Chief Govt. Whip Pettis Refutes Book Launch Ban
Chief Govt. Whip Pettis Refutes Zaoui Book Launch Ban
Interview By Kevin List
Scoop: According to the New Zealand Herald, Matt Robson stated that Labour MP's had been told to stay away from the Zaoui book launch]?
Jill Pettis: I did see that Ross Roberston had attended. Can I tell you that I didn't even know the book launch was on last night - but you can't know everything that goes on around this place. There was absolutely no instruction given whatsoever [or] recommendation or advice given to any Labour MP to not attend. I suspect the vast majority of us didn't even know it was on.
Scoop: I've been to a few book launches at Parliament and normally you get a few more MP's popping down for a snack or a free drink. There didn't seem to be too many MP's stopping – they just seemed to be chugging on past. The head of the Council of Trade Unions was speaking and the head of Amnesty International [in Wellington]. It just seemed strange that not one Labour MP with the exception of Ross Roberston turned up?
Jill Pettis: Why would it seem strange? I've been a member of Amnesty International since I can't remember how long, and I was recently invited to a CTU meeting – I could go to neither. A humble soldier like me gets about ten invitations a day. I'm lucky if I get to two functions a week.
Scoop: There was no staff either – that was the other strange thing?
Jill Pettis: I didn't go to the launch of the Fintan Patrick Walsh's book launch either even though the Prime Minister was launching it and there was a gathering of Labour luminaries. You can't get to everything.
Scoop: You don't think it's a little bit strange that there was no staff from any Minister or MP's offices there– that no-one turned up?
Jill Pettis: No – and if you trawled back through the number of people who had turned up to various functions around here you would find that a lot of people don't get to go to events because they've got so many conflicting appointments. [Jill Pettis then explained in some detail the conflicting appointments that could have been occurring during the Zaoui book launch].
Scoop: The book launch wasn't mentioned at all during the Labour caucus?
Jill Pettis: Absolutely unequivocally without any hesitation whatsoever no recommendations or advice was given [regarding attending]. As I've just finished saying I suspect most of my colleagues didn't even know it was on.
Scoop: So it wasn't because it [the Zaoui case] is a political embarrassment?
Jill Pettis: No… absolutely not! Not all of us went to the launch of the Fintan Patrick Walsh book even though the Prime Minister spoke and quite high profile people also spoke. We don't get to go to these things very often. Staff don't go very often. Staff go to hardly any of these types of things.
Scoop: I don't know about that - especially if there's free alcohol!
Note: The Zaoui book launch was held during a sitting day in the Beehive foyer, twenty meters from Copperfields [Beehive cafeteria often frequented by Labour MP's] and three floors from Bellamy's [Beehive restaurant]. It was deliberately held during the dinner break to enable MPs to attend. The event was also advertised on the front page of Scoop all day yesterday with a picture and a story. According to the hosts of the event, both ministers and backbench MPs from the Labour Party (and indeed all MPs from all parties) were specifically invited. Introducing the event Progressive MP Matt Robson said he understood Labour MPs had been asked not to attend.