No record of donations’ – David Cunliffe
No record of donations’ – David Cunliffe
Labour leader David Cunliffe told TV One’s Q+A programme allegations that Donghua Liu donated more than $100, 000 to the Labour party have ‘not been substantiated’.
‘According to Moira Coatesworth and our party team who have searched their files, there is no record of having received a donation from Mr Liu and certainly nothing of that order.’
When asked whether Mr Liu is a liar, Mr Cunliffe said, ‘No, no, I'm saying the burden of proof is on him.’
Mr Cunliffe says the Labour party is continuing its investigation into the claims.
When asked about drone strikes in Iraq, David Cunliffe says Labour would follow a United Nations mandate.
‘So the New Zealand Labour Party does not believe that we should give carte blanche to any party to conduct military operations outside a UN sanction.’
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:35pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz
Thanks to the support from NZ On Air.
Q + A
Interviewed by SUSAN WOOD
SUSAN Labour Laeader, David Cunliffe, has spent much of the past week under siege for a letter he forgot he wrote 11 years ago. He was always in support of Donghua Liu's immigration application, the Chinese born businessman, who was at the centre of Maurice Williamson's resignation as a Minister last month. Good morning to you Mr Cunliffe. A bruising week?
DAVID CUNLIFFE – Labour Leader
Oh not too bad.
SUSAN What have you learnt?
DAVID Well I've learned that things that live in the realms of dim distant history can pop up when you least expect or know of them. So as you say this was a pro forma letter 11 years ago, one of 10,000 inquiries to my electorate office, and of course didn’t show up on a record trawl because we hadn’t kept paper, and don’t keep paper records back that far.
SUSAN So what have you learnt about your own political management and about the back office management within your party?
DAVID I think the back office management was fine. The fact was that in the end when the date of the letter surfaced we were able to do a trace based on the date. It showed up under a falsely filed name…
SUSAN So you think the management's fine because …..another revelation this morning, Donghua Liu 150,000 dollars gone to Labour. I'm not blaming you for that, I know you're not the party, I know you don’t run the party funds. But before you embarked on the campaign against National, why didn’t you check? Why didn’t you know that this guy had been giving a hell of a lot of money to Labour too.
DAVID So let me be very clear about several things and you’ve touched on them. The first thing is this is historic. I've been Leader of the Labour Party for about nine months, this is seven years ago. Second thing as in all parties, at least all major parties, as Mr Key himself has said, there is a separation between the parliamentary party and the fundraising activities which are done by party head office…
SUSAN Yes but you’ve spent a considerable amount of the past few months accusing them of something that your own party's been doing. Donghua Liu 100,000 dollar bottle of wine, and no one knew, no one remembered?
DAVID That is simply an allegation that has not been substantiated, and can I say that according to Moira Coatesworth and our party team who have searched their files, there is no record of having received a donation from Mr Liu and certainly nothing of that order.
SUSAN It's quite possible it wasn't actually recorded as an individual donation though isn't it?
DAVID Well that will be a matter for the party to continue its investigation. All I can say is that the advice I have had so far is there is nothing on their records which would corroborate Mr Liu's claim.
SUSAN Are you calling him a liar, you're saying it's not true then?
DAVID No, no, I'm saying the burden of proof is on him. What I expect from our party… what I know is that our President Moira Coatesworth is as committed as I am to transparency and high standards, and that she will be ensuring that due diligence is done to make sure that ….
SUSAN But 150K's a lot of money not to be able to know if it's there isn't it?
DAVID Well assuming that that is true, and as I say the burden of proof is really on Mr Liu to come up with.
SUSAN So what do you want him to front up with?
DAVID Well that’s a matter for the party, it's not a matter for me. You know there's another thing going on here which is I think New Zealanders are getting quite sick of, the focus on this kind of petty politics where…
SUSAN But you’ve been playing it all year. You’ve been playing it all year, you’ve been saying cash for access, and yet your party has been taking cash from the same man. You’ve been playing those politics.
DAVID Let me be very clear, the issues for Mr Williamson which relate to the same man, were about a Minister of the Crown intervening directly in a Police investigation. As the Prime Minister himself said that was right across the line, that is why he has gone.
SUSAN He crossed the line, no one's arguing that one.
DAVID On the second issue that we have pursued and I agree we have pursued it with energy which is the right thing to do, which is not about this gentleman, was Ms Collins in respect of Oravida with an undeclared conflict of interest. Yes there were very major donations and her husband was a director of the company.
SUSAN I know all of that, but do you accept from your perspective, I want to talk about you this morning, not them, that this is self-inflicted to some extent. You got off on your moral high horse, you went on massive crusade, and in the end your party is in there as much as National. You're all in it.
DAVID We don’t know that, we don’t know that.
SUSAN You really do not sound like you're accepting that Mr Liu has put this money into Labour?
DAVID Well let me say, as far as I've been advised by our party head office, their search of our files does not accord with what he is saying. So if he has evidence the burden the proof is on him to put it up. The process will then be for our party head office to take the matter seriously, to behave transparently and appropriately. That is what I expect as leader. I'm sure that is what Moira Coatesworth expects as President.
SUSAN Are you planning on leaving the moral high ground sometime soon? Because you’ve sort of tried to claim it.
DAVID I'll tell you what I'm wanting to leave here, which is petty politics as usual. You talk to New Zealanders in the street, they say look I want you to be talking about what you're going to do for my children. This is an important time for New Zealanders. They know the gap between rich and poor is getting wider. They know the opportunities for so many New Zealanders seem to be shrinking not increasing. They're worried about drone strikes and TPP and all sorts of other things that we could be talking about.
SUSAN And you're right. You're absolutely correct that those are the things New Zealanders care about, and yet you are unable to seize the agenda and take it and get New Zealand talking about those things, but we're never talking about those things with you.
DAVID I think you’ve been around long enough to smell a little bit of set-up going on here. Now this is drip feed campaign, we are going into an election campaign.
SUSAN What you mean politicians play politics? You do too come on.
DAVID I'm just asking you to see what this is, right.
SUSAN Yes, I think the show's called Q+A, which is politics, you guys play politics, it's what you do, and don’t you think you look a little silly saying the other guys are doing it when you’ve been doing it all year. I mean…
DAVID I'm saying that what we want to move to is a positive campaign that talks about the issues confronting New Zealanders.
SUSAN Alright, let's talk about Iraq. We have heard this morning from the Prime Minister, it does seem there is a change in the policy. They will accept – if the Iraqi government asks the Americans in, drone strikes killing of ISIS because they are terrorists, would you accept that as Prime Minister?
DAVID No, our view has always been that any operation should be clearly subject to international law. We firstly will personally not be sending combatant troops to Iraq under any circumstances. Secondly we would respond to the United Nations in respect of any humanitarian request. The United Nations is not to my knowledge currently supporting drone strikes, and I think there seems to be a bit of debate about whether this is a quote "terrorist operation" or a quote "civil war". It seems actually to be closer to a civil war. Now it's not one that we condone.
SUSAN But the Prime Minister is saying it's like the drone strikes in Yemen for example, the Americans have gone in with their drones because they have been asked in by that particular government, because these are designated terrorists.
DAVID Well there is no declared war in Yemen, and I'd say that at best it's a grey area under international law, whether the fact that a particular group has been declared an enemy, whether it is lawful to pursue that group across borders, if there is no declared war in the territory in which the strikes occur. And then there is the separate question of the loss of civilian life. My understanding is that international law specifies that operations should be mounted only against combatants and the burden of proof, the responsibility is on those conducting the operations to make sure there is not collateral damage. So the New Zealand Labour Party does not believe that we should give carte blanche to any party to conduct military operations outside a UN sanction.
SUSAN The US/New Zealand relationship, enormously close, a lot of it based on the personal relationship between John Key and Barack Obama. If you were to become Prime Minister on September 20, September 21, would you want to continue with that closest of relationships with the US. Is it a good thing for New Zealand?
DAVID Yes it is, the United States is a long-standing and important friend of New Zealand's, it's a country with which we have both important security and economic ties. It is a good thing, not a bad thing, that the Prime Minister's cultivated a relationship with the President of the United States, but let's look at it as part of a system. There are hundreds of New Zealanders including our diplomats in Washington who are working to support that relationship. It's not just about Mr Key's magnetic personality, much as he would like you to believe so.
SUSAN Or his golf swing maybe. Do you play golf?
DAVID No I don’t, but I do a lot of fishing, which is also good for mateship.
SUSAN Quick final question about the polls, I know that was a shocker for you this week…
DAVID I think a rogue..
SUSAN We will see because I think One New Colmar Brunton's in the next week or two, so we will see, because that’s a very credible poll. At what number do you bow out of the election? If it's 25 – I mean have you set yourself a number on that?
DAVID There's an old saying which is that you know when the going gets tough the tough keep going.
SUSAN Or they put their hard hats on, yes I heard this one.
DAVID Well that’s – give you another analogy. If you're a fisherman like me and you spend a bit of time at sea, when the waves come up you go straight into them, and I believe that it's in the best interests of this party that we continue to be united, pack down together, focus on the issues that matter to New Zealanders and start talking about the things that Kiwis care about. That’s what we're going to do.
SUSAN I think if the numbers bad enough on September 20 you'll be gone anyway won’t you?
DAVID No, that’s not true either.
SUSAN You'll be here after the election if you lose it, you're telling me? As the Leader of Labour.
DAVID I'm saying I'm focused on winning this election for Labour and all our energies are going into that.
SUSAN Well good luck.