The Dominion Post
A fishy smell, but nothing hookable
Are you sitting comfortably? We try to explain why the political world is in a lather about who knew what, where and when about National MP Mike Sabin.
Why is everyone obsessing over when Prime Minister John Key knew his Northland MP was facing troubles? Mostly because Key has been so slippery with the dates. When news broke that ex-cop Sabin was at the centre of a police investigation just before Christmas, Key and National point blank refused to say anything. This makes journalists crazy. National maintained that position right up until Friday when Sabin quit.
On Monday Key said he was first alerted to Sabin’s difficulties in the second week of December. That soon changed to ‘‘very early December’’. By yesterday he was insisting he was informed on December 1. Well, surely that’s clear? Um, no. Labour leader Andrew Little claimed yesterday morning that his office alerted Key’s office in late November, apparently contradicting him.
However, he couldn’t produce the evidence showing when his chief of staff Matt McCarten tipped off opposite number Wayne Eagleson. The ball was back in Key’s court. He says Eagleson found out in early November, told his boss on December 1, and the conversation between McCarten and Eagleson took place on December 3.
Late yesterday afternoon Little’s office produced the phone logs that So that’s it cleared up, then? Not really. Numerous journalists across the country were digging around on the story – some as early as April and June.
TVNZ first approached police with questions on November 24, followed by a range of media outlets in the subsequent weeks. Given that the rumour mill was in full swing, journalists were asking questions, political opponents were in the know and officials were dealing with formal questions, it makes you wonder how the National Party and the Beehive were so badly out of the loop. Does everyone at Parliament suffer memory problems? Funny you should ask. One of the So, does this all really matter? Yes and no. The crucial thing is that no-one has yet proved Key and senior Nats knew about Sabin’s woes before candidate selection, ahead of September’s election or his appointment as chairman of Parliament’s law and order select committee on October 22.
Critics and politicos can fulminate all they want, but Key knows the public switched off to this convoluted story as soon as Sabin exited stage left.
Key has a wily knack of immediately distancing himself from any National Party figure who is found under a cloud, and has so far executed it perfectly.
However, awkward questions linger for Key and National about why action was not taken against Sabin immediately, why the party was slow to sense danger from the rumour mill, and how much due diligence it did on Sabin before his selection.