24 Feb 2015

Labour accuses PM of double standards over Liu

4:29 pm on 24 February 2015

The Labour Party is accusing the Prime Minister of double standards as more detail emerges about John Key's relationship with businessman Donghua Liu.

John Key and Donghua Liu

Photo: RNZ

Mr Key has been forced to confirm a National Party fundraising dinner at which he met Mr Liu was held at the businessman's home.

Last year Mr Key was quick to spread rumours that Mr Liu had been a big donor to the Labour Party, even though there was no evidence he had given any money to the Opposition.

That came after Maurice Williamson was forced to resign as a minister when it was revealed he had called police after Mr Liu had been arrested on domestic violence charges.

After the Prime Minister visited Mr Liu's home the businessman donated $25,000 to Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross's 2014 election campaign.

The Labour Party MP and former leader David Cunliffe said Labour was hurt by last year's allegations of its links to Mr Liu, and he was not impressed with the latest revelations about Mr Key's links.

"I think it's been a very disappointing issue. Disappointing firstly that the National Party was clearly telling porkies while they were on the take and secondly that media swallowed it uncritically," Mr Cunliffe said.

Mr Ross said he had subsequently returned the money he received from Mr Liu.

"He made a donation. The donation was not used in the 2014 campaign so it was given back to him...I wouldn't call it a Cabinet Club dinner.

"The donation went into an account called Botany Cabinet Club but it wasn't really a Botany Cabinet Club dinner," he said.

Yesterday Mr Key said he believed the fundraiser at the businessman's house had been a Cabinet Club dinner.

Cabinet clubs have been set up by National Party electorate organisations and enable donors to have access to senior party figures, including ministers, in return for giving substantial sums of money to the party.

Today Mr Key rejected Labour Party criticism about his involvement with Mr Liu.

"There's nothing new here. We were asked last year whether we went on a fundraising dinner. We said we did. That's a statement of fact.

"Actually as it turns out it's not a fundraising dinner because the money was given back...No one asked that question (whether the dinner was at Mr Liu's house)...We go to lots of different homes, we go to lots of different places.

"It's not relevant. I mean in the end we've either gone to a fundraising dinner or we haven't," he said.

Mr Key said while he attended National Party fundraising events, including dinners, he had no knowledge of what money was raised.

But Labour Party leader Andrew Little said Mr Key's answers on the matter were not convincing.

"Last year it wasn't a Cabinet Club. Now we seem to think it was a Cabinet Club and then perhaps it wasn't a Cabinet Club. It was in somebody's home.

"It just goes to the way, I think, John Key deals with issues like this. It's minimal information, minimal fronting up until other information comes out and then he opens up and we get a bit more of the truth. It's not a very satisfactory way for our Prime Minister to operate."

Mr Little said it looked like Mr Ross only returned the $25,000 donation from Mr Liu once National became embarrassed by its links to the businessman.

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