John Armstrong 's Opinion

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Dunne dusted but there's life in it yet

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Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell

If the resignation of Peter Dunne has left a bad smell around Parliament, then it is the stench of red herrings rotting in rather large quantity.

That was painfully apparent during yesterday's urgent debate on Dunne's departure from John Key's ministry. The argument seemed to be driven on all sides by two time-honoured political methodologies: obfuscate and exaggerate.

Thus National MPs drew unwarranted comparisons between the leaking of the Kitteridge report on the GCSB, Phil Goff's use of leaked documents to embarrass the Government with regard to budget cuts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and, for good measure but rather puzzlingly, the public exposure of David Shearer's "secret" New York bank account.

The Prime Minister continued his warnings that Labour's insistence that he get to the bottom of who leaked the Kitteridge report could set an ugly precedent in terms of emails exchanged between journalists and politicians becoming public property.

That warning ignored the fact that all emails sent and received by ministers are already discoverable under the Official Information Act unless there is a reason for withholding them.

Labour MPs, meanwhile, stuck to their slightly baffling line that it was still not clear who had leaked the Kitteridge report. David Shearer accused John Key of washing his hands of the matter after David Henry, the former high-ranking public servant who conducted the inquiry into the leak, said he could not take matters further unless Dunne fully co-operated with his requests for more information.

Shearer's line of argument seemed to be not so much a red herring as a case of flogging a horse long dead and long flogged to the knacker's yard. The number of people who still think Dunne did not leak the Kitteridge report can probably be counted on one hand - and with digits to spare.

As Bill English noted, Labour's dancing on Dunne's political corpse probably has a lot to do with Labour's courtship of Winston Peters ahead of next year's election.

The last word, however, has to go National's Steven Joyce. He suggested Peters' contribution to yesterday's debate was suitable fodder for Sky TV's new rerun channel, JONES! "It could have slotted in between It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Cheers. It was that relevant, it was that modern, and it was that much of a rerun of every speech he has made over the last 30 years." Joyce was correct.

But Peters has rarely looked happier than he has since he began hounding Dunne.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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