Hard News by Russell Brown


A Taito Spot

Could the Taito Phillip Field thing just be over, sometime? I say that not out of any partisan desire for damage limitation - Mr Field has not been high in my estimation since I spent time in his company years ago - but because I'm tired of listening to the blather from all sides.

The Prime Minister seems to be having trouble remembering what she actually said after the release of the Ingram report on Field's activities. Which was this:

"While the report does not find wrongdoing by Mr Field, it does imply errors of judgment. The Labour Party leadership and parliamentary whips will be working with Mr Field on the issues raised, in particular on the need for a Member of Parliament to keep personal and professional distance from those being advocated for and on the adverse perception which may attach to the practice of lafo when gifts are received," Helen Clark said.

But yesterday, commenting on the extraordinary news that the police are to charge the Mangere MP with 14 counts of bribery, she said:

"It was clear when the Ingram report came out that it was a damning report. The remaining issue was whether the behaviour was in the realm of the unethical, immoral and wrong, or whether it had gone over a line to illegality."

Um, right.

It's not just her, of course. John Armstrong seems to have bought another narrative in his Herald column today, when he says:

In Parliament yesterday, it conducted an early rehearsal of what will be a campaign focus on prime ministerial judgment by asking how Helen Clark's assertion after the Ingram report that Mr Field had only been guilty of "trying to be helpful to someone" squared with the news the MP was facing bribery charges under the Crimes Act.

But as the Herald itself reported last year, it went more like this:

In Parliament yesterday, National MP Lockwood Smith asked if Helen Clark's "maintenance of regular contact with Taito Phillip Field led her to stand by her statement of 14 September last year: "I think the only thing he is probably guilty of is trying to be helpful to someone; if not, why not?"

She replied: "Indeed I think he was, but I am awaiting a full report."

So she didn't really "assert" it, and it wasn't after the Ingram report (and although she probably had a reasonable idea of what was going to be in the report, she'd have been castigated if she'd been seen to pre-empt it in Parliament). This was her original statement, back in September 2005, when TVNZ broke the Thai-tiler story shortly before the election, as report, again, by the Herald:

Helen Clark said her initial reading of the situation when she saw what Mr Field had to say last week was that he was "trying to be helpful" to someone who came to him for assistance.

Meanwhile, Bill English was demanding in the House to know why she hadn't referred information she held to the police immediately before the election. This assumes that she actually had at that time information that demanded a referral to the police, and I frankly don't think she did. For God's sake, it’s taken the police a year to decide on a prosecution and we don't yet know what they learned in that time.

As the Herald editorial noted at the time, what she would have done had she not been a few days away from an election is suspend him forthwith from Cabinet until the facts could be determined. But that would have been political madness.

As it happened, Field wasn't reappointed to Cabinet after the election, and the Ingram inquiry (which was decreed by Clark a week after the story broke) took its endless time to find a great many unflattering facts about his conduct (as helpfully detailed by David Farrar). Was the Ingram inquiry inadequate and hampered by its terms of reference? With hindsight, yes. But not even National was saying so when the inquiry was announced.

So now the police - having taken even longer to determine the facts - have seen fit to charge Field, and it now seems that the matter will wind up in court in time for the next election.

Just to add to the general atmosphere of derangement, at the same time as National is bagging Clark for not rushing to the police the day after the story broke, Act's two MPs are alleging a conspiracy to influence the police in favour of prosecuting the MP because Clark wanted to see him dealt to. Sigh …

Anyway, I'm a little late today because I spent most of the morning being filmed for a Families Commission TV 'Action on Family Violence' ad campaign emphasising our collective responsibility for reinforcing social norms against family violence. Others involved include Ruben Wiki, Sir Paul Reeves, Phil Gifford and Alison Mau.

Apparently, I was impressively stern; no mean feat when you've done the same line 20 different ways (and then the light changed, or someone walked out of the lift …) until you're in danger of it turning to gobbledegook in your head. Still everyone was very nice (it does stagger me how many people it takes to film an ad) and I look forward to the campaign launching in late July.

So I've only got a shitload of work to get done before I can head off to bFM's Fancy New Bands showcase at the King's Arms tonight (it starts suitably early for old buggers like myself and my homie Andy Mo'). And on that note, ladies and gentlemen, the original video for The Saints 'Know Your Product'. Because it is simply great and always will be.

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