David Cunliffe's catastrophes

DAVID CUNLIFFE: Labour leader.
DAVID CUNLIFFE: Labour leader.

Labour leader David Cunliffe's failure to remember his contact with Donghua Liu is the latest gaffe by the man who hopes to be prime minister this year.

The Liu matter erupted because a file held by Immigration New Zealand, released today, includes a letter written by Cunliffe to immigration officials in 2003 in which he detailed Liu's plans to set up an export venture.

Written on parliamentary letterhead, it showed Cunliffe had met with 53-year-old Liu, contrary to assurances from

Cunliffe there had never been any such meeting.

The gaffe is not his first.


1. In February Cunliffe attacked Prime Minister John Key for living in an expensive house, suggesting Key needed to leave his leafy suburb to see how other people lived.

Cunliffe defined his own home in Herne Bay as a doer-upper - even though it is worth $2.5 million - and his own situation as middle of the road.

Key told Parliament: "I live in Parnell and I am proud of it. That member (Cunliffe) lives in Herne Bay. He just does not want his supporters to know."

2. In March Cunliffe admitted he made a mistake by having donations for his tilt at the party leadership channelled through a trust, and he had moved to pay back donors who continued to want anonymity.

By using the trust Cunliffe had not had to disclose donations in the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

"I don't think in hindsight that a trust structure fully represented the values I would like to bring to this leadership," he said.

"Decisions that were made to set up the trust could have been better. I have learned from that and am now making sure I do whatever I can to ensure transparency."

3. He also ran into trouble with his state of the nation speech in January, when he promised that "for 59,000 families with newborn babies, they will all receive a Best Start investment of $60 per week, for the first year of their child's life". 

But Labour's background material noted that those on paid parental leave, worth up to $488 a week - about 25,000 people a year - would not receive the payment at the same time.

4. Marking Anzac Day during a speech to a Young Labour conference in April, Cunliffe said his Grandfather Bob Tuke was awarded the Military Medal in World War I. But in fact the medal was awarded to Bob Tuke's brother Edmund Tuke, Cunliffe's great uncle.

A spokesman for Cunliffe said he had "mixed up" the medals, with Bob Tuke having been awarded service medals.

5. Cunliffe received a warning from police because of a message he posted on Twitter on November 30, the day of the Christchurch East by-election. The tweet urged residents to vote for Labour candidate Poto Williams, breaching electoral laws which ban any campaigning on election day.

"It was an inadvertent mistake which I regret," Cunliffe explained.

"I took steps to rectify the error by immediately deleting the tweet and Labour also notified the returning officer as soon as possible."

6. When Cunliffe announced he was a candidate for the Labour leadership last August, his first-person post on Facebook was worded identically to that of another contender, Grant Robertson, which had been put up a day earlier.

Cunliffe said the problem was caused by a "technical glitch", and he apologised to Robertson.

7. Eyebrows were raised last September about the curriculum vitae Cunliffe had posted on Parliament's official website.

A spokesman said Cunliffe's office had requested reference to work at the Auckland City Mission be removed from the webpage as it was a "mistake".

Inquiries to the homeless shelter had not been able to confirm if Cunliffe had ever done volunteer work there. His office said he had delivered food parcels to the mission.

Cunliffe had also claimed to be a member of the Waitakere Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society. A spokesman admitted he was not a "current" member.