Saturday, May 26, 2012
Matthew Hooton: Labour still paying for Clark government’s corruption
That probably served to protect Mr Jones and his sidekick Dover Samuels, given mainstream media scepticism of Mr Wishart and blogs in general. Even luckier for Mr Jones and Mr Samuels, the story was largely forgotten just weeks later amid the euphoria that followed the defeat of Helen Clark’s corrupt regime.
Mr Jones will, of course, almost certainly be cleared by the belated auditor-general investigation initiated by Labour leader David Shearer.
Mr Shearer’s precarious position means he cannot afford Mr Jones leaving parliament because that would bring in Carol Beaumont, a former secretary of the Council of Trade Unions and likely opponent of Mr Shearer’s plans for the party.
Mr Shearer was therefore careful to ask auditor-general Lyn Provost merely to investigate the “processes” that led to Mr Jones giving Mr Liu his citizenship.
No one disputes that the processes were fine. At issue is what lay behind them.That is a matter for the police, whose attention is already turning to the affair.
As happened with the Ingram inquiry into Taito Phillip Field, another of Ms Clark’s ministers, Ms Provost’s report is likely to identify enough unanswered questions to prompt the police to move to a full-scale criminal investigation.
That will be illuminating because Mr Jones’ explanations for his decisions, involving alleged fears of execution and organ harvesting, have already been shown to be as preposterous as when he was caught dissembling over the nature of the movies he had charged to his ministerial credit card.
In this case, there is not the slightest suggestion that Mr Liu, or whatever his name really is, was facing charges in China that could lead to execution, nor would being granted citizenship provide him with additional protection from extradition than his existing residency.
Mr Jones’ explanation also fails based on reports that Mr Liu was promising to take Labour MPs on a trip to China, a strange thing for someone to be planning if they really believed they risked arrest and execution.
Business as usual
The return of the Liu affair is a timely reminder of how vital it was to get rid of Ms Clark’s gangster regime in 2008.
In terms of the gap between potential and performance, John Key’s government may be the most disappointing in New Zealand’s history but the last years of Ms Clark’s regime was undoubtedly the most vile and corrupt.
Mr Jones’ alleged wrongdoing, while worthy of jail if proven, was hardly out of the ordinary in the final years of the Clark regime.
Ms Clark, Michael Cullen and the rest of them doggedly defended Mr Field until he raised doubts about his loyalty to Labour, at which point the police raided his office.
In 2005, despite clear warnings from the authorities, Labour deliberately broke campaign spending laws, believing anything was justified to hold on to power.
Only Ms Clark’s inappropriately close relationship with the police saved Labour’s general secretary, Mike Smith, from serious charges over that affair.
Despite their own record of deliberate law-breaking, Labour had the audacity to attack its opponents for their conduct during the 2005 election campaign – smearing them as “cancerous and corrosive” and “chinless scarf wearers” – and then going so far as to pass legislation to make it illegal for civil society to present effective criticism of the government in election year.
It then clung on to power for months on the vote of Winston Peters, despite his lies over his political funding, while spending taxpayers’ dollars sending researchers to Australia in a futile attempt to find fraud in Mr Key’s business career.
Clean break needed
Nearly four years since being thrown out of office, Labour has yet to provide any public penitence for its record.
Former leader Phil Goff offered an apology of sorts at the party’s 2009 conference, but he focussed primarily on what he called “sideshows” like smacking and politically correct light bulbs.
Labour has yet to repent for the knee-jerk dishonesty, casual smearing, and outright corruption of its final years.
Of its revised front bench, David Parker, David Cunliffe, Clayton Cosgrove, Nanaia Mahuta and Maryan Street were all ministers in Ms Clark’s government, while Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern were key henchmen in her office at the time of all her government’s most egregious behaviour.
Only Mr Shearer is untainted by those years, having left Mr Goff’s Beehive office in 2002.
His moves this week were inadequate to demonstrate the clean break with the past that Labour needs.
Matthew Hooton is a public affairs consultant and columnist for the NBR.
at 9:47 PM