Opinion: Leaker didn't think through how Winston Peters would gain from super 'scandal'

If Winston Peters thinks that depicting himself as the victim of National Party “dirty tricks” is going to be sufficient to revitalise his flagging electoral campaign, then he is surely going to be disappointed.

To understand why, he need only look in the mirror. His younger self will be staring right back at him.

Source: 1 NEWS

As is currently the case with Jacinda Ardern, the younger Peters enjoyed periods when his popularity was so sky-high that he was untouchable. To attack him was to risk inviting a plague of frogs to take up residence in your lounge. It was simply not worth your trouble going there.

Like National, Peters has been flummoxed as to how to counter the Ardern phenomenon.

Unlike Bill English, Peters has found himself marginalised as the election has turned into a two-horse race — and perhaps irrevocably so.

This week, however, the veteran of New Zealand politics pulled himself out of his Slough of Despond with the assistance of an inept attempt to embarrass him.

Whoever leaked the information that Peters had been paid the state pension at a higher rate than to which he was entitled failed to think things through.

It is difficult to make a scandal out of someone who responded swiftly when told he was being paid more than he should have been getting and who met with officials from the Ministry of Social Development and paid back the money to their satisfaction and thereby resolved the matter.

Whoever leaked the information made a further tactical gaffe by seeming to be unaware of Peters’ ability to transform what initially might be regarded as a personal disaster into something to his advantage.

Peters has shrewdly exploited every angle possible to keep alive a story which he has simultaneously dismissed as a beat-up.

The leaker does not seem to have given much thought to the timing of the disclosure. Peters had been buried under the Ardern landslide.

The leak extended a hand which Peters did not hesitate in grabbing.

For the first time since Ardern became Labour’s leader, she had to play second fiddle to someone else.

Peters is back in the headlines. But is he back in the election campaign?

The NZ First leader was overpaid superannuation by MSD between 2010 and 2017. Source: 1 NEWS

Barely a month ago Peters was the election campaign. He was barn-storming the country and issuing spending promises like confetti.

He was being just as profligate in listing supposed non-negotiable bottom-lines from which New Zealand First would not budge during post-election talks on the formation of the next government.

Peters’ prime objective was to collapse Labour’s vote to the point that New Zealand First could lay claim to the title of major Opposition party —and thus enabling Peters to extract the concession of him serving a stint as prime minister.

Peters’ frenetic activity was against a backdrop of fear —the fear of politicians of other complexions who had been bracing themselves for voter rebellion on the scale which had seen Donald Trump installed in the White House and Britain exiting the European Union.

National pinned its hopes on surviving any such backlash by virtue of a strong local economy and dealing with any gripe voters might have, no matter how trivial or unjustified.

In the absence of any other contenders, it was assumed Peters would be the local equivalent of Brexit Man or Trump Clone.

After all, he had already successfully auditioned for the role by winning the Northland byelection.

He had all the right attributes for the job.

Like Trump, he is a master of lowest common denominator politics. Like Trump, he is a virtuoso when it comes to communicating with voters.

At the same time he can bellow rhetoric at Nigel Farage-like volume.

He also possesses the cheek, charm and chuckle of a Boris Johnson which enables him to disarm opponents.

There were two things, however, which jarred with this scenario. Backing for New  Zealand First in opinion polls was rising, but not at a rate to suggest any huge change in the political landscape.

The other thing was that the hype was all a little bit pat and little bit contrived.

It lacked the crucial element of surprise.

Then along came the real surprise package in the form of Ardern. She had the one thing so obviously lacking in Peters’ armoury — freshness.

That is the thing which voters in the United States, Canada, Britain and France were searching for. And, moreover, without much regard as to whether it was sourced from the left, right or centre of the  political spectrum.

The 1 NEWS political editor says Mr Peters is furious, despite National Party denials that had anything to do with the leak. Source: 1 NEWS

How galling it must it be for Peters to have been usurped by a  policy wonk and Wellington-centric apparatchik — the very sort of political animal which has permanently been in his sights during his four decades in politics.

Peters can console himself that New Zealand First is still likely to hold the balance of power following the  election.

But it is also becoming clear that the leverage he will be able to exercise in post-election negotiations is going to be markedly less than seemed likely prior to Labour’s big gamble of changing its leader.

Peters retains one important political asset —New Zealand First’s highly distinctive brand as an anti-immigration party.

Peters has barely raised the issue so far in this campaign.

If he continues to struggle for attention, you can put money on that particular drum getting a real beating this side of Election Day.

St Bede's to review handling of child sex complaint

Christchurch's St Bede's College will appoint an independent reviewer to look into its handling of a child sex abuse complaint in 2011.

St Bede's College, Christchurch. (Phil Pennington) Source: rnz.co.nz

This follows Christchurch man Peter Boock demanding the school's rector Justin Boyle be sacked.

Mr Boyle allowed a teacher, Robin Pettit, to continue teaching until he retired, even after he admitted to abusing Mr Boock several decades ago.

The school's board said its inquiry would run alongside one the Education Council was running into the matter.

It would not make any more comment, adding that media coverage had been unhelpful because of a lack of due process and respect for privacy.

Earlier, Mr Boyle wrote to the school's parents, defending the investigation in 2011.

"Mr Pettit has had a long and distinguished teaching career and there have been no complaints about his conduct during his time at St Bede's College, or at other schools he has worked," he wrote.

"I want to assure you that our priority is always to provide a safe environment for our students and staff.

"As we have in the past, we will always ensure that any complaint of misconduct is thoroughly and promptly investigated and appropriately addressed, while respecting people's right to privacy and proper process."

But the rector's letter was "appalling", the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and Their Supporters said in a statement.

"Nowhere in this message does the school condemn Mr Pettit or his actions," the network's Murray Heasley said.

"On the contrary it praises him and, in failing to acknowledge the lifelong trauma and damage he has caused, encourages parents to think of him as the victim."

- Reporting by RNZ's Phil Pennington




Clarke Gayford reveals Melania Trump invited him to New York get together, speaks about Obama's 'lovely, soft nose'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner has told an audience about former US President Barack Obama's "lovely, soft nose" and an invitation he's received from Melania Trump.

Ms Ardern is this week leaving for New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, with her schedule including high-profile appearances on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Today Show and a lengthy interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

The trip will also be the first overseas outing for daughter Neve, who was born in June.

Partner Clarke Gayford - who has taken on a full-time fathering role - will also attend.

Speaking at an event on Thursday night, Mr Gayford, a television and radio presenter, reportedly told an Auckland audience he had received an invite to a reception for leaders' partners from President Donald Trump's wife, describing it as "tea and scones with Melania".

"It's pretty funny. I sent it to a few friends and said, 'You will not believe this invite I just got'," the 40-year-old said, pulling out his phone to read the message, according to Stuff.co.nz.

During a question-and-answer session, Mr Gayford also recounted meeting Mr Obama, including a hongi - a traditional Maori greeting which involves the touching of noses.

"I was one of the first ones up and I was pretty nervous - and he'd only done one before either. Lovely, soft nose," Mr Gayford said.

He was also reported to have described as former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull as "actually, really quite personable".

While Ms Ardern is expected to receive an enthusiastic welcome in the US, her trip ends a rough month in domestic politics for her Labour Party, following the firing of one government minister this week and the resignation of another just weeks ago, both amid scandals.

Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and baby Neve. Source: 1 NEWS


Police chastise Canterbury students who didn't intervene in bullying incident

Police today chastised students who opted not to intervene or call for help this week as a bullying incident was filmed at a Canterbury school.

Two students at Darfield High School are expected to appear before the school board today after school officials reviewed the video, which emerged yesterday on social media. In it, a boy lay on the ground as two others kicked and pummelled him.

"Police are particularly concerned that other students who saw what was happening, didn't intervene or get help from a teacher," Senior Sergeant Kelly Larsen said in a statement released to 1 NEWS. "Instead, they watched and took videos."

Darfield principal James Morris has described the incident as assault.

Police said they were alerted about the incident Tuesday afternoon, shortly after it happened.

"Bullying behaviour is not OK and has serious consequences," police said. "Rather than being a bystander, Police encourage anyone who witnesses an assault, or knows about other bullying behaviour to become someone who stands up against bullying, and does something about it.

"Bullying is wrong. We all have a responsibility to do something to stop it."

An outcome of the school board hearing is expected on Monday.

Darfield High School’s principal says police were notified shortly after the incident happened. Source: Supplied

Police commend Good Samaritan as two kidnap attempts thwarted in Christchurch this morning

A man tried to abduct two women in back-to-back incidents in Christchurch this morning but failed after they fought back, with help from at least one bystander, according to police.

Authorities said they are speaking to a man over the incidents but are appealing to the public for more witnesses to come forward.

According to police, the first botched kidnapping occurred at 5.30am when he approached a woman at her car in the Jellie Park Recreation and Sports Centre on Ilam Road.

He then fled on a bicycle, pedalling through Jellie Park before approaching a jogger at the entrance of Ray Blank Park on Maidstone Road, police said.

The attacker fled again on bicycle after the woman fought him off, aided by a motorist who stopped to help her, according to police.

But this time he was followed by a motorist, who alerted police to a home on a nearby cul-de-sac that he was seen entering.

"We would really like to thank the member of the public who stopped to help the second victim," Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Worner said in a statement. "As the alleged offender is talking to Police we are confident the public has no reason to be concerned."

Anyone who saw either incident this morning and hasn't yet talked to police is asked to call 03 363 7400 to make a statement.

Police emergency scene
Police emergency scene Source: 1 NEWS