Voters can judge me, says Peters

Last updated 00:37 24/09/2008
CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post
DEFIANT: Winston Peters hit out at a privileges committee finding that he knowingly failed to declare a $100,000 gift from billionaire Owen Glenn, claiming he was the victim of a witch-hunt.

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A defiant Winston Peters says he will trust his fate to voters as he joins one of a handful of MPs censured for breaking Parliament's rules.

Mr Peters hit out at a privileges committee finding that he knowingly failed to declare a $100,000 gift from billionaire Owen Glenn, claiming he was the victim of a witch-hunt and would be vindicated at the polls.

"The court that I will stand before is on Saturday, 8 November, [election day] and I'll place my faith in the people of New Zealand to decide the outcome of this case.

"I asked for fairness. I got a farce."

Mr Peters became one of just four MPs to be censured by Parliament since 1975, after the House voted 62-56 to accept the committee's majority finding that he knew Mr Glenn was paying toward his legal bills for the 2005 Tauranga electoral petition.

He has also been ordered to make amended returns to the MPs' register of pecuniary interests for the past three years.

That is likely to mean he will have to declare that the Spencer Trust, used to secretly channel cash to NZ First, covered the $40,000 costs awarded against him after the Tauranga case.

The Serious Fraud Office told the committee that the trust reimbursed Mr Peters' lawyer, Brian Henry, who paid the costs.

Though the committee declined to explore that avenue because its inquiry was limited to the $100,000 from Mr Glenn, it said payments from a third party had to be declared.

In Parliament, Mr Peters hit out at the committee's 8-5 majority report, claiming the MPs who found against him predetermined the case.

He also claimed a new test of "honest attempt" had been devised by the committee to cover an MP's obligations to ensure returns were correct, and it was being applied to him retrospectively.

Other MPs who had not made correct declarations had not been brought before the committee.

He was backed by deputy prime minister Michael Cullen, who sits on the committee.

Dr Cullen also attacked Mr Glenn - who gave $500,000 to Labour at the last election - saying his evidence was contradictory.

But it was clear that non-aligned MPs who found against Mr Peters preferred Mr Glenn's version of events.

Crucially, Maori Party member Te Ururoa Flavell, UnitedFuture's Peter Dunne and the Greens' Russel Norman all said they believed Mr Peters knew a donation was being made by Mr Glenn.

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- The Dominion Post

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