Cables reveal 'outright bullying'

Former prime minister Helen Clark says concerns by the US embassy in Wellington over the screening of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 for a Wellington Central Labour Party fundraising event showed "outright bullying" and "unprofessional" conduct by officials.

And former Defence Force chief Sir Bruce Ferguson says the embassy staff member who linked New Zealand's humanitarian mission to Iraq to deals for Fonterra in one of his diplomatic cables must have been "smoking dope".

The cables are among the 1500 from New Zealand which have been part of 250,000 US diplomatic cables from around the globe leaked by WikiLeaks.

One cable shows that former deputy chief of mission David Burnett was concerned enough about the fundraiser in July 2004 to call Helen Clark's office.

He said the fundraiser was to be hosted by Marian Hobbs, the MP for Wellington Central at the time and a cabinet minister.

He also telephoned Marian Hobbs' office but her staff would not put him through to her to discuss it.

Helen Clark's office got back to him to say the minister would be attending but not hosting the event.

Mr Burnett suggests in his cable to Washington that a "potential fiasco" may have been averted because of his phone calls.

Ms Clark said late last week the fundraiser had been put on by the Labour Electorate Committee.

She said the cable "comes down to really outright bullying".

"It's pretty crazy. I just find it unprofessional."

Fahrenheit 9/11 was critical of the response of the US Government, in particular President George W.

Bush, to the terrorist attacks on 2001 and its later prosecution of a war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Sir Bruce Ferguson believes he attended every committee meeting where deployment of engineers to Iraq was discussed, with Helen Clark, former deputy prime minister Michael Cullen, former defence minister Mark Burton and Progressive leader Jim Anderton.

He said Fonterra was not mentioned once.

Throughout all the meetings there was not even a hint that New Zealand was going there for any other reason than that the United Nations had asked it to.

There were discussions about what New Zealand would contribute and how it could contribute it, Sir Bruce said, as well as about protection for the troops.

He was surprised to see one of the US embassy cables from Wellington saying Dr Cullen had told a cabinet meeting that New Zealand's absence from Iraq might cost Fonterra the lucrative dairy supply contract it enjoyed under the United Nations Oil for Food Programme.

"Whoever wrote that was probably smoking dope," he said.

Sir Bruce said he was surprised at the level of contact between his Defence Force staff and the US embassy, but did not believe it was unethical at all.

 

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter