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Peters’ caught out over NZ First MP contracts

Nick Smith - Electoral Law

13 September 2018

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has failed to tell the truth to either the public or Parliament’s Speaker over whether his MPs have signed a $300,000 obligation contract, National’s spokesperson for Electoral Law Nick Smith says.

“Mr Peters repeatedly told the public a month ago that all NZ First MPs had signed a $300,000 resignation obligation contract as required by their party’s rules.

“He has now told Parliament’s Speaker that no NZ First MP has signed a resignation obligation contract so as to avoid a Privileges Committee hearing into a breach of Parliament’s rules over disclosure of financials interests.

“This dodgy and dishonest conduct by the Deputy PM strikes at the heart of public trust in Government and Parliament. It is reminiscent of the Owen Glenn affair in 2008 when Mr Peters was caught out for blatantly lying over whether he had received a $100,000 donation that led to a finding of contempt by the Privileges Committee, his resignation as Foreign Minister and his party being banished from Parliament by voters.

“It is difficult to ascertain the truth over these contracts. NZ First MPs put themselves in the position of either breaching their own party rules or Parliament’s rules. I suspect the MPs have cynically decided to deny the existence of the contracts because breaking Parliament’s rules would result in a damaging Privileges Committee hearing and deferral of the Waka Hopping Bill whereas nothing will happen from them breaking their own Party’s rules.

“This issue exposes how dodgy the NZ First Party is. Mr Peters has effectively told the Speaker that all its MPs are in breach of Article 57 of the NZ First Party’s constitution. The conduct paints a dangerous picture of Mr Peters and his MPs believing they are above the rule of law. This is deeply concerning for a party that is at the centre of New Zealand’s current Government.

“I am disappointed that the Speaker has not referred this serious matter to the Privileges Committee. It is clear there is a matter of privilege and the key issue is whether or not the contracts were signed on which there is now contradictory evidence. Speaker Mallard’s decision contradicts Speaker’s ruling 206/2 that the role of the Speaker is determining whether there is a matter of privilege and determining the validity of evidence is a matter for the Privileges Committee. Mr Peters denied receiving the $100,000 Owen Glenn donation but that still led Speaker Wilson in August 2008 referring the matter to the Privileges Committee.

“This saga over these outrageous contracts and the draconian NZ First Party rules just adds controversy to the debate over the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. The convention is that electoral law changes are only made with broad parliamentary support. Here we have significant electoral law changes enabling a party leader to sack a democratically elected MP being passed with a bare majority, the Greens saying the Bill is undemocratic and draconian and NZ First MPs compromised by their party rules creating a personal financial interest in its passage.”

ends

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