Stephen Franks on the outrageous claims of corruption by the opposition and media

Stephen Franks provides a thoughtful response to the outrageous claims of opposition MPs under parliamentary privilege of corruption by Judith Collins.

I note that they dare not repeat those claims outside of the protection of parliamentary privilege.

Political journalists continue to give credibility to the Oravida beat-up. I’ve not heard anyone I know, outside the ‘beltway’ set,?who share their faux indignation. Perhaps aspects yet to be revealed will vindicate the accusers. But on what has been disclosed so far, those alleging corruption disgrace themselves.

We come from an era, widely regarded as our most incorruptible, when all manner of goods were marked with the Royal crest, and the words “By appointment to HM the Queen”. Approval as suppliers to the Crown was overtly advertised, for the benefit of the supplier. I recall no concern that it was a corrupt practice.

Nor is there any objective argument that Ms Collins advocacy for any dairy interests in China or elsewhere, has been inimical to the interests of New Zealand. The allegations of corruption are the single element most likely to reduce the barriers to corruption. When it is acceptable to equate such innocuous behaviour with corruption, we lose the capacity to distinguish, and ‘everybody does it’ becomes a more likely excuse for genuine corruption at?other levels

If there was some indication of covert payments then it might run. But most of us know that there is implicit personal endorsement, even if it is unwanted, in most engagements of powerful people.?

It is a pathetic and misguided beat-up for which if they prevail there will be long term consequences. For instance Winston Peters and Shane Jones will have to cease their long dinners with Chinese businessmen at well known and popular Chinese food establishments. Because now mere dinners with people, a coffee or snack in a cafe are now all “corruption” according tot he muppets of the opposition. All without a shred of evidence. Grant Robertson’s and David Cunliffe’s claims are the worst and I bet they won’t repeat them outside the house.

As?a humble opposition back-bencher I knew that when I was asked to open a building, or celebrate the commencement of a business, I was not asked for my?rippling physique, or my rhetoric. I was asked because it was endorsement. It added weight to an occasion.

When I was asked to take up a complaint about bureacracy, of course I was putting my weight behind the complainant. That did not mean that I necessarily thought they should prevail. Nor did it mean they got a privilege. I was expected to do it even for companies and causes with which I had little sympathy. I went to their dinners and spoke at their AGMs, because they?were entitled to expect me to be interested, and to help them if I could without impropriety.

In my mind, impropriety was simple. If I stipulated for, or accepted, a private benefit (more than a ceremonial bottle of wine, say) or failed to disclose any substantial pecuniary return, I was misusing my office. But otherwise I should, and would advance the interests of any constituent or sector, with which I had sympathy, or a policy interest.

Most MPs do this. Though, now with these attacks MPs might have to become cloistered monks.

We do not want?our leaders?to be ignorant eunuchs, fed only the information they get pre-digested from officials. We want them to be well connected. We want them to testing all they hear with people they know they can trust, from experience. And as I was warned when I entered Parliament by one of its most experienced Ministers, “Stick to the friends you had before you came here, because from now on you will not know who are your friends, and who are not, till you leave. You will not be?sure which are the greasers, and those who are genuine”.

So be staunch Judith Collins. And remind us all of?the utter uselessness of an opposition (and political journalism that sustains it) in banging on about a Minister who is enthusiastic about a company her husband directs, but ignores huge issues, such as the risk expert report that suggests New Zealand is spending up to $10 bn on earthquake strengthening that is likely to save few lives if any.

Or the easy manner in which a single German migrant is able to subvert our democracy and purchase and bribe politicians with gay abandon.