The Dim-Post

May 1, 2014

The normal job of an MP

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:32 pm

Like Judith Collins before him, Maurice Williamson is being cute about abusing his position as a Minister, doing the now familiar, ‘What? Can’t a guy just pick up the phone on behalf of a constituent?’ routine. It’s nonsense because Ministers of the Crown work out of large offices filled with staffers to whom they delegate almost all of their interactions except those that take place at the very highest level. If any normal person – whether they’re one of the Minister’s constituents or not – tries to meet with a Minister they’ll get a call back from an EA, or an email from an adviser, and if the Minister’s office needs to communicate with someone on your behalf then that’ll happen through a staffer too. That’s how it works. It means the majority of public servants never ever speak with a government Minister beyond a perfunctory meet and greet. And because that’s how it works it is basically impossible for a Minister to call a public servant directly and not give that person the impression they’re being pressured by that Minister.


  1. and if he wasn’t trying to influence the Police investigation why did he mention “investing a lot of money in New Zealand” ?

    Comment by MikeG — May 1, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  2. ‘What? Can’t a guy just pick up the phone on behalf of a constituent?’

    One wonders how many of his constituents have contacted the Minister for assistance, how many of them got it handled by him personally, and how many of those instances involved arrested constituents getting him to phone the Police on their behalf. I’m picking the total for the last item is 1.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — May 1, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  3. I won’t hear a bad word about Maurice. He is always helping his constituents. I had half a brick of Chang that I couldn’t shift and Maurice stepped in and sold it for me. It is just what MPs do for their constituents.

    Comment by King Kong — May 1, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

  4. The funniest thing I’ve read on this is that according to Whale its just a NZ Herald beat up. Next funniest thing was the report on what Williamson had said-

    “He started by saying that in no way was he looking to interfere with the process, he just wanted to make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure we were on solid ground”

    Good grief..!! How long has this moron been the MP for Pakuranga? Must be easy to get votes down that way.

    Comment by Redbaiter — May 1, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

  5. I kind of enjoyed the way the PM said “There’s no grey in this, in the end there’s a line. The moment he made the phone call he crossed the line.” – as he acknowledges the same thing Danyl has expressed here. He then talks about how he had “contacted” Williamson to “get his version of events”.
    I dare say his enquiry with Williamson didn’t leave a lot of grey area either. My guess is the minute Wayne Eagleson knocked on Maurice’s door asking about the phone call Maurice knew he was about to get the arse.

    Comment by Greg — May 1, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

  6. Can’t a Minister phone the police and tell them how important a person is (after performing his citizenship ceremony)? Can’t a Minister dine with her husband and a senior Chinese border official (while her husband has Chinese border problems)?


    Comment by George — May 1, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

  7. One of the funnier comments I have read defending Williamson was along the lines of “If a mate of yours was arrested, wouldn’t you call the cops to find out why?”.

    The local constable must be awfully accommodating in Waikikamukau.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 1, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

  8. Greg @ #5
    My guess is the minute Wayne Eagleson knocked on Maurice’s door asking about the phone call Maurice knew he was about to get the arse.

    Or as soon as Eagleson knocked on his door he knew he was going to get it in the arse if/when the media got hold of it.

    How many other similar incidents of ministerial impropriety have been forwarded to Key under the “No Surprises Policy”, that he is yet to action for no apparent reason (that certainly isn’t media coverage).

    Comment by Michael — May 1, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  9. There’s little doubt that despite Williamson “resigning” he was told his time was up. Key’s decisiveness, and refusal to tolerate Ministers abusing their position, marks a stark contrast to how the previous PM dealt with Taito Phillip “he’s just helping his constituents” Field.

    Comment by tdog — May 1, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

  10. Whats the world coming to when an mp can’t ring up the police to try and interfere with the police investigation into an alleged wife beating eh?

    Comment by Del Griffith — May 1, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

  11. Key’s decisiveness, and refusal to tolerate Ministers abusing their position, marks a stark contrast to how the previous PM dealt with Taito Phillip “he’s just helping his constituents” Field.

    Funny, I’ve got a Nat peddling that one over at No Minister. The talking points have been distributed, huh?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — May 1, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

  12. “Key’s decisiveness, and refusal to tolerate Ministers abusing their position”

    Unless it’s Collins, for numerous offenses going back to the whole Pullar thing and probably before.

    Or Bennett, breaching the privacy act to smear private citizens by releasing incomplete info designed to make them look bad..

    Or even Worth when he was pimping his aviation school in India with his Ministerial hat on.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — May 1, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

  13. Key’s decisiveness? The phone call was in January. His Minister intervened on behalf of his party’s donor (and if you believe arch-lefty Rodney Hide, on Radio Live today, the PM’s office would automatically have been given a “no surprises” heads-up).

    Oh, you mean the decisiveness once it got into the media, three months later. Sure.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — May 1, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

  14. As a mid level public servant I deal with my Minister reasonably frequently and we know perfectly well by their shifty tone, belligerent insistence on action ahead of evidence and dodgy subject matter when he or she is following up on some lobbying or a mate they said they’d sort something out for. Thing is to get the sort of mates whose problems you can sort out with major policy decisions or legislation rather than messy personal stuff like this. Maurice is an eager dork on the look out for mates but should have known better in his choice of chum and the promises he obviously made him

    Comment by ablative — May 1, 2014 @ 11:28 pm

  15. @tdog: ” Key’s decisiveness, and refusal to tolerate Ministers abusing their position”

    Yes of course, you carry on believing that. Like the White Queen, it can be one of the six impossible things you can believe before breakfast….

    Comment by D'Esterre — May 1, 2014 @ 11:51 pm

  16. Isn’t the job of an effective Prime Minister to choose Ministers who won’t do this sort of thing, not to just choose anybody off the rack and then move decisively when they fuck up? I mean, cure is nice, but prevention is better.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 2, 2014 @ 3:56 am

  17. kalverson, that’s plain wishful thinkng my friend.

    Yet again a Minister of the Crown starts to think with their political dicks and believe they are somehow above the law or have some magical power to influence. But if this happened months ago and yet this ‘decisive’ response just occurred, I think the Herald correctly asks why has this taken so long and why were questions it raised not addressed more swiftly. Perhaps they were so embroiled in damage-control over Collins that they had to put this on the back-burner, yet needed to get it over with before the election campaign goes critical, or their apparently well-oiled organisation isn’t so organised. But if this has been bubbling for so long, the opposition must be now regretting didn’t get to engage in a drawn out epose in the House.

    I tend to think this was going to get a lot of immediate-future scrutiny, and opposition attention. Did National get wind of this and lance the boil to contain the damage? This ‘decisive’ event by Key an attempt to deny ‘Team Cunliffe’ a potentially major hit on National’s credibility pre-election. The timing is fascinating.

    Comment by Lee C — May 2, 2014 @ 6:17 am

  18. I tend to think this was going to get a lot of immediate-future scrutiny, and opposition attention…The timing is fascinating.

    @Lee C – the timing definitely supports your damage-control hypothesis to the extent that Key can afford to lose Williamson over Collins (mostly due to to Williamson’s visibility vis-a-vis Collins in the run-up, and his healthy majority in Pakuranga which should see him back in the House and rehabilitated after spending 18 months or so in Siberia).

    To have two corruption scandal’s erupting at the same time would have been an almighty clusterfuck, particularly as the prevarication, posturing and denials would have dragged on closer to September.

    However, I do think that a competent opposition should be able to use this momentum to get Collins shit-canned, or at least, make the next month or so complete agony for National (ideally, until Parata’s next screw-up).

    Comment by Gregor W — May 2, 2014 @ 9:41 am

  19. Police Minister Anne Tolley was briefed by police on April 14. We’re asked to believe she didn’t tell the PM – or she told his “office”, who didn’t tell him.

    Protecting the purity of Brand Key from messy information may be smart (short-term) politics, but it’s not good government.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — May 2, 2014 @ 9:43 am

  20. “…We’re asked to believe she didn’t tell the PM – or she told his “office”, who didn’t tell him…”

    This would be a ridiculous suggestion if we believed the line so assiduously cultivated by the National party’s propagandists and shills about their so-called better credentials as efficient and well-organised managers.

    I am pretty sure Key runs his government along entirely corporate governance lines. You only have to look at all the middle aged white male corporate drones they are selecting as candidates to see that the party culture is being completely inculcated with the values of the corporate sector.

    Now, we all know that Key is pretty lazy. It is obvious he is often not well prepared and tells casual untruths (where “some time ago” can mean “last week”) and that he relies on the 24 hour news cycle and tight media management to smooth out the ruffles. So what if he actually runs a chaotic government, where ministers are expected to behave like the NZ corporate financial sector with massive egos, a less than ethical blurring of the lines between public and private and an utter contempt of for the values of public service?

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 2, 2014 @ 11:00 am

  21. Crafty Williamson is trying to say its the same as when he calls the police on behalf of victims of crime or community policing in general.

    Its not. He calling the police on behalf of the offender which is a big NO NO. Lawyers contact the police regarding prosecutions and charges to be laid. Its THEIR job

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — May 2, 2014 @ 11:17 am

  22. Williamson’s comments don’t stand up to scrutiny. He said he does his sort of thing all the time, not just for wealthy people but for poor constituents who can’t afford a lawyer.

    So why didn’t Liu have a good lawyer? He’s a rich man. His lawyer could have rung the Police to find out progress in the investigation. That’s what lawyers do.

    Comment by MeToo — May 2, 2014 @ 11:30 am

  23. ‘Can’t a guy just pick up the phone on behalf of a constituent?’

    But Liu isn’t a constituent, so that excuse falls at the first hurdle.

    Comment by Ross — May 2, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

  24. Even stranger, he calls the cops without being asked to. Whose arse was he protecting?

    Comment by Sacha — May 2, 2014 @ 6:56 pm

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