David Cunliffe defends his leadership

Labour leader David Cunliffe says he did not know the identity of the donors who gave money to a trust set up for his leadership campaign last year. Photo / AP
Labour leader David Cunliffe says he did not know the identity of the donors who gave money to a trust set up for his leadership campaign last year. Photo / AP

Labour Leader David Cunliffe is defending his leadership following a period where he has been dogged by accusations he is "tricky'' while former rivals for his job Shane Jones and Grant Robertson scored significant hits in Parliament.

The Government has labelled Mr Cunliffe as"tricky'' after the Herald revealed his use of a trust to shield the identity of donors to his leadership campaign last year.

As he faced further heat last week over his late declaration of an investment trust and also over his involvement in helping one of his donors buy a luxurious holiday home in Omaha, Shane Jones succeeded in getting the Commerce Commission to look into allegations of anti-competitive behaviour by supermarkets and Grant Robertson revealed Justice Minister Judith's Collins' apparent endorsement of a company on whose board her husband serves while on an official visit to China.

This morning on TVNZ's Q+A programme Mr Cunliffe admitted he could have handled the trust issue better.

"I made a decision that balanced the rights of donors to confidentiality and the fact that we'd met all the rules - both of the party and of Parliament - with the fact that New Zealanders have a high expectation to know.''

Mr Cunliffe said he took responsibility for the use of a trust to shield the identity of donors, "but it was a way of making sure I was distant from donors''.

At the time, "it was an internal party matter not something under the Electoral Act and it was felt that that was an appropriate balance''.

He said he regretted not being upfront about the use of the trust sooner.

"I think it was seen as a legal matter not as a political matter and it should have been and I've already said I've learned that lesson and moved on.''

He denied he had been overshadowed by Mr Jones and Mr Robertson in recent days.

"I'm very proud of both Shane Jones and Grant Robertson. They are both excellent MPs and they've both been scoring hits.''

"I do not believe it is all about the leader. I think it's about the team too. So we have one mission, we have one team, we are working to victory.''

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READ MORE:

* Mike Williams: How to keep donations secret
* Paul Little: Election - game of Trivial Pursuit
* Rodney Hide: A secret memo on secret trusts
* Fran O'Sullivan: Donor slip exposes Cunliffe hypocrisy

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Meanwhile, Mr Cunliffe indicated that a "digital bill of rights'' one of the ideas in an internal digital strategy paper mistakenly sent from his office to the Government, was likely to be pursued by Labour.

"Labour thinks New Zealanders should have the right to access the internet, secondly that we should have the right to be free from blanket surveillance from the GCSB for example. We want to write some of those into law so that we can ensure New Zealanders move towards a world where their online world is protected.''

However, the right to access the internet would not mean a guarantee "to put a laptop in every home''.

"It means there would be a free point of access. It would build on things like the people's network of computer terminals in public libraries. We'd see how perhaps we could expand that.''

- APNZ

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