Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Barclay and arrogance

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  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    I will forever treasure her wailing "you lied!" in any case.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Sacha,

    Brings to mind the classic Bulwer-Lytton contest entry:

    The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the toad's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"

    --Barbara C. Kroll, Pennsylvania (1983 runner-up)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Melanie Reid on RNZ – good rundown on the details and more on the state of journalism. Go newsroom!

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank,

    Blinglish keeps trying to frame the scandal as an employment dispute. Does this frame really separate it from the Nats, as he keeps suggesting? Notice how careful he has been to avoid specifying the complainant's employer. Notice how most of our media have yet to hone in on this crux of the issue.

    Leftists have been accusing him of a cover-up as if he was her employer, because he cites the confidentiality agreement as the reason he's not involved, and indeed it seems to be why nobody can explore all the details of what happened - so it is an effective cover-up device. Note this from Melanie Reid: "A few days later she heard Barclay had bugged her office. A friend urged her to consult employment lawyer Kathryn Dalziel. Dickson says the Parliamentary Service (her employer) confirmed to Dalziel that Barclay had recordings of her conversations — conversations he was not a party to." So she's employed by PS, not by the National Party.

    That also informs us that Barclay's recordings were illegal - the law only allows you to record conversations in which you participate. Newsroom reports that Dalziel negotiated the confidentiality agreement on behalf of Dickson with PS, so Jane Clifton writes "The Gore agent’s ensuing severance was arranged through the Parliamentary Service, with a sneaky top-up from the Prime Minister’s discretionary (and handily confidential) fund to atone for the taping. All perfectly legal – but arranged with continued secrecy in mind." So public funding of the cover-up was officially authorised by Parliamentary Services, to the relief of all Nats involved.

    The government website informs us that the "Parliamentary Service, established in 1985, is headed by the General Manager who is accountable to the Speaker for the running of the Service." Since the beast was created by Labour, and the Labour leader this morning waxed eloquent about taking moral responsibility, how fast will the left force accountability for the moral corruption of PS upon the GM and Speaker? Given their track record I expect the historical left/right collusion to maintain the status quo - usually corruption in the public service has been covered up by punishing whistle-blowers. But maybe we'll get a pleasant surprise..

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    They've made a complete hash of it. A new MP can dispose of the staff in their electorate office without reason, just because they don't feel confident in them. Barclay didn't do that though. He wanted to score over Dickson and have her fired for disloyal comments. So he recorded her illegally.

    My guess is that, when he went to Parliamentary Services with his recordings, they reared back on their hind legs and said "You've broken the law! We're not touching that! However, as you don't need a particular reason, we will facilitate her termination."

    I'd guess also that the head of PS had a quiet word with the Speaker (his boss), who then had a quiet word with the PM (Key) about the nature of Barclay's actions. Having been made aware of an illegal act, PS would be bound to report it, but not necessarily to the Police.

    Hands up anyone who doesn't think that the PM would confer with his deputy about such a matter, or the previous member for that seat? Oh. look, it's the same person, and it's the same person who was at his side when he demanded search warrants in the Bradley Ambrose matter, who's been heard trying to say this week that he didn't know taping was illegal. And English may be list only, but do you really think he's going to hand the place off to a spotty 23 year old with no supervision? I don't.

    It doesn't need to be corruption of PS to make this happen. I'm sure they went exactly by the book, as they always do, and that any payment from them was totally above board. The payment from the Leader's fund will have been separate, so as not to appear in Parliament's accounts.

    No-one has yet connected the dots to Carter and he had to be involved by virtue of his authority over and responsibility for Parliament. Either he or Key or both should have called the cops in.

    English doesn't have to be Dickson's employer to be guilty of a cover-up of a crime that he falsely claims to be an employment dispute.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Newsroom has letters showing how deeply the Nat party board was involved in the cover-up.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    Cripes. Newsroom has really played this out nicely.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank, in reply to nzlemming,

    Hmm. Your case for the PS seems plausible. Public servants aren't actually contracted to serve the public, right? I mean there's no clause in the employment contract they sign that requires them to do so. They just do so to the extent that they feel like it.

    So I presume Palmer, on behalf of the Lange govt, designed a law that allows PS the discretion you describe. Thus left/right collusion facilitating cover-up of a crime by an MP. Colleagues of Palmer averse to melodrama may prefer we see it as a sin of omission. To a liberal, pretence of accountability suffices - no need to enforce it. To anti-establishment folks left/right doesn't matter when their political behaviour renders them sinners all.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Actually, public servants are required to serve the Government of the day. Your bias has you reading things that aren't there.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank, in reply to nzlemming,

    Yeah but the thing that isn't there is what I'm getting at. They were actually called public servants originally to propound the delusion that left/right governments operate to serve the public (rather than their own interests). Or do you have some other rationale for the name??

    So are you saying a clause in their contract requires them to serve the government of the day? Just curious - I've never seen one. Because that would make them political partisans, whereas the public think they are being served by them. It's quite a popular delusion. It would make you quite correct to imply that PS did what they did to serve the Nats (because their employment contract requires that).

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Dennis Frank,

    My understanding is that Parliamentary Services are there to service the Parliamentary branch of government (the legislature), not the Executive branch of government (the Ministers and Cabinet). Public servants who work within Departments serve the Executive branch of government (in other words, the CEOs and staff are responsible to a Minister of the Crown). In that respect, their work programme is determined by the Executive and the Executive can require certain things of them, but they are supposed to provide ‘free and frank’ advice. A part of that is critical analysis of the Executive’s direction. The idea of them servicing the public/being ‘public servants’ doesn’t have much meaning in law to my knowledge.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Simplest fix is to make parliamentary services covered by the OIA.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Dennis Frank,

    All you could want to know about what public servants should and should not do is here at the SSC who I note are now using "State Servants" as a role name. The UK Civil Service is the model, and it was set up under the Public Service Act 1912 as a way of avoiding jobs being handed out by politicians as patronage. There's quite a good 100th anniversary publication by Redmer Yska available from the site. The idea of public servants being specifically "servants of the public" is a misunderstanding. Public service, as defined in Wikipedia is:

    "... a service which is provided by government to people living within its jurisdiction, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing provision of services.

    which may be the reason SSC is now using "State Servants". It's 12 years since I was last employed by the gummint (at the SSC) so I don't know the reason for the change.

    Government agencies are politically neutral (and there are quite strict requirements on staff who are personally active politically) but they are part of the Executive Branch of Government and their job is to provide policy advice (which these days goes unheeded by Ministers), execute the statutory functions of government and implement such policy initiatives as the Government of the day may implement.

    There was never a contract clause (at least, not in any of mine) that specified that you served the GotD, but there was always a clause that you had to abide by the terms of the Code of Conduct. There is no particular legal requirement for a public/state servant to report a crime any more than an ordinary member of the public, though it is expected. This means you can pay tax on the profits of crime legitimately to the IRD and they are unable to tell the Police about the crime itself. At least they were - it's 20 years since I worked at IRD and data sharing has changed how a lot of this stuff interacts.

    All that said, it doesn't actually apply to Parliamentary Services. Parliament is not part of the Government of the day - it is a sovereign entity that the Government of the day reports to, hence Question Time. They are constitutionally independent and fiercely protective of that, to the point that they requested parliament.nz as a second level domain name because they felt they did not fit under govt.nz. And I had no real reason not to give it to them. All the Offices of Parliament report to the Speaker, not the Government, as does PS. They're not subject to the OIA, as ordinary MPs are not subject to it either. Only Ministers of the Crown, and the agencies that report to them, fall under the official information rubric. There are valid reasons for this, under constitutional law.

    In summary, if PS did what I suggested some posts back, then they followed the correct course of action in reporting the matter to the Speaker. Normally, I would not expect every employment matter to go to the Speaker, but each Speaker runs the shop his or her own way. I do believe that, if the Speaker was made aware that a crime may have been committed by an MP and that it impacted on a PS staff member, then he should have contacted the police and referred the matter to them for investigation. There is no indication that that happened.

    I would also expect the Speaker to raise the matter with the leader of the relevant party, in this case the PM. I would also expect that the PM should liaise with the Police on the matter, and instruct his MP to front up. There is no indication that that happened either. All indications are that the PM ordered the cover up and supplementary payment for Joyce Dickson's silence. I really cannot see that PS would allow that payment to be channeled via them, but the Speaker may have ordered it. If it was a separate payment, there is no question of it being an employment matter, because the party did not employ Dickson - PS did.

    I suspect Newsroom has a few more stories to file...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    Simplest fix is to make parliamentary services covered by the OIA.

    Legally speaking, that's problematic. Official information is information received or generated by the Government of the day. Parliament is constitutionally separate. I would not want to see a situation arise where Parliament is subject to the wishes of the Government, and extending the OIA might be the thin end of the wedge.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    The idea of them servicing the public/being ‘public servants’ doesn’t have much meaning in law to my knowledge.

    Correct. It's a misunderstanding that has been fostered by successive governments along the lines of "We're from the government, we're here to help". :-D

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to nzlemming,

    All indications are that the PM ordered the cover up and supplementary payment for Joyce Dickson’s silence.

    Yes, it has John Key's way of operating all over it. The fact that he had no respect for our institutions of governance or for our constitutional laws, instruments and conventions was one of the most revolting things about him to my mind.

    He was a cowboy PM, but that's probably unfair to cowboys.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    they requested parliament.nz as a second level domain name because they felt they did not fit under govt.nz. And I had no real reason not to give it to them.

    So that was your doing. I get a constitutional reminder every time I get it wrong. #onya

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    All indications are that the PM ordered the cover up and supplementary payment for Joyce Dickson's silence.

    I'd finger Eagleson for that. Can't imagine Key would want to be involved - plausible deniability as well as below his sense of pay grade.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank, in reply to nzlemming,

    Thanks for the in-depth clarification. Very helpful. My concern is the extent to which the public interest is being served by our governmental structure, and if it isn't (which appears proven in this case), then what law change or constitutional reform do we need to fix the problem.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    The PM squirms like a twisty turny thing this morning with both Hilary Barry and Suzie Ferguson. Wonder what regular TVNZ-watching voters make of that first clip?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Sacha,

    He keeps saying that the police investigated it and chose not to prosecute - therefore he was satisfied the matter had been dealt with by the appropriate authorities. Conveniently leaving out the fact that Todd refused to front up to them.

    One would assume that someone within the police would have informed someone who was seen to be Todd's superior (within either the party or the Parliament), that Todd was refusing to give a statement?

    And even if they did not do that, surely they would have informed someone (other than Todd's lawyer) that the case had been closed.

    Someone should ask Bill English how he came to understand the case had been closed and what reason was given to him for that action.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    MPs don't have superiors (in their capacity as MPs). And it's improper for the police to inform people of their interaction with a witness/suspect in order to pressurise that person.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    So how did Bill English know the investigation had been closed I wonder – was it just from the media reporting that it had – or did Todd Barclay or the then PM or the Party hierarchy inform him, I wonder?

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    I'm not saying that the police don't improperly inform people of the progress of investigations, but that they often shouldn't.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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