Key: Cunliffe's leadership a 'shipwreck'

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 15:11 04/03/2014

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Prime Minister John Key says David Cunliffe’s leadership is a ‘‘shipwreck’’ in the wake of revelations of Labour donations being funnelled through a trust.

Cunliffe today admitted he made a mistake by having donations towards his leadership tilt last year channelled through a trust, and he has now moved to pay back donors who still wanted anonymity.

But Key told reporters the Labour leader was trying to ‘‘retrofit’’ legitimacy on to his declaration on the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

‘‘This is a pecuniary interest that relates to David Cunliffe’s activities in 2013," Key said.

"So nothing he can do in 2014, including repaying the money, alters the fact that his activities in 2013 should, in my view, include who he got donations from,’’ Key told reporters.

‘‘Why is he going to such lengths to protect two people, claiming he doesn’t know who they are, but also claiming he’s going to repay money to people he says he doesn’t know who they are?’’

Key said Cunliffe had a duty to come clean about where the money had come from ‘‘or he’s going to be guilty of being labelled as having a secret agenda which none of us can verify one way or another’’.

Labour and Cunliffe himself had campaigned for transparency, but was now trying to avoid scrutiny.

‘‘On his first test, before he even became the leader he went about a process to ensure his donors could be kept secret, [so] that the public could be kept in the dark,’’ Key said.

The prime minister said National would not take Labour for granted in the coming general election, but the party was making a series of basic mistakes including the ‘‘botch-up’’ over Cunliffe’s donations.

‘‘I’ve got to be honest when I saw [him] talking about shipwrecks yesterday, it’s not the Rena that’s the shipwreck, it’s his leadership.’’

ACT MP John Banks said it was hypocrisy from Labour given the attacks they had made on him over his donations.


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