Peters in the fight of his life

Winston Peters made it clear last night he will not go down without a fight.

The New Zealand First leader is still denying he sought a donation from billionaire Owen Glenn for his legal bill in 2005 for the Tauranga electoral petition but conceded that he spoke to the Monaco-based expatriate by phone on a critical date in question.

Appearing before Parliament's privileges committee, Mr Peters disputed Mr Glenn's evidence of what that call had been about.

And he said the billionaire had been coached by lawyer Geoff Harley, a former Russell McVeagh lawyer who appeared for Fay Richwhite at the Winebox inquiry.

"It's not the first time my memory has been challenged by a wealthy businessman," Mr Peters said.

"I have spent my whole political life to preserve New Zealand for New Zealanders. This is an attempt to undo the people's will, bring down a government, then govern alone.

"My enemies and an elite media have surely proven that."

Prime Minister Helen Clark is ready to sack Mr Peters as a minister today if Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, who is on the committee, recommends it.

But the fact Dr Cullen asked for a copy of Mr Peters' phone records of December 5, 2005, to be delivered to the committee this morning suggests any political execution may not be swift.

The purpose of seeing Mr Peters' phone records is an attempt to prove Mr Peters did not call Mr Glenn on that date to initially solicit a donation as Mr Glenn has said he did.

Mr Glenn's damning evidence on Tuesday was a phone record and a linked email, and an affidavit from Matamata horse trainer Paul Moroney that he heard Mr Peters thank Mr Glenn.

The phone record was of a call Mr Glenn made to Mr Peters on December 14, 2005, in which Mr Glenn says he agreed to Mr Peters' earlier request to fund the Tauranga electoral petition.

Seven minutes after the call, which ended at 1.32pm, Mr Peters' lawyer, Brian Henry, sent an email to Mr Glenn saying "further to your discussion with my client at 1.30 NZ time I provide my bank details . . ."

Mr Peters last night could not account for the link between the two.

He said he did not believe he had spoken to Mr Glenn at 1.30pm.

And to explain the Henry email, he suggested it was possible that Mr Glenn, in the course of their conversation about other matters, had asked for Mr Henry's contact details.

Mr Peters said that he could not recall discussing money with Mr Glenn during the call.

He believed Mr Glenn mentioned being interested in a roving ambassadorship with a focus on trade.

"Mr Glenn mentioned he wanted to be in a similar position to [former prime minister and former WTO secretary-general] Mike Moore."

Mr Peters also said that to the best of his knowledge Mr Glenn also wanted a diplomatic passport to help get quickly through airports and facilitate his travel.

"Mr Glenn did mention, I recall, that he was interested in a consular role in Monaco and I remember I told him we had no such office in Monaco."

Mr Peters also denied Mr Glenn's evidence that in a phone call to him on February 16 this year he encouraged him with regards to the possibility of getting the job of honorary consul in Monaco and to write a letter to him about it.

Mr Glenn did that on May 8.

Earlier in the day during a press conference, Mr Glenn, referring to himself as "the worm that turned", castigated the Labour Party hierarchy, calling Miss Clark "self-serving", Dr Cullen "a bully" and Labour Party president Mike Williams "an unmitigated falsifier".

Parliament went into urgency last night with the support of the Green Party.

The surprise move was thought to be in case of the possible removal of Mr Peters leading to instability.

- Audrey Young

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