Winston Peters’ Conduct Is Neither Smart, Nor Wise.

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IT’S CLEAR THAT an important aspect of Jacinda Ardern’s political success is her willingness to seek – and take – advice. This is a much more important quality than people might think. The number of political leaders who neither seek, nor take, advice is distressingly high. Admittedly, a large part of successful leadership is learning to trust one’s own judgement. But, as Socrates so wisely pointed out more than 2,000 years ago: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a source of strength.

Sadly, at Jacinda’s right hand sits a man who does not know that he does not know. Winston Peters has climbed very high by trusting his own judgement. As many political observers have noted over the years, he likes to keep his cards very close to his chest. Rather than advisers, Peters relies upon cronies: old mates whom he trusts. Indeed, the only people Peters truly trusts are his oldest and dearest mates. Unfortunately, one does not appear to endear oneself to, or remain a mate of, the NZ First leader by telling him things he doesn’t want to hear. Which is, of course, the explanation for Peters repeated falls from grace.

Take this latest brouhaha concerning Lester Gray being photographed alongside journalist Guyon Espiner in the carpark of a Tauranga shopping centre. If, as Peters insists, the photograph was taken by a NZ First supporter who recognised both the party’s former president and the former television journalist, and was pretty confident the NZ First Party leadership would be interested to learn who was talking to who; then why didn’t he simply release the image to the media immediately? Why arrange for the photograph and its accompanying commentary to be posted on The BFD – a website deemed ideologically radioactive and off-limits by a substantial chunk of the journalistic profession? And why, having agreed to release the information under a fancifully false name, did Peters then admit to MagicTalk Radio’s Peter Williams: “We took those photographs.”?

Had Peters simply released the photograph, which any halfway competent media adviser would have recommended he do in the strongest possible terms, then he would have been well-placed to ask Espiner and his RNZ bosses some very direct questions.

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Were they aware that they were in possession of confidential financial and personal information obtained in contravention of the Privacy Act?

Is the way in which this illegally obtained information is being drip-fed to the public inspired by journalistic, or political, considerations?

If the story is being driven forward for political purposes, then on whose behalf?

Questions such as these could have materially influenced the direction and impact of Espiner’s story.

Very similar questions were asked of Nicky Hager by the National Party, when a similar cache of private information, also obtained illegally, became the basis for his 2014 exposé, Dirty Politics. To be fair to Hager, however, he did not drip-feed his material strategically, to carefully selected journalists and media outlets, over many weeks and months, in order to achieve a predetermined political outcome. Instead, he released his story – entire and whole – in book form, and let the public make up its own mind.

Observing Espiner’s body-language on RNZ’s Checkpoint programme, as he was interviewed about Peters’ photograph by his friend and colleague, Lisa Owen, his extreme discomfort and embarrassment was painfully clear. Also obvious, was just how furious the biters were at being bit. Apparently, there is nothing at all wrong with using illegally obtained information, clearly capable of materially influencing the outcome of a general election, when such behaviour is being undertaken in the public interest. But, let the object of the news media’s “investigative journalism” just once display the temerity to show the public exactly how its journalistic sausages are made, and see how explosively  the noble Fourth Estate erupts in outrage!

It is most unlikely that the New Zealand news media appreciates just how bitterly the members of NZ First resented the way politicians and journalists conspired to drive Winston Peters and his party out of Parliament in 2008. That bitterness was well merited. Only rarely has such unabashed collaboration been displayed so brazenly. That none of the formal charges against Peters were ever upheld counted for nothing. He had been convicted by “the powerful Privileges Committee” of Parliament – and that was enough. One might equally observe that Donald Trump was acquitted by the unbiased and disinterested United States Senate!

Expressed another way, elements of the New Zealand news media, no more than a handful of journalists, publishers and broadcasters, used its power to effectively disempower the 95,356 New Zealanders – 4.07 percent of registered voters – who supported NZ First in the 2008 General Election. It is most unlikely that John Key’s decision to rule out any coalition with NZ First would have secured that party’s departure from Parliament without the unceasing and vicious journalistic assaults inflicted on Peters – and the Labour-led government – by their no-holds-barred enemies in the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Should we really be surprised that the tens-of-thousands of NZ First supporters who remember the events of 2008 might be especially sensitive to what looks like another assault by the “Media Party” in 2020? Is it any wonder that, when a person sympathetic to NZ First looked out the window of a café in Tauranga and saw Lester Gray chatting away amicably to Guyon Espiner, he or she pressed “Record” and captured the scene for posterity?

The great shame, at least from the perspective of NZ First’s electoral base, is that their party’s leader proved to be so ham-fisted in his use of the photographic evidence he was sent. Peters’ obsession with keep things secret; his over-hasty recourse to denial and/or evasion; has served him and his supporters very ill – not only in this matter, but also in relation to the whole fraught business of political fundraising. To have lost one election by mishandling a donation might be forgiven as an accident. Risking the loss of a second, for the same offence, goes well beyond carelessness.

Presented with a similar evidential gift, Jacinda would have been wise enough to ask for professional advice. What’s more, she would’ve been smart enough to take it.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Ok. I got to where you write:
    “IT’S CLEAR THAT an important aspect of Jacinda Ardern’s political success is her willingness to seek – and take – advice.” (Yep. That’s right. It was the first sentence. )
    No, it’s not. It’s clear to me that her political success is as a result of some pretty cunning marketing capitalizing on her arguably attractive face parts from which she can fire up such a toothy smile as to be able to calm the most inquisitive breast.
    ” Oh look. Jacinda is eating babies…! But look at that smile…? Aaawwwwww….”
    Otherwise, one must confess, she’s done fuck all. ( Largely because we haven’t insisted she does.) I still see homeless people in a rich country with more house building timbers than a bull can shit.
    In Bluff? You been there? There is now a second Bluff Hill. Comprised of wood chips heading to China to be pressed into cheap arse panel from which junk furniture is built to be resold back to us at enormous mark-up prices through Kiwi Bank New Zealander of The Year Sir stevie tindal’s The Ware House.
    Seriously… There’s literally a hill of wood chips being ever bull dozed higher and higher. ( Timber grown on what was once AO/NZ lands but is now Chinese owned lands? Shall we go there? Jacinda? Shall we ? )

    When is even one of you eurodite commentors and posters here going to realise that we were, and are, being swindled. winston peters’ job is to make sure that, that swindling’s not sprung and that labour and national are one and the same and every single honest, well intended and truly caring politician I can think of that dared to have a go is either dead or banished.

    There are no political complexities going on here to see who can best do well by us.
    They don’t care. The ones left to slither about in our parliament don’t care for you and me. And them caring for you and me is why we pay them, remember? We must remember that! We pay them. We pay them to do their very best by us. Not business. Not foreigners, most of whom don’t pay taxes here. Not themselves. But us.
    So? Jacinda? How come enduring homelessness? How come child poverty? How come skyrocketing house rentals? How come suiciding farmers? How come 67 calls to the police a day re suicide threats? How come Pot’s ( and all recreational drugs for that matter )still illegal? How is it that peter theil walked right past our immigration office? Why are you selling our lands to the Chinese and others? How come we’re deeply fucked to foreign banksters pimping sub prime loans to an artificially inflated property market which will only become a foreign land grab.
    How come you’re defending winston peters?
    Is it because you and your cronies have a library full of swindles and sharp deals done to hide?
    We, us people ARE AO/NZ. Not them. We, all of us, are the engine room of a beautiful paradise and we, the people, are letting swine get away with most terrible things.
    winston peters isn’t confused. He’s not bound up by ‘his way of doing things’. He’s a fucking crook!
    I hope this shit leads to a very public Royal Commission of Inquiry.

  2. For fucks sake. The paparazzi and Espinerites stalk politicians all the time for career enhancing gotcha moments. Someone politically inclined takes a photo of the stalkers Espiner and someone else and suddenly its a federal crime. So they give a photo to slime slater blog . Love Bennet’s faux outrage…. and the media thinking, “Oh boy we’ve got something on Winston. Lets make a meal of it. and pay the bastard back”But isn’t it funny how it’s now Jacinda’s problem and somehow she’s at fault.
    Its trivial….trivial…trivial. A mini shitstorm in a toilet bowl. I might even party vote NZ 1st because of this ridiculous nonsense. Grow up New Zealanders.

    • “But isn’t it funny how it’s now Jacinda’s problem and somehow she’s at fault.”

      She has put herself in the line of fire

      At the slightest sniff of impropriety both Clark and Key would have required Peters to step down from his ministerial role. The cabinet manual requires the “highest ethical standards” from minsters. But this goes much much further: He is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for God’s sake! (The clue is in their name.)

      Obviously she knows of the ramifications of this, so one wonders why she hasn’t acted:

      Has Peters threatened to bring down the coalition if she acts, and she so desperate to cling on to power that she’ll let this awful man control her? If so she will regret it in the long run because it’s undermining her credibility more for or ever day he remains in the position.

      Does Peters have some dirt on her? I’m thinking something like Sroubek here…if you were plugged into the Grey Lynn community you’d know what was going on.

      • You really are a laugh, Andrew. How come key sacked nobody concerned with the risible Saudi-Arabian sheep deal, now shown to have been totally shonky.
        Trying to align Key with Clarke is also ridiculous

      • ‘She has put herself in the line of fire’
        Lovely vague metaphor, signifying nothing.
        I prefer shitstorm in a toilet bowl.

    • Yep, that’s the bottom line.

      Based on previous voting patterns in Northland, NZF simply cannot win a toehold seat.

      • Previous voting patterns were on the back of many National “promises “.
        NZ First are delivering on their promises and that’s the difference . Add in the promotion of a shift of ports from Auckland to Northland and Northland is NZ First to lose.

  3. Aside from the obvious behaviour of Winston in very unwisely allowing these photos too make their way too Slaters sewage farm what about Espineer and RNZ’s involvement here.

    Should they be engaged in what is clearly another hatchet job against NZF ?

    Look if they have not abided by the laws around donations too the party then they deserve too be censured.

    But why the hell is a public broadcaster doing with this and having Espineer who has done spade work mainly for the incoming National government in 2008 with his concerted campaign against the Clark government and Winston over Owen Glenn fronting this.

    Just as TVNZ who should be impartial but are seriously not and supported the campaign against Clark in 2005 with Brash and then Key.

    There is a serious problem here and it goes right too the heart of our public broadcasting that has become an attack dog for right wing parties and governments.

    It is brainwashing propaganda and is an outrage.

    • At best our media is corrupt at worst bias right wing trumpeters.
      As an aside I read where Bridges has made a statement that he did not know about the second $100,000 donation and that the details that were released ” leads to I think speculation and so on, that can be pretty unhelpful- in fact misleading ”

      Well that didn’t stop he or Bennett speculating and making misleading statements that they clearly put into the public domain for their own benefit. Hypocrisy of the dirty politics style.

  4. “ The Media Party ”

    The only political party that never has too worry about its polling or removal from parliament.
    And has the biggest membership of any of the others and is already tax payer funded.

    And we all indirectly vote for them every three years.

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