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Agenda: Susan Wood IVs Clayton Cosgrove


Labour MP, Waimakariri

This is ©Front Page Ltd but may be used for publication provided acknowledgement is made to “Agenda” and TVOne. N.B. This is a rush transcript and may contain errors and omissions. For complete accuracy the transcript should be checked against a tape of the programme.

Interviewed by Susan Wood

SUSAN There are new allegations this morning on the John Tamahere affair, the New Zealand Herald reports this morning that Mr Tamahere himself was one of two people who approved the payment of eight cheques for a total of a hundred thousand dollars made out to cash. Also in the Herald the paper's Political Editor Audrey Young, says Mr Tamahere is now a liability as a Minister and he has to go. Clayton Cosgrove's been a close caucus colleague and one of the strongest supporters of Cabinet Minister John Tamahere, he joins me now, and good morning to you.

It's a bit like Chinese water torture isn't it, you open the paper to day and there it's suspect invoices paid by the trust were approved by John Tamahere, where does this end.

CLAYTON oh it ends when we have full examination of the facts, we have a full and open inquiry, Mr Tamahere has said he will co-operate absolutely and like 82% of New Zealanders who say hey let's give the guy a break until we examine the facts. We have some politicians, some gossips who say let's execute him before we actually examine the facts.

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SUSAN Well let's just examine the latest allegation that he approved these suspect invoices.

CLAYTON Oh it's just a long line of allegations like yesterday's fabled one about properties, it would have taken the person making the allegation 30 seconds to check on the cabinet manual on the website that he hadn't breached. We will have a full examination and Mr Tamahere will have an opportunity to lay the facts on the table and then we will have the facts.

SUSAN The allegation you are referring to yesterday is the fact that he didn’t disclose properties that should have been that are held in the trust.

CLAYTON That’s the allegation, it would have taken me and Mr Hide and others 30 seconds to look up the cabinet manual as the Prime Minister's department verified non beneficial interest not a breach.

SUSAN When though do you start – I mean that can be a technicality either way. No we're talking technicality, when does technicality and morality meet, I mean we're talking about the morality of the issue here.

CLAYTON Oh no, let's just look at it, if you have a beneficial interest you must declare it on the register, if you’re a non beneficial trustee you have no beneficial interest therefore you do not have to declare it, that’s a fact, that’s evidence, that’s been put out there but certain people still throw the mud and you've gotta then look at the voracity of the mud and the character of the people.

SUSAN The fact is also that Mr Tamahere is a Cabinet Minister in Helen Clark's government, she has called for a high level of morality, of behaviour, and that is the question where you cross that line.

CLAYTON Well that’s what we're gonna see in the inquiry, that’s what the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have said, we want a full open high level inquiry and examine the facts. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have been very good on this, they have said we are holding judgement just like 82% of New Zealanders who say I want to see the facts before I make a judgement. I think in this democracy in this community to get 82% of ordinary minded New Zealanders saying we think this guy should have a fair go and let's have the inquiry and then we'll make a judgement.

SUSAN How much support is there for John Tamahere in caucus?

CLAYTON To use John Tamahere's words, heaps.

SUSAN How much support though, I mean how far does that support go. We saw Michael Cullen this week come out and say, he called him my friend, he launched a counter offence in parliament and yet he did not express confidence in Mr Tamahere.

CLAYTON The Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister have been brilliantly supportive, but they’ve said like ordinary New Zealanders hey serious allegations, very serious, we need to examine them, we need an open inquiry and then we'll make a judgement, hey you can't ask for better than that.

SUSAN Margaret Wilson this morning, no one indispensable, no one is indispensable. Well she's right isn't she?

CLAYTON Hey I'm not indispensable, none of us are indispensable I suspect, we're there to serve the public of course.

SUSAN But there is a positioning here that if it goes badly wrong for John Tamahere the Labour machine just roles on.

CLAYTON Oh look we've got an inquiry and when the facts come out, the facts will come out, I'm confident that Mr Tamahere will get through this, but I suggest to those people throwing the mud that they front up and co-operate fully instead of drip feeding little salacious titbits here, little salacious bits there so that they keep getting a headline. What you’re seeing is for instance Mr Hide, a 1% wonder in the death throws, his party knocking on the door of being wiped out, so this is about the great status of Mr Hide now reverting to the thug status that he has had for many years.

SUSAN I'm interested in what you are basing your confidence on. Have you been through all the records, you’re absolutely confident and I'd like to know what it's based on.

CLAYTON Well I've been with John, I'm a good mate of John's, I've been with him for the last week through this offering what support I can give him. I've seen much of the information and I welcome the inquiry and then those who are throwing the mud will be seen for what they are.

SUSAN If he has to go would he stand again in a by-election?

CLAYTON He's already said publicly if he stood in a by-election he'd stand as a Labour guy, he's a tribal Labour guy, he supports the team.

SUSAN Would be win?

CLAYTON Absolutely. Although I think hey let's be honest about it, if we had a poll, I think you need a poll, I'd like to see a poll on his seat and I'm told I think there is a poll coming out tomorrow, now you have to say Peter Sharples has had his face on every poster around Auckland, though we've had a tikoai of two thousand people in John's seat, we've got the seabed and foreshore stuff, we've got all this swirling around him. In my political experience I'd have to say it's gonna be tough for John to get a good result out of tomorrow's poll, I don’t know what it is, but on the other hand.

SUSAN The last one Peter Sharples was only four points behind. It was close.

CLAYTON Yeah absolutely I think it would be very tough for John to get a good result in his seat on a poll tomorrow. On the other hand I've got faith that you know ordinary fair minded Kiwis, let's wait and see.

SUSAN You think he might lose tomorrow in the poll? Do you think Peter Sharples might have pulled ahead?

CLAYTON I think it'll be tough but I have this innate sense of faith in ordinary minded Kiwis.

SUSAN Another possibility of course an early election, the likelihood of that in your view?

CLAYTON Oh I don’t think so, I'm not the Prime Minister either, it's her call, we're ready for an election anywhere at any time, and the Prime Minister with her superb record and our government with a superb record, we'll stand on our record, I relish it both in my seat and around the country whenever it comes.

SUSAN Because you’re a scrapper as you told me yesterday.

CLAYTON Oh yes my Irish heritage.

SUSAN It seems at the moment if we can talk about John Tamahere the man that he inspires this great loyalty from someone like you who's sitting there, you’re almost – you’re holding the faith, it's almost a religious faith you’re holding for this guy. On the other hand there are those who really want to chop him down. What is it about the character or the makeup of this guy that inspires such passion?

CLAYTON Well John's flawed he knows, we're all flawed, I've made blues in my life, but you know he is a passionate guy, he commands great respect, he fires from the lip occasionally, sometimes it gets him in trouble, but I think people get sick of politicians who speak out both sides of their mouth. Sometimes some of the things you say may not be appropriate but if you say what you believe even if people disagree with you they actually have some respect, and I think people both in Maoridom and Pakeha societies have respect for a guy who says this is what I believe, like it or lump it and you know here it's all out there. And look at what he did in Waipareira, this has been forgotten, took a 12 person organisation, half a million dollars turnover, left with 200 employees, eight million dollar turnover, delivered social benefits, health benefits to Maori, got urban Maori out of welfare into jobs, got health systems organised, got young people into careers, all the things that we as a community whatever race we are would celebrate and want to see be continued.

SUSAN That sort of success. Now how is he personally taking this because he's looked, I mean he's a scrapper like you but he's looked wounded hasn’t he, and how is he and how are his family?

CLAYTON Oh to be honest you know you get kicked in the guts so many times and John always you know like all of us you want to respond, you've gotta look people in the eye, but when a process like an inquiry's put in place normally it's the victim that has to say hang on I've gotta grit my teeth because I have to you know adhere to the process, but it is – I'll tell you the roughest thing, and Mr Hide I'm sure will be proud of this, you know when his wife who's a tough individual, you go to the grocer's shop with the kiddies and you know she sees another front page with another spurious allegation and she breaks down and the little ones look at her and say hey Mum why are they doing this to Dad, you know that is tough, that is tough and I'm sure Mr Hide is proud of himself with that.

SUSAN Has he got the support to get through it?

CLAYTON Mr Tamahere – absolutely. The question will be of course once this is all through then it's a question of Mr Hide's leadership, Mr Hide's integrity and where Mr Hide goes from here. I'll relish that debate.

SUSAN You’re in Auckland this week, are you going to go and see John Tamahere?

CLAYTON Oh yeah, I'm in contact with John, and hey he's got his chin up, onward and upward and he's still got his plethora of good jokes that we exchange over the phone you know we'll get tough, but I think you know – I spose one of the biggest support for him was to see an 82% of New Zealanders say hey give the bloke a break this is serious we must examine this but hey let's hold judgement and the confidence figures behind him, and that speaks a hell of a lot of good stuff about Kiwis in our society, they're fair minded, I just wish other people would be.

SUSAN Clayton Cosgrove thank you for coming in this morning.


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