Hosted by SUSAN WOOD
In response to WINSTON PETERS interview
SUSAN Time to welcome the panel - Dr Jon Johansson from Victoria University; Michelle Boag, former National Party president; Mike Williams, former Labour Party president. Jon, I'm going to start with you on that. Winston Peters - he said, 'The Minister has been leaking like a sieve. Peter Dunne's denials are futile in the extreme.' He seen the emails; it seems he has the proof.
DR JON JOHANSSON - Political Scientist
Yeah, well, David Henry seemed to come to the same conclusions as well by ruling out two other people that interacted with Andrea Vance at Fairfax and, you know, pointed to the same conclusion. I think where this episode is different from other episodes of leaking is because of the national security implications. Now, we only have one parliamentary oversight of the intelligence community, and that is the Intelligence and Security Committee. Now, there have been suggestions, and I think this is going to come up into the House directed at the Prime Minister. There are suggestions that there have been earlier leaks from that committee. Now, this is national security. There is no higher information that you want to protect, so it's that sensitivity which makes me think that this issue is not going to go away any time soon and that the Prime Minister does have legitimate questions he is going to have to answer about that committee and about Peter Dunne's role in it.
SUSAN Michelle Boag, Winston Peters is going pretty hard on the Prime Minister, questioning his handling of it, saying he should've done something sooner, saying he should've gone to the police about it. Your view?
MICHELLE BOAG - Former National Party President
You've got to remember that this particular report that Peter Dunne may have leaked was not a classified document. He has broken no law. All he has done, if he did it-
JON It's arguable, I think.
MICHELLE No, no, it's not arguable, because he didn't have the appendices, which were classified. The report was going to be released anyway in a week, so all he did was basically break an embargo. That by itself is not a criminal offence. I think what Winston Peters is alleging, and forgive me for being amused about the master leaker being so indignant about somebody leaking, what he is saying is that there is other information in the emails which would suggest that Peter Dunne has leaked classified information. Now, my question is how does he know? There is only one other person who could have given him access to those emails, and that is Andrea Vance. There is no other way that he could get that information except through Andrea Vance, and I have to ask what sort of game is she playing? Because I understand she's also very close to Grant Robertson. Winston Peters has defined for us whatever the relationship is. There's certainly talk around the beltway about-
SUSAN No fool like an old fool.
MICHELLE Yeah, that. She clearly- It looks as if she may have led him on, he fell for it hook, line and sinker, she was clearly sharing information with other political adversaries, and that's the only way that Winston Peters could have that information - is if she'd supplied to him.
SUSAN Mike, is Peter Dunne gone-burgers?
MIKE WILLIAMS - Former Labour Party President
Yes. Yeah, this is end-of-career stuff, and if I was his president and I was advising him, I would say, 'Go quickly and cleanly.' He's got two options here. That is the first one. The second is death by a thousand cuts. He's had a good career, and I think we should acknowledge his achievements. He was behind the methamphetamine strategy, which has cut methamphetamine use by half in six years. But the party is over for Peter Dunne.
SUSAN But the reality is, Mike, if Winston Peters is correct and if those emails have in them what he's told us this morning have in them, he has misled Parliament, he has misled the public, and he has lied to the Prime Minister and to everybody.
MIKE Which is why he should go quickly and cleanly and think of his family. It's over, Peter. He's got the gold-plated superannuation. He's been in Parliament for 30 years. He can start collecting, as I understand it, tomorrow. It would be far better just to walk away from it. Look, a by-election - I think National would probably win, so there's not much in it for John Key. But I think John Key has been remiss here and - I think Winston very carefully pointed that out - is not reacting very strongly and quickly. It's going to go on for weeks, and it will be nasty for both National and for Peter Dunne.
SUSAN Michelle, would that be your advice if you were his party president?
MICHELLE I think Peter-
JON You haven't got one when there's no party.
SUSAN Well, if he had a party and if he had a president.
MICHELLE He- I think Peter Dunne needs to make this decision. He- There are only two people who know what's in those emails, assuming that the other party-
MIKE Potentially three.
MICHELLE Yeah, that's right. Well, assuming that Winston Peters has seen them. Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance know what's in the emails. If there is a leak of classified information, then he is in trouble. Therefore, if he is in trouble and there would be a criminal prosecution or grounds for one, then clearly he should go, and he may well choose to do that. He may well choose to.
MIKE I don't think there's any if about whether Winston has these emails. He told us he had the tape of the tea party at the Urban Café in Parnell. And in the fullness of time, it turned out he was absolutely correct. He's a straight shooter. He's got them. It's just-
MICHELLE Well, I think calling him a straight shooter is a bit of an exaggeration, if you remember the 'no' sign when asked about Owen Glenn's $100,000.
MIKE I actually know about that. He was again telling the truth. There was no donation to New Zealand First. The donation was to Brian Henry, the lawyer. Winston's 'no' was correct.
SUSAN Jon, Peter Dunne - does he have a future even in Parliament out off the ministerial benches?
JON No, and, you know, it is a sad and, unfortunately for Peter, pathetic end to what has been, I acknowledge with Mike, you know, a fulsome and largely constructive career. And that is the great tragedy - what's happened here. But I think another issue here is that if he doesn't actually go - leave Parliament altogether - then this is going to dog the Government - John Key and National - all the way through the election. Because, remember, everybody thought this was put to bed by Judith Collins, but by not acting on the MMP review, she has now created the perception that John Key is willing to propped up by these two artefacts, one discredited - Peter Dunne - the other person, who's in the dock - John Banks. Now, this is not a good look-
SUSAN It's a bad look for the Government, actually, Michelle, isn't it? Either way- Yeah, either way you cut that one, it's a bad look for John Key.
MICHELLE Yeah, but I think Mike's right. National would win a by-election in Ohariu-Belmont. They got 18,000 party votes, and it's not going to affect the proportionality of Parliament if there's a National candidate. It does affect what happens after the election if there's no United Future Party, but that may well have happened anyway.
JON Well, this is one of the things I was thinking of - is, you know, in this rush now to get 500 members, how many people are going to be put off or how many people have said, 'Yes, I'm going to join United,' now think, 'Oh, I'm not touching it.'
MIKE Well, how many people- how many of the 499 are resigning right now?
SUSAN Well, you would wonder. Just a quick comment, Mike, on Winston Peters as kingmaker, which he seems to be very adeptly back in that role. He didn't give Corin much information on which way he'd go, did he, apart from the asset sales.
MIKE No, he didn't. Look, the polls are all over the place at the moment, but there is a strong suggestion that New Zealand First will be the pivot party after the next election.
SUSAN And David Shearer will happily work with Winston Peters, won't he?
MIKE Well, if you look at the history, Winston Peters has been in coalition with National. Well, that didn't work out. There was a blow-up with Jenny Shipley. He spent a period supporting the Helen Clark Labour Government, which, in my view- well, I think it was very successful. I mean, he lost- He came under attack, unfairly, in my view, as I've just said, and got a touch under the 5%. I don't think there's any doubt New Zealand First will get the 5%-plus next time, but I think he was a good Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he could've done very well.
SUSAN Michelle, could you see him as a Minister of Foreign Affairs in a Key-led government?
MICHELLE I don't know about Foreign Affairs - a very delicate time for New Zealand with the Security Council vote.
SUSAN But he would work with John Key? John Key would work with Winston Peters?
MICHELLE I think Winston Peters would work with anyone if it gave him the right deal. The big question is would he rather be number two with a big party, or would he rather be the third cab off the ranks after Labour and the Greens? And you've got a much stronger negotiating position as number two.
JON And that's very well put by Michelle, though I'd slightly change that to say it's between being number, as Michelle says - I accept that - versus propping up for a third time in his political career, a third-term government. Two previous examples have ended in a train wreck for New Zealand First, so does he want to replicate that? That is part of-
MIKE And he explored that alternative of sitting on the cross benches.
MIKE But he also gave you the issues that he's concerned about - you know, privatisation.
SUSAN Very good. Thank you, panel. Back with you soon.