Friday, October 15, 2004


What to say about John Tamihere's latest scandal? Firstly, the issue of tax may very well be a misunderstanding: Tamihere may have thought that the Waipareira Trust was paying it, while the Trust thought that he was. But as Rodney Hide pointed out on Holmes tonight, the question can be resolved very clearly by Tamihere's tax records: if he declared the payment to the IRD, both net and gross figures, then he's essentially in the clear. If he failed to declare it - almost $200,000 - then he should go - and not just from Cabinet, but from Parliament as well.

There are other issues - among them whether it was proper for the Trust to bankroll Tamihere's election campaign. I'm more comfortable with this: an iwi or urban Maori organisation wanting to send someone to Parliament is in principle no different from the rich wankers in the BRT who bankrolled ACT. Provided it was not done with government money, and complied with the rules regarding electoral funding, then I have no problem with it. What I do have a problem with is MPs being paid large sums of money once elected, especially in light of the comments by a Waipareira Trust spokesperson on 3 News tonight that it wasn't a golden handshake, but a payment for things they'd wanted Tamihere to do while in Parliament (which sounds suspiciously like bribery to my untrained ear). I'm also disturbed that such a large payment could be kept secret. Shouldn't we be demanding that our politicians declare all such gifts and payments in the interest of political hygiene?

Finally, one point that none of the commentators seem to have raised so far is that if Tamihere is forced to resign from Parliament, the result will be a by-election. This will threaten the government's majority (already razor-thin following the defection of Tariana Turia). While I don't think that this will result in the government falling - they can almost certainly cut a deal with the Greens or NZFirst for confidence and supply - it does make the stakes rather higher than they first appear.