Winston Peters refuses to back up phone claims and denials re Wally Haumaha

In Parliament this week National MP Chris Bishop accuses Winston Peters of Wally Haumaha contact

Today I can also reveal that Winston Peters rang Wally Haumaha after the inquiry into his appointment was announced. He gave him assurances, or words to that effect, that things would be OK. That is deeply, wildly inappropriate. Mr Peters needs to explain who invited him to the marae, why he rang Wally Haumaha to assure him that things would be OK despite an inquiry into his appointment, and why he thinks Mr Haumaha should stay in the role while he is subject to two separate investigations, with a third on the way.

Peters denied this (Stuff) – Wally Haumaha phone call claims: Winston Peters says he doesn’t use landline

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says his phone records clear him of making a call to under-fire top cop Wally Haumaha – but he can’t explain how he got hold of them.

Neither the Parliamentary Service nor the Department of Internal Affairs received a request to provide the records on Wednesday.

In a press release issued to deny claims made by National MP Chris Bishop, Peters said: “I have not called nor had any reason to call Mr Haumaha since the controversy. My office has checked all my phone records since the inquiry was announced. No such call was made.”

When pressed by Stuff on Thursday about how he got the records so quickly, he said: “Got my staff to get it… I can’t tell you how. I trust my staff.”

Peters says he doesn’t use a landline phone.

Asked if he could have used another phone, he replied: “Oh, what went down down to a telephone booth you mean? To the best of my memory, no such thing happened and I got my staff to check it out, just to be safe.”

Later, a spokesman for Peters clarified to Stuff:

“The phone bills get sent to the office each month and are readily accessible. The bills itemise calls made and received…We then asked around for Mr Haumaha’s phone number (so we knew what we were looking for) and cross checked that way.”

Peters was asked for clarification on Newshub Nation this morning:

Lisa Owen: National alleged in parliament that you rang deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha to reassure him aftter an inquiry was launched into his appointment and the circumstances of that employment. You say that your office checked your phone records and there was not call. So I just want to be clear, does that include any and every phone that you could have used to make the call, and was there any other contact using any other means with Mr Haumaha from you?

Winston Peters: I can’t, I can’t believe, I can’t believe you’re wasting my or your viewership’s time. Mr Bishop said he had a revelation, and if he’s got a revelation why hasn’t he shown you that? That’s what a revelation means. No, he made a vile allegation, couldn’t prove it, and now you’re asking me questions about it.

Lisa Owen: Yeah well you could clear it up. Yes or no, have they checked all your phones if you have had contact with Wally Haumaha…

Winston Peters: No, I’ll, no I’ll clear it up by going, no Lisa, we’ll go to the original source who promised all you journalists a revelation. What was that revelation?

Lisa Owen: But you would know who would best know whether you’ve spoken to Wally Haumaha, you, do you not want to give a clear answer…

Winston Peters: That’s, that’s not the way our society, our democracy or our standards of law works. You just can’t make baseless allegations without putting up the facts. he hasn’t, and why aren’t you talking to him about that and not wasting my time?

Funny and highly ironic.

Peters has made a political career out of making allegations, and a number of times not delivered any evidence, but instead demanded that the media or the police investigate and find evidence for him. They usually haven’t obliged.

The way our democracy and our media are supposed to work is that journalists ask questions to hold politicians to account.

Peters has already tried a denial, and when held to account on that has switched to refusing to answer a simple but comprehensive question.

He could make a clear statement that he made no such call, but by refusing to do that leaves people to make their own conclusions.

I think that it is reasonable to see this as Peters trying to avoid being called out for making a call to Haumaha, and then being caught out trying to fabricate a denial.

And i think it is fair to ask and investigate how close peters and NZ First were to Haumaha and to his appointment, which raises valid questions about their involvement in setting up the inquiry.

More of the Peters interview:

Twyford’s big little mistake

More trouble for Phil Twyford, self inflicted.

He was one of Labour’s most active and critical MPs in when in opposition. In Government he was given big and relatively many ministerial responsibilities.

He has struggled with the transition from Opposition, and with his new jobs, particularly the very demanding Housing portfolio in which Labour had been very critical, and made some big promises. As National had discovered as the number of houses kept falling behind a rising population, it can be a very slow behemoth to turn around, especially with our restrictive, time consuming and expensive RMA requirements.

Last week Twyford was reprimanded by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for referring to ‘kids at Treasury’ when he disagreed with a housing forecast. Ardern put on a show of telling him off but agreed with the thrust of his criticism. Twyford said “Some of these kids at Treasury are fresh out of university and they’re completely disconnected from reality”.

Interest.co.nz: Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf says he is “disappointed” with the Housing Minister’s comments that his officials are “kids… disconnected from reality”

Now another controversy has flared, with Twyford being  reported by a member of the public for making a cellphone call on plane after the doors had been closed.

This may seem like a trivial offence breaching what seems like a pointless airline rule.

But it is highly embarrassing for Twyford, because as Minister of Transport he had responsibility for Civil Aviation.

Twyford has admitted his mistake. He also ‘offered to resign’ in a statement:

I recognise that I made the call when I shouldn’t have.

This is inappropriate for anyone, but particularly inappropriate for me as Transport Minister. I apologise unreservedly.

I have apologised to the Prime Minister and offered my resignation as Transport Minister.

She has declined my offer but chosen to transfer my responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

I have referred the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority who will follow whatever processes they deem appropriate,

So he didn’t actually resign, he left it to Ardern to make a show of declining it, and she also appropriately appropriately stripped him of Civil aviation responsibilities. Regardless of the offence reducing his workload seems like a good idea.

This is being compared to Gerry Brownlee’s breach of security at Christchurch airport in 2014 while he was Transport Minister. he was fined $2,000 for that.

It can be argued that Brownlee’s offence was worse, or potentially not as dangerous (if there is any danger from using phones on planes), but that’s largely irrelevant. This is four years later and Twyford is the current Minister and he has earned some flak.

This will probably blow over fairly quickly except for ongoing attempts to niggle away at the Government by opponents – unless Twyford keeps making mistakes and inappropriate comments. It’s time for him to measure up as a minister, or he could find more of his responsibilities slipping away.


Update: This irony is being reported on RNZ, from July 2014: PM too quick off mark – Labour

Labour transport spokesperson Phil Twyford said John Key had been too quick off the mark in deciding not to accept Mr Brownlee’s resignation and should have waited for the outcome of the CAA investigation.

“The Prime Minister did say that he was going to hold National Party ministers to a higher standard of accountability, so I would have hoped that the prime minister would have waited for the facts to be on the table about what regulations Mr Brownlee might have breached.”

Mr Twyford said it was important Mr Brownlee was held to account, and pointed to the prosecution of John Banks when he was Police Minister for using his cellphone during a flight.

“Well I think it’s very important, for the public, that politicians are seen not just to make the laws but to follow them, as well, and that’s a pretty fundamental principle of our democracy.”

 

 

Curran’s future may depend on phone call

RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson appeared before a select committee in Parliament yesterday to correct inadvertent erroneous assurances made to the committee last month that resulted in RNZ news manager Carol Hirschfeld.

Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran was already under fire for her part in organising a meeting with Hirschfeld and subsequently appearing to avoid disclosing that the meeting had taken place. It also appears that Curran threw Hirschfeld under  bus to protect her own (political) career, and she added to Jacinda Ardern’s difficulties as Prime Minister. Ardern still backs Curran, but she must be getting exasperated with apparent ineptitude.

More was revealed at yesterdau’s meeting, but perhaps the career killer blow wasn’t reevealed – the contents of a phone call Curran made to Griffin. Their descriptions differ.

Andrew Geddis at RNZ: Politicians seek different narratives at RNZ hearing

This hearing ostensibly was to allow the chair of Radio NZ’s board, Richard Griffin, and chief executive Paul Thompson to correct their previous inaccurate statements about the now-infamous breakfast meeting between Radio NZ’s head of content Carol Hirschfeld and new Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

Back at the start of March, Mr Griffin and Mr Thompson informed the committee that Ms Hirschfeld had assured them this meeting was an inconsequential coincidence; nothing more than a chance encounter following a gym workout. They subsequently found out that Ms Hirschfeld had misled them and the meeting was a prearranged discussion about the state of New Zealand’s media.

Correcting the record then becomes necessary because misleading a select committee is potentially a contempt of Parliament, in theory punishable by a fine or imprisonment. And even if Parliament chose not to pursue the matter as contempt, public bodies simply should not lie to their political overseers, intentionally or otherwise.

National did possibly draw some blood with its questions regarding Minister Curran’s subsequent communications with Mr Griffin. She left him a voicemail last week which he characterised as containing a “strong suggestion” that rather than turn up before the Committee in person to answer questions, he just provide it with a written statement.

This is important, because Minister Curran has told both the public and the Prime Minister that her message to Mr Griffin simply advised him that providing a written statement for the Committee’s meeting last week would be a quicker way of correcting the record. If she in fact went beyond this and actually counselled him not to attend in person, then she will be in real trouble.

National MP Melissa Lee’s last action at the Committee meeting was to request a copy of the relevant voicemail. Minister Curran’s political future may well rest upon what it says.

Curran was quick to release texts between her and Hirschfeld that left no doubt that Hirschfeld had lied to her bosses about the meeting – it is still not known whether she was trying to protect herself or Curran.

Curran’s future may rest on whether Griffin releases a recording or transcript of the phone call.

NZH: Richard Griffin says he was told not to comment on Hirschfeld, Curran meeting

Griffin told the committee today that on March 22, about five minutes before Curran was due in Parliament to answer questions, he received a call from her office.

Griffin said he was “gobsmacked” to receive the call to say the December 5 meeting could come up in the questions.

“The staffer’s attitude was ‘we will handle this appropriately but we’d like you basically to stay out of it’. I was gobsmacked quite honestly.”

In a timeline provided to the committee, Griffin said: “I was told that, if the matter was raised, the Minister and her staff would be responding as they felt appropriate and that they expected there would be “no comment” from RNZ”.

It was reported on Tuesday that Curran had phoned Griffin on March 29 to suggest it would be better for him to write a letter rather than appear in person.

Both Curran and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have denied that, saying Curran left a phone message to pass on advice from the Office of the Leader of the House that a letter would be faster to correct the record if Griffin was unable to make it to the select committee in person.

Today Griffin said: “She made it very clear that she wanted me to write a letter to the chair of the select committee to be on his desk before one o’clock that day which would then ensure that there wasn’t a public hearing involving either of us.”

NZH: PM Jacinda Ardern reiterates support for embattled minister Clare Curran

Their appearance in Wellington was pre-empted by reports yesterday that the Broadcasting Minister had phoned Griffin to suggest it would be better for him to write a letter rather than appear in person at Parliament.

Both Curran and Ardern earlier denied that, saying Curran left a phone message to pass on advice from the Office of the Leader of the House that a letter would be faster to correct the record if he was unable to make it to the select committee in person.

After opening a science block at Waitaki Boys’ High School, Ardern today stated eight times there was no new information over the Carol Hirschfeld affair involving Curran, or the phone call she made to Griffin about his appearance at the select committee.

Ardern confirmed she had spoken to Curran about her recollection of the voicemail and it matched up with what had been recollected at select committee today.

“The minister has clearly made mistakes, she has apologised for them.

“I certainly advised her that the call to Richard Griffin should not have been made, but as I say there’s nothing new that we have learned from today that we didn’t already know.

“From what I hear has come of today’s meeting, there is no new information, I have reprimanded the minister for making that call she shouldn’t have, but I don’t think we’ve learned anything new from today that we didn’t already know.”

Ardern’s credibility as leader is also at stake over this.

This may all fizzle out now, but will flare up again if the phone call is handed over.

RNZ:

English talks with Trump

US President Donald Trump and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English talked by phone today.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Bill English speaks with US President Donald Trump

The White House said the aim of the calls are to “promote an America First foreign policy.”

English is about the 15th leader Trump has spoken to since his inauguration.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has given more detail on his phone call with the US President Donald Trump, describing Trump as “warm, civil and very thoughtful” during a call which ranged from immigration bans to the Super Bowl.

He said the call…was “a warm and friendly conversation.”

“He has a more casual attitude to diplomatic relationships than is usual, but he conveyed his enthusiasm for meeting at some stage in the White House … ‘well, if you’re passing by’.”

Despite the warm offer, English said he was unlikely to get there before the September election. “I’d imagine it will take some time for the new administration to bed in, and then we’ve got the election campaign. I wouldn’t anticipate getting there this side of the election.”

He said Trump appeared to be positive about the relationship with New Zealand. “He thinks it’s a fantastic place. He likes the idea we are a long way away so therefore we aren’t under the same pressures as everybody else.”

So no dramas here.