Kiwi Polemicist

• Hansard 26-8-08

The official transcript of a spectacular exchange in the New Zealand Parliament

Click here for the source.

Originally loaded to accompany this post.

5. Corruption Allegations—Investigation

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her answer given in oral question No. 4 from the Rt Hon Winston Peters on 10 April 2003 that “This Government does not tolerate corruption. Any allegations are investigated.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

Rodney Hide: Will the Prime Minister therefore assure the House that the Serious Fraud Office will be able to assess and investigate, unimpeded, the claims of corruption by a businessman, repeated on several occasions to Dominion Post reporter Phil Kitchin, that this businessman was one of several people to whom Peter Simunovich gave $9,999.95 in 2002, to pass on to New Zealand First in exchange for Winston Peters’ “shutting up about his allegations of wrongdoing against Simunovich Fisheries”, and that “Sure enough, within a couple of weeks Winston Peters did shut up.”, and that the man’s statement and details were provided last week to the Serious Fraud Office, and that the businessman himself was concerned for his personal safety?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have just heard a very serious allegation from a member who, typically, failed to name anyone other than one company. But the critical person is the one he claims to be a businessman, whose life is under threat, apparently—unless it is from Rodney I cannot imagine from whom. But, I want to know, is that a fair question in this House?

Madam SPEAKER: Well, unfortunately, yes, from time to time allegations are made, and that question falls into that category that is permitted under the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The relevant question to me was “Can such allegations be fully and independently investigated?”, and the answer is, of course, yes.

Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Rodney Hide. Oh, point of order, the Rt Hon Winston—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I want to ask a supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: Well, you can take your turn.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is my turn.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you both sit down, otherwise you will both leave the Chamber and no one will be asking the question, which will solve the problem. Be seated. I called Rodney Hide before I saw the Rt Hon Winston Peters, so I will call Rodney Hide and then we will take the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ question.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister think it a good look for her Government to be abolishing the Serious Fraud Office just as it is assessing the complaint made by a former business associate of Peter Simunovich that her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, went to see Peter Simunovich to show him the evidence of corruption he had against Peter Simunovich and stated that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly get rid of it”, or will she just keep accepting her Minister of Foreign Affairs’ word that he has done nothing wrong—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are not going to truly have some sort of half-baked Serious Fraud Office inquiry inside this House conducted by “Rodney Hide QC”. The reality of it is that he has not presented one fact to make these serious allegations. They are deadly serious in my view, and they also concern the issue on which we turned over Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand (TVNZ) in December last year with one Phil Kitchin, who was working for them—those are the facts.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. The only breach of the Standing Orders is that questions are meant to be succinct, as are answers. If the member could please make his question succinct, then it would be much appreciated, being consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: It is very hard; he has been up to such a lot of naughtiness.

Madam SPEAKER: No, could the member please just ask the question.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister think it a good look to be abolishing the Serious Fraud Office just as it is assessing the complaint made by a former business associate of Peter Simunovich that her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, went to see Peter Simunovich to show him the evidence of corruption he had against Peter Simunovich and stated that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly …”—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I demand that either the member gives me the evidence now or he apologises. What he is saying is baseless and, more important, it is the subject of a serious defamation case for which at the time, all the way through December last year, TVNZ and Radio New Zealand argued that they had never at any point sought to impugn my integrity. The member is now seeking to litigate a sub judice matter in the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. That is not a point of order. Would the member just complete his question, please.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The sub judice rule applies in this House. You know I have an action against TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and others.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; would the member please be seated. No, I did not know that; I am sorry. I had not realised that. If matters are before the court, there are many precedents that they are not to be raised in this House. So would the member please just succinctly ask the point of his question, consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: I will pick up where I was interrupted—that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly get rid of it”, or will she just keep accepting her Minister of Foreign Affairs’ word—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member may not know any Latin, but the sub judice rule does not allow him to raise the matter in this House. I am fighting this case in the court—and doing rather well at the moment—and with the greatest respect TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and ACT are not going to win inside this House. They have to come to court with me, and I am very happy to join them.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—

Rodney Hide: Can I finish my question now, Madam Speaker?

Madam SPEAKER: No.

Hon Bill English: There is a fairly important issue here. The member is clearly trying to stop a question being asked—and I have to say that the way in which he is doing it is one I have never quite seen before—but certainly it would be difficult if the House had to accept on the word of Mr Peters that this matter was sub judice, particularly when he is often involved in court cases more than other members. It could end up with the ridiculous situation where no questions could be asked, because a member has said that he or she was involved in a court case, if we are to go just on the member’s say-so, and some members may well be in the position where they are always involved in some kind of legal matters related to their own activities. So I think we need to be pretty careful in order to make sure that a member cannot be prevented from asking a question. It is one of the basic freedoms of this House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Unfortunately, there is a limitation upon our freedom of speech in this House in relation to things that are sub judice. The issue here presumably is whether the matter being raised by Mr Hide is central to the matter that is in front of the court in terms of the defamation case. Now you are hearing, I think, from Mr Peters that what he is telling you is that the matter being raised is central to that defamation case. If so, then clearly it is sub judice and one cannot go around the back door by pretending that that matter has come from somewhere else and therefore is unrelated to the case before the court. I think Mr Hide really can tell the House whether, in his understanding, what Mr Peters is arguing is true, because if what Mr Peters is arguing is true, then the House should not be pursuing this matter at this point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There are numerous Speakers’ rulings with respect to the sub judice rule in this House that one may refer to an event of a case, but not the substance of it. Those are the previous rulings of this House. Mr Hide well knows that, so do his backers, and that is why, having lost in court, they seek to pursue it inside this House. They should be stopped from doing so.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the difficulty that has arisen is that Mr Hide could have asked the substance of his question without the elaboration that went on that would have, in fact, breached sub judice, if this matter—and I take the member’s word for it, because I have to, as we all do—is before the courts. So I am in a difficult position, because the question went on for so long. I understood the substance of it; it was to deal with a matter about independence of inquiries. Can the member, without reference to any specifics, ask the essence of the question?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is nothing before the courts relating to this matter. Mr Peters himself said he thinks he has won something in the court, which again is news to everyone here. The matter I am referring to is not before the courts, and I think it is a sad day if you are going to shut down a question from a member of this House over a most important matter. I do not see why I should not be allowed to finish my question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. I refer the member to Standing Order 111, and I will certainly take it away and look at it. I accept the member’s word that there is a matter revolving around these issues being raised that is before the court. I have to do that. If the member wishes to ask another question, please do so.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you be telling the House tomorrow what matter is before the court that prevents me from asking the question?

Madam SPEAKER: No, the member knows that that is improper. That is not the case. I have said I will look at it. I take the member’s word. We all know that we take a member’s word. If there is a matter before the court I take the member’s word for it, as we do with other matters in this House. Now either the member asks a question or we move on.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: This is the last point of order on this matter.

Rodney Hide: Well, it is a difficult matter for me. I have waited patiently to ask my question today, as I am entitled to as a member of Parliament. What we have heard from Mr Peters is that there is some matter before the court. He has provided no elucidation as to what that matter is. You have told me you do not know what the case is, and you have told me that I can ask a question as long as it does not relate to some matter before the court of which no one in this House is aware. I would like you to ask Mr Peters to please explain what the matter is before the court that he is talking about.

Madam SPEAKER: As members well know it is the convention in this House that one takes a member’s word and there are consequences if, in fact, that word is proven otherwise not to be the case. That is the way in which it works.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. On the ruling you have just made around Standing Order 111, it is dependent on the Speaker taking the view that it appears to the Speaker that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the case. Could you please tell us what is that—

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is not the question, please; and I suggest a little bit more experience, if I can say before we end all this.

Rodney Hide: Does it concern the Prime Minister that a second business associate of Peter Simunovich has repeatedly said, unrelated to any court case, that he too wrote cheques for Peter Simunovich to New Zealand First, and kept the bank records just in case something went wrong; and what will it take for her to finally take my advice and to stand Winston Peters down so that his shonky dealings, secret trusts—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Hide must surely have been looking in the mirror when he made those last comments. This is a man with a $2.8 million trust. But here is the point: this is a matter before the court. I took it seriously. I sued five different parties and I still am suing them. Before my lawyer left for overseas he advised me of the exact updated state of the case. Just to put the record straight, I say that in December last year it was found by the courts that there was a prima facie case for those parties to answer. That is where things stand at this point in time. Mr Hide cannot get away with that sort of allusion in this House, when the facts are before the court and they are sub judice.

Madam SPEAKER: I have made my ruling. I say to Rodney Hide that he can ask his question without referring to those matters. The substance of his question can be asked, but not in relation to those matters that are before the court.

Rodney Hide: No matters before the court are in my question.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. I ask the member to please be seated. I will go through it one more time and that will be it. If my ruling is challenged again I will be asking the member to leave the House. We have taken the member’s word for it. I have said that the member Rodney Hide can ask the substance of his question, without specific reference to those particular matters, to which the Prime Minister can then reply. So I ask the member to do that, otherwise I will have to move on to the next question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If this whole issue hangs on your taking the word of a member, then which member are you taking the word of? Mr Hide has made it very clear that his question does not relate to a court case. We on this side of the House have some understanding of where things are at with this particular matter and concur with Mr Hide.

Madam SPEAKER: That is all very well, but I have taken the word of the member who is affected and who has the matter before the court—you are right. He is obviously the subject of the case.

Rodney Hide: Of course he is an honourable member—

Madam SPEAKER: I ask Mr Hide whether he has a question to ask.

Rodney Hide: To the Prime Minister—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: How much are they paying you, Rodney?

Rodney Hide: Cheer up Michael. Does it concern her—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am reluctant to intervene in this dispute, but the Deputy Prime Minister said across the House: “How much are they paying you?”. That is out of order when directed at any member of Parliament, but particularly in respect of asking a question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. On a number of occasions in the past I have raised allegations in Mr Hide’s presence that he receives, and has received in the past, outside payment—before, of course, the current rules came into force—and at no point in the past has he ever denied that.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will I be allowed to ask my question now?

Madam SPEAKER: Not if you ask it in the way you asked it before, but you can ask the substance of it.

Rodney Hide: Well, let me try, because I do not know what substance you are objecting to.

Madam SPEAKER: The member is starting to trifle with the Speaker. If the member finds himself in that position, I suggest that he does not ask his question.

Rodney Hide: I am definitely going to ask my question.

Madam SPEAKER: OK, I call Rodney Hide.

Rodney Hide: Does it concern the Prime Minister that a former business associate of Peter Simunovich is on record—a record that I provided to the Serious Fraud Office—as making a complaint of corruption against her Minister of Foreign Affairs—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order.

Rodney Hide: —stating that Peter Simunovich—

Madam SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. A point of order has been called. All members have rights of speech in this House, and we are hearing those rights exercised today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you may have given six rulings to this member already. He is choosing to ignore them because his purpose is to get some sort of story out, false as it is, for the newspapers up the stairs to publish, regardless of the veracity or the truth of the matter. This matter is the subject of a court case. In fact, five defendants have been involved, and that still remains the case. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to ask the member for the last time to change his question, or to send him from the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I have asked the member, and this will be the last time.

Rodney Hide: I am going to ask my question, Madam Speaker. If you do not allow me to ask it, then you had better get me to leave now because I am entitled in this House to ask this question. Does it concern—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. Please be seated. I have told the member; all members are entitled to ask questions that are consistent with the Standing Orders. That is all I am asking the member to do. I have ruled that his question, in the way it was phrased, is not consistent with the Standing Orders, but he can still ask the substance of the question. All I am asking him to do is comply with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: Thank you. Let me ask precisely the substance of my question. Does it concern the Prime Minister that a former business associate of Peter Simunovich is on the record making a complaint of corruption against her Minister of Foreign Affairs—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have given him now six or seven rulings. He simply stood up, the last time, to read out the question from the previous time you gave him a ruling. I think he is trifling with the Chair now and that he should be asked to leave the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I am also being persuaded of that point. So I am sorry, Mr Hide, I have made my ruling. I am not—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Shameful!

Madam SPEAKER: No, it is not a shame; and that member will be asked to leave if he says that one more time. I am here to try to ensure that the Standing Orders are complied with and that the rule we abide by in terms of taking a member’s word is also abided by. Mr Hide is perfectly entitled to ask the substance of his question, and I have done this on many other occasions where I have said that to members and they have, in fact, complied. Now, if the member does not wish to do that, I suggest that he does not ask his question.

Rodney Hide: I am going to ask my question, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, then, I am sorry to do this. I really am sorry, but I will ask the member please to leave the House.

Rodney Hide: No. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I have asked the member to leave the House. I have not denied you the right to ask your question

Rodney Hide: You have.

Madam SPEAKER: I have merely said you ask that question consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: It is consistent.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please leave the House. Thank you.

Rodney Hide: This is an absolute disgrace that you have shut down an MP from asking a question. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Please leave. I call the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Rodney Hide: I actually will not go, Madam Speaker, until I have my say.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I am sorry. The member wants to think very carefully before he does that. I understand that he is not being denied the right to ask his question; it is merely to ask that question consistent with the Standing Orders. That is all that is asked, and the substance of it can be asked. Others members have to comply with those rules; Mr Hide I ask you to comply with them.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I have asked the member please to leave. Thank you.

  • Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have taken an extremely strong step today in denying Mr Hide the right to ask his question and you have relied heavily on the conventions of the House. Can I ask you to refer to Standing Order 111, “Matters awaiting judicial decision”, and ask why you have applied paragraph (c), which requires that such matters may not be referred to in any question, including a supplementary question, “if it appears to the Speaker that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the case.” The particulars of this case are not unknown to members on this side of the House. It would be our position that there has been a travesty of justice here. Mr Hide has been done a wrong and the question should have been asked. The Hansard record will show that he used very simple words, heading in a particular direction, that had nothing to do with the court case that Mr Peters is relying on.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There are two issues, which may be related but actually need to be carefully separated. The first, and much more important, issue now, is respect for your authority as Speaker. Your authority was deliberately flouted. You gave rulings, on a number of occasions. Mr Hide refused to accept those rulings and continued to behave contrary to your rulings. You allowed him very, very significant leeway in that regard, because that matter occurred on a number of occasions. Any member of this House who behaved in that way, as frequently as that, sooner or later would be subject to the sanction that you have applied; and, indeed, given his subsequent behaviour, you would have been justified in the next stage of the sanctions being applied—that is, naming the member. All members in this House need to remind themselves that they are here to obey the authority of the Speaker when issues of that sort arise.

The second matter, of course, is the matter of judgment that you made about the sub judice rule. The member most closely involved in the case assured you that these matters were before the court. In all the time I have been in Parliament, Standing Order 111 has been interpreted very broadly to protect the court against Parliament’s discussing the matters before the court, unless there are actually very strong circumstances that might justify that occurring. You have clearly determined that that was not the case; it is not for the House now to question your judgment. If Mr Hide has other evidence, he may bring that evidence to you before tomorrow in the House, so that you may consider that evidence. But that is the way this place has to work. In essence it is like a game of rugby: sometimes a call may be made that one may dispute, but the dispute should not occur with the referee. The referee’s judgment is final, and we continue on from that point. This House cannot function unless we obey that rule.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I think you should know that when the National Party member Gerry Brownlee says what he says, he knows full well that one of his colleagues knows otherwise. He has lawyers in his party who could tell him otherwise, but, more important, this is a case where Mr Carter, his colleague, had his lawyer get up in court and say that at no time did he ever, associated with these allegations, mean to impugn Winston Peters, his integrity, or his honesty. That is what he argued.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. I also do not need assistance, Mr Finlayson, on running this House. I thank you for your asides, but I would say that in future they are not necessary. I have said I would look at this matter, and I will look at the matter. Under those circumstances, we normally move on. Mr Hide would have ample opportunity tomorrow and the next day to be able to come back, in the light of that. He chose not to take that course of action. I now ask the House, can we please move on to the next question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like a few supplementary questions myself.

Madam SPEAKER: That may well be the case, but you do not do it through a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: Does she still accept all of the assurances that she has recently received from Winston Peters about the various allegations made against him?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have accepted the honourable member’s word, and will continue to do so unless something arises out of the Privileges Committee or some other appropriate authority that suggests I should not do so. But I do not have such information.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If there was a subsequent series of cheques, paid some substantial time later, despite the fact that there was an inquiry in this House on a matter that concerned a business, and—here is the relevant point—those cheques were never cashed, therefore at no point could New Zealand First be seen—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you have well indicated to the House that this matter is sub judice and therefore questions cannot be asked about it.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree with you entirely. If the member has a question that is consistent with the Standing Orders he may ask it. If not, I suggest he does not ask it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports in the weekend papers, written by former ACT MPs, confirming an undeclared gift of $20,000 per annum of free office space over several years, and further adding that the bill to refurbish the gifted office space, after ACT vacated it, was sent to Parliamentary Service for the taxpayer to pick up?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A supplementary question surely has to relate to the question that is asked. Mr Peters appears to be not only changing the tack of his question, but is now drifting right off the point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The member in his primary question referred to corruption. I am giving an example of it.

Madam SPEAKER: I would agree with the member. The question was quite broad in terms of those allegations, so I call the Rt Hon Prime Minister.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Not only did I see reported the matter the member referred to, but I also saw the extraordinary report in the same article, that a property developer had paid around $20,000 for a photograph of Richard Prebble. That must be pretty close to constituting fraud.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would an example of the kind of thing Mr Hide alleges be the Asian chapter of the ACT party paying the legal costs to get rid of Donna Awatere Huata so that the ACT Asian candidate could replace her, to the tune of substantial money, and why was that not, under its rules, declared?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed the allegation was made in a Sunday newspaper by the former ACT member of Parliament that an Asian chapter of ACT was “pressured” to pay the legal bills of ACT with respect to Donna Awatere Huata because its candidate from the Asian chapter, Kenneth Wang, was next on the list and would benefit from Donna Awatere Huata’s departure from the House.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] to the kid who was the favourite of the principal. The transcript from parliament is a great read, click here to view […]

    Pingback by It was great to see Winston Peters looking down the barrel of a loaded gun « Kiwi Polemicist — August 27, 2008 @ 3:52 pm


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