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary got attention because it used photos taken by ‘a NZ First supporter’ who Winston Peters had initially referred to as ‘we’. This post was typical WO style dirty politics, attacking journalists and threatening them with legal repercussions. More posts from the same author have followed, attacking a number of other journalists and media.

Last week Slater posted under his own name for I think the first time at The BFD.

I Just Had to Let It Go

On the morning of October 28 2018, just four days from my 50th birthday, I awoke to find my life changed dramatically. As I travelled to hospital by ambulance I felt confused, sad, despondent and very, very angry. I didn’t know what the future would deliver anymore, my whole life was in tatters as a result of a stroke.

His life was already in tatters, facing massive court case losses and costs as his attempts to avoid being held to account for attack agendas ran out of options. The stroke just added to this mess, and the stress of his predicament may have contributed to it.

The rest of the  was available to subscribers only, so the need to encourage subscriptions seemed to be greater than the wish to getting his story out.

Another attack post by Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary yesterday –  Where Was Andrea Vance When Rawshark HACKED a Journalist? – was much the same as many past laments about the Dirty Politics exposure. It looked like a Slater post.

And in comments where someone may have been getting close to a sensitive topic Slater commented in response.

His denials can be taken with a grain of salt, as can his accusations aimed at National.

Today at The BFD is yet another attack on Paula Bennett in The BFD Face of the Day

Most of it is same old smear sort of stuff, but one paragraph stands out as significant.

This week she stated publicly that she and National have nothing to do with experienced political operator Simon Lusk and ex Whaleoil editor Cameron Slater. She is telling the truth because both of them have a no dickheads policy.

Apart from the hilarious ‘no dickheads’ irony, this appears to confirm that the old dirty partnership of Slater and Lusk is openly operating at The BFD.

This doesn’t help Winston Peters or NZ First, who have been getting a hammering for working with The BFD to run dirty politics attacks on media.

SFO charges involve two $100k National donations

Newsroom: Not one, but two $100k donations to National in court

Court charging documents released to the media by order of Auckland District Court Judge Edwin Paul today show that three of the four defendants – whose names are suppressed ahead of a hearing next week – each face two joint charges of deception over a sum of $100,000 donated to National in 2017 and $100,050 donated to the party in 2018. The maximum penalty if convicted on the charge is seven years’ imprisonment.

The fourth person is charged jointly with the others only over the second $100,050 donation – but also faces one charge of providing misleading information to the SFO.

The SFO’s wording for the joint deception charges says: “By deception or without claim of right directly or indirectly obtained for the National Party possession of, or control over, any property, namely a $100,050 [for the 2018 charge] donation made to the National Party between June 1, 2018 and June 8, 2018 (“the 2018 donation”) in circumstances where the identity of the donor was not disclosed in the National Party’s Annual Return of Party Donations.”

The SFO describes the offending over the donations in these words: “The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem whereby the … donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000 and transferred into bank accounts of eight different people before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party.”

For the fourth person’s charge of misleading the SFO, the charging document says: “In the course of complying with a requirement … of the Serious Fraud Act 1990 supplied information knowing it was false or misleading in a material particular.”

The SFO says of that charge that this defendant told investigators a $100,000 sum transferred to their account was a deposit for a building on another person’s property – when the money had been intended as a donation to the National Party. Further, in 2019 the defendant created, signed and back-dated a contract to that end, when no real contract for that work existed. The office alleges the made-up contract copied wording from an unrelated contract.

While none of the four charged are directly connected to the National Party (according to National), and it’s possible National are innocent recipients of the donations, at best this still doesn’t look good for National, and could still get much worse.

Will National pay both donations back? If so that will drain their coffers somewhat.

Bridges botches tax plan accouncement

Simon Bridges launched an economic plan today that was high on rhetoric but low on specifics. The lack of detail left a vacuum that has been quickly filled with a focus on a sloppy (at best) statement on average earnings tax rates.

In his speech:  National’s economic plan for 2020

We will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.

People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.

People on ‘the average wage’ have little or none of their earnings taxed at a rate of 33%. Many others have pointed out that average wage earners are taxed closer to 17% overall on earnings.

Alex Brae at The Spinoff:  Good news for Simon Bridges: his big tax idea is already happening

Bridges said during the announcement that in a future announcement he “will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.” So let that be announced.

And then he declared: “People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.”

So what is the average wage then? Stats NZ figures from last year put the median weekly income at $1016, which added up per annum comes to a shade under $53,000.

So what is the effective tax rate for someone on the median wage? Fortunately, IRD has a calculator which can tell you exactly this information. Here it is:

Calculated out, someone on the median wage ends up paying about 17% of their income in income tax.

There is another potential way of calculating it though, which could bring it closer to the mark. Stats NZ’s latest Quarterly Employment Survey shows an average income of $1,243 a week, or $64,650 a year. The difference is over ‘medians’ or ‘means’ – either the middle number selected in a set of numbers, or the sum total of a collection of numbers which is then divided by the number of numbers, which can be heavily skewed by upper outliers.

Such a figure would create a whole new share of tax being paid – you can see that here:


So in either case no earnings are taxed at 33%, let alone all of them.

This is either highly ignorant of Bridges, or the alternate assumption is that he has tried to deliberately mislead.

The National media release:  National’s economic plan for 2020 and beyond

National Leader Simon Bridges has today outlined National’s economic plan heading into election 2020.

“National understands the economy and how it impacts on New Zealanders day to day lives.”

Big whoops.

Either way it looks poor, and is an embarrassing way to try to present National as competent on economic matters.

Here are their bullet points.

Only National has a strong economic plan. This includes;

  • Keeping taxes low
  • Keeping debt low and being responsible managers of the economy
  • Growing incomes and lowering the cost of living
  • Investing more in core public services
  • Creating more jobs and opportunities for all New Zealanders.

The Measures we will use to hold ourselves accountable include;

  • Lifting New Zealand’s economic growth back to at least three per cent per annum
  • Lifting New Zealand’s GDP per capita growth to the top ten in the OECD
  • Reducing the after-tax income tax gap with Australia
  • Reducing the number of New Zealander’s who feel they have to leave for opportunities overseas
  • Reviving business confidence so that businesses feel like they can take more risks and create opportunities for you and your family.

“National will release a full package of policies leading up to the election which will address tax, regulation, infrastructure, small business and families.

A lot more care will need to be taken over the full package, but today’s announcement has set things off badly for Bridges.

Labour opposition leaders have been slammed in the past for fluffing economic policy announcements, by media and by National.

Bridges deserves similar scrutiny and criticism on this performance.

 

 

James Shaw speaks on NZF/BFD use of photos against journalists

After growing pressure to make some sort of statement Green co-leader James Shaw has commented carefully on NZ First handing photos to an attack blog who then threatened the journalists.

NZ Herald: NZ First Foundation saga: Greens break silence on ‘chilling’ photos of journalists

The Greens have broken their silence and expressed alarm at published photos of an ex-NZ First president with journalists who have been reporting on donations to the party.

The photos were published on website The BFD, which has been linked to Whale Oil, the blog at the centre of the 2014 book Dirty Politics.

The BFD has increasingly been used to promote NZ First and to attack the Greens, Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges, National and the media.

Shaw told the Herald that the details of what had happened were unclear.

“But regardless of who took the photographs and why, the fact they were passed to a blog that is designed to undermine trust in our political system is a concern.”

Shaw also took a step further in relation to questions about the NZF Foundation and whether it has properly declared donations to the NZF party.

“The allegations are concerning and due process must be followed while they are investigated,” Shaw said.

“We know New Zealanders will be looking at this issue and worrying about what it means for their democracy, which is why we are focused on making the system more transparent and fair.”

This is something, but seems a lot more measured than Green condemnation of John Key and National when Hager’s Dirty Politics in 2014 revealed the use of Whale Oil for political attacks.

Shaw has previously answered questions about the foundation by saying that the country’s electoral system needed to be strengthened.

He is now calling for an independent citizens’ assembly to “clean up” political donations, which have been clouded by questions over the NZF Foundation, as well as the SFO charges laid in relation to a $100,000 donation to the National Party.

Perhaps an alternative to fixing the laws would be a good idea, rather than politicians dominated by the large parties who receive large donations doing what suits their own interests.

Shaw’s response tends towards too mild and too late.

Jacinda Ardern has remained fairly silent on the NZF/BFD issue, and has been widely criticised for this.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said there remained many unanswered questions about the “chilling” photos.

“It beggars belief to think that somehow by chance these journalists were photographed with Lester Gray and the photos somehow found their way onto a blog.”

if the National Party had been involved in such a thing, Labour and the Greens would be shouting from the rooftops.

“The Prime Minister appears to be hiding. Her silence is damning. Has she asked who took the photos, did they pay for it, and how did they end up on the blog?”

National were involved in this sort of thing up until 2014, but then distanced themselves from Whale Oil. Cameron Slater then turned his attacks on Key, National, Bill English, Paula Bennett and Bridges. This has continued at The BFD, although Slater now seems to have a more peripheral role.

While the change of position from National is stark it does turn pressure towards Ardern.

Asked about Bridges’ comments, a spokesperson for Ardern said the Prime Minister was focused on the issues New Zealanders care about.

“New Zealand First Party matters are for them to respond to,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

That is a very lame response. Ardern will no doubt be questioned about this in her weekly media conference – and will no doubt have some sort of response prepared. It will have to be much better than her spokesperson.

Edgeler on hate speech laws

There are calls for ‘hate speech’ laws in New Zealand, and also warnings against laws restricting speech that often includes extreme examples from another country.

We already have general laws that can be applied to what is considered to be hate speech, so do we need more specific laws? And if we do get hate speech laws that are used would more damage potentially be done than if we didn’t have them?

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler, who claims to be “among the most pro-free speech people I know”, discusses hate speech and related laws at Public Address: On the possibility of laws further regulating hate speech

His general views on freedom of speech and criminal consequences that can themselves be harmful.

My support for freedom of expression seems to come from a slightly different place than it does for most of people who are prominent in New Zealand in their advocate of free speech: I’m not sure I actually agree that free speech enables the marketplace of ideas, that good ideas will beat out bad ones by force of argument, but I generally oppose laws limiting speech anyway, because of a belief that the imposition of criminal consequences is often more harmful than the harms we might seek to prevent by passing criminal laws.

Not only is convicting someone harmful, but prosecuting someone is harmful. Arresting someone is harmful. Arguing that we need to pass a criminalising some conduct to “send a message” is good way to ensure I will reflexively oppose it. We should pass criminal laws because we consider that the conduct engaged in can be so bad, that when people engage in it we are willing to say to their children: you can’t have your parent around for a while, and your life should be made meaningfully worse in a way which increases your risk to society. Some conduct is that bad, but it’s a damn high test.

But we already have alternatives to criminal consequences.

Much of the general public understanding of the regulation of hate speech comes from high-ish profile examples from the United Kingdom, where criminal law has been the predominant tool. This is not the only option.

Defamation law limits speech, but does not impose criminal penalties. It is easy to imagine a law being enacted where hate speech was subject to civil damages, not fines or imprisonment. In fact, that is already the law in New Zealand.

There are at least two “hate speech” provisions in the Human Rights Act:

(1) a criminal offence around publishing threatening, abusive, or insulting material, with the intention of exciting hostility or ill-will against, or bringing into contempt or ridicule, any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins; and also

(2) a civil prohibition on publishing such words where they are likely to have that effect (this is an objective test, so the effect need not be intended, which is required for the criminal offence).

The criminal offence is punishable by conviction and a fine of up to $7000, or up to 3 months’ imprisonment. The civil prohibition is enforced by someone suing in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, for civil damages.

A recent example of the civil approach being used in a case:

This civil process was most recently used by Labour MP Louisa Wall, who sued Fairfax, the Marlborough Express and the Christchurch Press over the publication of two editorial cartoons by Al Nisbet found to be insulting to Māori and objectively offensive. The case, and an appeal from it, ultimately failed on the basis that the publication of the cartoons was not likely to excite hostility toward Māori. But they are useful to showing what laws we currently have, and that a criminal offence is not the only option.

It was claimed that the cartoon potentially harmed a group of people.

I can think of an example of another criminal option – criminal harassment law. In 2018 Dermot Nottingham was convicted on five counts of criminal harassment for causing significant harm to five people as well as families in online and real life campaigns against them. The sentence was increased on appeal – NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019].

But I have already said that I am not wholly opposed to all new regulation of hate speech, so the question I ought address is what sort of law might find my favour. It is helpful to consider what sorts of restrictions on freedom of expression there are, and which are justifiable.

When the state proposes to limit a right like freedom of expression, it ought to be able to point to a compelling government interest. Often, this is easy: the interest in prohibiting criminal activity is a compelling reason to make conspiracy to commit a crime illegal, especially where the crime is serious: getting together with others, and forming a common intention (through words alone) to murder someone, or to import methamphetamine, is illegal, even though the offending hasn’t even reached a stage of eg attempted murder.

Other times it is harder: our current defamation laws protect reputation even in the absence of other loss, and even in circumstances where publication has not in fact been shown to have diminished a person’s reputation.

Laws against threats are justified:

Back on the clearly justified side: people shouldn’t feel threatened, so laws against threats, and against stalking are justified.

This last example is helpful in a discussion around hate speech. A part of the problem of stalking is the sense of unease it creates, and the fear and worry it can induce in people. It can have real limit on a person’s ability to live their life. People who have been stalked, like people who have been in situations of domestic violence, can be affected in all facets of their life. Sometimes it could manifest in a fear of being out in public. Other times, it may require a person to limit their profile, for example, not engaging in political advocacy in a way in which they may like to, for fear of being recognised, and re-victimised.

Or threatening journalists to try to deter them from investigating issues of public interest.

Certain types of hate speech may have a similar effect. Much of this hate speech is already illegal, including death threats, and other threats of violence or of sexual assault. For some other harmful speech, it is less obviously so. Sometimes it can be prosecuted by general laws, but this can be inconsistent. It does not seem necessarily unreasonable that the law would act to ensure that people should are able to go about their lives.

In general that seems like a good test.

Examples are easy to imagine. A Muslim mother wishes to take her children to the beach on hot summer day. Her beliefs dictate that she should be modestly dressed in public, but she still wants to swim with her kids, so wears a burkini. At the beach, she’s verbally accosted by someone yelling “Go Back to Islam”, and other derogatory comments indicating she doesn’t belong in New Zealand. Now, maybe this is the type of speech we have to live with in a pluralistic society. But we shouldn’t pretend there is no harm. Her kids have heard it. Maybe they were worried for her safety, in the same way that some who hears a threat may fear for someone’s safety. Maybe they’re now scared to go to the beach, in case that bad man (or someone like him) is there.

Bullying can cause people to fear going to school, or to work.

This might well already be illegal. In 2013, a man was convicted for offensive language for crossing the street to tell two men “you’ve got Aids” and “you’re a poofter”. But the same law has also been used to convict someone for saying a war commemoration should commemorate the dead on both sides of the conflict and not just our dead, and a related law was used to arrest Tiki Taane for performing N.W.A.s protest song “Fuck the Police”. As much as there may be victims of hateful speech, there is also a risk there will be victims of hate speech laws.

There is the danger taking offence at relatively minor speech can be used as a way of trying to shut down views opinions that are merely disagreed with.

But even if we reject expanding hate speech laws, we should not ignore the fact that speech which causes someone to change their public life – not going to the beach because their kids are scared of being accosted; or driving to the supermarket, instead of walking because someone on the direct route yells out the n-word or the (other) f-word every time they walk past – is harmful.

Of course, we can address a lot of this harm without specific hate speech laws. And that may be the preferable approach: for example, instead of a specific hate speech law, you could instead expand the offence of intimidation to more clearly cover off speech which has the effect of diminishing public utility. Or we could expand civil laws – although that too comes with risk (is the threat of bankruptcy, and the lower standard of proof justified?). And, of course, the risks of criminalising hate speech may still be too great, but some of the factors that might mean I am less likely to oppose a proposal around a law designed to address hate speech where that law targets:

  • individualised speech, and not generalised speech
  • directed speech, and not non-directed speech
  • aggressive speech
  • speech which provably inhibits a person’s ability to be in public spaces, or participate in public life

Generalised group targets are different to personalised targets (but attacks against individuals can impact on others in a similar grouping of people).

What would cause me to oppose a new hate speech law? The fear than such a law would be disproportionately used against poor and brown people, like most public order offences are. And that still might be enough. It is a very real concern that anyone proposing a law in this area need to address. I’m not sure I’ve really seen anyone attempt it yet.

That’s a valid fear. But I think we also need to be careful in how far we might go with any free speech laws that target other demographics, like white male racists who think they are superior and attack specific ethnicities and religions. They can potentially do a lot of harm, but harm could be done with laws that are too draconian.

We don’t have much to worry about, yet. Concerns will depend on what our politicians may try to do in addressing hate speech laws in the future – but as long as laws don’t restrict the expression of hate of bad laws then we should be able to at least grizzle about them.

 

 

Links between NZ First and The BFD journalist threat agenda

David Garrett at Kiwiblog suggested I also post this here. Thanks for your advice David. Funny to see you playing interference for NZ First and The BFD.


In response to a post at Kiwiblog on The mute PM

Open Forum – 16 February

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Ardern and Shaw silent on Peters and NZ First concerns

Also: Jacinda Ardern’s silence on Winston Peters is deafening

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong.

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. Trying to hide your donations, even legally, is a political act that politicians should be happy to talk about.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

When a politician’s story keeps changing it warrants more suspicion that something deserves exposure.

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine.

There is quite a lot of pressure on the Greens online to speak up.

It is blindingly obvious why Ardern is so blind to Peters’ actions. He is not the kind of man to take a telling-off sitting down, and it would probably all get messier as Peters extracted some kind of utu for her daring to criticise him.

But she is the leader of this Government, and of a party that is vastly larger in both power and popularity. Her words set the standard of behaviour for ministers – she is in this sense the most powerful political pundit we have. It’s well past time she found that voice.

But that doesn’t look likely unless someone like Helen Clark starts tweeting about it.