Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says he did not lie
about writing a letter on behalf of controversial businessman
A letter from the Labour leader to immigration officials on
behalf of Liu was first revealed by
the Herald after documents were released under the
Official Information Act earlier today.
Mr Cunliffe - who said this week he had never met Donghua Liu
or advocated on his behalf - told reporters he did not recall
writing the letter.
He said that "I have not lied about anything to do with Mr
Liu", and he would not resign.
"I did not advocate for him. A letter has just come to my
attention which is eleven years old. I simply asked how long
a processing process would take."
Mr Cunliffe said he still had no recollection of meeting Mr
"I simply do not recall ever having met him.
"To the best of my knowledge that letter came through my
office and an immigration agent on his behalf."
Mr Cunliffe said he wrote the letter, "because it checked out
on paper and it was a very low level request about how long
the processing would take."
He believed he was still fit to lead the Labour Party and he
had not checked as to whether he retained the support of his
caucus, "because I don't believe that's necessary".
"I do not believe I have done anything wrong."
He said the situation differed from former National
Government Minister Maurice Williamson's intervention with
police on behalf of Mr Liu in that "Mr Williamson was guilty
of intervening directly in a police operational matter".
As far as his letter on behalf of Mr Liu, "MPs do this all
the time in respect of immigration cases, they simply ask how
long processes take or act on behalf of their constituents as
"I deal with hundreds of constituents a year and this is 11
years ago. I simply do not have any recollection and nor did
my office. I had asked my office to check, the advice was
that we had no records.
"My memory has obviously failed me. I'm not going to blame
staff, I am responsible but the advice I had was that we had
no records of any meeting with Liu"
Mr Cunliffe said heads would "not necessarily roll" over the
affair "my staff are long serving and well working people.
"I'm not going to be rolling the heads of my electorate
office staff over something that happened 11 years ago."
He did not resile from yesterday's denials that he had ever
advocated on behalf of Mr Liu.
"Do you think I would have been emphatic if I had any memory
of Mr Liu? I gave you an honest answer as I recalled and I
stand by that statement."
Asked how he felt today, he said: "I actually know that I've
done nothing wrong so I feel totally relaxed about this."
Labour's Deputy Leader David Parker said Mr Cunliffe retained
his confidence and that of Labour's caucus.
"I think David Cunliffe has told the truth at all times."
"Obviously we would rather this not have happened. David
Cunliffe has done nothing he should be ashamed of here. He's
told the truth throughout."
Labour MP Trevor Mallard, when asked whether Mr Cunliffe
retained the confidence of caucus replied, "David Cunliffe is
the Leader of the Labour Party".
"I've always been loyal to the Leader of the Labour Party."
National: Cunliffe must explain
Prime Minister John Key told nzherald.co.nz in New York that
"politics is all about trust."
"Mr Cunliffe has asked New Zealanders to trust him that he
has had no involvement with Donghua Liu and yet this letter
suggests the opposite.
"Quite clearly he will need to explain his actions."
Asked if he thought it was more likely to be a mistake than a
lie he said "i wouldnt want to speculate on that."
"But there have been a number of occasions in the past where
getting to the truth of matters has proven quite challenging
for Mr Cunliffe."
He would not speculate on whether the revelation would put
pressure on Mr Cunliffe's leadership.
Acting Prime Minister Bill English said the revelations were
"a real surprise" because Mr Liu's donations and connections
to MPs had been debated in Parliament for two months.
He said the new details would make it difficult for the
public to take Mr Cunliffe at his word.
"He has got a lot of explaining to do," Mr English said. "His
credibility on these issues was pretty thin anyway. He set up
his own personal trust and won't reveal the donors to it in
the way everyone else has to. Now this really blows his
credibility to bits."
Mr English said he did not remember every letter he wrote in
2003, but added: "If there was a couple of months of public
discussion about a high-profile donor that I knew I would go
to the trouble of finding out."
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said Mr Cunliffe
had "a real problem".
"If this is the sort of standard he wants to take to the
election campaign then I think it's something that I think
the public of New Zealand will be very interested in.
"He's basically saying it doesn't matter that I say to you
one day one thing and the next day that it's something
completely different in fact the exact opposite."
Asked whether he believed Mr Cunliffe had lied, Mr Joyce
said: "He's got to square this particular circle, I don't
believe he can."
"The Labour Party needs to absolutely come clean about
everything else they've talked about Donghua Liu that weirdly
they don't know anything about."
Mr Cunliffe said the criticism that he had betrayed the trust
of New Zealanders was "politics as usual".
Mr Cunliffe said his office dealt with "hundreds and hundreds
of constituents every year that since 11 years ago adds up to
"My office it now appears was approached by an immigration
agent on his behalf and on that basis I agreed to write a low
level process inquiry, it is not a substantive advocacy for
"I did not tell a lie, I absolutely did not. I did not
intervene in support of his application."
The forgotten letter
The 2003 letter was written in his capacity as the MP for New
Lynn after he was "approached my constituent Donghua Lui
[sic] who is concerned at the time it is taking to process
his Investment Category application".
Mr Cunliffe this week denied any involvement with Liu's
residency bid after the Herald revealed the
property developer paid $15,000 at a Labour Party fundraiser
for a book signed by Helen Clark in 2007.
The letter, released to the Herald today under the
Official Information Act, dated April 11, 2003 said Liu's
application for residency was accepted for processing by the
Immigration Service on August 13, 2002.
Mr Cunliffe said Mr Liu wished to set up a joint venture
business with his Tianlong Property Development Company -
which owns his stalled property development in Newmarket - to
export large quantities of agricultural and horticultural
products to China.
"It is hoped that products from the company will be available
to the market in July 2003," wrote Mr Cunliffe.
"I am aware of the difficulties facing the Business Migration
Branch of New Zealand Immigration Services in coping with the
overwhelming numbers of applicants that have applied for
consideration under these categories and the time taken to
"However, it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of
an estimated period of time in which he could expect a
decision on his case."
Yesterday, Mr Cunliffe told reporters questioning him about
Liu's financial support for Labour he did not recall meeting
him and denied advocating on Liu's behalf in his residency
Liu was granted residency under the Investor Category in 2005
by Labour's associate Immigration Minister Damien O'Connor
against official advice.
The Herald this week revealed Liu's $15,000 secret
donation to Labour and today published a 2007 photograph of
Labour MP Rick Barker, the Internal Affairs Minister at the
time, presenting a bottle of wine to Liu's partner at another
Labour Party fundraiser.
Mr Barker also visited Liu in his hometown of Chongqing for a
lavish dinner that year.
The Labour Party has previously accused the National
government of making "cash for access" deals with Liu, who
received citizenship in 2010 after lobbying from National
minister Maurice Williamson and whose hotel was later opened
by Prime Minister John Key.
He gave $22,000 to the National Party in 2012 through one of
his companies, and had meetings with Immigration Minister
Michael Woodhouse in an attempt to secure relaxed immigration
rules for rich migrants.
Mr Williamson quit his ministerial portfolios last month
after the Herald revealed he contacted police over a
prosecution against Liu.
David Cunliffe to reporters yesterday
Q: Do you recall ever meeting Liu?
A: I don't recall ever meeting him, no.
Q: Did you have anything to do with the granting of his
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you advocate on his behalf at all?
Q:Were you aware of any advice against granting him permanent
A: Not to my recollection.
- by Adam Bennett, NZ Herald