Written By: - Date published: 9:44 am, February 15th, 2015 - 68 comments
Categories: Gerry Brownlee, john key, national, national/act government, rodney hide, same old national, Steven Joyce - Tags: amy adams, mike sabin
Well that happened quickly.
I have dreamt since day one back in November 2008 that this National Government would revert to form and that people would see it for what its historical mission always destined it to be, a party for big business by the wealthy and supported by the belligerent. Then we could count down the days to its final denouement.
I have been a keen follower of political history. I was politically active back in 1975 and witnessed Rob Muldoon take the country by storm and then over the next nine years wreck it. He was an odious man, the extent of his skills as a chartered accountant meant that he was barely fit to run a small dairy let alone a country but through his aggressiveness and his insistence that he remained fully in control he almost destroyed the country. But it took nine long years to get rid of him. And losing the 1981 election because of the Springbok tour when the forces of justice were marginalised by the forces of the state and the insane decision to let the Springboks tour despite international obligations to the contrary taught me a great deal about politics. Muldoon and National had this keen ability to peer into the darkest areas of a Kiwi’s soul and appeal to their baser instincts.
It looks like we should again start counting down to the end of this National Government. Two totally unrelated issues will mean, I am sure, that this Government is toast. And in this term.
The first issue is that of SkyCity. You can tell how serious the issue was because of the timing of the release of news of the increased cost, December 20 is the graveyard day of graveyard days for the release of any sensitive information.
And when you review the history and the wide boy tactics that SkyCity used to stitch up a deal you really get a sense that a deal was concluded but then knowing they were in a superior position they relitigated it and relitigated it until the concessions flowed. These guys have perfected the art in various countries of sucking in imbecile politicians with the idea that a Convention Centre or enhanced gambling will deliver to them economic nirvana. As has been said Convention Centre advocates are like Monorail advocates but with better PR.
SkyCity is that devoid of humanity that it attempted to negotiate a reduction in the minimum gambling age. Get that? We can help the corporate bottom line by allowing younger and younger people to become gambling addicts. Is nothing sacred to them? If ever you wanted an example of corporate scum this is it.
Every political instinct in National’s collective consciousness should be screaming that providing further support to SkyCity is utterly insane. If you want to read an utterly rational and compelling argument why the deal should be cancelled then you can do no better than Matthew Hooton’s NBR column where no doubt for legal reasons he toned down the appropriate description of the SkyCity deal as being “close to corruption”.
And as reported by Fran O’Sullivan some money is going to be paid. From her recent Herald article:
The problem is that Joyce has been letting it be known within the commercial sector that the Government will eventually meet SkyCity somewhere on the cost overruns. This undercuts the Government’s negotiating hand.
Key may prove us wrong. But it appears that he and Joyce are hopelessly compromised and cannot afford to risk backing out of the deal or paying more money, no matter what the political damage is.
And if any further money is paid then it can be rightfully claimed that this government is selling state houses so that it can pour more money into a convention centre controlled by a casino. John Armstrong’s previous suggestion that the deal was verging on banana republic stuff could then be redefined with “verging on” being replaced with “is”.
The second issue is the ongoing question on when Key and National knew about Mike Sabin’s issues. Sabin is gone. He obviously has personal issues that are best dealt with outside of Parliament but with even hardened National supporters like Cameron Slater saying that the story was almost too horrible for words you know things are not good.
The issue is when did Key learned of Sabin’s problems. If it was before the last election the question will be why did he not do anything about it. If it was after the election then the question will be why did he appoint Sabin as chair of the Law and Order committee or allow him to remain there?
Readers will be aware that I have been very cautious to edit comments suggesting a link between Sabin’s personal issues and the prosecution of a prominent New Zealander in an unknown court for unknown offences. The Speaker’s comments this week threw this into a bit of turmoil however. Andrew Little’s speech suggesting that Sabin was under police investigation, which had been commented on by the media, was met with a response by the speaker that details had been suppressed by a court. The disclosure creates unusual legal issues but as pointed out by Andrew Geddis caution should still be exercised.
We then had the fascinating experience of Police Minister Michael Woodhouse claim it was not in the public interest for him to disclose the date he was told of Sabin’s difficulties by the Police. To complete the sense of absurdity he did not turn up in Parliament to answer questions last Thursday on when his office told Key’s office and Gerry Brownlee fronted the issue instead. Brownlee claimed that it was not even in the public interest for us to be told when the Police Minister told the PM’s office of Sabin’s difficulties.
The claim of public interest is absurd, particularly when it comes to when the Police Minister told Key’s office what was happening. As Rodney Hide said today in the Herald (yes you read that correctly),
[t]he questions that Government ministers won’t answer are precisely the ones that should be. And how can it be in the public interest not to be told the date of a briefing? Nothing other than political embarrassment can hang on that.
I fear ministers are confusing public interest with their own interest. It’s easy to see why.
To tell us who was briefed, and on what date, would be to tell us who was responsible for such an appalling and unacceptable undermining of Parliament.
But that’s how accountability works. Sure, it’s in ministers’ interest to duck and weave. But that is not the public interest.
And, yes, Sabin is gone. But a problem lingers: on what date were relevant ministers briefed about the police investigation – and why did they take no action?
It’s very uncomfortable. That’s all the more reason why we need answers.
Meanwhile the Herald confirmed from two sources that former minister Tolley and another minister, presumably the Justice Minister who by then would have been Amy Adams, were told in September that an MP was being investigated. Who knew what when has the potential of being politically explosive. And no John Armstrong, the issue is not a fizzer.
We live in strange days when Matthew Hooton and the NBR and Rodney Hide are offered up as the voices of sanity on a proudly left wing blog.
Either the SkyCity issue or the Sabin issue have the potential of causing immense damage to National. The combination of the two should make this Government all but terminal.