Another National double standard.

Maurice Williamson is forced to resign as Minister because he made a phone call to the police asking them to be undertake a thorough review and be “on solid ground” when investigating a domestic violence incident involving a wealthy Chinese friend of his who invested a lot of money in New Zealand (the same Chinese fellow granted citizenship over the objections of immigration authorities, and who donated more than NZ$ 20 thousand to National in 2012).

Judith Collins retains her ministerial portfolios in spite of revelations that she interceded with Chinese officials on behalf of her husband’s export company while on an official visit to China that had nothing to do with exports or trade.

What is similar and what is different about the two cases? They are similar in that they both involve Chinese nationals with economic ties to the National party or entities linked to it. They are similar in that the ministerial interventions were in violation of the cabinet manual regarding conflicts of interest. They also represent obvious forms of political influence peddling.

How are they different? Collins is a a key player on National’s front bench, whereas Williamson is on the outers with National’s heavy hitters. Thus he is expendable while she is not.

Comparatively speaking, Williamson’s crime was arguably less than that of Collins. He made a call on behalf of a constituent urging Police diligence when investigating the charges against his friend, then left the matter at that. The fact that rather than tell the minister to buzz off the cops bent over backwards to satisfy him that they were on “solid ground” before prosecuting is a police issue, not a Williamson issue (the Police decided to prosecute in any event, with Mr. Liu eventually pleading guilty to two charges of domestic violence).

Collins used taxpayer funded official travel to take time out of her official schedule to divert and meet with Chinese business associates of her husband over dinner in the presence of an unnamed Chinese government official at a time when her husband’s business interests in China were being hindered by official reviews of New Zealand based export contracts. Although she had no real business being there, she brought an aide with her, adding to the impression that her presence at that dinner had the stamp of official approval.

Of the two, which is more obviously a conflict of interest and which has the clear stench of corruption wafting over it? Of the two, which one would be viewed more dimly by the likes of Transparency International (the anti-corruption agency that habitually lists NZ amongst the least corrupt countries to do business in)?

Hypocrisy much in the handling of the two cases by the Prime Minister? You be the judge, by I think that there is.

6 thoughts on “Another National double standard.

  1. And yet, when viewed in light of Nationals cosy and politically/financially motivated public prosecutions- this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The NZ police-some of the worlds finest- well know the depth of fraud and cronyism within this national administration. Isn’t it time we all did?

  2. Jorkins:

    You seem to have lost the larger point with your hair-splitting (and using a quote from the Internet Party’s lawyer to do so). Which is: they BOTH engaged in serious conflict of interest behavior.

    This is where legalese is an impediment to larger understanding. Williamson may have violated specific clauses in the cabinet manual whereas Collins violated the general spirit of the conflict of interest clauses. But the content of her conflict of interest was arguably worse than Williamson’s: he tried to use his official position to help a friend in a jam, whereas she tried to us her official position to advance the economic interests of her husband in a foreign country. His intercession was more of the wink and nudge variety, whereas hers was a craven display of abuse of official authority for private gain.

    Moreover, if you can show how Williamson “interfered” with a police investigation beyond the initial phone call, particularly when the cops decided to push for prosecution anyway, please let me know because otherwise Edgeler is mistaken.

  3. Ah Pablo, so quick to denigrate others’ professional qualifications, so eager to defend your own.

    Geddis is a lawyer. You’re not. Who should I believe on matters of criminal culpability? Hmm…

    Or did you get a law degree when we weren’t looking?

  4. Jorkins:

    Try not to be so obtuse. I stated that this is an instance of where legalese hinders comprehension of the substance of the offense. Williamson violated a specific clause in the cabinet manual and saw no joy from it, whereas Collins violated the spirit of the entire manual regarding conflicts of interest and her husband reaps the rewards of her transgression. Williamson put no one but himself in conflict, whereas Collins tried to rope the NZ ambassador into her unethical scheme (he smartly declined to participate).

    Graham Edgeler (not Geddis) may be a lawyer but his take on the comparative severity of Williamson versus Collins offenses is just one person’s opinion, as is mine. And given his association with the Internet Party, his political judgement may not be that flash either.

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