National MP Maurice Williamson crossed the line in making
a phone call to police over the case of a wealthy businessman,
Prime Minister John Key says.
Mr Williamson told a senior police officer that the
businessman, Donghua Liu, who was facing domestic assault
charges, was "investing a lot of money in New Zealand" and
urged police to be on "solid ground", according to internal
Mr Williamson resigned as a Government Minister this morning
following Herald revelations that he made the phone call,
said that he "in no way was he looking to interfere" with the
criminal case against Liu but 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",
according to Inspector Gary Davey.
At a press conference in Auckland today, Mr Key said it was a
long established principle that government ministers and MPs
did not get involved with police prosecutions.
"I think Mr Williamson, by making that phone call, crossed
"There's no grey in this, in the end there's a line. The line
says that ministers do not involve themselves in police
prosecutions, because constabulary independence runs at the
heart of the New Zealand judicial system,'' Mr Key said.
"Ministers cannot, in my opinion, make phone calls, when
there's an ongoing prosecution, whatever the motivations.
"The minute he made the phone call, in my view, he crossed
Mr Key said he was unaware of Mr Williamson's motivations for
making the call.
"I'm sure he's got good reasons for why he made the call.''
Emails sent by Mr Williamson to police made it clear that he
was not trying to interfere with the police prosecution, Mr
However, a Government minister independently prompting a
police review was unacceptable, he said.
"Making that phone call, and the police therefore undertaking
a review, is wrong.
"In the end, he's paid a very heavy price, he's lost his
"I'm sure he's got honest motivations for making the phone
call ... nevertheless he's made the phone call.''
Mr Key said Mr Williamson offered him an explanation for his
reasons behind making the phone call to police, but the
reasons were irrelevant.
"He made a phone call, and as a result of making that phone
call, the police at a senior level undertook a review.
"Police should not be undertaking a review because of a
minister making a phone call. I'm not blaming the police,
they are responding to a minister making a call. That
minister shouldn't have made that call, it's as simple as
that, it's completely black and white.
"He made a phone call while there was an ongoing police
investigation, that is just a no no in everybody's book," Mr
Mr Key said he spoke to Mr Williamson last night and his
resignation as minister was the appropriate response in wake
of his actions.
The affair was incomparable to Judith Collins' Oravida
fiasco, Mr Key said.
"On every single case, I look at them on a case by case
basis, I assess them, I get proper, professional and advice
from the cabinet office and if I think there's a case to
answer and a legitimate case, I act.
"I've acted with other ministers and I've acted in this
"What New Zealanders will expect of me as Prime Minster is to
uphold the values that I believe in, one of those values is
constabulary independence. When someone breaches that, then I
Mr Key said every situation was different and had to be
assessed on its merits.
"I'm not going to go through the other one, except to say
that I went through the same process."
Speaking to media to media at a press conference at his
electoral office this afternoon, Mr Williamson said he would
contest his position as MP for Pakuranga at this year's
He said he was not asking for special treatment for a rich
Chinese businessman and financial backer, and that on
numerous occasions he had called the police for his
constituents and other members of the public.
Mr Williamson said he made five or six calls to police each
year on behalf of people who approached him.
In Mr Liu's case he said: "There was no intention to do
anything about screwing the outcome, but just to work out the
focus of it.
"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've 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."
He said he was told of the December incident by a friend of
Liu and was "shocked" due to Liu's clean record required for
He said he was told by Mr Liu's interpreter there was
confusion over the incident.
"I said I would find out from the police what the status of
all this is and has it come to an end."
Mr Williamson said he was not "friends" with Liu.
"It is pretty hard to have a friend that you cannot speak a
word of their language and they of yours.
"I don't socialise with him."
Mr Williamson said he was feeling "pretty much shattered and
"My family's in a bit of tatters.
"There is clearly a perception that a member of parliament
should not call the police at all about a case and I will
make sure I will never do that again.
"We're here because of me having resigned. I've admitted I
made an error of judgement."
Mr Williamson said he had brought up Liu's financial holdings
"background" for the police.
"I said he was a very large investor in the building and
construction sector ... as a bit of background to who he was.
"I have a perception that we economically need a huge level
of investment above what we have now."
He also said he took domestic violence seriously.
"I know about domestic violence. I'm a big supporter of
Women's Refuge here and I've raised money for them here."
Labour leader David Cunliffe told reporters that Mr
Williamson's case was "yet another example of the decline in
standards of this National Government".
Mr Williamson followed other ministers Richard Worth, Pansy,
Wong, Nick Smith, John Banks, Peter Dunne, and Judith Collins
in breaching the standards that the public would expect of
ministers, the Labour leader said.
He added: "Any minister who interfered in police matters,
particularly for a donor, needs to be instantly gone."
Asked whether Mr Williamson should leave Parliament, Mr
Cunliffe said it was a legal matter and not for him to
Green Party leader Russel Norman said questions remained
about Mr Williamson's dealings with police.
He said the minister's resignation did not dispel the larger
issue of ministerial impropriety on behalf of National Party
"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
He said it was "particularly distressing" that the
intervention related to a case of domestic violence.
"All MPs should be supporting the elimination of domestic
violence and have a zero tolerance policy towards it."
Dr Norman questioned when the Prime Minister was first made
aware of Mr Williamson's actions.
"Was he simply hoping that information wouldn't come out and
has he been involved in covering it up?"
New Zealand First leader Winston Peter said Mr Williamson's
offence was far less than Justice Minister Judith Collins'
dealings with her husband's company Oravida.
He said Mr Williamson's resignation showed a double standard
in National's response to conflicts of interest.
"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
"If Mr Williamson has offended, and he has, then why will the
Prime Minister not act in the case of Judith Collins?"