The Dim-Post

March 12, 2014

Got murk?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:18 pm

Discussing the Judith Collins-visit-to-Oravida story in a previous post I wrote:

It’s not a stepping-down-as-Minister offense. It’s one of those things where Key says, ‘She’s been cleared by the Cabinet Office but I’d remind all Ministers to be careful not to create the perception of a conflict of interest.’ Story over.

Story over! Unless, of course, the Justice Minister had additional contact with the company but didn’t reveal this to the Prime Minister or the Cabinet Office. But that would just be out of the – Whoa! Wait! What’s this?

Prime Minister John Key is disappointed Justice Minister Judith Collins withheld details of a dinner in China with a company linked to her husband.

The dinner was with senior members of Oravida, a company that deals with New Zealand dairy products, and a senior Chinese government official. Collins’ husband David Wong Tung is a director of the company.

A spokeswoman for Key said today that the prime minister met Collins this morning to express his disappointment that she did not tell him about the dinner.

Key said he considered the cumulative effects of her interaction with Oravida could give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.

So this IS a stepping-down-as-Minister offense, or rather a ‘PMs Chief of Staff asks Collins to step down, she does so and the PM accepts’ offense. But no Prime Minister wants to publicly sack one of their most senior Ministers two days after declaring an election and Collins isn’t the type of person to admit She is in the wrong and step down for the good of the party, just because Her failure to do so might result in months of negative headlines, inflict damage on the government and jeopardise its election chances.

64 Comments »

  1. You should know by now that it’ll take something obviously criminal or fraudulent to get anyone to step down or be removed from office. The Cabinet Office cleared this. So that means that while it may have been highly unethical and morally suspect, and misusing money from the public purse for personal gain, there’s no reason to resign. Because the Cabinet Office cleared it.

    Right now National are looking for a counter-scandal, like the Cunliffe house thing that wasn’t anything of the sort, in an attempt to mitigate this. It’s kind of a race to the bottom. If we accept all MPs are fundamentally unethical and corrupt to some extent, then all we have to do is find the party with the most obviously corrupt and morally reprehensible MPs and then hope the news cycle takes us away from the slightly less corrupt thing the person from our side of the House did.

    Right.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — March 12, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

  2. This will have no impact on National’s election chances. People care about jobs, taxes, education, crime and economic growth. Not about a Government Minister visiting a milk company in China.

    Comment by Peter Plumley-Walker — March 12, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

  3. “withheld details of a dinner in China”

    “could give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest”

    This contradictory. There is an obvious conflict of interest otherwise why with hold details. Justice minister FFS.

    “She is in the wrong and step down for the good of the party,” Ha! you mean she wont step down because all her cultivated Chinese contacts will go to waste.

    Time for the opposition to draw a line. (that’s a joke)

    Comment by Simon — March 12, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

  4. Time for Paddy to step up and help take down a minister. You know you want to Paddy.

    Comment by northshoreguynz — March 12, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

  5. Now all Cunliffe has do do is get his people to shut the fuck up.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 12, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

  6. ..or rather, hammer it for a few days in the House that no credible PM can possibly have confidence in a MoJ who is a liar, and then shut the fuck up.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 12, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

  7. “Now all Cunliffe has do do is get his people to shut the fuck up.”

    You’re writing for Tui billbords, aren’t you?

    Comment by Michael — March 12, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

  8. 3.Now all Cunliffe has do do is get his people to shut the fuck up.

    Frankly there is a greater chance that Key will sack Collins than this happening.

    Comment by Paul Rowe — March 12, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

  9. Lucky for them this has only given rise to a perception of a conflict of interest, rather than being a full-bore, in-your-face actual conflict of interest.

    Comment by Adrian — March 12, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  10. Disclose, apologise, snuff out the flames,

    Surprising how often experienced politicians get this wrong. At some point being in power just leads to entitlement.

    Comment by NeilM — March 12, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

  11. >So this IS a stepping-down-as-Minister offense, or rather a ‘PMs Chief of Staff asks Collins to step down, she does so and the PM accepts’ offense.

    Nah. It’s a first warning. But it’s also a “anything else? Now’s your last chance”

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 12, 2014 @ 6:02 pm

  12. @ 8 – So I guess this means you’re in the Joyce succession camp NeilM ?

    Comment by Mag Rod Aigh — March 12, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

  13. “Surprising how often experienced politicians get this wrong”

    Yes, they could save so much money by firing their advisors and taking advice solely from blog comments made by their political opponents.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 12, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

  14. You are dreaming if you think this kind of fluff determines the outcome of elections.

    Comment by smttc — March 12, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

  15. Yes, they could save so much money by firing their advisors and taking advice solely from blog comments made by their political opponents.

    If any of Collins’ advisors did advise her “don’t mention the dinner and hope no-one notices it”, then they should be fired.

    Oh, and Neil M is hardly a “political opponent” of National.

    Comment by Flashing Light — March 12, 2014 @ 9:53 pm

  16. “Neil M is hardly a “political opponent” of National.”

    National is a broad church, and Collins has political opponents within it. Regardless, she’s looking a little bit tricky…

    Comment by Judge Holden — March 12, 2014 @ 10:05 pm

  17. Now all Cunliffe has do do is get his people to shut the fuck up.

    Yeah well….

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Russel-Norman-target-of-Shane-Jones-anti-Aussie-rant/tabid/1607/articleID/335636/Default.aspx#.UyAcbjttbkE.twitter

    Comment by steve — March 12, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

  18. >Collins isn’t the type of person to admit She is in the wrong and step down for the good of the party, just because Her failure to do so might result in months of negative headlines, inflict damage on the government and jeopardise its election chances.

    It’s not a no-brainer that such an act would actually be for the good of the party’s image. It’s an admission of a very serious cockup, and would attract attention big time. Could be sounder to just play it down, and get on with business. So she had a meeting with some people and then had a memory lapse about it. Key’s hardly one to judge about memory lapses. His whole coalition hangs on a guy whose defense in court is his shitty memory.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 12, 2014 @ 11:35 pm

  19. Poor Judith, forced to act all humble and contrite in front of the cameras. How that must burn for her sense of privileged entitlement. I wonder if hanging around all those corrupt to the eyeballs mainland Chinese government officials and business people she and her hubby seem to know hasn’t dulled her Westminster sense of proprietary when it comes to attitudes to cronyism, nepotism and corruption. I bet she wishes she had access to a few of the tools available to Chinese government mates for dealing with inconvenient news.

    Judith Collins just effectively put the kibosh on what was clearly going to be a major National talking point this election campaign so I am going to call this a big win to Labour. The pre-planned and strategic (I’d love to see the Nat’s internal polling, Russell Brown reckons they picked up a sharp drop in National/Key’s popularity just before they went nuclear on Cunliffe) character assassination of David Cunliffe has come to a screeching halt in a welter of smoke and confused moral equivalence over Judith Collin’s creepy keep-it-all-in-the-family cronyism.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 7:35 am

  20. “…Now all Cunliffe has do do is get his people to shut the fuck up…”

    Now this is something I have discovered the leafy liberals who make up the online left are cognitively incapable of taking on board, so I’ll just repeat verbatim what my Shore boy (Green hating, motorcycle riding, soft-National voting) flatmate said approvingly last night about Shane Jones whilst cackling at his crack at Russel Norman – “At least he talks like a normal bloke not like the rest of them…” (in the Labour party).

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 7:42 am

  21. all those corrupt to the eyeballs mainland Chinese

    Of course Yong Ming Yang/Bill Liu isn’t like that. Certainly not since he touched the hem of Jones’s garment.

    Comment by Joe W — March 13, 2014 @ 8:00 am

  22. New Zealand is far to complacent when it comes to the potential for our leadership and business elites to become tainted with the corrupt practices of mainland China. All these accusations of nickel and dime corruption involve Chinese. As China grows in power and influence, we need to increase our democratic oversight and accountability of our politicians, lest they become as corrupt as those at whose feet they increasingly grovel.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 8:13 am

  23. @Sanc: Yellow peril much?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 8:59 am

  24. @Sanc: But hey, no need to worry about increasing democratic oversight – your boy Kim Dotcom’s got that covered, right?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 8:59 am

  25. Wanna explain that last one, Kalvarnsen?

    Comment by Rob — March 13, 2014 @ 9:15 am

  26. @Rob: Sanc’s on record as stating that the left should be supporting Dotcom.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 9:23 am

  27. meanwhile, in other news the governments popularity just dropped by 5% as aspirational middle class voters worked out that a rock star economy means their 400K mortgage repayments just went up $80 per week.

    Cue a crash in retail and service sector jobs and business confidence. Put a ring around yesterdays date on your calendar, because that was as good as neo-liberalism is ever going to get.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 10:03 am

  28. @Sanc: Whatever happened to putting up with neoliberalism for three years in order to get Dotcom in and do something about the GCSB?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 10:17 am

  29. Presented with the facts of Dotcom’s terrible party launch, I’ve resumed default settings.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 10:21 am

  30. @Sanc: Yellow peril much?

    Nope. The Brits have found their dealings with eastern Europeans and Arabs just as corrupting. There are a lot of cultures in which corruption and influence-peddling are the norm, and pretending otherwise just sets us up for aggro later on.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — March 13, 2014 @ 11:22 am

  31. Sanc, I’m confused – flatmate? I thought you lived on a lifestyle block where you happily killed cats that came after your chooks! Although, with the lifestyle block I’d have thought you’d rarely have time for frivolities like champagne in the viaduct, so what do I know?

    Comment by simonpnz — March 13, 2014 @ 11:34 am

  32. I don’t live on a lifestyle block, I live in a house in Auckland. I own a lifestyle block, to which I on irregular occasion repair in order to take gin-soaked pot shots at passing domestic creatures from the comfort of my verandavin the late afternoon.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  33. >“At least he talks like a normal bloke not like the rest of them…”

    I don’t think it does tremendous damage to have at least one mouth-off in Labour. Apparent antagonism to the Greens might pick up votes for Labour that aren’t just poached from the Greens, and that’s something they need. So long as the actual leader is confirming that he understands a coalition without the Greens is pretty much impossible at this point, then public attention of the tonal signals of Jones is actually positive. If the public is even able to begin to think of Labour as a bunch of characters, rather than just Cunliffe, then they stand a much better chance stacking up against Key. Key vs Cunliffe head to head: I pick Key by a small margin. Top 5 Labour people vs top 5 Nats: I pick Labour by a small margin.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 13, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

  34. “…then public attention of the tonal signals of Jones is actually positive…”

    100% agree. The online left forget that 90% of New Zealanders are not interested in voting for the Greens. Shane Jones reminding that 90% Labour and Greens are not the same thing is not going to do Labour any harm.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  35. Cunliffe should be bunging Jones a lazy grand every time he bags the water melons. It can only help Labour if they align themselves with the 9 out of 10 people who do not believe in unicorns.

    Comment by Russell — March 13, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

  36. Hmm, I couldn’t find the Green’s policy statement on unicorns.

    Comment by lefty — March 13, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

  37. “Every time he bags the watermelons” shows up the ignorance of that comment. Jones has been attacking the supermarkets, not working checkout for them.

    Comment by alex — March 13, 2014 @ 2:17 pm

  38. Shane Jones is every staunch National voter’s favourite Labour MP. Would they vote Labour if he had more influence? No.

    I personally think the Nats shouldn’t have dropped Aaron Gilmore like that, but hey.

    Comment by richdrich — March 13, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

  39. “…Hmm, I couldn’t find the Green’s policy statement on unicorns…”

    I LOL’d at this, because then I imagined it.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

  40. >The online left forget that 90% of New Zealanders are not interested in voting for the Greens.

    Yes, and also just because Labour is likely to be in coalition with the Greens doesn’t mean they’ve become Green gimps. There’s nothing wrong with a range of opinions within the party to reflect the range of opinions that the electorate they hope to represent may have. But aside from the mad dog whistling, I don’t think it’s a good idea for the Labour leadership generally to be deriding the Greens. National will hack apart their ability to be a viable coalition. So long as they can show a core of consensus between the two parties, then all sorts of personality sniping and opinion around the fringes can actually work in their favour. The nightmare scenario for National is that Labour and the Greens begin a debate with each that takes hold of the public attention, and their people get extensive media coverage whilst the Nats are left out altogether.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 13, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

  41. She slept with all of China, both in a capacity as a Minister and as an Ambassador for Oravida. That is a conflict of interest that can’t be bettered. However, there are no calls for her resignation; the PM is considering promoting her; China absolutely loves her; and Oravida have given her husband a pay rise. So all’s fair in love and politics.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — March 13, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

  42. @Psycho: Well aren’t we lucky to be from one of those non-corrupt cultures! (Unless we’re not western European, in which case, bad luck for us, right?)

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

  43. Well aren’t we lucky to be from one of those non-corrupt cultures!

    In the sense that the culture you’re born into is entirely a matter of chance, yes we are “lucky.” However, the fact that our culture is relatively free of corruption and influence-peddling isn’t “luck” – our forebears put centuries of largely thankless and sometimes fatal effort into making it that way. It wouldn’t kill you to extend them a little credit for their trouble.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — March 13, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

  44. @Psycho: I wouldn’t assume that you and I share forebears. Not everyone is one of those non-corrupt western Europeans. More’s the pity, huh?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 7:20 pm

  45. Oh God, a passive aggressive new New Zealander.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 13, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

  46. Sanc – the point I was making was of the Labour front bench’s ability to turn gold into shit through poor comms discipline being legendary, rather than specifically singling out Jones (who let’s face it, is faux-Labour but too lazy to stand for the blue team).

    All power to the NZLP for using him to shake a few votes out of the Nat-lite rubes by using the Greens as the bogeyman. If that drags them into spitting distance of a viable coalition, fair play!

    Comment by Gregor W — March 13, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

  47. @44: Sure – but if you live in this country, feel free to credit them regardless.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — March 13, 2014 @ 10:08 pm

  48. “…then public attention of the tonal signals of Jones is actually positive…”

    100% agree. The online left forget that 90% of New Zealanders are not interested in voting for the Greens. Shane Jones reminding that 90% Labour and Greens are not the same thing is not going to do Labour any harm.
    .

    Yeah, I don’t disagree with that. Also, ftr, from what I heard I think the Greens probably were being overly sensitive in their reaction to the silly epithets Jones directed towards Hughes. (Did they really lodge a ‘formal’ complaint with labour?)

    But I take the point about Cunliffe getting his people to STFU was not so much focused on Jones clashing with the Greens per se, but Labour letting the scrutiny stay with a National party gaff for a change. As much as Clunking Fist will hate it, the fact is the spotlight did move away from Cunliffe’s trust donation issues and onto Collins’ “little detour”. It would be nice (tactically speaking, from a Labour supporter’s pov) if the scrutiny could remain on National and not immediately transfer back to Labour because Jones has some animosity towards Norman.

    Comment by steve — March 13, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

  49. @steve: Very true. It is sometimes a bit precious to see people’s reaction when Labour attacks the Greens (especially when the Greens’ attacks on Labour are seen as legit). But at the same time, we’re close to an election, and while going after the Greens perhaps isn’t as harmful as some people seem to think, it can’t be more than a minor part of Labour’s election strategy.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

  50. The online left forget that 90% of New Zealanders are not interested in voting for the Greens. Shane Jones reminding that 90% Labour and Greens are not the same thing is not going to do Labour any harm.

    I think that is one of Labour’s problems.

    As a disaffected Labour voter pining for the days of Clark and Cullen I can’t help but be interested in what Jones has had to say recently. But that’s up against the more middle class Labour supporters of Cunliffe who think Labour should be soft on the Greens irrespective of what impact the Greens would have on jobs.

    And Jones manages to connect on issues. Cunliffe doesn’t.

    Comment by NeilM — March 13, 2014 @ 11:38 pm

  51. Are you rewriting history to make Clark and Cullen members of the Labour right, Neil?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 13, 2014 @ 11:59 pm

  52. Yep. Jones certainly connects on issues but when he slags the Greens he’s doing National’s job for them. 1 in 8 voters would vote Green so they could actually be considered a serious party, Labour NEEDS them to be taken seriously. National needs to sell them as crazies. Jones is like Collins, no discipline over his own ego gratification.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — March 14, 2014 @ 12:38 am

  53. @nigel: Capital letters aside, why exactly does Labour need the Greens? Or perhaps I should ask, what does it need them for? I realise Labour can’t govern without a coalition with the Greens, but you don’t need to refrain from attacking someone’s policies to form a coalition with them. Certainly the Greens don’t think so – they spend enough time attacking Labour’s policies! (As they’re perfectly entitled to, I hasten to add).

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 14, 2014 @ 12:58 am

  54. Fun fact: “murk” in Estonian means “poison”.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 14, 2014 @ 1:08 am

  55. Arfity ARF ARF, the greebor factions start fighting again.

    Comment by bart — March 14, 2014 @ 2:00 am

  56. Hmmmm, the dimpost hive mind appears to be almost in consensus! Next topic Danyl before someone ruins it all and mentions Hitler!

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 14, 2014 @ 6:52 am

  57. ” but you don’t need to refrain from attacking someone’s policies”

    but does jones do this? or does he engage in a bit of school yard name calling?

    thats the difference for me – these are all experienced adults who should be able to find better ways to look organised and say something other than inviting the media to a punch up behind the bike sheds at 3:15

    jones isnt so much stating a policy difference between the greens and labour – hes running around, repeatedly shooting his mouth of to the media, making the labour party look unorganised and giving the nats ammo to further weaken both his own party and their biggest potential coalition partner. Even after being publicly told to pull his head in by his own leader he pops back up in the news the very next day and keeps going.

    If jones cant think of a better way to make his point perhaps he should just STFU. Creating an impression that labour will talk to the greens but they arent beholden to them is a good idea (mainly because its the truth, this idiocy that russ will lead labour round by the nose is just that – idiocy) – but jones’ methods arent the way to do it

    “why exactly does Labour need the Greens?” – to be able to form a govt perhaps?

    Comment by framu — March 14, 2014 @ 7:59 am

  58. @framu: I don’t think we disagree, actually. I agree that what Jones is doing is problematic because it’s diluting Labour’s message, I just don’t think it’s unprincipled.

    But I don’t think that this kind of thing will prevent the formation of a Labour-Green coalition if the votes are there for it – it would be extraordinarily petty of the Greens to hand National another three years because of what Jones did. (And I really doubt the Greens are offended at this because of their concern for Labour’s media strategy).

    For the record, I don’t think this hurts the Greens politically – I expect the number of voters who will stop voting Green because Shane Jones doesn’t like them is vanishingly tiny.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 14, 2014 @ 8:52 am

  59. @kalvarnsen

    agreed that it won’t affect the Greens result but Jones’ comments could damage Labour’s. Because voters who are convinced the Greens are lunatics will be reluctant to vote Labour.

    A bit like shooting yourself in the foot while it’s in your mouth.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — March 14, 2014 @ 9:03 am

  60. “it would be extraordinarily petty of the Greens to hand National another three years because of what Jones did. ”

    how is what jones does on a regular basis the fault of the greens though? its not.

    and how much is the greens having a chat to cunliffe being exaggerated by the very person who cant seem to find more adult and productive ways to say what we wants?

    yeah it sounds like we agree – but i think jones is being unprincipalled because of the manner he does this – not the intention.

    “Because voters who are convinced the Greens are lunatics will be reluctant to vote Labour. A bit like shooting yourself in the foot while it’s in your mouth.” – yup.

    wouldnt a better strategy for jones be to stop shooting his mouth off to the media against the wishes of his leader and actually form a plan, with the party, that achieves something other than making it look like labour still cant get their pants down in time to take a piss?

    going rouge isnt a good look and it can lose more votes than it might gain – especially so given the perceptions of labour as of late

    but who knows – perhaps this is all planned?

    Comment by framu — March 14, 2014 @ 9:26 am

  61. A bit like shooting yourself in the foot while it’s in your mouth.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9826439/Shane-Jones-apologises-over-Collins-comments

    Comment by Gregor W — March 14, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  62. @Nigel: Well, potentially… but at the same time there are voters who are genuinely worried that the Greens will have too much influence over Labour, so they might appreciate seeing some distance. The question is, whether one group is bigger than the other, or more or less responsive to Jones’ comments… I guess we’ll see on election day.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 14, 2014 @ 9:48 am

  63. here are voters who are genuinely worried that the Greens will have too much influence over Labour

    There are also voters who were genuinely worried that ACT would have too much influence over National, but that didn’t stop them ticking the National box last time.

    Comment by Phil — March 14, 2014 @ 10:22 am

  64. @Phil: Well, for better or worse, ACT and National are much, much more closely aligned than the Greens and Labour, so I think that’s potentially a very small group… but that aside, how do we know that’s not the case? Isn’t it at least theoretically possible some of the people who didn’t vote for National did so because they didn’t like John Banks?

    Again, I’m not arguing that this is necessarily a politically significant group.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 14, 2014 @ 7:29 pm


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