Thursday, November 23, 2006

Don Brash resigns as Party leader

[Wise man to step down before being pushed.]

Speaking notes for media conference
23 November 2006 - 13:00 - Dr Don Brash
Party Leader

Today I want to make two announcements.
The first is about my own position as Leader of the National Party.
As most of you will recall, I let it be known before the election last year that, should National lose the election, I expected to step down as Leader – or be asked to do so!
In fact, I prepared my election night comments on the basis that, if we didn't win, I would announce my resignation.
In the event of course, we didn't win, but we achieved a better result than any of the commentators expected six months before the election, and indeed a better result than National had achieved in any election since 1990.
On Election Day itself, I was urged by my closest advisors to stay on as Leader in the interests of the Party, and subsequently by both the caucus and the wider National Party.
But it has become increasingly clear in recent months that there's a growing expectation that I'll step down well ahead of the next election.
That ongoing speculation is damaging to the National Party, and to our future prospects.
Accordingly, as we approach the end of the Parliamentary year, I've decided to resign as Leader with effect from a special caucus meeting which I'll call for early next week.
I believe the Party is in very good heart, with a highly experienced and determined caucus, and an organisation outside Parliament which is in better shape than for many years.
Polls vary, but on average they show National leading Labour by some 6 to 8%, with the Colmar Brunton poll showing us at 49%, ahead by 13%.
For some weeks now, I've been giving consideration to the right time, and the right way, to announce this decision.
I've held off because I've been very keen to have two untidy matters dealt with before my departure.
The first was the GST error made by the Party in the election campaign last year. Although this had nothing to do with me personally, it was a source of embarrassment and I was very keen that a solution be found before my resignation. The National Party Board agreed the best solution we can find yesterday, and that's already been announced.
The second was the matter of the emails stolen from my computer system.
As you all know, there were a number of emails to or from me leaked to the "Sunday Star Times" and other media during the election campaign. We took no formal action on these leaks, accepting that leaks occasionally happen, either accidentally or deliberately.
After the election, Winston Peters talked about having "telephone books" of my emails, but offered no proof of that fact. He eventually produced one more email and an attachment in the House.
We commissioned a formal investigation to see if we could discover the source of these emails, but found nothing.
In recent weeks, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have both made knowing comments about the imminent publication of my emails, and suggested they would implicate me.
We've also seen articles in both the "New Zealand Herald" and "North and South", talking about the imminent publication of a "book" of my emails.
In September, we asked the police to investigate what seemed to us at the time – and still seems – to have been criminal activity in accessing my computer system. This police investigation is ongoing.
In early November, I decided that the publication of a "book" of emails to and from me would be totally unfair to the many hundreds of people who correspond with me by email, and would potentially hinder my ability to operate as a Member of Parliament and as the Leader of the National Party. Such people, from all parts of New Zealand and from all walks of life, should reasonably expect their correspondence with me to be private.
And so I sought and obtained an interim injunction to prevent a book of those stolen emails being published. I felt, and still feel, there's an important issue of principle here.
Great was my surprise when, two days ago, what got caught by the injunction was not a book of my emails, but a scurrilous book by Nicky Hager attacking both the National Party as an institution and me personally.
Unlike Helen Clark, Michael Cullen and, I suspect, Winston Peters, I had no knowledge that such a book was under preparation, and consequently Mr Hager's book was not the target of the injunction. But publication of that book has been stopped by the injunction.
I utterly reject Mr Hager's conspiracy view of the world, and recall Helen Clark's comment on Mr Hager's recent attack on the SIS as "a work of fiction".
From what little I've learnt about the contents of Mr Hager's book from media comment, I utterly reject also his latest attempt to discredit the National Party and me. It's simply nonsense to suggest that the National Party was, or is, under the influence of American neoconservatives; or received funding from the Exclusive Brethren; or broke election spending rules – the only party found to have broken the election spending cap was the Labour Party.
But, to paraphrase the words of Voltaire, though I utterly reject Mr Hager's view of the National Party and of me, I defend his right to hold those views, and to publicise them.
So this is my second announcement.
Over the last 24 hours I have taken legal advice about how the publication of Mr Hager's book can proceed, while continuing to restrain the ability of other people to use my stolen emails.
The court order provides that nobody in possession of my stolen emails can publish them unless I provide them to that person. I'm advised that Mr Hager can legally proceed with publishing his book if I provide him with copies of those of my emails included in the book. I'm willing to do that.
As a result of discussions I've asked my legal counsel to initiate, I anticipate that Mr Hager will be able to publish his book tomorrow morning.
Unfortunately, that will not protect the identity of people who have sent me emails, and on the assumption that Mr Hager has not obtained their permission to publish their emails, I regard his behaviour as totally reprehensible. It will certainly tend to inhibit the ability of the public to communicate frankly with Members of Parliament.
The announcement of Mr Hager's book almost caused me to defer my resignation as Leader. I deeply resent the lies and distortions which seem to have been included in his book, and I intend to vigorously contest those allegations.
But I can do that just as effectively having stepped down as Leader, and that I will do with effect from the special caucus meeting, probably on Monday.
Over the past three years, it has been a great honour to be the 10th Leader of the National Party, and I take a great deal of satisfaction at the progress we've made over that time.
I want to thank all those who've helped me – the President and Board of the Party, the thousands of volunteers all over the country, my Parliamentary colleagues, most of whom have been unswervingly loyal to the National Party and to me, and my staff.
In that regard, and at the risk of failing to mention a whole host of others, including media staff, communications staff, research staff, IT staff, and others, I should make special mention of my chief of staff, initially Richard Long and now Wayne Eagleson; my special assistant over the two years prior to the election, Bryan Sinclair; the campaign director, Steven Joyce; the man who master-minded our billboards and advertising, John Ansell; my two senior press secretaries, Jason Ede and Kevin Taylor; those who helped me in the preparation of Parliamentary questions, Phil de Joux and Sarah Boyle; and my loyal secretary, Anne Small.
And of course a special thanks to my wife Je Lan and family, who've put up with a huge amount since I entered politics more than four years ago, and have supported me loyally through it all.
There's still an enormous amount to achieve if we're to give New Zealand the future we all want for our children and grandchildren, and I look forward to wishing the next Leader, whomever he or she may be, every success.
I have no doubt that, after the next election, New Zealand will have the National-led Government we need and deserve.
It is, of course, quite possible that I will play some part in that Government. That's a matter to be resolved in due course between the next Leader of the National Party, my wife and family, and me.


Post a Comment

<< Home