'Love' for PM spurs $105,000 donation

BY CLAIRE TREVETT
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2010

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A top Auckland restaurateur has given $105,000 to the National Party, saying although he was too Right-wing for any political party, his "love" for the prime minister prompted him to do it.

The gift from Parnell's Antoine's Restaurant was made in June and disclosed under rules requiring any donations of more than $20,000 to be publicly disclosed within 10 working days of a party receiving them.

Mr Key lives about three blocks away from the restaurant.

Asked the reason for his largesse, restaurant owner Tony Astle said Mr Key was a customer he had known for several years.

"Well, I just love the prime minister. I've never really been a person to give money to parties, but I decided this time I would. We need them back again, we don't need those other pretenders."

The National Party also received $50,000 from a Buckland's Beach supporter in June.

The latest donations are revealed as party president Peter Goodfellow faces criticism from some quarters that he has not put enough effort into fundraising. The National Party filed a nil return of disclosed donations of more than $10,000 last year.

While Mr Goodfellow is expected to retain his presidency at the party conference today, his run has been unsettled by blogger Cameron Slater, who posted several leaked National Party documents on his Whaleoil website yesterday, including the amount electorate organisations had raised for the party's so-called "Victory Fund". Mr Slater's campaign, backed by a small group labelled the "Auckland mafia" by party insiders, has ruffled feathers in the leadup to the conference.

The Victory Fund was set up by former president Judy Kirk to fund the party's campaign each election year.

The papers show its target was to raise $1.325 million in this financial year. It had so far raised $369,000 from electorate fundraising.

Each electorate had a target amount, depending on its capacity to raise funds, the highest of which was $30,000. Board minutes also showed the National Party recently held fundraisers, attended by the prime minister, in Auckland and Queenstown.

THE PARLIAMENTARY SCORE CARD

Midway through its first term, National appears to be cruising to victory in 2011. But there have been some ups and downs among MPs during the first half of the party's three-year term in office, with some clear winners and some standout losers. Claire Trevett delivers the midterm score card.

WINNERS

Prime Minister John Key: Live sightings of the prime minister have been as rare as the Fiordland moose this year, such is his international travel agenda. This isn't a criticism. As a first-term PM, building links with other countries is critical, especially as the economic power base begins to sway towards the Asian countries where he has dedicated a lot of his time.

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It has also paid off with more traditional allies. Spies tell us (OK, John Key tells us – so modest) that not only did Barack Obama tell him to call him Barack, but the United States president also liked his tie last time the pair met at the Nuclear Security Summit.

Next year will see Mr Key shackled to New Zealand again as he seeks a second term. His reign is marked by his pragmatism and optimism, which usually pays off, to the frustration of his rivals. He was seen most recently yesterday at Auckland's A&E department, performing CPR on Party Central to good effect. He has made hard calls when he senses political goodwill is at the end of its tether – as he did by taking ownership of the Te Urewera ranges off the table for Tuhoe.

He has otherwise dealt with sometimes truculent coalition partners without pushing them into a corner. He has also exhibited a touch of Mad King Ludwig whimsy in his role as tourism minister. Just as the 19th-century Bavarian king had his fairytale castles, Mr Key has put his enthusiasm behind plans such as the cycleway and the "panda for a kiwi swap" with China.

The cycleway so far looks less like a yellow brick road from the Cape to Bluff and more as if someone has tossed the dregs of a bowl of instant noodles at the map. However, he will take some succour from the knowledge that King Ludwig's castles are now a major tourist attraction.

Justice Minister Simon Power: Cabinet's Roadrunner when it comes to pushing through new policies and law reforms. There are lots of them and they come at speed. Mr Power is reliable, amicable and widely liked by all sides. An added bonus: his office staff are keen home bakers – it's worth making an appointment for the lemon and poppy seed cake.

Health Minister Tony Ryall: He has managed the cunning trick of making quite significant changes in his health portfolio while making it look as if everything was staying comfortingly the same. Has made some petty-looking cuts but district health boards are now more accountable. His shirt and tie combinations go together like lamb and anchovies – it shouldn't work but it does.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce: Placing himself well to succeed Mr English in the finance portfolio. A steady hand with only the occasional blunder, such as wondering aloud whether all those oldies really needed to visit Waiheke Island on their Super Gold Cards quite so often. He wisely decided they deserved to do so after a squeak was heard from the direction of Winston Peters.

Speaker Lockwood Smith: Sniffed the foul stench of trouble from Britain and, nudged along by Mr Key, moved quickly to make MPs' expenses more transparent here. A fair hand in the House.

Police Minister Judith Collins: Slots into the Cabinet as court executioner. Her promised car crushings revive the spectacle of public executions in a modern way. Has fulfilled her duty of being tough on crims – more cops, more jails, more Tasers and now probably more guns for police. Has shown an imaginative streak in coming up with acceptable forms of torture by banning crims smoking on the inside, even when they're outside.

Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson: Respected by Maoridom and even managed to forge compromise on the foreshore and seabed issue. Does not let his National Party colours get in the way of his duties as attorney-general – his reports on legislation putting in place key National policies are often critical. Has a tongue like Mohammed Ali – the Latin-quoting former lawyer's insults float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett: Loud, shameless and fearless. Labour has barely touched her and has almost given up trying, bar the palpable seething whenever she hoves into view. Has warned of a messy battle ahead as she embarks on welfare reforms.

Maurice Williamson: Finally brokered a deal on leaky buildings.

LOSERS

Finance Minister Bill English: Difficult to fault in the finance portfolio and that really is all that should matter. Unfortunately for him, it's not all that does matter. He failed to quickly read the public mood on his accommodation expense claims, which hurt his credibility. He also has a tendency to suck all the fizz out of the champagne as soon as it is uncorked. National was hoping for a month-long mardi gras for its tax cuts in the Budget. Instead, a day later, all headlines were on Mr English's musings about hocking off Kiwibank. Timing, Mr English, timing.

Education Minister Anne Tolley: Remains in a precarious position over national standards against the forces of nature that are the teachers' unions. She has some sympathy but needs to sort out this vital National policy quickly. She cites the "silent majority" as being on her side. Unfortunately, nobody from the silent majority has so far been available for comment.

Economic Development minister Gerry Brownlee: Think Gerry Brownlee, think mining. A judicious backdown on this could push him into the winners because in his energy portfolio he has sided with householders, pushing through significant reforms of the electricity sector aimed at stablising electricity price increases and using his powers of persuasion to tell companies not to use the emissions trading scheme as an excuse to raise prices prematurely or unreasonably.

ACC Minister Nick Smith: In charge of ACC and the emissions trading scheme – the two areas that suck money out of taxpayers' pockets almost as quickly as Mr English's tax cuts could put it in there. It's a no-win situation, although the ETS hasn't yet had the feared backlash. He has also, we hope, learnt that it pays to stitch up support from coalition partners before fronting legislation.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley: Phoenix Phil resigned as housing and fisheries minister over his credit card misuse, only to rise again after the auditor-general said he was stupid, but not intentionally so.

BIGGEST LOSER

Former Internal Affairs minister Richard Worth. Few scandals run so deep that an MP finds himself not only bundled from the ministry but out of Parliament altogether. But Dr Worth's messy relationships with two different women and questions about his business links with India were enough for Mr Key to cut him loose.

In such circumstances, a former party loyalist might feel aggrieved enough to complain publicly but Dr Worth has remained determinedly silent. When contacted this week, he refused to comment on his new life, saying he was no longer a politician and had nothing to say.

Companies Office records show he appears to have kept some involvement in trade links between India and New Zealand. Dr Worth is a joint director and owns a quarter of the shares in a company called Indo-NZ Services, which was formed last November. The company is half-owned by Giriraj Gupta, who co-founded the Indian Trade Group and was also a director in New Zealand Aviation with Dr Worth.

Dr Worth resigned from both in March 2009 after controversy over his promotion of aviation training education in New Zealand while he was on an Indian Trade Group trip to India.

He is also a shareholder of the NZ China Business Council – a company he gave up his directorship of after first becoming a minister in December 2008.

He and Mr Key apparently cross paths now and then because of Dr Worth's involvement in St John Ambulance and their meetings are said to be amicable.

- The Dominion Post

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