PM statement on scurrilous allegations
14 August 2000 Media Statement
Statement on scurrilous allegations made by the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Peter Williams QC
Late on Saturday evening in Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition made a bizarre allegation that I had rung Bob Harvey, President of the Labour Party, and "asked him to get dirt on Dover Samuels so that I could get rid of him". Mrs Shipley made this statement late at night under Parliamentary privilege and has refused to repeat it outside Parliament.
Her statements were followed on Sunday by statements from Mr Samuels' lawyer, Mr Williams, that he had evidence of a Labour Party campaign to discredit Mr Samuels.
The facts are as follows:
Mr Samuels stood aside from his position as a minister on Wednesday 21 June. Over the next week a number of messages were received by Labour members making allegations about Mr Samuels' past. Those allegations included an allegation that he had spent time in gaol. That came as a surprise to the Labour Party because on the only occasion that Mr Samuels completed a biographical form for nomination as a candidate he did not disclose any convictions leading to a gaol sentence.
One of the informants about Mr Samuels' past was a West Auckland man who left telephone messages for Labour's junior whip, Mr Chris Carter, alleging that Mr Samuels had spent time in gaol. Mr Carter is stating today that he returned the man's call and considers that in so doing he was carrying out his responsibility as a whip to the Labour Party. He did not initiate the contact between the man and himself.
The party president, Mr Bob Harvey, had also been told by the same West Auckland man that he had been in gaol with Mr Samuels.
I am also advised that last year Councillor Dallow of Waitakere City, a retired police officer, told Mr Harvey that he had once arrested Mr Samuels. After Mr Samuels stood down as a minister, Mr Harvey telephoned Mr Dallow to ask him to confirm the incident, which he did.
Neither Mr Carter's nor Mr Harvey's behaviour amounts to "digging dirt" against Mr Samuels. They acted responsibly as senior members of the Labour Party to confirm information volunteered by these two informants. What they were told was not "dirt", but the truth: that Mr Samuels had been in gaol and that he was known to the police. He had not previously disclosed his gaol sentences to the Labour Party.
Further, in response to questioning by Mr Barker, Labour's Senior Whip, and Mr Harvey, Mr Samuels denied that he had ever been in gaol.
On 28 June, I dismissed Mr Samuels as a minister. I said then that it was impossible for him to be a minister when a range of allegations was swirling around him which would distract him from his job as long as he was a minister. Already in the public arena by that date were allegations made by Mrs Rako and the New Zealand Herald's disclosure of Mr Samuels' domestic violence against a woman, another assault conviction, and an instance of threatening to kill.
Since then Mr Samuels has released his criminal record which shows a range of convictions and two gaol terms served, not including the one aborted after a successful appeal.
I stand by my judgement that Mr Samuels could not be effective as a minister. I do so more in sorrow than in anger, for my judgement was also based on my belief that Mr Samuels now lacked the moral authority to be an effective minister. Maori are looking for leadership to combat high rates of teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, assault, and crime generally. It was obvious to me that Mr Samuels could not give that leadership, not only because of his past, but because of his refusal to be direct with his party about it.
Others may wish to apply different standards to their judgement of who can be effective as a minister, as the Leader of the Opposition clearly does. I have made it clear what my expectations as Prime Minister are of ministers in this regard.
This matter has become very tiresome. The public has had a gutsful and would like to see politicians getting on with serious work. The Leader of the Opposition does herself no credit hiding behind Parliamentary privilege late on a Saturday night with ill-founded allegations based on the worst possible construction of entirely explicable events.
I turn now to the campaign of Mr Williams against me and the Labour Party.
Mr Williams has repeatedly implied that somehow I have had influence over the police investigation into Mr Samuels because a former Commissioner, Mr Doone, is currently an employee in The Crime Prevention Unit of the Prime Minister's Department. He has repeated this claim in the Evening Post today and on radio.
Mr Williams was advised in writing by the Chief Executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on 1 August that the statements he was making were without foundation. I am releasing that letter today.
In the letter Dr Prebble states that:
"Peter Doone does not work in Helen Clark's Office. He works in the Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Peter Doone's work does not bring him into any direct contact with the Prime Minister.
Peter Doone has assured me that he has had no discussion of any sort with any person connected to the inquiry into Dover Samuels, nor does he have any information on the process of the inquiry.
The Police have not provided any reports on the progress of the inquiry to myself or anybody else in my department. As you know, the Prime Minister has already made it clear that neither she nor any member of her office has received any report on progress in the inquiry".
Mr Williams' statements are outrageous and wrong. He should stop making a fool of himself.