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PM's Presser: Tamihere's Lunchtime Conversation

PM's Presser Tamihere's Lunchtime Conversation

Prime Minister's Press Conference – April 5 2005
By Kevin List

In this edition:
Setting The Scene - Background
Prime Minister Cuts Her Errant MP Some Slack
The Prime Minister's Understanding Of Tamihere's Conversation with Ian Wishart
The Independent Journalist Fails To Ask Sycophantic Question
Prime Minister Couldn't Give A Toss About Tamihere's Comments
Pope John Paul II


Setting The Scene - Background

Image -

“Mr Tamihere has enormous energy - he has ability but together with those [attributes] you need some self-discipline” declared the Prime Minister to a particularly crowded audience at the Beehive theatrette during a post cabinet press conference devoted almost entirely to the backbench Labour MP.

Over the last week Mr Tamihere's energy and ability seemed to have been devoted to having a crack at those he perceived had acted unethically in some sections of the media.

But whilst distrustful of some sections of the media, Mr Tamihere had placed enough trust in Ian Wishart of Investigate Magazine to have allowed a rather full and frank conversation to have been taped by Mr Wishart. This candid conversation was reprinted verbatim in the latest issue of Investigate magazine. After both the Prime Minister and the president of the Labour Party had read the transcript of Mr Tamihere’s lunchtime conversation, Mr Tamihere was advised to take the week off from Parliament and ‘reflect’ on his future, and presumably what he says both on and off record to the media.

In Mr Tamihere’s conversation with Investigate’s Ian Wishart, Mr Tamihere outlined his opposition to recent legislation regarding ‘employment relations’ and ‘civil unions’. Mr Tamihere portrayed himself as something of a maverick outsider in the article – a bulwark against a supposedly politically correct clique within the Labour Party. In the article Tamihere harked back with fondness to the Labour Party under Mike Moore’s leadership., Tamihere praised MPs such as Clayton Cosgrove and Damien O’Connor for their independent thinking. Tamihere also pointed out that in his opinion the Labour Party would find it difficult to survive without Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen.

However the reason Mr Tamihere is now reflecting in Auckland rather than participating in parliamentary democracy this week relates mainly to comments made about some of his former cabinet colleagues – comments considered not particularly sportsmanlike.

Mr Tamihere’s called Conservation Minister Chris Carter a "tosser" whilst describing their differences of opinion over the Civil Union Bill. He also described Social Development Minister Steve Maharey’s working style as "smarmy."

On the plus side for the Prime Minister, Mr Tamihere’s attack was so broad ranging that for an anti PC tirade it came across as very inclusive and equal opportunities orientated.

The Prime Minister who was described by Mr Tamihere as being “no good with her emotions” took questions on Mr Tamihere’s conversation from members of the press gallery, themselves described by Mr Tamihere as “utterly and totally useless. And sychophantic”.

Watching on were Labour Whip Darren Hughes and Cabinet Minister David Benson-Pope, both of whom seemed in a fairly jovial mood - perhaps because neither appeared on Mr Tamihere's hit list.

The entire press conference was fairly amiable with the Prime Minister only once appearing troubled when one journalist suggested Mr Tamihere had a lot of support for his comments among the public.


PM Cuts Her Errant MP Some Slack

The Prime Minister seemed willing to cut Mr Tamihere a bit of slack even after his unfortunate interview with Mr Wishart alluding to Mr Tamihere's ongoing annus horribilis.

“I should say that he’s been through a period of considerable stress with the allegations [into tax matters at the Waipareira Trust] that ran for a number of months. There were two formal inquiries which placed him in obviously some financial difficulty that has led him to downsize his home. He shifted his home only this last weekend. We’ve suggested he take a little time off to give him time to reflect on things.”

The Prime Minister was also willing to leave open the possibility that Mr Tamihere had not intentionally meant for his attacks on his colleagues to make it into a national magazine.

“I’ve had plenty of media briefings where people run a tape but the understanding is that it is off the record. “

The Prime Minister did however hammer home the theme of loyalty to ones colleagues:

"Without exception every colleague who I have spoken to today and who has contacted me has been very disappointed. Their view is that the Labour Party has stuck with John through very difficult times and serious allegations and they feel that sort of loyalty should be reciprocated."

To date there has been no formal apology from Mr Tamihere for his comments, although the Prime Minister noted there had been some remorse indicated, “in a phone call to me at 6:30am in the morning”.

It was also pointed out that it was Mr Tamihere who needed to take time to reflect, not the Labour Party, implying the ball was in his court.

No ultimatum had been given to Mr Tamihere that he should specifically apologise, the PM said.


The Prime Minister's Understanding Of Tamihere's Conversation with Ian Wishart

The Prime Minister outlined what she considered had occurred between Mr Tamihere and Mr Wishart.

"My understanding when he rang me last Wednesday was that he [Mr Tamihere] had lunch with Mr Wishart and that he understood it was an off the record conversation. Last Wednesday he was aware that Mr Wishart was going to publish and he became somewhat concerned about that."

The Prime Minister never claimed that Mr Tamihere had exceeded more than a glass of wine during his conversation with Mr Wishart though she did state, that in her opinion, Mr Tamihere and Mr Wishart’s conversation, “sounds to me like a long liquid lunch”.

Mr Tamihere’s candour and openness with Mr Wishart was not considered by the Prime Minister to have been particularly politically savvy.

But despite Mr Tamihere’s outspoken interview with Mr Wishart, the Prime Minister played down any suggestions Mr Tamihere would resign. “I don’t think there’s any clear suggestion that he might resign. He’s got a whole lot of options open to him and one is if you want a future in politics to be a team player.”

No-one had yet suggested that Mr Tamihere’s selection should be rescinded according to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister appeared confident there was no other Labour MP’s gearing themselves up to let rip in any other national publications. “For these sort of comments you’d be looking in the mirror I would think,” she said referring to Mr Tamihere.


Independent Journalist Fails To Ask Sycophantic Question

After investigating and researching the "man-in-the-street's" thoughts on Mr Tamihere’s lunchtime conversation with Mr Wishart, Tim Donoghue political reporter for The Independent weekly newspaper, went out of his way to prove he was no sycophant.

Whilst the Prime Minister considered Mr Tamihere’s views were unlikely to win him a lot of support Mr Donoghue begged to differ.

Tim Donoghue: "A number of people I’ve spoken to today actually think that Mr Tamihere is speaking the truth. Can you point to anything in that article, with the exception that he described you as being overly emotional, that is actually factually incorrect?"

Prime Minister: Of course I can, but I’m not going to give you the pleasure of dissecting it today. Cabinet had a look at it this morning and agreed that it was drivel.

After a some questions from other journalists the alleged "man-in-the-street's" opinion was once again canvassed by Mr O’Donoghue.

Tim Donoghue: "Plenty of people I’ve spoken to today say that he [Mr Tamihere] has got it right and you people have got it wrong?"

Prime Minister: Funny that…

Tim O’Donoghue: "In terms of public opinion?"

Prime Minister: "In what respect?"

Tim Donoghue: "Well in terms of the issue of the representation of homosexuals and lesbians in say, your own organisation. And the fact that males are basically being forgotten about? "

Prime Minister: "I find that simply extraordinary from a professional journalist!"

Tim Donoghue: You are entitled to your opinion.

Prime Minister: Well I am.

Tim Donoghue: "They are the people I talk to, and this is the sort of material I’m getting from them…that Mr Tamihere is actually speaking the truth."

Prime Minister: "Well I can assure you that article is riddled with things that are simply inaccurate. I can assure you that we have run a government that has worked with mainstream kiwi’s to deliver the very best results we can, as can be seen in the lowest unemployment in close to two decades, strong economic performance, extra investment and the basics that matter to ordinary people. It may be that The Independent that you write for doesn’t give a toss about any of that but I do and the Labour Party does and ordinary working people do."


Prime Minister Couldn't Give A Toss About Tamihere's Comments

Last week the TV3 journalist Duncan Garner was attacked by Mr Tamihere in the House regarding Mr Garner’s coverage in late 2004 of Mr Tamihere and his financial dealings with the Waipareira Trust.

After Mr Garners' journalistic integrity was vouched for by TV3s head of news Mark Jennings, Mr Tamihere launched an 'Allo 'Allo style internet attack on both men via his parliamentary blog. “Getting Jennings to rush to the aid of Garner is a bit like watching Hitler defend Goebbels,” wrote Mr Tamihere.

This and other comments by Mr Tamihere had been considered by TV3 to be potentially defamatory.

Continuing the "Axis and Allies" analogy it looks like - after the publication of Investigate magazine - Mr Tamihere had now opened up a war (of words) on at least two fronts.

The Prime Minister however seemed less concerned by Mr Tamihere’s comments than some in the media.

Scoop: Do you find any of the comments defamatory - that Mr Tamihere has made - to you or your colleagues?

Prime Minister: "As I say I don’t give a toss what people say about me. I’m too thick skinned for that but I think that when you have a [Labour] Party that has stood by a member in difficulty including putting there hands in their pockets, people are entitled to a little more loyalty."

The victim of Mr Tamihere’s attacks in the house last week TV3 journalist Duncan Garner was sparing in his questions regarding Mr Tamihere’s current misfortune. The Prime Minister seemed to imply there may have been a connection between TV3’s coverage of Mr Tamihere in late 2004 and his current predicament.

Duncan Garner: Why would Mr Tamihere say that the Labour Party is rosy on the outside but not on the inside?

Prime Minister: "Because he is an unhappy person under a lot of stress… some of which he attributes to your good self."

The Prime Minister's sage advice via the media for Mr Tamihere following his outburst was, "to put his head down and keep his bum up".


Pope John Paul II

After the onslaught of Tamihere related questions the Prime Minister wondered whether there was “anything more important to talk about”. Some brief questions followed regarding arrangements for sending emissaries to the funeral of the leader of the worlds largest religion.

The PM replied that as of yesterday there were no firm arrangements in place as to who would be attending the Pope's funeral on NZ's behalf.


© Scoop Media

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