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Question time

Written By: - Date published: 8:35 am, June 4th, 2009 - 44 comments
Categories: corruption, crime, john key - Tags:

John Key’s making a real hash of this latest Worth scandal. There was the secretive way he went about things yesterday, which is just not acceptable from a Prime Minister in New Zealand. He wasted several opportunities to correct his mistake and give full details during the day. Yet the story is still coming out. More serious in political terms though, is the way Key handled Worth when he knew that Worth had been doing something seriously bad.

– Why did it take over a week from losing confidence in Worth to Worth resigning? Why didn’t Key fire him immediately he lost confidence in him?

The answer Key gave today in the House ‘had to let him have natural justice’ makes no sense. You don’t lose confidence then carry out an investigation. Natural justice comes first, then losing confidence. Key must already have been sure last Tuesday. ‘Natural justice’ is an illogical excuse. The real reason is Key didn’t want the scandal to sour the Bleak Budget (as if that could get more sour). So he kept a man he says he would not have in his ministry in his ministry for another week for PR reasons.

– What investigation did Key undertake when he was told Worth had been sexually harassing women, known as ‘making a nuisance of himself towards women’ in Key-speak?

– Who did Key consult with during this investigation? Did he consider involving the Police? If not, why not?

– Did his investigation conclude that Worth had indeed sexually harassed women just that it was not serious? Because that’s what his words imply.

– Why, if that was the finding of his investigation, did he not consider this serious?

– Why didn’t he tell the public that one of his ministers had been sexually harassing women?

The answers to these questions will raise even more as the details come out.

The inadequacy of Key’s initial investigation. His shielding of Worth. Keeping mum when he knew that Worth was subject to an allegation for a serious offence. The fact that Key had lost confidence in his minister but kept him on. The hide and seek game he has played with the public over the facts. All are serious failings in a Prime Minister.

Questions will be asked. Again and again over the weeks to come. Key better have some good answers.

44 comments on “Question time”

  1. Tigger 1

    Adding insult to this injury is the way Key handled the press conference yesterday. He is a literal chatty Kathy, allowing himself to be drawn on questions that he earlier says are the domain of the police. By the end of the question time we all knew Worth was being investigated for a criminal matter against a person, a crime that wasn’t so serious he’d been chucked off the list but serious enough to lose the MInister’s seat ([DELETED]). How Key was pushed into revealing a lot more detail than he wanted or needed to was very worrying.

    Worse for me, as the post points out, Key appears to be suddenly disgusted with Worth (where was the digust last week Prime Minister…?) – the latter is very important because it says that Key will take a stand but only when it looks like the truth is being outed, until then he really is happy to protect his little boy’s club, but when Key does drop you, you can expect a kick while you’re down. No ‘natural justice’ there, mate. Key has already tried and convicted Worth and told the rest of us what he thinks. He’s fudged any justice for Worth. Key thinks Worth is a pig ergo we should all think the same.

    By the way, has Worth pleaded guilty to anything? Aren’t the police investigating a complaint? So he’s not been charge yet. Has Worth actually told Key he did it? Because otherwise Mr Key, it’s innocent until proven guilty so while accepting a resignation and claiming you’d fire him is all fine, your disgust and judgemental tone are not. You’re throwing stones at someone who you only suspect might be guilty.

    But perhaps Key knows something we don’t, that Worth is guilty and if Worth HAS admitted his guilt to Key then I suggest he contact the Wellington police and tell them what he knows. In fact, he could end up a witness for the prosecution…

    All in all, a big, fat FAIL from our PM who, if he’s as successful a businessman as he thinks should have been able to handle this sort of thing easily.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      Tigg, if it’s not too late I’d delete the stuff in brackets in your first para.

      [Ed: It’s been deleted]

  2. Pascal's bookie 2

    “The inadequacy of Key’s initial investigation.”

    from that Herald story:

    Of the allegations raised by Mr Goff, the Prime Minister said: “The assurance I had was that they were not correct. I had no reason to disbelieve that.”

    Did Key know there were emails? Did he ask to see them? Story suggests not.

    These were not personal matters but about official appointments.

  3. Sounds like Dick can arrange anything if you make it worth his while.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    John Key claims to have lost confidence in Richard Worth last Tuesday (9 days ago). This was a matter of hours (minutes?) after expressing confidence in him during question time in the House, that Tuesday afternoon.

    How very, very convenient.

  5. corkscrew 5

    Dr Richard Worth presents the “Dr Richard Worth Cup for Citizenship” at Epsom Girls Grammar School every year in person, its nice seeing someone in government take a passionate interest in the social mores of young women. I hope this doesn’t dissuade him from being a positive role model in the community.

  6. Sean 6

    I love how the left complain over the timeframe of a couple of days yet it was Labour’s ERA 2000 that made so much more difficult to fire wayward employees. Go figure!

    • Daveo 6.1

      A) No it didn’t. Personal grievance law remained pretty much unchanged between the ECA and the ERA.

      B) MPs aren’t covered by employment law.

      • Sean 6.1.1

        A) As a manger operating under the current ERA I beg to differ. The subtleties of the ERA were made absolute by the employment relations authority.

        B) Assuming this is true then fair point. Even so, a few days to establish the facts in a high profile case like this wouldn’t be unreasonable(and amongst budget week!). Would you be so quick to judge yourself?

        • gobsmacked

          But Sean, Key had already judged. He said so yesterday:

          “Hon Phil Goff: When did the Prime Minister lose confidence in Dr Worth as a Minister?

          Hon JOHN KEY: Last Tuesday afternoon.”

          There was no due process.

          That same afternoon, Key had expressed confidence in Worth, in the House, just after 2 p.m.

          I don’t know when afternoons end, but whenever it was, that’s when the “due process” had finished.

          • Sean

            So? Upon hearing the (yet to be publicly known) specific allegations I would lose confidence too. But I wouldn’t rush to judgement without going though a process to determine a few critical facts.

            Again, what we are quibbling about here is a few days. It’s not as if Key has asked for a public investigation. If anything, his decisiveness may prove to be too quick!

  7. exbrethren 7

    John Key reassured the NZ public today about this matter. “I give my personal guarantee that I have acted properly in this matter and the former minister Worth Dick misunderstood me when I gave him a bollocking. This wasn’t an excuse for him to go and try and give other people a bollocking. I also give my personal guarantee that Nashnul will take Epsom seriously by selecting a serious candidate. I am confident Melissa Lee will do a good job there.”

  8. Tim Ellis 8

    I seem to remember when there were allegations of criminal activity around a Labour Minister, Helen Clark appointed a QC to investigate, set up limited terms of reference for the inquiry, and gave the QC many months to report back.

    By comparison, a one-week investigation into the allegations by Mr Key is lightening-fast.

    • exbrethren 8.1

      This just in from John Key “I give my personal guarantee that I acted promptly upon this incident and didn’t sit on it for nine days hoping it wouldn’t come out into the public domain.”

    • Pascal's bookie 8.2

      Tim, there are differences aplenty, you know it, but reveal much in ignoring them.

      Field denied it, Worth has apparently not.

      When Field denied it, Helen appointed a QC to investigate, as you say. Did Key even look at the Emails from the earlier complaint?

      The herald quotes him as saying assurances convinced him there was nothing to it.

      But then it was only Worth being a ‘nuisance’ I suppose. Or as Prebble called it, ‘being a bit fresh towards a Labour party activist’. Charmed I’m sure.

      • Tim Ellis 8.2.1

        PB, the earlier complaint appears to have been about motive, which was not apparently clear in the evidence. Mr Goff describes the “undertones” of an expectation of a relationship in return for an appointment of some kind. It seems to me that these “undertones” were not explicit. Dr Worth apparently denied these “undertones”.

        Mr Key investigated the information Mr Goff gave him appropriately. There was no allegation of criminal behaviour.

        I don’t know if Dr Worth denied to Mr Key the allegations regarding this other individual. It seems to me that Dr Worth’s failing relating to ministerial confidence in this respect is not the substance of the allegations, but the fact that he did not inform the PM that such allegations existed, and that he was likely to be the subject of a police complaint for the best part of a week.

        The substance of the allegations aren’t something that the PM should adjudicate on. At best he should allow the police to conduct their normal inquiries and ensure that they are able to do their job.

        I don’t think Mr Key could have acted any differently.

        • Pascal's bookie

          “Mr Key investigated the information Mr Goff gave him appropriately.”

          How do you know this?

          All I’ve seen is the suggestion that he took Worth at his word. You claim this is enough too?

          We know enough about the ‘overtones’ that they have been described with reference to the words ‘nuisance’ and ‘fresh’. The recipient detected these overtones, Goff saw enough in them to take the matter up with Key privately, ( a fact that some righties are saying discredits him, as if he should have run along to the press!).

        • Maynard J

          “Mr Key investigated the information Mr Goff gave him appropriately. There was no allegation of criminal behaviour.”

          I have read that someone was offered a sinecure upon the expectation there would be ‘romance’ resulting. This from the Herald today.How can you be so damn sure of what you have written above? It makes your comments about not being an ‘insider’ seem pretty false.

          No one would made such a self-assured black-and-white comment without more info than from the papers.

          • Tim Ellis

            Maynard J, I am pointing to the fact that Mr Goff himself only referred to undertones of an expectation. It was evidently not explicit, otherwise Mr Goff would have made the explicit connection. The PM’s responsibility was to question Dr Worth, as he did, on whether there was an expectation on Dr Worth’s part that a relationship would ensue from the appointment. Mr Key has said that he was satisfied with Dr Worth’s explanation of the communications.

          • r0b

            Mr Key has said that he was satisfied with Dr Worth’s explanation of the communications.

            Subsequent events have shown that to be very poor judgement on Key’s part.

          • Pascal's bookie

            The emails were personal, they were about ‘do you want to come swimming with me?’ Do you want to take a holiday with me overseas, I want you to buy this see-through clothing. This woman is half Dr Worth’s age, she is a happily married woman with children, she was offended by it.”

            Goff said he had not raised the claims publicly because “I didn’t really want to go through grubby details of the allegations that were made”.


            All a bit subtle I suppose.

          • Tim Ellis

            r0b, it doesn’t show a lack of judgement in my view to show confidence in a Minister until they have demonstrated that they no longer warrant confidence. Helen Clark had multiple opportunities to sack any one of the ministers she sacked, long before she ended up sacking them.

          • exbrethren

            If these emails exist with the words as quoted in stuff then Key is either;

            a. an extremely poor judge of character
            b. a person that thinks sexual harassment is a funny joke
            c. a liar who indulged in a cover-up of a minister

            My guess is he’ll go for a.

          • r0b

            r0b, it doesn’t show a lack of judgement in my view to show confidence in a Minister until they have demonstrated that they no longer warrant confidence.

            Spin it all you like Tim, the facts prove that Key’s judgement was spectacularly wrong. Worth carried on with his pattern of behaviour until the police got involved.

            Helen Clark had multiple opportunities to sack any one of the ministers she sacked, long before she ended up sacking them.

            Your usual bullshit lies Tim, several were sacked at the first hint of trouble. Key should have acted on Worth much sooner than he did.

          • Tim Ellis

            r0b wrote:

            Your usual bullshit lies Tim, several were sacked at the first hint of trouble. Key should have acted on Worth much sooner than he did.

            That is not my recollection of Helen Clark’s response to Mr Field, Mr Mallard, Mr Peters, or Mr Benson-Pope, r0b, which all dragged out for many months before final action.

          • r0b

            Your claim was – “Helen Clark had multiple opportunities to sack any one of the ministers she sacked” – which was a bullshit lie Tim (yet another one from you). As per my link above, there were ministers who were sacked at the first sign of trouble.

          • Tim Ellis

            r0b, your argument appears to be that Mr Key has shown a lack of judgement in not sacking Dr Worth earlier, based on multiple errors by Dr Worth.

            The same can be said of Helen Clark, who had multiple opportunities to sack many of her Ministers who involved themselves in indiscretions or impropriety or otherwise poor ministerial performance, but chose not to do so. David Benson-Pope, Phillip Field, Winston Peters, Trevor Mallard, George Hawkins, Judith Tizard, etc etc. I note that you don’t indicate that their further indiscretions amounted to poor judgement on Ms Clark’s part.

          • r0b

            r0b, your argument appears to be

            Tim, my argument appears to be that you are a liar. I note that you don’t deny it.

            And as to Worth, best summary by far is from Gordon Campbell:

            Secondly, there is the little matter of accountability. Regardless of whether a criminal case will finally be made, Worth had been shown remarkable leniency by Key over the past few months. This has been in stark contrast to the strong messages about accountability that National had sent out in opposition when Labour Ministers had transgressed and subsequently, in government. When it comes to public servants, the National caucus is very quick to issue demands that ‘heads must roll.’ Not so ihowever, when it is one of their own. All this year, Worth has appeared to benefit from a series of ‘final’ warnings and been on ‘final notice’ which in his case, seemed to mean only ‘until next time.’

            The third dubious element has been Key’s fumbling of the events yesterday morning, when the fact of a Police investigation became public. After first disclosing the bare facts and saying there would be no further comment ie, he would let the Police investigation proceed without political intrusion – Key then, two hours later, virtually prejudged aspects of the affair, by commenting further that if Worth hadn’t resigned as Minister, Key would have sacked him, and further indicated that perhaps Worth should consider his future within the caucus, and as an MP.

            At every point, Key has either delayed taking action for months, over Worth’s well publicized lapses of judgement and then when action became inescapable, he delayed again lest the affair should overshadow the Budget coverage. Having promised not to comment publicly ( apparently,lest that should taint the Police investigation) he then proceeded to do so.

            In other words, this has been a tawdry disaster, abysmally handled.

          • Tim Ellis

            Tim, my argument appears to be that you are a liar. I note that you don’t deny it.

            I didn’t deny it r0b because I didn’t wish to dignify it, just as on repeat occasions I didn’t wish to dignify the accusations that I work in the National Party research unit. I won’t debate with you again. As you cannot debate constructively without descending into personal abuse, it is a waste of my time.

          • r0b

            Sure whatever Tim, but all you have to do to stop me calling you a liar is to stop telling lies. Bye now.

    • doc whose asking 8.3


      the matter of higher office (yeah I know worth was outside cabinet) comes into consideration.. who decides these things.. the PM.. I heard he refers to “my” cabinet.. is that all there is to it..? what advices.. else.. might he seek.. and like what, who from.. my guess is folks claiming know about potential candidates.. so where does that leave this thing..? somehow I cannae accept that actual office has a fellow demonstrably errant.. arrogance or whatever would surely pre-exist..?

      honest questions.. same answers welcomed and respected..

      • Tim Ellis 8.3.1


        The PM alone decides on whether he has confidence in any of his ministers. Yes, he might take advice, but who he seeks advice from isn’t relevant in my view. Helen Clark clearly relied heavily on the advice of Heather Simpson. That doesn’t make Heather Simpson responsible for those decisions.

        I hope I’ve answered your question.

        • doc whose asking

          thanks Tim, but no not really.. you see I’m really talking about “better” – the National Party (certainly the PM’s) promise post-Election. More of the same, or similar, is no way better. Hence, as I said, the process of higher office selection would seem to require scrutiny.

          Put another way, what makes for the PM’s confidence in a guy. If only good faith(actual) or blind faith (intended) then suitable scrutiny would be improbable. Which is to say they need independent help to get anywhere near putting matters aright.

          Partisan for power has its problems. aka Responsibilities as folks around me agree.

          In the budget, for instance, clear responsibilities on display. Taxcuts have their limits for any responsible national government. So if they can deliver on the policy front they ought also have no problems whatsoever on the individual plays.. yet there they are..!

    • ak 8.4

      Mr Key is lightening-fast

      Good old Tim – drags up an apple to compare with a putrid pear.

      Lightning’s struck, Mr Sunny’s darkening, and there’s milk powder clouds on the horizon….

      Brrrrr…..better wrap up tories!

  9. I hope for Key’s sake he didnt mislead the House last week when expressing confidence in all his ministers.

  10. Cossack 10

    John Key new about all this last week. He waited until after the Budget to make Worth resign. That is disgraceful and he should be called on it.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    Several points here:

    On the basis of the issue that Goff raised, even according to Goff, the matter seems to have been more innuendo, and implied romantic ovetures. These sorts of things can be difficult to prove and easy to deny. This is because these sort of communications are often highly ambiguous. According to Key, his office investigated the matter and was unable to prove anything. Given that Worth denied any wrong doing Key really had no option but to accept his word under the circumstances.

    With respect to the second matter, Key may well have had some knowledge last week. However, there would still be due process of getting Worths side of the story etc before he could take disciplinary action.

    I think Key has acted pretty strongly here by not only forcing Worth’s resignation but also sending a strong message that Worth should consider his future as an MP. There is no road back like Clark allowed for some of her MP’s who sinned.

    Getting rid of Worth is a good thing. There is no room for sleazy scumbags in parliament whatever side of the house they are on.

  12. the sprout 12

    someone’s been busy on wiki already

    • Tigger 12.1

      Could I suggest to the editors of the Wikipedia page that the following line about Worth might be seen as rather ironic now…
      “An advocate of closer business and social ties between New Zealand and South Korea…”

      • Chris G 12.1.1

        you know anyone can be the editor to an unlocked wikipedia page?… for example Richard Worths.

        • felix

          Yeah, back in March apparently, resulting in the following discussion on the page.

          Conflict of interest

          There appear to have been two series of edits by a User:Richard_W_Worth who appears to be the subject of this page:

          The first of these has effectively been undone already, but I’m about to rewrite the second, since they appear to breach Wikipedia:Conflict of interest. The user has been warned on their talk page.

          “Conflict of interest” seems to be writ large across every facet of this guy’s life, doesn’t it?

    • doc whose asking 12.2

      how very inter-resting.. ta-soh..

      And there for all to see the external link of Laura Bush learning of the Varied Thrush — a “rare bird in Texas”. Migratory..? Untold.. 🙂

      Just my luck the wiki has no mention of religious influence, input or inference for this fellow.. Perhaps Korean and thus unwritable or unpronounceable. Perhaps not… Enlightenment anyone..

  13. Kaplan 13

    @Tim Ellis 10:15
    I think he could have taken the opportunity that was generously handed to him by Goff to deal with this in a much cleaner fashion. In this I include Goff failing to ask if Key had confidence in his ministers between last Tuesday and yesterday.

    That Key didn’t see the situation as serious would be laughable if it were not sickening and ultimately it is proof of yet more poor judgment on his part.

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