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Q+A: Phil Goff talks about Richard Worth

Published: 1:17PM Sunday June 07, 2009 Source: Q+A

PHIL GOFF interviewed by PAUL HOLMES

PAUL But we now know it was the Labour Leader Phil Goff who first raised, with the Prime Minister, the first concerns about Dr Worth and another woman. Mr Goff believes Mr Key acted too slowly when he found out last week about a police investigation. Thank you very much Phil Goff for joining us.

PHIL GOFF - Leader of the Opposition. Good morning Paul.

You have said it very clearly, you believe that Mr Key acted too slowly - but it was only a week, there was no suggestion Dr Worth was an axe murderer running around. I mean a week is pretty fast.

PHIL Well let's make it clear we're talking about the second case now, the case that I don't know the background to&.

PAUL Once you heard about the Police investigation...right, yeah...

PHIL ...but Mr Key said on the programme that he heard about this a week earlier. Why did it take a week after he had lost confidence in Dr Worth for him to remove him from his ministerial responsibilities and his ministerial salary?

I suppose because he had a budget coming - his first budget - and Mr Worth was outside cabinet really, he was internal affairs Minister.

Well that undoubtedly was the answer Paul, but is it appropriate to leave a person that you've lost confidence in, fulfilling Ministerial responsibilities, even though you've lost confidence in him in order not to overshadow your budget.

But it was only a week Mr Goff, what damage was done by Dr Worth staying there?

Well generally, if you've lost confidence in somebody then you remove that person from his position of responsibility as soon as you've lost confidence in him - to say that you've got a budget and you don't want to overshadow the budget is not really a good reason for leaving a person that you no longer have confidence in.

There's another strange development that's happened too - the woman at the centre of the police investigation appears to have complained about another man. He strenuously denies that
anything happened - might Mr Key have rushed to judgement?

Well, I think the really curious thing on the Tuesday morning was that John Key put out a press statement ..

This is last Tuesday morning

PHIL ...
last Tuesday morning at 0930 saying this is a private matter, Dr Worth is going, but he would be making no further comment about that. By 1130 not only was he making comment, but he entirely dumped on Richard Worth saying - as you quoted in the intro to the programme - that he was guilty of conduct that was unbefitting a Minister - he had in fact at that point acted as judge, jury and executioner.
So what changed between 0930 and 1130? Well I think what changed was that the media said you can't possibly say a Minister has resigned and say you're not going to make comment about it.

PAUL Give us some information. that's right. Let's clear up your particular bit of business. Your approach to John Key about this other woman - the Labour Party member in Auckland. When was this, when did you approach him?

PHIL I rang him, I arranged for a phone call to him and rang him on the night of the 6th of May, it was about 9-9.30 at night. I said I had a problem, a woman had come to me with a complaint - the complaint was twofold, one that she had been offered particular positions under the portfolio of Dr Worth. One was as an ethnic affairs advisor, the second was as a member of the Lotteries Grant Board. That would have been OK in itself, curious because he knew this woman was a Labour party member and I said that to John Key, but what subsequently occurred indicated that the offer of those positions was as the basis to developing a sexual relationship with the woman - I believe that was inappropriate -

PAUL Hang on, how was that stated though? I mean was that baldly stated - the jobs are if we can see each other?

PHIL No, the first instance it was said "I will offer you these jobs, you will need to resign from the Labour Party and join the National Party". What subsequently became clear predominately through telephone calls - and there were dozens and dozens of telephone calls - was that this was about developing a sexual relationship, the comments at times were, the woman says, vulgar, they were sexually explicit.
That is unbecoming of a Minister, but it is from my point of view, what was wrong - I mean I don't like sleaze and I don't even like raising sleaze in politics...but was wrong - let me just finish this point Paul - what was wrong with that is that no Minister should be offering official positions in response for developing a relationship with another person.

PAUL Alright, why did you go so quietly to John Key, why did you want to handle this so quietly?

PHIL Firstly, that was the desire of the woman, her husband and family, they felt very uncomfortable about this, they are migrants to this country

PAUL She's a married woman

PHIL .. she's a married woman, this is a Minister of the Crown that they're dealing with...

PAUL Yes but why did you go quietly...why give, for example, you're the opposition leader, why give the Prime Minister, your opponent, a break?.

PHIL Well, well a couple of reasons for that. One I wanted to protect the privacy of the woman and her family and secondly, while I feel no compunction to protect Dr Worth, he has a family as well. I didn't particularly want this sort of thing in the public arena. And thirdly it seemed to me that this was the appropriate way of dealing with the issue - to let John Key know what I'd been told and he told me yes, he'd heard these sort of rumours before...

PAUL OK, I'm interested in what Key's reaction was when you went to him with this complaint, did he indicate to you that there had been other matters in this area that he might have heard about?

PHIL Yes, he made it very clear to me that he'd heard rumours of this nature before and that was one of the reasons why Dr Worth had not been made Speaker in the Parliament he said. He said that he would follow it up, and I went to him in good faith and I accepted in good faith that he would follow it up. His Chief of Staff came not to me but to my private secretary subsequently to say the matter had been dealt with although Dr Worth had denied it.

PAUL Well John Key believed his Minister as he had to...didn't he?

PHIL No, no..

PAUL Just as you people had to believe Winston Peters last year and said you have to accept the word of an honourable member. Actually John Key only lasted a week in his loyalty, you stuck out for months.

PHIL No no I think, look any person is entitled to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty. In terms of the criminal complaints I've got no comment about that case, I know nothing about it.

PAUL Alright

PHIL But in terms of this woman, I felt she was credible, when I spoke to John Key about &

PAUL Yes but she wanted it to be kept silent, you've said one of the reasons you went silently to Key was because you knew the woman didn't want to be embarrassed. So with a police investigation that was announced was underway last Tuesday, you suddenly open up and the woman's everywhere.

PHIL No, no that's not true Paul, if you look at what happened

PAUL And you've convicted the fellow as well

PHIL No no, it was John Key that brought this matter into the public arena, I had no intention of making a comment about this matter. John Key raised it with the journalists in parliament on his way to parliament, he raised it in parliament. He brought it into the arena, the journalists then came to me to say well the Prime Minister clearly thinks that you know something about this, what involvement have you had?

PAUL Right, some very quick answers please Mr Goff - are those texts that the woman has, still on her phone, are they still available?

PHIL Some of the texts are, some that she found particularly offensive she's deleted.

PAUL From what we know of them they weren't particularly lewd were they?

PHIL No the texts simply create the context for what happened in the telephone conversation, it was the telephone conversations where the sexually explicit comments were made that she regarded as vulgar and offensive.

PAUL In making what you believe was an association between the offer of a job and some kind of opening a channel for a sexual relationship, was Dr Worth being corrupt?

PHIL I think he was being inappropriate.

PAUL Corrupt?

PHIL I've said inappropriate

PAUL The National Party board are meeting in Wellington today, they'll presumably be discussing this matter - we understand John Key's going to be there. What should happen to Dr Worth?

PHIL Well, that's a decision for Mr Key, and he has already said that he believed that the behaviour was inappropriate, unbefitting a Minister and that really there was a question over Mr er Dr Worth's continuing position within the National Caucus and indeed in parliament. What does the complainant who brought the complaint to me ask for? One thing, one thing only - that Mr Key honour the promise that he made to her on radio that he would meet so he could judge her credibility, her sincerity and her truthfulness because she believes that has been brought into question.

PAUL Phil Goff I thank you very much for coming on the programme this morning.

PHIL Thank you Paul

PAUL Thank you very much for your time.

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