It is interesting to compare the media’s treatment of David Cunliffe this week with its treatment of the smear campaign against him.
Labour has this year attacked National for its rather cavalier treatment of donors. Firstly a senior Minister used her ministerial position to benefit the company which her husband was a director of and which made large donations to National. Easy target, Collins’ behaviour tramples every rule concerning a Minister not seeking a personal advantage from her office as well as creating a strong impression of bias. The criticism was and is perfectly appropriate. Ministers should not use their position to benefit their partner or people who donate money to the National Party.
Maurice Williamson’s sacking for interfering in a Police prosecution was utterly inevitable. FFS he breached the Cabinet Manual in an egregious way. He had to go.
But then this week we have seen the National counterattack where it is trying to create the impression that Labour is just as bad if not worse. But as Stephanie Rodgers has noted is David Cunliffe forgetting that he signed a letter over a decade ago really far worse than Maurice Williamson interfering in a police case? Really? Really?
There are some on the left who have chosen to criticise the staff member involved. Shame on them. Absolutely shame on them. Their intolerance of human frailty and the lack of human perfection is very upsetting to me. Their expectation of perfection is so removed from the human reality that I wonder what they are thinking.
There was nothing unusual about the letter and it certainly did not advocate for a decision favourable to Mr Liu. It essentially said to the Immigration Service that all that was wanted was a date when a decision could be expected and the letter confirmed that it was understood there would be a delay. Apart from a couple of typos and the misspelling of the name in the file name the letter is beyond criticism.
Despite a search the letter was not immediately discovered. The electronic file name for the letter had a simple typo which meant that it was not instantaneously evident. Readers of my posts will realise that typos are not unusual occurences. Instead of “Liu” the word “Lui” was typed. This is a not unusual occurrence.
After 10,000 files David’s inability to instantly recall the names of everyone who he had signed a letter about is also not unusual. What is really unusual is this expectation that he should be omnipotent. And it would help if the letter could have actually achieved something, if not anything. The fact that it asked for a response as to when a decision could be made while acknowledging that a delay was inevitable is so sanguine that they should have tested it for tranquillisers.
But what is really egregious is the contrast in the treatment Labour and National receive from the media.
This morning the Herald sets out a very clear timeline from yesterday which shows that a senior members of this Government has been caught out lying. On May 9, 2014 Michael Woodhouse learned about the existence of the letter. He told John Key about this the next couple of days. Shortly after this he received a hard copy of the letter. At the same time a Herald OIA for the immigration file was declined on privacy grounds. By late May the Prime Minister’s office has a copy of the letter.
Then on June 16 the Herald ran the story about the Liu donation to the Labour Party. Two days later and the day after the gocha question the letter is provided by Immigration NZ to the Herald.
Yesterday at 2pm Mr Woodhouse denied telling Mr Key about the letters, then by 3 pm he said officials from his office briefed Mr Key’s office on the letters and then by 7 pm his office said the minister himself told Mr Key’s office about the letters and his office also gave copies of the letters to Mr Key’s office. It is amazing that Cunliffe should be criticised for forgetting something that happened 11 years ago but there is no criticism of Woodhouse for “forgetting” events that occurred in the past month.
You have to ask why a decision was made by Immigration NZ to give the letter to the Minister, release it under the OIA and only give David Cunliffe 5 minutes notice of the release. This factor is critical. It meant that Labour had a couple of hours after the letter had been released during which it tried to understand the implications of the letter while the right attacked and Labour looked messy. You have to question the independence of Immigration NZ and why it acted in a way that gave National a clear political advantage over Labour.
If you want to hear David’s response to this he very eloquently counterattacked on Morning Report this morning. Despite Guyon Espiner’s attempts to distract Cunliffe made his points well.
I wait with baited breath for a John Armstrong article saying that it may now be time for Michael Woodhouse to resign. And an interview where Guyon Espiner asks Key and Woodhouse tough questions about the mechanics of the release and why Woodhouse changed his story twice in 5 hours. Anything short of this will cement an already strong impression that the media has a double standard.