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ImperatorFish: Nick Smith Must Go

Written By: - Date published: 11:52 am, March 20th, 2012 - 56 comments
Categories: corruption - Tags: , ,

Scott at Imperator Fish has kindly given us permission to syndicate posts from his blog – the original of this post is here.

So a woman has problems with ACC, and just happens to be a personal friend of the ACC Minister at the time. The said ACC Minister writes a letter to ACC in support of the woman.

The said ACC Minister then denies any conflict of interest.

It’s all here.

Could a minister of the Crown really be stupid enough to write such a letter? To put something like this in writing?

Apparently so. What’s more staggering is that Nick Smith is now denying any conflict of interest.

This is the sort of conduct National would have been demanding heads over had it occurred during Helen Clark’s time in charge. The word “corruption” loses its meaning when used to describe any sort of misconduct by those holding office, but I’m sure that word would be in liberal use among National’s MPs and pet bloggers had a Labour minister engaged in such conduct.

Whatever label we want to use, it cannot be disputed that Dr Smith has acted in a highly inappropriate manner. If he has any remaining credibility he will resign.

So will he resign? I think you already know the answer to that question.

56 comments on “ImperatorFish: Nick Smith Must Go ”

  1. Pete 1

    The Cabinet Manual is very clear on this:

    2.62 A conflict may arise if people close to a Minister, such as a Minister’s family, whānau, or close associates, might derive, or be perceived as deriving, some personal, financial, or other benefit from a decision or action by the Minister or the government. Ministers must therefore be careful not to use information they access in the course of their official activities in a way that might provide some special benefit to family members, whānau, or close associates.

    2.63 Similarly, it may not be appropriate for Ministers to participate in decision making on matters affecting family members, whānau, or close associates; for example, by:

    attempting to intercede on their behalf on some official matter;
    proposing family members for appointments;
    participating in decisions that will affect the financial position of a family member.

    2.64 Public perception is a very important factor. If a conflict arises in relation to the interests of family, whānau, or close associates, Ministers should take appropriate action.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.1

      We may need to look at providing a cabinet manual that will give you a counterview.

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      Ok, so we have what is quite clearly a conflict. Now what? What does the cabinet manual say should happen?

      • Pete 1.2.1

        It becomes a political issue. Only the Governor General can withdraw a minister’s warrant – and that only happens on the advice of the Prime Minister – even when a minister resigns.

    • insider 1.3

      It’s not clear at all because of the use of ‘may’ – which I read as perhaps/possibly, whcih means it is discretionary whether action is or isn;t taken. Similarly, the “Ministers should take appropriate action” is vague as to what that might be.

      I suspect it is deliberately vague as gennerations of ministers haven’t wanted to be tightly bound by rules and process, because they are ministers and obviously know better.

  2. Craig Glen Eden 2

    Oh come now poor Dr Nick he’s done nothing wrong writing a letter of support for his National Party friend. I am sure both were not trying to exert pressure on ACC staff nooo! I mean hey is it the ladies fault that she has only two friends and they just happen to be high profile National Party bullies.
    The letter head with the crowns crest on it? But all the other National ministers do it for their National party friends to. No, oh shit!

  3. Grumpy 3

    guilty only of working too hard for his constituents ya reckon?

    • Ross 3.1

      Wasn’t that Philip Field’s explanation? Of course, there is a subtle difference in that case because Field benefitted financially. Is there any indication Smith has benefitted?

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        There’s evidence that a personal friend of Smith benefitted from Smith’s official communication.

        • Ross

          Is there…where is it?

          • Colonial Viper

            Wow are you defending a corrupt Minister of the Crown? Sucks to be you.

            • Ross

              Talk about changing the subject! You said Smith’s personal friend benefitted from his letter. All I asked was the evidence that she benefitted.

              • felix

                That’s a red herring.

                If he sought gain – either for himself or his friend – then whether he succeeded or failed in his quest is neither here nor there.

                • Fortran


                  Ross is right – PROVE IT or shut up.

                  • Kotahi Tane Huna

                    I don’t think you understand how this works, Fortran. We get to pick at the corpse until it stops moving.

                  • bbfloyd

                    youngling fox…. you do understand the implications of government ministers doing favors for people who have proven useful in the past, and likely so in the future…… i won’t assume for a second you are being sincere with these demands….

                    “maintaining networks” is probably something that has had a textbook written for business students…..

                    if you are going to practice your “reactionary attack politics,step-1”, then read the section in the introduction that deals with humor…….. it’ll do you a power of good in making your frothing readable…

    • Craig Glen Eden 3.2

      Constituent, like from Nelson oh Grumpy I didn’t realize she was a close friend, everybody can just relax then. Nah, definitely no dirty National Party benefit grabbing nepotism going on here.

  4. fender 4

    Well the letter didn’t seem to get our “friend” much, perhaps we can organise some sensitive documents be sent to her, that will give her some ammo.

  5. King Kong 5

    Never before has National and Labour supporters been more united than in the hope of Nick Smiths resignation.

    The guy has always been a liability in fact speaking of liabilities how about you guys keep the acid on and get rid of Smith and we will return the favour and try and get rid of Shearer for you.

  6. Jackal 6

    I guess the real question is what influence did Smith undertake to keep the story secret all this time?

  7. Now having read the letter – mountain out of molehill.
    Silly to put on Ministerial letterhead, but not a hanging offence.
    I stuff up sometimes too.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      I agree it’s not a huge deal, but the content itself is a bit puzzling. He directly says that because he’s a minister he shouldn’t comment on some aspects, but then goes on to comment on other aspects that definitely does colour the reader’s impression of Pullar’s claim.

    • Would you say that if a Labour Minister made the same “mistake ” ?.

      Not likely you would be screaming from the roof tops.
      Plus the Tory press would have made this headline news for days.
      I bet the most vocal for dismissal would have been the bit of lamb covered in mint sauce Michelle Boag

    • freedom 7.3

      the content is irrelevant Fortran,
      if you do not see the problem let me state it very very simply for you . . .
      He was the Minister, the letter should simply never have been considered, let alone penned.

      *returns to banging head on wall *

  8. Tigger 8

    Key must be feeling confident if he’s backing Smith? Or is he scared if he dumps Smith then Smith will resign and force a by-election?

    • Jackal 8.1

      Keys not going to dump Smith because to do so threatens their one seat majority and billions of dollars for his elitist employers. It’s a double serving of corruption if you like.

      • Ross 8.1.1

        I don’t think David Shearer would be dumping a Minister doing the same thing. Apparently he doesn’t think it’s serious enough for Smith to resign over.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          Yes, that’s exactly what he said! No, wait…

          From Stuff:

          Labour leader David Shearer said Smith earlier today had claimed he had done nothing wrong, but had now apologised.
          It was “unwise” and “stupid” for the then-ACC minister to write the letter.
          “That is a clear conflict of interest and Nick Smith has been around long enough to know what that is.”
          Shearer stopped short of calling for Smith’s resignation, saying more details were needed first.
          However he said if Smith was a minister in his cabinet he would have been stood down.
          There needed to be a fully inquiry into the matter.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    Firstly, this is not a good look at all.

    Secondly, Key and Smith have had the smarts to front-foot this. Next they will stonewall. It will be forgotten within the week.

    • Pascal's bookie 9.1


      Police investigation+privacy commission investigation+ whaleoil rampaging away +Sunday Herald.

      Yep, forgotten inside a few days no worries.

      • tsmithfield 9.1.1

        I don’t think the whole issue will be forgotten in a few days. Just Nick Smith’s part in it.

    • Georgecom 9.2

      “This is not a good look”

      memory tells me that the last time such a statement was made in relation to a Nat Minister the person had been double dipping to the tunes of tens of thousands of dollars.

      Guess Smith will stay then.

      • Hami Shearlie 9.2.1

        Why did Winston say the story contained sex? Did Nicky do a no-no with Brenda in the nineties? What was that all about?

    • Rob 9.3

      I don’t think so

  10. tc 10

    The nats could do this for their entire term helping to detract from rather more serious like selling our power stations and frakking to name 2.

    They have a cabinet full of this sort of behaviour waiting to be consumed a tapas serving at a time.

    I’d like to see Smith stay, he’s got the potential for something alot bigger than this, come on Nicky boy we know you can do it.

    • marty mars 10.1

      nicely put tc. I too believe in smith and think that nick will step up and really rip a big one for the team – he’s got it in him he just has to believe.

      • Pascal's bookie 10.1.1

        well the PM did say that if smith’s actions were considered serious enough to sack him, then he wouldnae have many ministers left, or words to that effect.

  11. Mark 11

    Unwise, foolish even but a very long stretch to call it corrupt, and I don’t think you can even call it a breach of the Cabinet Rules.. Smith very carefully made no attempt to influence decisions, and stated in the letter that he was unable to. Still, not a good look and an unnecessary diversion from the important work the Govt is doing (cue howls of outrage and vitriol here!!)
    There have been much worse actions performed by Members & Ministers from all parties.
    The leaking of ACC documents has very much the fingerprint of the leader of the   (Opposition)  NZ First Party, and the recipient looks very disgruntled with ACC and the Ex-Minister, perhaps because she couldn’t get him to influence the decision. Who would you then go to for a guaranteed shit storm.. yes, Winston of course. 

    • Lanthanide 11.1

      “Smith very carefully made no attempt to influence decisions, and stated in the letter that he was unable to.”

      So that’s why he wrote the letter, right? Because he didn’t want to influence decisions?

      Seriously, come up with a reason why he wrote that letter that doesn’t involve “influencing decisions” and we might be able to take you seriously.

      • Mark 11.1.1

        Moral support to a friend perhaps.. a friend who may well apparently have suffered a brain injury?
        FFS, if you are going to try and influence an operational decision by your Dept, you think that is the way to do it?
        I know many of our Politicians are hardly intellectual giants, and Smith in this case was a bit thick, but really? 

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          That’s the thing with corruption. It encompasses all sorts of human frailties.

          Let’s be clear about this – I don’t think Dr. Nick is corrupt per se, but his actions were.

          • Richard Christie

            Hmm, I don’t recall Nick ever declaring his close association with some complainants in the Peter Ellis case either.
            Ellis still waiting for justice.

            • Mark

              I agree entirely re: Peter Ellis, plenty should be hanging their heads in shame over this case.. if there is any small consolation, he is no longer incarcerated, and hopefully never again will we the citizens allow this shit to go on again.
              Didn’t realise Smith had much involvement? 

              • Richard Christie

                Didn’t realise Smith had much involvement

                Off topic: I’m certain that suppression orders surrounding the case have kept from the public eye much of the behind the scene conflicts of interest that riddle in the case.

                However detail has appeared on the web, off and on, over the past 15 years. Since I read Lynley Hood’s book on the case and subsequently formed an interest in it, I’ve read quite a volume of such material on the old Usenet (the group NZ General for example}, and even on Youtube, (since removed at the Crown’s request). But it’s out there and available to those that go looking. My research indicates that the material appearing has been accurate and that Cabinet Ministers on both sides of the house have had close connections with the case.

                It seems that somebody or some group is still putting Ellis material in the public domain and it seems that the Crown would prefer some of the material isn’t published. Granted this claim sounds as if it has much in common with a conspiracy theory but the suppression orders are very real.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Mark, if he wanted to provide moral support to a friend, then the way to go about that would be to write a personal note to the friend. Instead he wrote a letter to ACC, on ministerial letterhead, supporting his friend’s case.

          That’s more substantial than moral support. Try again.

  12. Mark 12

    Edit.. Opposition (strike through not saving)

  13. coolas 13

    dear, dear, this poor woman suffers a brain injury from an accident 10 years ago. She gets her friend the Minister for ACC to write a letter saying she was A-okay before the accident, but ACC decide she was brain injured way before the accident. Why? Because you’d have to be to have Nick Smith as a friend.

  14. Mark 14

    Yeah, well, that’s why I can’t quite figure out what’s going on.. I may have a head problem as well but I worked with Michelle Boag for a while (non-political) and found and find her to be a straight up woman. 
    So again my takes on it are:
    Sympathy and support for a friend/ex-colleague who has suffered and is devastated by this injury curtailing a stellar career.
    ACC being reluctant to pay out 80% of very big bucks for life based on what most people here would consider an excessive salary.
    Anger or bitterness about this (probably understandable) and an attempt to fight and win.
    Subsequent murky goings on with Excels, letters, politicising of issues.

    I in no way wish to minimise any behaviour or demean & demonise any claimants or persons involved.  

  15. Quasimodo 15

    Hmm .. is this government so fragile that if Smith goes it no longer has a majority ?

    A byelection in the shadow of the looming ‘reforms’ should be interesting.

    • Lanthanide 15.1

      Only on asset sales. The MP have rolled over and vote for everything else that Key tells them to, even if it harms their peoples on aggregate more than it helps them.

  16. rosy 16

    Nick Smith is sort of a ‘3-strikes and you’re out’ kinda guy isn’t he? Is this not the first time he’s been in trouble? Something to do with a custody case, and some defamation action with wood-treatment?

    Now, if he’d been in front of a judge…

  17. Rodders 17

    Reeks of a conspiracy – especially the leaking of the ACC documents.

    The letter states it would be “….inappropriate…”.

    In the same situation who else do you go to but direct to the Minister or an MP. Trouble is with such a “small town” network in NZ everyone knows somebody.

    So the end result is that we will not be able to approach an MP about anything and expect an answer.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      Reeks of a conspiracy – especially the leaking of the ACC documents.

      That’s what you get for pissing people on the inside off day after day after day. The National Govt deserves it.

      So the end result is that we will not be able to approach an MP about anything and expect an answer.

      I doubt that the ACC complainant is close personal friends with every National MP. Nick Smith could easily have asked one of his colleagues (anyone who wasn’t an ACC Minister for instance) to advocate on the complainant’s behalf instead of doing it himself. At least Pansy Wong realised she shouldn’t be backing someone who was a National activist that she knew personally.

    • Pascal's bookie 17.2

      Rodders. NZ is not such a village that the cabinet manual rules against conflicts of interest have been a huge problem in the past. I really don’t think they are a cause of any great hardship.

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