Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 16 February 2007 - 16 February 2007

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

A Capital Offence

For months the allegations against Taito Phillip Field have been mounting: offering New Zealand residence in return for the tiling of his house in Samoa. Abuse of his office as Member of Parliament for personal gain in sundry other ways. Making misleading representations to a Ministerial colleague on behalf of a constituent. Misleading the Samoan immigration authorities. And a slew of similar allegations.

Yet none of these alleged offences were enough to breach the impenetrable wall of Prime Ministerial protection, including the white-wash that was the Ingram inquiry. But this week, it was all over. Field was dumped. Because Taito Phillip Field committed a truly unpardonable capital offence - one infinitely more serious than anything of which he had previously been accused: he rained on the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary opening day parade. For which offence he was immediately cast into the political wilderness.

Nice yarn, but little more than National Party spin, we hear you say. Well, just get a load of this. Right from the Prime Minister Herself.

When the initial allegations surfaced, according to the Prime Minister, Mr Field was the original good Samaritan, being unfairly harassed by the nasty National Party. “The only thing he is guilty of is trying to be helpful to someone,” she said.

And there were few concessions from Clark after the release of the Ingram Report, which she had so clearly set up to fail. “While the Report does not find any wrong doing by Mr Field it does imply errors of judgment,” Clark pronounced. The “errors of judgment” mantra was rehearsed time and time again as the full and final determination. A querulous Opposition in Parliament was told that was the end of the matter. In her inimitable way Clark was determined to “move on.”

But this week it was a very different, very unforgiving Helen Clark who announced that Field, who had just upstaged her opening statement to the Parliament, was about to suck the kumara. Or maybe the taro:

“You cannot have a situation where someone appears in the media cutting across my statement to Parliament as Prime Minister, threatening to sue me and saying he’s thinking of running for someone else.”

Get it. You can be accused of ripping off a few constituents who have come to you for help. You can be accused of treating the immigration laws of at least two countries with contempt. You can be accused of extracting slave labour in return for immigration favours. And none of that will earn you anything more than a white-wash inquiry, superintended by the Prime Minister Herself. But rain on Helen Clark’s Parliamentary opening day parade and you are a dead man. Well, that makes the rules pretty clear, now, doesn’t it?

Pledge Card Re-visited

There were echoes of Labour’s pledge card fiasco around Parliament this week, as MPs joined leaders of the Chinese community at a function to welcome the Chinese New Year. Sponsored by Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter, the taxpayer-funded bash draws attendees from around the country. And from the naked attempt by the Labour Party to hi-jack a Parliamentary function, funded by taxpayers, it is clear they have learnt absolutely nothing from the pledge card affair.

Many decades of tradition dictate that Parliamentary occasions should be non-partisan affairs. Speaking roles are shared between government and opposition parties and partisan politics are off the agenda. They are, after all, supposed to be occasions at which the guests, whatever their politics, should feel that Parliamentarians are making them feel truly welcome.

No such non-partisanship was on display at Wednesday night’s Chinese New Year function. There were speaking roles for the Prime Minister Helen Clark and the Minister of Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter. None for the Opposition parties. And sitting on a prominent table for guests to uplift was a nice little memento of the event: a full colour brochure adorned by pictures of said Helen Clark (yes, the airbrushed version) and Chris Carter, together with a little homily about the Labour Party’s special relationship with the Chinese people (make that voters). Plus, of course, a Labour Party logo and the Parliamentary crest. All funded, apparently, by the nation’s generous taxpayers.

The problem now, ladies and gentlemen, is that we have a government with a highly developed sense of entitlement. The lessons of the pledge card affair have been lost on Labour. Public funds are there to be plundered for their political purposes. And Parliamentary occasions are there to be hi-jacked for cheap partisan gain. Just the sort of thing that is designed to get right up the voters nostrils. As it assuredly will.

Bouquet for the Judge

A large bouquet this week for Justice Rhys Harrison, the judge who sentenced gun shop intruder Ricky Beckham to jail earlier this month. Beckham entered the gun shop with a machete and was shot by proprietor Greg Carvell, who now faces charges himself.

In the course of sentencing Beckham, Justice Harrison spoke of the “deep sense of injustice” he felt that the criminal conduct of Beckham had led to his victim, Carvell, also facing criminal charges. “I am most concerned that Mr Carvell, acting in his own defence, and in the defence of another employee, is facing serious criminal charges”, he said.

Which is about as far as the good judge could go, with the Carvell case before the Court. And raises the perfectly good question as to whether our Police actually employ any judgment in such cases before they inflict the huge expense and massive trauma of a criminal trial on someone who is, after all, a victim.

So here’s a large bouquet for Justice Rhys Harrison. Obviously a man of some judgment and common sense. Which is more than can be said for the Police who made the decision to charge Carvell. The worldwide headquarters of will be watching the Carvell case very closely. And there will be close and critical analysis of the Police decision to charge Carvell at the appropriate time.


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