Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Clark on Peters

I'm just listening to Question Time, and Helen Clark is getting the expected grilling about Winston Peters and his secret donations. Two interesting points:

  • Despite clear Cabinet guidelines about the declaration of interests and a separate (but sadly confidential) process for Ministers to declare interests, Clark insists that it is nothing to do with her, but instead a question for the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests. This is simply false; the question of whether Peters has failed to properly notify Parliament of his interests and the question of whether he has failed to properly declare and manage his interests as a cabinet minister are completely separate.
  • Clark says Peters can keep the money. Under s2.79 of the Cabinet Manual, gifts of more than $500 must be relinquished unless the Prime Minister permits them to be retained. According to Clark, the gift paid for a legal case which served a substantial public interest, and so she has no problem with it being retained. This isn't unreasonable, given the frequency with which MPs are involved in legal action, and it is nice to have it made clear.

Unfortunately, Clark entirely evaded the question of whether giving a minister $100,000 when you wanted a job from them created a conflict of interest. The answer is obvious, and it is shameful that she refuses to state it and stand up for proper standards in the executive.

The full transcript will be up on the Parliament website later today.