Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Benson-Pope's defence

Although David Benson-Pope was refused permission to make a personal statement to the House about the existence of the complaint, elements of his defence can be seen in today's ministerial answers. For example, during question 3:
Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister calling the former principal of Bayfield High School a liar—for what other reason could there be for the differences between his account and that of the Hon David Benson-Pope?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, because the former principal has not said he ever showed the Minister a letter of complaint. Had National members been prepared to hear the personal explanation, they could have had more issues made plain.
This, by the standards of Clark's excuses to date, is remarkably weak. Benson-Pope's original statement was that there had never been a complaint against him. Now Clark is suggesting that because Benson-Pope was not shown the letter of complaint, his statement remains true. Firstly Clark is blurring the distinction between a formal complaint and a complaint of any sort. The existence of the letter of complaint is evidence that a complaint was made against Benson-Pope. The next element of defence is awareness - because Benson-Pope supposedly had not seen the letter of complaint, he was not aware that there had been a formal complaint. But his original statement was a denial that any sort of complaint existed. So when Benson-Pope was being questioned about his conduct on the school camp, are we seriously meant to believe that he didn't realize at the time that somebody had made a complaint?