PM John Key says he has accepted resignation of Maurice Williamson as a minister after 'error of judgement' in approaching police over Donghua Liu

PM John Key says he has accepted resignation of Maurice Williamson as a minister after 'error of judgement' in approaching police over Donghua Liu
Maurice Williamson

By Bernard Hickey

Prime Minister John Key has announced the resignation of Maurice Williamson as a minister after revelations that Williamson approached police over an domestic assault investigation into Auckland property developer and National Party donor Donghua Liu.

"I have been made aware that Mr Williamson contacted Police some time ago regarding their investigation of Mr Donghua Liu," Key said in a statement.

"Mr Williamson has assured me that he did not in any way intend to influence the Police investigation. However, Mr Williamson's decision to discuss the investigation with Police was a significant error of judgement," Key said.

"The independence of Police investigations is a fundamental part of our country's legal framework. Mr Williamson's actions have been very unwise as they have the potential to bring that independence into question," he said.

"I have advised the Governor General to accept Mr Williamson's resignation as a Minister."

Williamson was a minister outside Cabinet with the portfolios of Customs, Building and Construction, Land Information and Statistics.

Key said he would appoint a new Minister outside Cabinet early next week and in the meantime, Nick Smith would act in the Building and Construction portfolio, Nathan Guy in Land Information, and Simon Bridges in Customs and Statistics.

Key later said Williamson had no choice but to resign.

"The moment he made the phone call he crossed the line," he said.

Williamson later said he would stand again at the September 20 election as the National candidate for the Pakuranga electorate. Radio Live later reported that Williamson had officiated at Liu's citizenship ceremony in his electorate office.

The resignation came after an NZ Herald investigation revealed Williamson had called a senior police officer after the arrest of Liu following a domestic violence incident. Liu later pleaded guilty to the charge of assaulting a women.

Williamson had previously lobbied for Mr Liu to be granted citizenship against the advice of officials. He had also unsuccessfully lobbied in favour of Liu's proposal for relaxed immigration rules for wealthy foreigners. Williamson and Key attended the 2011 opening of a NZ$70 million project by Liu to develop the Carlton Bowling Club site in Newmarket. It has yet to be developed.

Liu wanted to reduce the NZ$10 million threshold for business immigrants.

The following year one of his companies donated NZ$22,000 to the National Party.

Political reaction

NZ First Leader Winston Peters said Williamson's offence was far less than that of Justice Minister Judith Collins, who has been under pressure over a dinner she had in China with close friends Stone Shi and an unnaned Chinese customs officials.

“There can’t be any doubt about Mr Williamson’s conflict of interest, but that conflict is far less than that exhibited by the Hon Judith Collins and condoned by Prime Minister John Key," Peters said.

“Clearly the Prime Minister is attempting to show that he does have some standards but ironically Mr Williamson’s case, as with others, proves just how duplicitous those standards are," he said.

“If Mr Williamson has offended, and he has, then why will the Prime Minister not act in the case of Judith Collins? Not only has there been a serious conflict of interest, but she misled the media and the public, and has been found out advancing a company’s interest, to which she has a connection, while the interests of a significant industry, namely infant formula into China, were simply ignored," he said.

“It’s of alarm that certain practices in China, which have been causing the President of China grave concern, have crept into the National Party."

Labour Leader David Cunliffe said Key lived in a state of denial about the actions of his ministers until they were made public and there was no way out.

 “National ministers seem to believe they don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. John Key once had high standards for his ministers. The cases of ministers breaking the rules for their friends are mounting up. Maurice Williamson now joins the ranks of the disgraced behind Richard Worth, Pansy Wong, Nick Smith, John Banks, Peter Dunne and Judith Collins."

“Maurice Williamson’s actions were totally unacceptable and he has done the right thing by resigning," Cunliffe said.

“His emails to Police to help a National Party donor in a domestic violence case because he was ‘investing a lot of money in New Zealand’ are disgraceful. It is not the sort of behaviour New Zealanders expect from their elected officials," he said.

“New Zealand prides itself on being one of the world’s least corrupt countries. While Maurice Williamson has been forced to go, John Key’s culture of entitlement continues.”

The Green Party said questions remained to be answered.

"Once again we see a National Party Minister intervening in relation to someone who has given the National Party money. There appears to be a thin line between money and political influence in the National Party," said Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman.

"Maurice Williamson's resignation does not sweep under the carpet the bigger issue around potential Ministerial impropriety on behalf of National Party donors," Norman said.

"It is very important the public knows the nature of Maurice Williamson's contact with the police. Was he seeking to get a National Party donor off a domestic violence charge? Are there other legal issues that sort of intervention triggers? We also need to know when the Prime Minister was first made aware of Williamson's actions. Was he simply hoping that information wouldn't come out and has he been involved in covering it up?," he said.

"In New Zealand, it's not ok for people to make big donations to political parties and then receive political influence as a result of that."

Norman said National had voted down a Green proposal for a lobbying disclosure regime and had rejected a Green call for a ministerial disclosure regime.

"Every time the Green Party has proposed better rules around lobbying and access the National Party has rejected it. It is easy to see why they don't want additional scrutiny," Norman said.

(Updated with more detail, reaction)

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That's a shame I quite liked Williamson and especially his strong stance in support of gay marriage and the general character that he was.  But NZ has a strong reputation of being against crony capitalisim and we have to be ruthless in weeding it out to keep it

Collins and now Williamson, with the common denominator being Chinese interests. This is merely the sleaze we are finding out about, you can be sure there is a great deal else that remains hidden. Chinese interests have embedded themselves deep within the body politic of New Zealand.

Embedded in more ways than one; Let's not forget Brown and Chuang, who believes she has the Chinese female vote.

Newsflash: 18.9% of Auckland's population are Asian so it's hardly surprising that Brown's mistress was Asian.
You might think you are pointing out some big "conspiracy" but actually your comment is just ho-hum racism, sadly more and more common on this site of late.

Ah yes, lets try and shut down debate by playing the 'racism' card. I wonder what skin you have in the game (no pun intended)?

Love it - you are drawing links between three completely unrelated groups of people: Liu, border agents in China, and Bevan Chuang but hey, they're all Chinese and therefore they are evidence of more "hidden sleaze", apparently. Your racism is in that leap of logic - that somehow the Chinese ethnicity is connected inherently to sleaziness.
Try switching the races around and you'll see how absurd your statement is. Williamson, Collins and Brown are all white for example. Where is your grand fatuous statement connecting their corruption to their whiteness?

Perhaps you should re-read the posts again rather more carefully instead of rushing to try and shut down debate. Remind me again where I have mentioned ''Liu, border agents in China, and Bevan Chuang'' ? And when did I mention the odious Brown?
Laughable scatter gun defence, you haven't even distinguished between who said what in this thread. Do try harder.
Widescale corruption is an every day fact of life in China. It appears as though it may be an increasing problem here too.

Ahem. Someone pointing out the connections you are making are spurious nonsense is not "trying to shut down debate". In fact it is the exact opposite. Do try harder yourself.
So I take it you agree with me then that the Bevan Chuang case has nothing to do with Liu, and lord help us, border agents thousands of miles away in China, apart from all of the above being Chinese. Glad we cleared that up.
By the way, the Liu case has nothing to do with the Orivida scandal either. It certainly doesn't prove Chinese people have a propensity for corruption. The only people been proven corrupt by either scandal are National party cabinet ministers.

To accept your propsition we would have to assume that Williamson put his ear to the ground, heard a stray whisper that Billy Liu had a small problem, so Williamson, being the kind soul that he is, voluntarily, all of his own accord, contacted the police and said I believe you have one of my constituents under lock and key, dont know his name, but if you do, can you help him out, oh yeah - he's the one who is going to invest an imaginary $70 million in Newmarket, which isnt my electorate, but he lives in my electorate, I don't know his name

Clearly comprehension is not your strong point - you are quoting what idlebumski said, not I.

A wealthy Auckland businessman, granted citizenship against official advice because of the "potential benefits" of his investment, has yet to start a proposed $70 million property development.
Donghua Liu opened the $3.5 million refurbishment of the Boulevard Hotel with Prime Minister John Key and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson in time for the Rugby World Cup as the first stage of an ambitious project to rejuvenate the derelict site in Newmarket.

..the Nats are up to their armputs when it comes to Chinese pockets.  Their continued lack of acknowlegment that the immigration process is fueling Aucklands housing and roading problems says it all. 

Wakey Wakey - Money talks
They dont even have to bring the money in
Just imply it will come, promise, suggest
That's the way "bidness" is done

Exactly how Judith Collins stepped over the line is perhaps unclear to me, as having dinner and being photographed with a NZ/Chinese company with which she is associated does not seem too out of line. Maybe I'm missing something.
In Williamson's case, questioning the police on behalf of an associate of some sort is a clear breach of any sense test I would have, while the debacle over the Newmarket site reinforces that the negative outcomes of the association are non trivial. Will Williamson contest the election I wonder?

Simple - she lied - repeatedly.

"all i did was stop by for a cup of tea on my the way to the airport" = 80km diversion in opposite direction to the airport for cup of tea following up a dinner with the Chairman, MD, and Chinesse Government official.
"i did not discuss the dinner with the ambassador" = i did discuss the meeting with the ambassodor and he asked me to keep him updated.
The dinner may not have breached guidelines, we will never know as she refuses to divulge details.  In the meantime she has lied to parliment and the public too many times about events surrounding the dinner.

Fair enough. So it was the lying rather than necessarily the dinner itself.

Yes, and when she has been shown to be lying about the details surrounding the dinner, one rather suspects there is something even worse going on about the dinner itself when she refuses to come clean.

Yup, it's the lying or being economical with the truth - both being forms of deceit. Judith is a master. 

she said she had checked her notes and believed she had spoken to the ambassador about the dinner the following day and told him "nothing had occurred that was untoward.....
Come on, why would any grown up person say actually tell someone that they went out and that 'nothing untoward' happened
If my teenage son came home and said something like that I would want to know exactlt why he said it.

Winston's comment is spot on.
Maurice's actions were indeed wrong, but they pale in insignificance compared to Judith's with respect to her Oravida affair - she lied repeatedly to the media on what/where/when and who with respect to that Ministerial junket to China;
Long way to go for a cuppa
And of course that was only the beginning of her lies.
Thank goodness we had a faction of the MSM who chose to pursue her version of events.

That's what I was thinking. Poor old crushed Collins is on borrowed time. Sorry to see a seemingly decent man go.

Yes, Maurice is basically a good guy. Still blinded by neoliberal ideology but then lots of good people are.

Self-important.  He took a phone call while in the middle of giving a speach to our school assembly.   If raving lefties had just blown up the behive i could understand, but nothing of significance happened that day.

How bizarre! Did an official interrupt him mid-speech, or had he forgot to turn his cellphone off?

Reminds me of a pretty funny TV show called Veep on the Soho channel. 

He picked up his mobile and answered it himself. 

oh dear. I was once in an official blue suit meeting around one of those stately board-type tables - when the guy doing the talking at the time nearly lept out of his chair in fright. Turns out he had his phone on vibrate in a trouser pocket ... and he got a call.
To lighten the embarrassment, one of the suits said politiely, "some of them give you quite a buzz" - to which another replied, "yes, they can indeed scare the willy out of you".
I couldn't hold back from having a giggle - which I tried to conceal as a cough - which just lead to another sort of noise coming out from me - something between a cough and a snort, this time. Then for three seconds I thought I had it under control - but didn't. Had to excuse myself and leave the room.
Being the only woman around the table - I had no help from any fellow gigglers.

Even Bush stayed with the school kids. When the twin towers came down no less. I saw it in that movie.

And when as minister of stats, he tried to politicise the release of census data to influence the Mayoral elections, he dropped a notch in my opinion.  I think the rest of the Ministers were not too impressed with him that day.

Look out onto the horizon! Some decades hence will New Zealand experience the fate of the Sudetenland? Or at best will we be forced, in ever growing appeasement, to apply one accomodating standard to certain New Zealanders and one more exacting standard to others? How long will a ubiquitous rule of law hold? Let's face it, less thought has been given to the literal transformation of New Zealand's demogaphics than a man might give to his choice of trousers.

So true.

The Western world got soft and voted for more cream

Williamson has been there far too long to be of any real expectation to having any inspired thought.
So he should get out and enjoy his rip-off pension entitlement. Unfortunately any replacement in Pakuranga may be as useful and inspiring as Jamie-Lee Ross next door in Botany.

There will be no replacement, he is staying put as an MP and said he will contest it at the next election.  It's a safe National seat, 62% to Labours 18 in 2011.
He'll probably be given his ministerialships back in a post-election reshuffle.

leaving aside partisanship and persoanl political affliations kiwis need to think very hard about  the risks of insidious onset and growth of corruption. I have seen the societal damage due to corruption first hand and left my country for that reason. 
Reflecting over the past and recent stories now there is a series of different incidents with different twists , Sky City, hollywood saga, RrioTtinto,assesst sales, Judith Collins s love affair with Chinese , donations from chinese businessman to john key for a game of golf, GCSB affair including appointment of its chief etc, In my opnion all of these  different and apparaently unrealted events depict underlying change in the the ethics and values and governance style .
all Kiwis need to safegaurd against a corupt political culture which is very hard to get rid off once established . 

Well said. 

spot on Nomad. We seem to be in the process of loosing something greater than money can buy...but not many seem to be noticeing.

It is, unfortunately, established albeit not to an extent evident in almost all other states. And it is a somewhat natural outcome in dealing with corrupt states and their representatives, officials and business players. Our government needed to be better prepared. Or perhaps they are and everything is progressing accoridng to plan...

Indeed - a pattern of behaviour is emerging that is un-kiwi - what do you do when recent arrivals come bearing expensive gifts - it's the way they do business

Here we go again. 
NZ Herald: "He started by saying that in no way was he looking to interfere with the process, he just wanted to make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure we were on solid ground as Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand."
This is probably just the tip of the iceberg - how much of this sort of thing goes undiscovered? The outrageous lengths this government will go to to suck up to foreign individuals and multinational corporations is a real worry. The proposed TPP will merely formalise the sleazy, fascist Government/corporate union.  If you're a Warner Bros or Rio Tinto or a wealthy businessmen NZ laws and taxes are totally negotiable. Puts in context yesterday's's rant by the pro foreign ownership shill.
Make no mistake - our privacy, our rights, our sovereinty are being sold out and no one in this government could care less.

Well, they could care less - indeed they are complicit .. right in there boots 'n all ensuring it does happen. Easy to see why from Judith's perspective - it's in her personal/family interests.  What JK's gaining from it is still a mystery. No doubt they did go ahead with the Genesis sale simply because there was a commitment/expectation by brokers and the larger investor market (nothing to do with benefiting the mom 'n pop investors as was evidenced by the manner in which such investors were scaled back) .. but the real question is what's the pay off to the PM in all of this? I'm guessing it's some kind of career opportunity for him post-PMship. 

you betcha John boy is looking for a pay-off. The smooching he does his stomach turning stuff and it's all about him and his personal ambitions.
I have no track record with the left, but the antics that this govt has been up to of late (well summarised by Nomad above) is forcing me to urge on the other parties - the left has prised open the door a little and with clever strategy could bust it wide open.  It's there for the taking.

That Nick Smith is taking over for him gives a sense of how long the standdown is for intervening for a friend.

This is just the tip of the iceberg
What you are reading here is a carefully managed sanitised announcement to pull the covers over what is really happening. If you believe it - you are sadly mis-informed

For an insight into how the business is done you should have a look at what is currently going on over in NSW
Property developers are the main sources of funding to political parties - whoever happens to be in power - to buy influence, obtain favourable decisions over zonings and approvals and whatever you can imagine can be favourable to the donor or briber or seeker of patronage can bring .. the amount of payola is a billion dollar business .. etc etc etc
In 2008, the then Labour party made it illegal for any political party to receive donations from property developers

In 2011 a property developer was solicited to donate $5,000 to the LNP (national) party even though it was illegal to do so
The tentacles of that one single donation is now playing out before ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) which is an independent open (public) investigatory body that has coercive powers of investigation and can conduct raids etc
So far, the current open court hearing, which started on 25 april 2014, has brought down 1 State Premier (equivalent to NZ prime miniser) and 4 sitting members of parliament. Thats just so far. More to come.

Watch the Sydney Morning Herald on a daily basis
The twitterati are going ballistic - 7000+ tweets per day
Google ICAC Girolamo AWH Sergi Obeid McClymont for a real insight into how political favours are done, and the amount of money changing hands

Liu lobbied Williamson to reduce the NZ$10 million threshold for business immigrants
The following year one of Liu's companies donated NZ$22,000 to the National Party

NZ Herald report
Maurice Williamson told a senior police officer that a wealthy businessman facing domestic assault charges was "investing a lot of money in New Zealand" and urged police to be on "solid ground", according to internal police emails
If that is not exerting influence what is
The subtext contained in the email to the police is - this guy Liu is important to us and we want you to look after him - personally
Question is - how much money did Liu donate this time for this further assistance? He knows grease is required to move the wheels - How much Mr Liu?

Next question is
Has any of this supposed investment into New Zealand has actually happened yet?

Pansy Wong’s dubious solicitation of political funding

Although Pansy Wong has survived the investigation into her use of travel perks, the NBR is today reporting another political finance potential scandal based on her fundraising for the National Party. It has been revealed that Wong has raised large amounts of money for the National Party in 2007, including $200,000 from one fundraising event where apparently one Chinese businessman paid $50,000 for one of John Key’s ties. All of this money presumably was passed onto the head office of the National Party. Yet the funds are not easily identified in the donations declared by the party to the Electoral Commission for 2008. Why not? Matt Nippert’s article in today’s NBR quotes me discussing the issue. This blog post elaborates on the issues. [Read more below

Another case of a structures being used to hide behind.
Donations should have to be made in an individuals name only, otherwise there is no transparency.

What I want to know is, what the hell was this man doing in the country in the first place. Williamson "fixed" it so he could gain residency when all the advice was that he should not be given it. 
Donghua Liu should not even BE here for this to be an issue

Actually it was an earlier Labour Minister who granted him residency (against official advice).
Williamson subsequently lobbied for his citizenship application to be granted - which it was by a National Minister (again against official advice).
And then apparently Williamson himself performed the citizenship ceremony immediately thereafter.
I find that strange. Why would anyone who is already a permanent resident be in such a hurry to become a citizen?

I want the whole buy your way into this country thing to be gone, if you can't pass muster via the other requirements then you don't get in. I find it all pretty disgusting, actually

I couldn't agree more.

"It is pretty hard to have a friend that you cannot speak a word of their language and they of yours."
The above is a statement from slippery Maurie then it comes out that he has stayed in his non friends beach house. Not only does he appear to have been bought off he also looks a bit of a thicko.
National is for sale folks. Its time to give someone else a go.
Kiwis so dumb lah.

In simple terms, is he resigning because what he did was wrong or because he was caught? Seems like the latter to me.

Well on the basis that he is still claiming he did no wrong, def the later.
""When I hung up I literally did not see that that was anything other than what a member of parliament would normally do on behalf of somebody who had asked.
"In 26 years as an MP when I have hung up the phone from a call to ACC or the police or the health board advocating on behalf of somebody I've always thought that was my job and I wasn't crossing a line.
"However it has become clear that the police believe that it does cross a line, the Prime Minister thinks that it was inappropriate for me to have made the call."
Translation, i didn't do anything wrong, i'm only going because the PM told me to go or i'd be sacked.

It's all happening at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings
Evidence of corruption among politicians, slush funds, illegal donations, selling favours, money laundering, opening doors, peddling influence, coming out thick and fast
One wag tweeted a distraction was urgently needed suggesting australia invade new zealand, now, today
Two weeks ago Premier resigned
Today the Police Minister stood down being implicated in slush fund for favours
Score so far in 2 weeks is 6 parliamentarians have fallen on their swords

National helps its rich what is new ? You think New Zealanders are not aware of this ? Or that ministerial influence is being used for heaps of things as part of being the perks of power to help out friends with benefits? 

There are thousands who come in to the country with no language skills and settle here permanently....all these are part of the ongoing rorting of NZ. And we call Third World countries corrupt ....

I would want any NZ cabinet minister who goes to china to smooze chinese officials and business people.

Smooze officials and business people, yes. Smooze officials and business people for the benefit of family members companies, no. How much benefit do the NZ companies that were not at the table get from the Ministers actions.

This looks like being the smoking gun on the Collins trip. Official documents list her acting as a Minister with the purpose of the trip being to benefit solely Oravida.

It's called schmoozing from the yiddish
schmoozed, schmoozing. 1. to chat idly; gossip. noun 2. idle conversation; chatter. Also, schmoose , schmoos. Origin: 1895–1900
There is schmoozing and schmoozing and then it can turn to something else ... it's getting a real work out in sydney NSW at the ICAC investigation into how the political system works

The Sydney Morning Herald
If "Black Ops" turns out to be what the ICAC alleges it is, it will form just one dark part of the underworld of politics in this state – a place where taxpayers’ business is transacted not on the floor of parliament or even in the open forum of the media, but in boardrooms, fancy restaurants and behind the closed doors of parliamentary offices. A place where the public interest is routinely superseded by private interests, and where only groups and companies rich enough to hire lobbyists are able to get anything done ........ more
The term "lobbying" derives, of course, from the practice of hanging around lobbies to snatch the attention of politicians or otherwise powerful people as they pass by. In federal parliament, lobbyists crowd the tables of "Aussies" cafe, holding court and meeting with their parliamentarian marks. One press gallery colleague refers to them as "the sea of human filth". Others are kinder and simply call them rent-seekers.
Lobbying is not evil per se, and everyone has the right to pay a professional to represent their interests. Lobbyists can do good work on behalf of good causes, like housing affordability for the poor.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that the lack of transparency in the system gives itself to corruption, and the private nature of the work can lead to secrecy and ‘‘black ops’’. As yet the issue hasn’t spilt fully over into the federal realm, but it is doing enough to erode voters’ trust. And trust is already becoming a problem for Abbott. He needs plenty of it for his budget.