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Clearly confused but no conspiracy

Written By: - Date published: 10:43 am, April 22nd, 2008 - 47 comments
Categories: labour - Tags:

If there’s one thing the confused saga of Mike Williams and the Labour Party’s secret plot to use KiwiSaver and Working for Families pamphlets as campaign material has shown is that there never was a secret Labour Party plot to use KiwiSaver and Working for Families pamphlets as campaign material.

Laila Harre put her finger on it yesterday on National Radio:

The tape demonstrates the line was a throw away line in response to a question raised from the floor and certainly didn’t measure up to the front page story in the Herald last Monday that portrayed this as a deliberate strategy by Labour to circumvent the limitations within the Electoral Finance Act and a plan to harness the money of government departments for its own election campaign

Why he felt the need to deny everything is what I think will stun people within his own party because the tape makes him look pretty innocent…”

You bet it did.


47 comments on “Clearly confused but no conspiracy”

  1. Daveo 1

    How long do you think before the Herald (and other media) stop referring to it as a ‘secret plan’?

  2. Billy 2

    So “throw away lines” don’t count? Like saying you want wages to drop?

  3. ohhh… Billy’s got a “gotcha”. Well done Billy – did that feel good?

  4. Scribe 4

    Good call Billy. Good call.

  5. Um, guys – Mike Williams made the off the cuff remark in a brainstorming meeting that was supposed to be closed to the media. JK said he wanted wages to drop during an interview with a journo. Can you spot the difference?

  6. James Kearney 6

    Billy- not only was the meeting not at all secret, there was never any plan- Williams simply said “that’s a damn good idea” to a suggestion from the floor.

    He didn’t say “we’re going to do exactly that” and he didn’t start handing out any pamphlets. He simply stated that the idea had merit, and for all we know said it to move the meeting along. Heaven knows that’s what I do when I run meetings.

    Key is the leader of a right-wing party with a history of cutting wages. He told a business leader complaining about labour costs that he wants to cut wages and then bullied and victimised the reporter who recorded it.

    There is no comparison. Perhaps if Williams had said “Labour plans to cancel its promised tax cuts after the 2008 election” you might have a point, but he didn’t and you don’t.

  7. Rocket Boy 7

    Whatever way you boys try to spin this surely Mike Williams has become a liability to the Labour party and it is time for him to step down.

  8. Tane 8

    I agree with you Rocket Boy that Williams has fucked up – he’s successfully managed to turn a complete non-issue into a minor scandal. I don’t think he should resign though, just keep his head down and do his job.

  9. big bruv 9

    Clearly confused???

    The man has been caught lying, nothing more, nothing less.

    For once the MSM have had to act on the story, this is another example of the widespread corruption that infests the Labour party, the fact that Dyson’s husband was the one to suggest this rort is even worse.

    Labour and its mouthpiece (the standard) are guilty of treating the public with contempt, how on earth you can maintain this lie and still expect to govern is amazing.

  10. James Kearney 10

    big bruv- what corruption went on here? is it now a criminal offense to make a bad suggestion at party strategy meeting?

  11. Indeed the bigger issue and real story: is why the husband of a Labour government minister is making suggestions on how to circumvent a law that the Labour government passed ?

  12. Tane 12

    Probably because he has a mind of his own and has a democratic right to make stupid suggestions at a party congress.

    The right can’t get on its high horse about the Madeleine Setchell affair and then crawl into the gutter when the same situation presents itself involving the partner of a Labour Party figure.

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    Ye gods and little fishes, you’d think brainstorming was illegal when you hear comments such as “…why (is) the husband of a Labour government minister is making suggestions on how to circumvent a law that the Labour government passed“; toss a few ideas around at a meeting (I wonder if anyone trying to blow this up has been to a meeting or a workshop of any description? I’m going to guess no) and suddenly it’s a huge drama.

    I was thinking this shows what small lives NZ and the media have, but then Obama got castigated for telling the truth about people being ‘bitter’ – maybe it’s a universal thing in politics.

    Why Williams denied it after admitting to people that he had said it, who knows. It’s such a trivial thing I can imagine he was sick of hearing about it, but it’s not exactly a hanging offence.

  14. Phil 14


    I cannot help but imagine the high horse you would have happily rode into town on, guns blazing, when Don Brash and his BRT ‘friend’ hit the headlines…

  15. big bruv 15


    Since when has lying been “a trivial thing”?…

    Oh hang on, I guess it has been trivial since the days of…

    It is my painting
    I had no idea that the car was doing 180kmh
    I did not leak information to the Sunday papers
    Philip is only guilty of trying to help people..

    In short it seems that the corrupt left think lying is OK just as long as it means dear corrupt leader remains in power.

  16. Luke 16

    Sod…. just going back to one of your comments at the top of this post re JC making comments about wages dropping…. would you say that the same could be said about Helen saying that outlawing smacking would not be done (or words to that effect) under her watch as it is against human nature, live on a national radio show? Though i suppose that is different somehow?

  17. Billy 17

    “Key is the leader of a right-wing party with a history of cutting wages.”

    While Williams is the President of a party with a history of rorting the taxpayer to pay its election expenses.

    “He told a business leader complaining about labour costs that he wants to cut wages and then bullied and victimised the reporter who recorded it.”

    Whereas Williams told an activist proposing a rort of the taxpayer that he thought it was a damned good idea and then denied saying it.

  18. Steve Pierson 18

    Phil. The fact that Brash was having affairs wasn’t political while he kept it private, when he represented himself standing up for virtious marriage, then it became political. I certianly don’t recall Tane making any comments from a moral high-horse about Brash’s affair at the time – remember it was days before the real story, the hollow men, came out.

  19. Matthew Pilott 19

    Bruv if you had suitable comprehension skills you would have realised the ‘trivial thing’ was a reference to the events at the conference, not what Williams said afterwards on agenda.

    Not your fortè, though, I’m sure you’ll admit when you take the time to reassess what you’ve said.

    I did say lying was ‘not a hanging offence’ though, if you’re dull enough to bite on that one…

  20. Peter Nelson 20

    Q: Whats transparent and lies in the gutter?
    A: Mike Williams with all the BS kicked out of him.

    He lied, got caught (he even said he was in control of the meeting), Tui Billboard anyone.

    Talking of liars, see we will have no tax cuts. I suppose we will have extra taxes put on us though, petrol, global warming taxes etc.

  21. He was caught lying on tape, there was no confusion, just Labour using tax payer money to promote their own failed policies. If their was any justice, he would be looking at jail time.

  22. James Kearney 22

    Brett I know you’re a bit dim so I’ll go easy on you. What taxpayer money is Labour using and what crime did Williams commit to warrant jail time?

  23. big bruv 23


    Good on you, don’t worry about the socialist scum here attacking you, they always do when they are on the back foot.

    Wait until the start their long (very long) period of being in opposition, they will really turn feral then.
    In the mean time the real Labour party people (not this bunch of chardonnay socialists) might be smart enough to take back their party from this corrupt and nasty group, it is about time Labour got back to being the party of the working man.

  24. Good on you, don’t worry about the socialist scum here attacking you, they always do when they are on the back foot.

    My god! Do you practice to be that un-self-reflexive. Go on – you’re an algorithm aren’t you? You can’t be a real person. You can tell me bruv.

  25. higherstandard 25

    What concerns me about Williams is that anyone who has so foolishly and now repeatedly cocked up is on the board of so many major companies and Institutes

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    No robinsod, don’t knock bruv (or his programmer) – I want to know what a one-eyed RWNJ thinks the real Labour party should stand for.

    Bruv, a hint – when they talk about the ‘working man’ it’s not about men working longer for less pay and fewer rights. Don’t want you to get off on the wrong foot…

  27. James

    From what I understand, those government leaflets, cost public money. He lied, he wanted to use those to promote his own party. That is fraud, and that should be enough to send anyone to jail.

  28. James Kearney 28

    Brett- Williams’ initial reaction was that it was a good idea when he heard it in a private party strategy meeting. He never used any pamphlets or got any more printed or committed any fraud. Why should he go to jail again?

    You’re a moron Brett and you’re embarrassing yourself.

  29. Mike Collins 29

    James Kearney,

    I think Brett was referring to a hypothetical situation of the suggestion actually being carried out. As we all know it hasn’t been but that doesn’t necessarily mean it wouldn’t have.

    One would hope that such an idea would have been discarded on closer analysis. However who knows what might have happened had the media not found out? It is entirely reasonable to speculate that Labour might have carried out this idea, especially considering its audibly warm reception.

    We have even had Lynn Prentice saying on this site yesterday he thought is was a good idea then and would still do so if it weren’t illegal.
    I’m not trying to cast judgement on whether Lynn would have campaigned with such material had the media not found out, but it does speak to his ethical standards that he only seems to think this is wrong because it is illegal.

  30. lprent 30

    These are policies that people in Labour have campaigned for, both in the party and in the electorates. Kiwisaver, WFF, interest free student loans, etc.

    You can guarantee that Labour will be campaigning and promoting these policies. A lot of the material will be similar because we’re interested in promoting these policies to the people that need them, as well as campaigning on the record in creating the policies.

    What exactly is unethical about promoting the implementation of policies that Labour has been putting into practice? There are just limitations on what material we can use – we can’t use the material from the ministries for campaigning.

    Problem is that all laws are blunt instruments. At some stage the laws have to put a fairly arbitary boundary about limits. We just found one. It isn’t unethical, it is just a boundary.

    After all that is said, there get to be some interesting questions about boundaries. For instance, what about web links to the ministries websites?

  31. r0b 31

    we can’t use the material from the ministries for campaigning.

    As far as I know the distribution of Ministry materials in a campaign is not illegal / ruled out by the EFA is it? Presumably anyone is entitled to distribute material produced by government ministries if they want to? It is only the fact that if Labour did it it would be blurring an ethical line between campaigning and public information.

    Hence as far as I know the decision not to distribute Ministry materials is an ethical decision, not a legal requirement. Or am I wrong / missing something?

  32. lprent 32

    I don’t think it is to do with the EFA. It is something in one of the public service acts.

    I could be wrong.

  33. lprent 33

    Looks like you’re correct.

    To quote Audrey Young from the link in the post (I had to fix it – lost the ‘h’ in http)…

    Distributing Government department material explaining how new policies work is not unlawful.

    But such publicity has never before been directly tied to political campaigns, and in the context of the new Electoral Finance Act, the move could be seen as inappropriate use of Government publicity.

    So what we have here is a beatup about something that isn’t technically illegal. But it does walk close to the edge about independence of the public service. I’d guess that would be something for the courts to look at eventually when someone does use that material. Looks like Helen is being her usual cautious self.

  34. r0b 34

    The ever reliable Idiot/Savant also suggests that it isn’t unlawful, except possibly under some interpretations of the EFA (which would no doubt be a messy legal debate).



    Whatever, I’m glad we’re not having that debate, and that Labour has done the right thing on ethical grounds.

  35. Billy 35

    “What exactly is unethical about promoting the implementation of policies that Labour has been putting into practice? ”

    I’ll take that one, Iprent.

    You have outlawed anyone else spending more than $120k advocating policies. Meanwhile Government Departments have an annual spin doctor budget of $47m.

    And when you say stuff like that, no matter how much we want to believe that you enacted the legislation out of the best of motives, all our worst fears are realised.

  36. r0b 36

    Meanwhile Government Departments have an annual spin doctor budget of $47m.

    You mean the budget that provides information about entitlements like WFF and KiwiSaver? The publicity campaigns about drink driving and domestic violence? Do you seriously want to argue Billy that the government of the day can’t communicate with the public? Careful Billy, your team might be the government of the day next year, so cheap attacks on government practice might come back to bite you.

    all our worst fears are realised.

    C’mon Billy, Helen Clark did the ethical thing here and quashed a suggestion that dangerously blurred the distinction between Party and Government. How about a little credit where credit is due? How about a contrast with National in the 2005 campaign, which kept the letter of the law while throwing ethics out the window to evade the intent?

  37. Billy 37


    I was pleased that the PM could obviously see the problem. You obviously can. Ruth Dyson’s husband obviously can’t. Mike Williams can or can’t depending on which of his stories you beleive. I was a little surprised that Iprent couldn’t.

  38. lprent 38

    Billy: Helen obviously sees a political problem and maybe a question of ethics. I’m not all that sure I’d agree with her. This is material that I’d like to see dispersed as widely as possible at grassroots level.

    So why exactly do you think there is a problem?

  39. Phil 39

    Given that IRD and WINZ have all the necessary data to administer and distribute WfF without government or individual intervention…

    … Why should they need to advertise WfF at all?

  40. Billy 40


    Frankly, I find it a little scary that I need to spell this out for you. Government Departments have $47m to spend. It is illegal for anyone who disagrees with the government to spend more than $120k.

    That creates the very unlevel playing field that the government’s critics have been alleging the government carefully designed to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

    You and your mates have been saying for a year that such concerns were just frothing. If you can’t see the problem, perhaps Whaleoil was right all along.

  41. It is illegal for anyone who disagrees with the government to spend more than $120k.

    Now Billy – you know better than that. It’s also illegal for anyone who agrees with the government to spend more than $120k to publicise that fact.

    Oh and Billy? That $47 million is such a red-herring it’s not funny. You know full well that road safety ads, anti-violence ads and public health ads are part of that spend. Stop trying to spin shit because every time you do I find myself feeling embarrassed for you…

  42. Matthew Pilott 42

    Billy, Lynn said above that advertising these things is fine, just that Labour would have to be careful with which materials they used:

    What exactly is unethical about promoting the implementation of policies that Labour has been putting into practice? There are just limitations on what material we can use – we can’t use the material from the ministries for campaigning.

    Your last post has missed the crux of his comments – that it’s ok for Labour to trumpet WFF, KS etc from the rooftops – just not with ministry material…

    You actually agree here (unless you want to argue that Labour can’t, under it’s own volition and financing, advertise their own policies), BTW.

    Ruth Dyson’s husband obviously can’t. Mike Williams can or can’t depending on which of his stories you beleive.

    That’s a tacky blow if ever I saw one. It was something like a workshop/brainstorm session – remember all that stuff – there’s no such thing as a bad idea? Y’see, you suggest everything, and then only enact the good ideas. Now you can’t exactly say Williams had pondered it seriously either. Maybe at that level you need to be more on your toes, and within a split second he should have considered the idea, the EFA ramifications, and said ‘no’ but he didn’t. It’s not a big deal. Off with ye!

  43. lprent 43

    Congrats Billy. I’ve been after that for days. A reasonably coherent reason why not to use materials.

    Kept having to raise the irritation levels to get past the usual sniping to an explanation. Do you realise that in the debate on this site and in the origional articles, there wasn’t a good explanation about why it was an unwise idea. It was implied a lot, but I’ve never seen it stated.

    I actually agree with you for much the same reasons. But I was getting a bit astonished that noone had actually said explicitly why it was a bad idea.

  44. Billy 44


    So pleasant to have a grown up discussion.

  45. lprent 45

    I realise some of this stuff it is obvious to the regular commentators.

    But there are a *lot* of lurkers who look at the blogs and the comments who don’t speak up. It’d be nice for them to know the issues underlying what is being discussed. Most of the time it isn’t an issue. But in this case I realised that there hadn’t been a clear explanation. 🙂

    I could have written it. But this was more fun…

  46. Billy 46

    Weird, Iprent could see it all along. That just leaves ‘sod and Matthew Pilott who don’t.

  47. Matthew Pilott 47

    Oh really?

    Do explain.

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