Hide on his way to Privileges Committee?

Written By: - Date published: 5:32 am, May 8th, 2009 - 43 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, corruption, democracy under attack, Parliament - Tags:

democracy-under-attack1

Has Rodney Hide breached privilege by seriously misleading the House? This is one for you legal types out there but from a layperson’s perspective it looks like it. Here’s what happened (the full transcripts are below):

On Wednesday, Phil Twyford (or Twif-ford as Hide insists on calling him) asked Hide whether “he has costed the super-city proposal outlined in [the government’s report]?”. Hide replied simply “Yes”.

On Thursday, Twyford asked Hide “How much will the government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually?” Hide’s answer: “Implementation costs will be minuscule compared with the present costs of running the various Auckland councils”

Twyford followed up: “What is the cost of the Government’s super-city proposal to implement and run annually?” Hide tried to avoid answering and eventually gave the minuscule answer again. Speaker Lockwood Smith told him that wasn’t good enough and asked him to give the cost if he had it (Trevor Mallard pointed out Hide had already said he did have it). Hide ummed and ahhed some more, Gerry Brownlee tried to cover for him but Smith insisted on an answer. This was it – Hide: “The government actually does not have the cost of implementation”

But wait a minute, just a day earlier he had said the government did have the cost and the ‘miniscule’ comments imply he knows the cost, wasn’t that seriously misleading the House?

twoface-hideHide says he was technically not lying. He says that yesterday he was saying the government knew how much the proposal for the supercity cost to develop, not the cost of the proposed supercity itself.

That’s clearly not the case. He was asked the cost of the supercity proposal outlined in the report, not the cost of developing the proposals for the supercity, and he said he knew the cost.

Anyway, surely it’s not whether he could technically say he wasn’t lying. The test for misleading the House must be whether he set out to mislead the House and did, in fact, mislead. Hide has clearly done that because by any reasonable reading of his answer to yesterday’s question was that he was saying the government knew the cost of creating the supercity.

Hide did nothing to let the House know he was talking about the cost of developing the supercity proposal, not the cost of the proposed supercity until he was forced to admit there is no costing for the supercity. His playing for time suggests he knew he was in trouble. He didn’t want to answer the question because it would expose the lie.

So, is this a breach of privilege? Looks like it to me.

Audio from today here @ 55min. Full transcripts over the fold:

Pages: 1 2

43 comments on “Hide on his way to Privileges Committee?”

  1. felix 1

    It was only ever a matter of time for Wodney.

  2. Rodney was very clear that he had not misled the House.

    On Wednesday, Phil Twyford (or Twif-ford as Hide insists on calling him) asked Hide whether “he has costed the super-city proposal outlined in [the government’s report]?’. Hide replied simply “Yes’.

    And then Twyford never asked “how much?” Had he done so, he’d have gotten then answer there and then … $4 million for the Royal Commission, and nothing for the Government response, as it was covered within existing budget lines.

    On Thursday, Twyford asked Hide “How much will the government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually?’ Hide’s answer: “Implementation costs will be minuscule compared with the present costs of running the various Auckland councils.”

    Different question, different answer. Annual costs will be up to the people of Auckland and their elected council (… and finally) implementation costs are uncosted, but are miniscule compared to the figure $2 billion.

    There is no way this is going to the privileges committee.

    • lyndon 2.1

      If you say something in the full knowledge that everyone will understand it to mean something that’s not true, it counts as a lie. I’m not saying the committee would want to concern itself with that, but if the house (those who didn’t already know the actual answer) was in fact mislead, I think he has a case to answer for misleading the house.

      Whether he has an internally coherent argument isn’t critical to that.

      But mostly I’m angry with for trifiling with rationality. The Standard will remember that style of argument from trying to nail him down on climate change.

    • lyndon 2.2

      Just for clarity, a significant point here:

      I’m open – though sceptical – about Rodney’s version being a possible interpretation of the question, but emphatic that it’s not a sensible one.

      It’s not a sufficient defence for a minister to claim he was answering some question that was not in fact asked.

      In this case I imagine the speaker and the committee might consider it dangerous to involve themselves in the philosophy of language.

      On the bright side, nothing Rodney has said could remotely be a defence on the charge of being a dick.

      And, as DPF notes, it was quite the novelty to see the speaker actually force an answer out of him, which allows us to have this argument. (Personally I got the impression Lockwood got the same idea from Rodney’s earlier answer that we did, but caught up quite quickly)

  3. vto 3

    Ah, the other side of the story perhaps Graeme?

    Egg on face for someone in the end – hide or the standard it seems?

  4. Eddie 4

    Graeme we all know you’re a tory but you’re also a lawyer and should be above try to make the words dance to match what you want them to mean.

    The question on Wedneday clearly related to the cost of the supercity, not the cost of coming up with the proposal. The questions are not differnt in any substantive manner. Any reasonable person would see them as the same inquiry using a different form of words.

    It’s clear from the transcript and the audio that a) everyone believed Hide was talking about the supecity itself, not the proposal, on Wednesday and b) that he himself knew that it would be bad for him to admit the truth, that’s why he was so evasive.

    Listen to the speaker and the other members, are they misled? Sounds like it to me.

    • Graeme 4.1

      I’m not making the words dance, I’m relaying Rodney’s argument.

      That argument was enough for the Speaker yesterday, and will be enough if an allegation of contempt of Parliament is laid.

      This isn’t a matter of privilege. It is a political matter from which you and Labour can make political capital. Do that instead.

      • Maynard J 4.1.1

        Pointing out that it is very misleading is making political capital, Graeme. So is calling for it to go to the privileges committee. Sometimes I see where you come from in a legal standpoint, but it’s sometimes incredibly naive from a political standpoint. Especially when you’re defending National.

        In this case, you’re wrong. Both questions related to the cost of the implememntation, not the proposal. “costing a proposal” does not and has never meant costing how much the proposal itself cost, since costing is an estimated cost of action, and you don’t do costings of things you’ve already done.

        • Graeme 4.1.1.1

          In this case, you’re wrong.

          I’m prepared for a wager, if you like. My statements in reply to the subject of the post have been:

          “There is no way this is going to the privileges committee.”

          and

          “That argument was enough for the Speaker yesterday, and will be enough if an allegation of contempt of Parliament is laid.”

          $20? I’ll even give you odds. Your $20 to my $50?

          • Graeme 4.1.1.1.1

            Before you decide, it seems only to proper to note the following view expressed by the Speaker yesterday:

            The Minister gave a perfectly proper answer to that final question. He pointed out that the wording of the question yesterday was different from today’s question, and he answered it accordingly. If members want to get the answers they expect, they need to be more careful about the wording of questions.

          • gobsmacked 4.1.1.1.2

            Graeme

            Genuine question: can you explain in simple terms what “Misleading the House” means in practice?

            e.g. when Paula Bennett said in the House a while ago “I meet with the Finance Minister every day”, obviously that was literally false (check their diaries!), so was it misleading? If ‘common sense’ is applied, how is it done, and who is it applied by?

            Cheers.

          • Maynard J 4.1.1.1.3

            When I said you were wrong, it was in reference to your defence of Rodney, not your predictive statements. I appreciate your wry attempt at humour – that you’ll do for yourself (dance on the head of a pin) as equally enthusiastically as you will for the tories.

          • Graeme 4.1.1.1.4

            In simple words – no, but various Speaker’s rulings give some insight:

            1 Where a member is accused of a breach of privilege by misleading the House, the misleading must be deliberate. There must be an intent to mislead, and the facts before the Speaker must lead to that possibility. The Speaker must consider the evidence and decide whether the facts alleged indicate, not a remote possibility, but a reasonable possibility.
            1980, Vol. 433, pp. 3673, 3761. Harrison.

            2 In an allegation of breach of privilege by deliberately misleading the House, there must be something peculiar to the making of the incorrect statement that can be reasonably regarded by the Speaker, on the face of it, as indicating that the member may have been intending to mislead the House. Remarks uttered in the hurly-burly of debate can rarely fall into that category; nor can matters about which a member is likely to be aware only in an official capacity. Usually only in situations in which the member can be assumed to have personal knowledge of the facts contained in a statement, and when that statement is made in a situation of some formality in the House
            (for example, by way of personal explanation), can a presumption that the member intended to mislead the House arise.
            1986, Vol. 476, p. 5961. Wall.

            3 The contempt of deliberately misleading involves the conveying of
            information to the House or a committee that is inaccurate in a aterial
            particular and which the person conveying the information knew was
            inaccurate at the point at which it was conveyed, or, at least, ought to have known was inaccurate.
            1998, Vol. 570, p. 11042. Kidd.

            4 There is a point where strictly accurate replies can be misleading by
            suppressing relevant information.
            2001, Vol. 592, p. 9620. Hunt.

            [all from page 186 of the current edition]

            Common sense is most certainly applied – by the Speaker in deciding whether a question of privilege arises. I’ve been looking for a copy of the Speaker’s decision on David Benson-Pope to give you a concrete example, but haven’t yet had any luck. The closest I can get is this from Rodney Hide:

            The quandary is that David Benson-Pope stood in this House and emphatically denied that he had done anything wrong. In particular, he denied that he had ever tied up a pupil’s hands and stuck a tennis ball in his mouth. Under the rules of Parliament I have no option, nor does any other member, but to accept the Minister’s word, which I immediately did. However, the following week the man who was the former pupil came forward, and so did two witnesses, and said that indeed this had happened. Specifically, they said that the Minister had lied here in Parliament. That puts us in a difficult situation, because a citizen outside this House is saying that in this House a Minister lied.

            ref: http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/Debates/Daily/b/8/0/47HansD_20050607-Volume-626-Week-91-Tuesday-7-June-2005.htm

            If saying that you did not do something that a bunch of other people swear affidavits to say was either done to them personally, or they personally saw being done doesn’t raise a question of privilege, I can certainly suggest that it’s not as clear-cut as some here seem to believe.

      • Eddie 4.1.2

        We’re aware of Hide’s argument, Graeme. It’s in the post and it doesn’t hold water. You know it.

        He set out to mislead the house and the house was misled. He tried to avoid coming clean.

        If you of all people can’t come up with a decent argument that this isn’t a breach of privilege it just confirms that was.

        • Graeme 4.1.2.1

          How would I know it?

          This is not Rodney Hide talking, but the Speaker:

          As Speaker, I am perfectly capable of making that assessment myself. The Minister gave a perfectly proper answer to that final question. He pointed out that the wording of the question yesterday was different from today’s question, and he answered it accordingly. If members want to get the answers they expect, they need to be more careful about the wording of questions.

          Perfectly proper answers do not give rise to contempts of Parliament.

          • Eddie 4.1.2.1.1

            Yes but that perfectly proper answer was in direct contrast to the earlier answer.

            You know perfectly well Graeme that it wasn’t Hide eventually (when forced) coming clean that was the breach of privilege it was the earlier misleading answer.

            Are you going to say that you don’t think Rondey Hide set out to misled and in fact did misled with his answer on Wednesday (and, additionally, with his ‘miniscule’ comments)?

            Because I don’t see how that argument can be made with any intellectual honesty, which is why I think you’re avoiding making it and running diversion instead

          • Graeme 4.1.2.1.2

            Then this bit then, also from the Speaker: “He pointed out that the wording of the question yesterday was different from today’s question, and he answered it accordingly. If members want to get the answers they expect, they need to be more careful about the wording of questions.”

  5. Nick 5

    It’s improper to call Graeme a ‘Tory’. That he may be, but he is also very objective and reasonable as is obvious from his writings.

  6. At last a short concise question in question time. I hope that Goff and the others take note.

    My impression is that Hide’s response is cynical in the extreme. Graeme suggests that there is wriggle room in the words used, there may be but you would have to be a worm to fit.

    The most important words are “super-city proposal outlined in [the government’s report]?’.

    Hide suggests that the cost of this is $4m, being the cost of the Royal Commission. The proposal outlined in the Government’s report is not the Royal commission, and can only refer to the cost of the new structure. It is clearly referring to this and not to the historic cost of the commission. After all it is considerably different to the Commission’s proposal. But the phrasing is not ideal and Phil’s Thursday question is phrased much better.

    The wriggle room may be sufficient to avoid a Privileges Hearing. I bet there is a slew of OIA applications going in right now however. There is no way that the Government would not have costed the proposed changes. Hide’s refusal to release the figures will only mean that the story will get further momentum until the figures are released.

  7. Pascal's bookie 7

    Off Topic:

    Dum-de-doo, checking the blogs, ooh what’s this?

    http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2009/05/unimpressed.html

    naughty minister? Where does this sort of behaviour get dealt with? Purely political I suppose, but it’s a doozy.

    • Ello, ello, ello

      Just goes to show how important it is to be careful with the words that you use. Collins being a lawyer ought to be especially sensitive to this.

    • the sprout 7.2

      far out!
      that’s quite remarkable Pb

  8. enzer 8

    ‘”How much will the government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually?’ ‘

    Twyford ought to have asked just the first question.The second one allowed Hide to…hide.

    One would expect the implementation to have been costed…and that it is a figure that perhaps he feels Auckland ratepayers will baulk at.

    Still, they have an airport and ‘stuff’ they can sell to make ends meet. *g*

  9. burt 9

    Eddie

    The standard is a rich source of links from the time Winston was censured. You know all the good stuff about how the censure is the punishment and there is no need to resign etc.

    For the record, I think that if Rodney is taken for a talking to and censured that he should resign. That’s what I said for Winston as well.

    What do you think should happen if he is censured Eddie ?

    • Eddie 9.1

      can you show some of those links? I don’t recall any posts defending Peters and I certainly didn’t write any.

      I think that ministers who mislead the House should do the right thing and offer their resignations. Like Lianne Dalziel did after the ‘lie in unison’ scandal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lianne_Dalziel

      • Pat 9.1.1

        “I don’t recall any posts defending Peters”

        Geez you better get a check-up, Eddie.

    • lprent 9.2

      I wrote comments saying that the braying pack looked like a lynch mob to me.

      Looking at the evidence rather than what people were saying, it looked like Winston and NZF were lousy book-keepers and that they should be told off. Windson was also showing signs of appalling political timing about when and how he released information. There was nothing illegal in what they’d done.

      Guess what – no charges laid so it wasn’t illegal. Winston and NZF got told off in the privileges committee for being slow to explain their sloppy bookwork – by a partisan vote. So I guess I was right.

      I also said If they were ‘guilty’ then so were National and Act with their anonymous donations. But since that was all legal in 2004 and 2005 then so would Winston’s and NZF’s turn out to be as well.

      All of the above is still my opinion, including that I thought people engaging in the lynch mob were displaying some of the most disgusting behaviour I’d seen looking at politics – including you.

      • gingercrush 9.2.1

        The Greens are hardly partisan. Most importantly Jim Anderton abstained on that vote which means he saw much in wrong with Winston Peters. If anyone is being highly partisan it is you. You of course have an opinion. But so do the rest of New Zealanders and people clearly voted to say Peters had done much wrong. Not only that but political commentators from allover the political spectrum said Winston Peters was in the wrong.

        Labour completely mishandled the situation and I believe cost them some votes. That you still feel Peters has done no wrong suggests you are completely missing the point. But of course you completely missed the point on the EFA as well.

        • Pascal's bookie 9.2.1.1

          God love you ginger, but you sure do say some shit that needs more detail.

          The Greens are hardly partisan.

          A non partisan party. Rightio. On it’s face that don’t make a lick of sense, but let’s assume you meant that the Greens did not vote in a partisan manner in this instance. Would that mean that it would have been in the Green party’s interest to vote the other way. How so? Seems to me getting rid of Winston is good for the Greens, partisan wise. Or are you labouring under the misapprehension that partisanship for the Greens would mean voting in the interest of Labour? That might make sense, but only if you think that one can only be partisan towards the left as a whole, rather than being able to also have partisan interests within the left. Have you been asleep the last few weeks and years?

          If anyone is being highly partisan it is you. You of course have an opinion. But so do the rest of New Zealanders and people clearly voted to say Peters had done much wrong.

          It’s fair enough to say that the voters determine the political reality, or the ‘results of the game’ as it were. You are running a numbers game as an argument from authority, ‘the voters can’t be wrong’ sort of thing, ‘they are the judge’.

          That’s perfectly legitimate, but let’s have a little look at some election results and apply the same yardsticks to different actors in the drama shall we?

          New Zealand First Party 95,356 4.07%

          ACT New Zealand 85,496 3.65%

          Ain’t that a funny thing? Please note that I’m personally not defending Winston here, no one much is. But who do the people of NZ on aggregate prefer, seeing that was the metric you introduced?

          Nobody argues that Labour handled the situation well. Straw. The argument is that there was a partisan witch hunt the like of which we don’t see very often, and that it worked. But only just. And yes, it was highly partisan.

        • lprent 9.2.1.2

          PB said it for me. I saw much that was ‘wrong’ with NZF and Winston. In fact it would be safe to say that I detested his policies and style.

          However I detest the type of pack animal behavior of bloggers and a lot of journalists even more. Mass hysteria is a pretty disgusting sight.

          Of course now that type of thing has been brought into the political spectrum, I guess that Act will be in the target. Low percentage, poor performance, and we only have to dislodge Rodney from Epsom rather than go for a country wide… ummmm

  10. the sprout 10

    that’s one very good hit on Hide.
    Strike ONE!

    btw, this is gold, National are losing the grey vote already: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10571066

    in the words of Mr T “I pity the fools”

  11. Pat 11

    National are losing the grey vote? Your Herald link goes on to say:

    “Had English read the full report, he would have had a happier time. Grey Power described him as “very pleasant”, and Senior Citizens Minister John Carter as “one who can be trusted to get things done, rather than just talk about what needs to be done”.

    But the real killer English needed to take the wind out of King’s sails came in their verdict of the PM: “I found John Key much easier to talk to than the previous Prime Minister”.

    • gingercrush 11.1

      Yes the authors here seem to have a great problem reading the rest of a newspaper article. What is more important? A minister or the Prime Minister? I would thought the latter.

      • gobsmacked 11.1.1

        Of course he’s easy to talk to. He smiles and nods and says ‘Yes’ to everybody.

        So?

        • gingercrush 11.1.1.1

          It means John Key is invested in the grey vote. Something that is important to get your party in government. Or do you not think that vote is important is Gobsmacked? Of course didn’t you predict the falling of this coalition government by now? Didn’t you predict the polls would show the Labour Party leading? Your predictions haven’t been very good to date.

          • gobsmacked 11.1.1.1.1

            Always nice to meet a fan! I don’t recall all my predictions, as I don’t stalk myself, but I’d hazard a guess that some are right and some are wrong. Who’da thunk it?

            Back on topic (less creepy):

            If you think Grey Power are going to ignore economic policies affecting senior citizens, just because the PM is “nice”, you must have missed the 80’s and 90’s. The old folks are a hard bunch to bullshit.

      • lprent 11.1.2

        They didn’t say that they were happy with what he had to say. He’d have said essentially nothing because that is what Key does. The ministers do things and periodically get English to say that Key can’t do something.

        It is what people do rather than what they say that the grey’s look at. Believe me when I say that I’ve had that chapter and verse from my seniors..

  12. I remember someone saying that John Key is usually a very big supporter of the most recent idea that he’s heard. Sounds about right.

  13. Pat 13

    “The old folks are a hard bunch to bullshit.”

    Winnie did it successfully for years.

  14. Ari 14

    Rodney’s pretty open for an fork-of-no-return now.

    Either he’s too incompetent to realise one doesn’t cost something that’s already been paid for, and that costing a proposal refers to implementation and/or ongoing costs, and he’s thus pretty unfit to be a minister- or he intentionally misled parliament with his earlier answer.

    What I find interesting is that the Speaker is willing to shelter Hide from this at all and not just immediately make it clear he violated privilege, given how there is no reasonable way to interpret the question as he did.

  15. gingercrush 15

    I also have to laugh in that you ask for a legal opinion and then when you get that legal opinion you dismiss it. You didn’t actually care what someone with a legal opinion had, you just wanted people to confirm what you had to say.

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