Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ministerial standards

What standards has Helen Clark set for her Ministers in the past? Here's a brief history lesson:

  • In February 2004, then-Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel was forced to resign after lying to the public. She had categorically denied leaking casenotes about a refugee claimant to the media in a crude attempt to smear them. That denial turned out to be a lie.
  • In May 2005, then-Education Minister David Benson-Pope was stood down from his portfolios "at his own request" (because it was better that than at the Prime Minister's) while an investigation was conducted into allegations that he had assaulted students while working as a teacher. The Prime Minister accepted his denials, but agreed that due to the seriousness of the allegations swirling around him, it was best that he stood aside for the duration.
  • In March 2006, Helen Clark accepted the resignation of then-Attorney-General David Parker, after he was accused of falsifying company declarations. While the Prime Minister accepted that the offence was more in the nature of a mistake than a crime, she agreed that high ministerial standards required that he give up his portfolios. He was subsequently reappointed to most of his positions after being exonerated by an independent investigation.

There's a clear standard running throughout this: when a Minister is credibly (or even incredibly, given that some stuff comes from Ian Wishart) accused of serious malfeasance, they are stood down (or encouraged to resign) while an investigation is conducted. Where they have been shown outright to have misled the public, they are sacked.

Winston Peters has been credibly accused of serious malfeasance, in the form of both fraud and corruption. And he has been shown to have misled the public. According to Clark's usual standards, he should have been stood down or sacked. So why hasn't he?