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The Truth Behind Dover

The Truth Behind Dover

Friday 30th Jun 2000
Richard Prebble
Speech -- Governance & Constitution

It is not often I find myself rising in the House to have to say to the right honourable gentleman (Jim Anderton) that I found I agreed with every word he said.

It is not often that I have found myself in that position. I also agree with the way in which he has gone about debate. I listened to the whole of his speech, and I do not doubt for one minute Dover Samuel's personal commitment to closing the gaps. I also can understand the compassion that the member is showing to one of our own today. I accept that it a prerogative of the Prime Minister--in the end--to decide who she will have in Cabinet.

As a lawyer, in my view, the Prime Minister should not have moved yesterday, because there is no doubt in my mind that that was highly prejudicial. She would have been far better off to wait until the inquires by the authorities had been completed I believe that the public of New Zealand would have understood that, because the public of New Zealand is fundamentally fair. Members have clearly raised the issue of whether one is doing this for politics. So I say to the House that I do not regard the Labour Party, the Government, or a race of people as being on trial because of these particular allegations--that is absurd I also say that the Prime Minister that the way she has gone about this matter I find quite extraordinary--it is absolutely amazing.

I have looked very hard to see what else I could have done. But I will repeat to the House what--as far as I am concerned--how I became a reluctant participant in this matter.

I was rung at home on a Sunday by a person making serious allegations. I refused to listen to them on the telephone. I told the person who claimed to be a constituent of Mt Victoria--and, of course, I have said to the people in Wellington Central that I will represent them--that he must front up. He fronted up. He made those allegations. Again, I said to him: "Look, if the young woman is not making these allegations I cannot see what I am expected to do. Is she prepared to make these allegations?" . He said, “yes." I then spoke to that young woman. She repeated the allegations. I understated the case, and I said that these were very serious allegations, and the consequences of them will be great.

I said that she needed legal assistance. I arranged, via the Law Society, for that to be done. Members opposite say that the ACT party paid for that assistance. That is not so, the family paid for that The lawyer is giving most of that assistance pro bono*, because this--as has been worked out by Mr English--is a family that I think this Government is trying to reach out to. Only after she had legal advice and repeated the allegations did I write privately to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Police, and the Attorney-General. Why did I write to the Attorney-General.

I did so because she is the most senior law officer. I wrote to the Minister of Police because I have been a Minister of Police, and I have received similar letters from members of Parliament I wrote to the Minister because she is entitled to know what allegations are being made against one of her Minister. What I did not know, but the Prime Minister knew, allegation had been raised with her 6 months ago was that the because it had gone to Mr Carter and he had raised it with her and it had gone to Annette King and she had raised it with her the Prime Minister if it was wrong for me, as an MP, I say to to raise it with her why was it not wrong for the two Labour MPs to do the same thing?

What she actually says is not that I have done anything wrong but that I have publicised it. Indeed, today on State radio in an interview with Kim Hill she said, not once not twice, but the biblical three times: 'Richard Prebble publicised this matter." Finally, Kim Hill said to our Prime Minister: "But he wrote you a private letter?' . At that point the Prime Minister said: "Oh, but he would have publicised it.' ,

I am actually being subjected to the worst personal attack of my career, not for something I have done but for something the Prime Minister says she thinks I might have done. The Prime Minister is now saying that that is crossing the line. I listened to her speech in the House today; I listened to it carefully, and it appears to me that she was saying to members that it is appropriate to make an attack about members' private lives. But further, that it was appropriate to make an attack on innocent members of the family of an MP.

Well, I join with Jim Anderton in saying that that is not so. That most certainly is not so. If the Prime Minister wants to ask me, personally as an MP, how I would feel if some mernber of Parliament were to make an attack on an innocent member of my family, I would tell her how I would feel. I would feel devastated. Of course, I would. Why would anyone not feel that way? Of course, a person would. If she is asking me whether I think that is right, my answer is no, it is not.

I have looked at the Evening Post tonight and read the headline: , 'Labour out to get Prebble" . I went further and read statements made by members of Parliament saying: issues of getting even and even utu and vendettas are unbecoming, but will come" .

I had hoped that the Prime Minister would get up in this House, as our leader, and say to all members of Parliament that that is not the path we should go down. Jim Anderton appeared to me to be cautioning against it, and I say to Helen Clark that she had a duty to caution against it. Indeed, I have to say that I cannot understand how a Prime Minister of this country--and I guess a woman Prime Minister--could possibly have done what she has done.

Firstly, she came to this House about the matter but was not fully frank with us. She gave me the impression that my letter was the first she knew about it. Now I know that she knew about it the previous Friday, because the family had written to her; and she had referred the matter to the police She gave us the impression that Dover Samuels was the person who referred it to the police

Then she suggested that I had made it public. She failed to tell this House that Dover Samuels, two days before my letter--two days before had, in fact, made a very revealing interview with the Holmes show. I did not know about that I put it to the Prime Minister that, because she realised this matter was going to go public, she decided to put a political spin on it and attack the ACT party.

I guess I could take that as crediting ACT on being an effective Opposition. But that is not a reason to make an attack of that sort. I also say to her that the only difference I can find between my conduct and that of the two Labour MPs is that I reached out to that young woman. Am I ashamed of that? No, am not.

I tell this House that that young woman has been deeply hurt--deeply hurt. I am not ashamed of reaching out to her in a non-judgmental fashion. I wish the Prime Minister had done that in January. If she had, we would not be going through this. If members want to know whether the ACT party wanted to raise this, the fact is we have never raised it in the House nor in a question.

We are speaking in the debate only now. If I was asked what are the big issues facing this country I say I am more concerned that there is a collapse in business confidence. That is the issue I would like to be debating today. But I would like to hear from a senior member opposite that the Government does not endorse statements of utu it does not endorse statements of vendettas, and it certainly does not give licence for members to make attacks on innocent members of MPs' families.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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