Winston Peters hasn’t dropped legal action against National Party

Conflicting reports this morning on whether Winston Peters has dropped legal action against the National Party and National MPs.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters hasn’t dropped legal action against National Party

NZ First leader Winston Peters has agreed to drop his legal action and pay costs to former National Party leader Bill English and other former ministers over the leak of his superannuation overpayments.

Peters was taking legal action against English, Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley as well as two staff members while trying to uncover who leaked details of his superannuation overpayments to the media before last year’s election.

It is understood Peters has now agreed to withdraw the legal action and pay some of the legal costs for the National Party MPs and staff – believed to be about $10,000.

The National side had said they would take further action on costs if a settlement was not reached.

But Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry has just been on RNZ and has stated that this is incorrect.

He said that the first legal action was over – on behalf of Peters he had sought documents, and as is normal when that happens, costs needed to be paid. he wouldn’t confirm or deny the amount of costs.

The defendants will be identified when the next legal claim is lodged. Bill English, Paula Bennett, Anne Tolley, former ministerial staff Wayne Eagleson and Clark Hennessy, and journalists Lloyd Burr and Tim Murphy were included in the first action.

Henry would only say that action has been dropped against the two journalists. He says that they were never intended to be a part of the eventual legal action.

But he refused to say which of the MPs and staff might be still subject to future legal action.

Henry said no statement of claim has been lodged, and would not say when that was likely to happen – he said that these things take time.

Labour spin 100 day achievements

Slight irony here, but journalist Lloyd Burr (Newshub) is annoyed about Labour’s 100-day embellishment

It’s not a revelation that politicians embellish their achievements. It’s less usual to see journalists criticising rather than repeating their PR.

An email arrived into my inbox a few days ago with the subject line “We did this!”. It was from Labour, about its 100-day plan.

 

The email claimed the plan had been completed. And it mostly has. Mostly.

But the subject line didn’t read ‘We mostly did this!’. It shouted from the rooftop how Labour had proven itself in government.

It talked about how it had done what it had promised to do. It used words like “delivered”, “achieved” and “commitment”.

That’s called spin. It has massaged the truth. Massaged its promises. Embellished what has really happened in 100 days.

Burr details What Labour Has Not Achieved:

1. “Ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses”

It hasn’t banned them yet. It has just introduced a Bill that will ban them, but that Bill is months off from becoming law.

2. “Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain”

It has introduced changes to the law regarding medicinal cannabis, but those changes are minor and conservative. It won’t make products available to terminally ill and chronically ill patients. It will just prevent them from being prosecuted. The Prime Minister admits she would’ve liked more changes – but New Zealand First’s conservatism meant she couldn’t change the law properly.

3. “Hold a Clean Waters Summit on cleaning up our rivers and lakes”

This never happened. Winston Peters vetoed it.

4. “Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission”

The target has not been set and it hasn’t begun setting up the independent Climate Commission. All that’s been announced is a period of public consultation on what the target should be and how the commission would be structured.

Other claimed ‘achievements’ are also debatable – the Government has set up inquiries and commissions as listed in  Taking action in our 100 day plan:

  • Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and begin the KiwiBuild programme
  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis
  • Establish the Tax Working Group
  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister
  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care

The Government has done what they said what they would do, but these are only starting points and there is no guarantee they will achieve much if anything in this term of government.

Some of those issues were promoted as needing urgent attention when Labour was in opposition. Now they have to wait until the Authority/Inquiry/Working Group/Agency report back to the Government, then the Government needs to decide what they will do, then they have to do it (if they can get it through Parliament).

Nine of the seventeen pledges are either not achieved or far from being achieved.

 

Peters wants monetary damages for privacy breach

Winston Peters wants damages from politicians, public servants and journalists in his High Court legal action taken for alleged breaches in privacy.

Tim Murphy (one of the journalists): Peters seeks money from two journalists

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has told the High Court he wants to be paid monetary damages by two journalists who reported his seven-year overpayment of national superannuation.

Peters, aged 72, is also alleging in an unorthodox draft Statement of Claim filed with the High Court at Auckland that prominent Newshub political reporter Lloyd Burr is a “National Party political activist”.

I doubt that stupid claims like that will help Winston’s case. And it’s highly hypocritical given the number of journalists Peters has used over the decades to publicise his claims, allegations and conspiracy theories.

Peters not only wants the court to require Burr and myself to hand over phone records, notes and documents relating to his superannuation windfall story but to pay him “general damages” as compensation for allegedly breaching his privacy. The amounts are not specified, but Peters did pay back thousands of dollars for taking the extra super for so long. As deputy Prime Minister he earns $330,000 a year, plus he takes his (now-standardised) national superannuation payments.

He also wants money from one of the country’s top civil servants, the head of the Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle.

The draft document was required by Justice Anne Hinton after Peters’ initial fishing expedition for documents — known as a pre-proceeding discovery application — was filed without the usual arguments for what he was claiming he suspected the two journalists and seven others from the previous National government had done and what his action wanted to achieve.

That action against National leader Bill English and three ministers, signed by his two lawyers and filed with the court on the day before the September 23 general election and subsequent “good faith” coalition negotiations, indicated Peters wanted to sue someone for making public his super overpayment but did not know who, or exactly for what.

He calls “unlawful” the actions of Boyle, in telling two ministers about Peters’ super overpayment. He claims Boyle “knew or was reckless if he did not know” that the two ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett “would utilise the intended plaintiff’s private MSD information for political purposes including discrediting the intended plaintiff in the forthcoming general election”.

“If”, Peters’ draft claim goes on, “the no surprises policy is lawful” then Boyle breached it in any case.

He also alleges it was reckless by Boyle to even disclose the Peters’ windfall to the State Services Commission.

It sounds like Peters is challenging public service and Parliamentary procedures through the Court. This seems very odd from a current Cabinet Minister.

Peters calls the group of National ministers and staffers, which also included Steven Joyce, English’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson and party communications officer Clark Hennessy, by a made-up title, the National Party Re-election Committee and gives it the acronym NPRC throughout his document.

Again, in a legal document, that sounds bizarre.

He says the “leak” of the information caused him damage and he attempted to mitigate it by making a public statement “about his private MSD information being leaked”. His draft statement of claim does not say that it was Peters himself, through that statement, who made his seven-year overpayment public. No media story had appeared when he took it upon himself to go public.

On the media’s reporting of the story, Peters alleges the “NPRC” arranged to leak the fact of his overpayment “to the media by use of journalists who were part-of and/or sympathetic to the National Party campaign to be re-elected — or alternatively would be reckless as to their obligations” when they knew of the payments.

He claims in one paragraph that the “public concern of the intended plaintiff’s private MSD information does not outweigh the intended plaintiff’s right to privacy of his private MSD information.” It could be, here, that he is questioning the public’s right to know.

Peters argues the media “owed him an obligation to protect his privacy unless they had information that entitled them to assert that [his] conduct as disclosed in the private MSD information “was of public concern and could be published.”

He seeks unspecified damages, and costs, from all the “intended defendants”.

The High Court has also directed Peters to file an affidavit, which he had not done when first filing. A hearing is set for March, if the judge decides there is any basis for Peters’ seeking pre-discovery from the media or politicians.

Peters may well be justified at feeling aggrieved at his private information being leaked, but he seems to be taking some unusual and debatable measures to deal with it.

Not surprisingly most media concern is of journalists being included in the legal action.

There is a real risk of a ‘chilling effect’ on media coverage of politics.

Certainly it’s fair to hold media to account, but Peters has used media to his advantage more than just about any politician so this is highly hypocritical action from Peters.

Journalists are happy for Peters to attack his political opponents, they like headline fodder, but on RNZ Brent Edwards has just called the inclusion of journalists in the action as reprehensible, and slammed Peters for his calling Lloyd Burr a “National Party political activist”.

“To have a senior minister, who is also deputy prime minister, taking legal action against journalists is very worrying.”

“We see those sorts of attacks on journalists in the Philippines and places like that … it’s just reprehensible and there’s no place for it in New Zealand.”

Peters may struggle to get sympathetic coverage on this.

 

This can’t be right on Māori seats referendum

With nothing much else to do Lloyd burr has been trawling through NZ First and green policies and has come up with a sort of interesting 16 policies NZ First and the Greens disagree on

With some much spare time on his hands he should be expected to get things right, but  this one can’t be right.

2. Māori Seats

Greens – Entrench Māori Seats and oppose any referendum to remove them.

NZ First – Abolish Māori seats via a binding referendum.

I don’t know how you can have a policy to abolish something via a binding referendum. A referendum is usually intended to leave the decision to voters.

NZ First policy: Maori Affairs

MĀORI SEATS REFERENDUM

  • Māori don’t need the Māori seats. They don’t need tokenism. That is why we commit to a referendum of all electors to retain or abolish the Māori seats.

NZ First make it clear they don’t want the Maori seats, but have committed to a referendum of all electors to give them that choice.

It is arrogant for a 7% party to claim that Māori don’t need the Māori seats.

It can be argued (I do strongly) that it is questionable to allow a majority of every voter to make a decision that impacts on a relatively small minority

But NZ First don’t guarantee abolition, they commit to allowing the voters to decide.

A Burr under the Green saddle

Lloyd Burr at Newshub echoes and highlights the hypocrisy of the Green Party over their apparently unconditional support of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary  at the expense of Māori treaty rights, something the Greens normally promote as sacrosanct.

Newshub: Greens have turned back on Treaty

By unconditionally supporting the Kermadec ocean sanctuary proposal, the Green Party is turning its back on the Treaty of Waitangi and its own Te Tiriti policy.

The Greens have always been a strong voice on Treaty issues and like to publicise that fact.

But its current support of the Kermadec legislation, which walks all over Māori rights, is a slap in the face for all its past rhetoric.

In fact, it’s hypocritical.

Burr details a number of issues where the Greens put a lot of importance on Te Tiriti.

  • The water rights debate during the asset sales saga? The Greens said “the Key Government’s rush to sell assets does not justify it ignoring its Treaty obligations”.
  • The  private members bill that would stop Māori land confiscations under the Public Works Act? The bill will “stop any more unfair confiscations of what is left of whenua Māori”.
  • Co-leader Metiria Turei’s Ratana speech a few years ago about how proud she was of the Green Party’s Māori policies? “We in the Green Party deeply believe in the benefits of honouring the Treaty,” she said.
  • The Greens saying it opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership because “the damage it could do to Māori rights and the Māori economy”.

But the Greens, plus organisations closely associated with the Greens like Greenpeace – Māori versus the environmental lobby – see the Kermadec sanctuary as important enough to ignore rights negotiated by Māori under the Treaty.

The saga must be a kick in the guts for Green MP Marama Davidson who has been such a champion on Māori issues.

It must be a hard pill for her to swallow.

Where does co-leader Metiria Turei fit in to this? She makes a big deal about the importance of Māori issues. When it suits her.