Pam Corkery: Dunne connection demands grilling

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The opposition goes on about Judith Collins, but where's the scutiny on father-son link in legal highs saga?

Peter Dunne's son James advertises on the Chen Palmer website about his 'valuable inside knowledge of how Parliament works'. Photo / APN
Peter Dunne's son James advertises on the Chen Palmer website about his 'valuable inside knowledge of how Parliament works'. Photo / APN

The architect of the legal high legislation, Peter Dunne, claims it was widely known that his son James Dunne is the legal mouthpiece for the synthetic high industry.

Mr Dunne says the Prime Minister knew of the family connection more than two years ago, that it's been talked about on social media, and that it's not news.

Wrong. The father and son link to synthetic highs was a shock revelation when it was broadcast on Seven Sharp last Tuesday.

Those who watched expected team coverage to follow, along with scrums of reporters and opposition parties screaming about ministerial conflict of interest - perceived or otherwise.

And this time, New Zealanders would care. Polls, protests, and local councils are angry as hell that the Psychoactive Substances Act forces them to put up with the sale of synthetics in their area.

And synthetic high users are highly visible, legally out on the streets with their helter-skelter eyes.

Campbell Live has given good coverage of the drugs' effects, interviewing desperate mothers with their twitching children, and screening hidden camera footage of under-18s buying the gear.

Mysteriously, the show did not follow up the father and son arrangement. Hopefully, that's not out of competitiveness.

Following the Seven Sharp revelation, there was a small piece in Christchurch's Press, on page 5.

Mr Dunne's only interview on the subject was with Sean Plunket. It was a jocular arrangement but damning for Mr Dunne even though the Radio Live host congratulated the Associate Health Minister for raising such a high-achieving son.

In talkback world, as far as I know, two hosts led the way: Leighton Smith and Tim Roxborogh, on Newstalk ZB. Hundreds of calls came in to their programmes, and to the shows I co-host with Tim.

Same old, same dreadful, we heard again of emergency hospital runs, violent behaviour, blood being vomited and users writhing in pain when they run out of product.

The majority of synthetic high consumers declare the drugs to be a rubbish buzz. It makes them anxious and the withdrawals are agony. But it's legal.

By Monday night, six days after the news broke, callers were loudly questioning why there had been no movement from opposition parties. They had taken to reading the Cabinet Manual online and wondering why their representatives were still banging on about Judith Collins.

The Judith Collins opposition is part of the Dunne non-coverage. MPs have left the punters behind on this one. Judith Collins probably won't resign.

Another reason for the Dunne Men's silence is that 119 MPs voted for the Pyschoactive Substances Act. It's arguably ego on the part of the 119 that they don't want to draw attention to the failed law.

So we are getting press releases on trucks, Nigella Lawson, and harsher penalties for burglars instead.

The 119 seem to have surrendered to the argument that prohibition doesn't work, not taking into account that synthetic highs are so awful that it's only their legal status that makes them attractive.

There's also the air of not bringing the children of MPs into shabby politicking. It's too late for that nicety. Dunne the younger and the elder raced in there themselves.

James Dunne advertises on the Chen Palmer website about his "valuable inside knowledge of how Parliament works". Peter Dunne says he's "entitled to trade off the fact that he's my son in his business, if he sees that it's to his advantage".

There are questions to be asked. Those charged with asking should get cracking.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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