Government Minister Paula Bennett looked after a violent gangster in her home while he awaited trial.
The man, Viliami Halaholo, has now been jailed for causing grievous bodily harm, but his girlfriend - Bennett's 21-year-old daughter Ana - visits him once a fortnight in Mt Eden Prison. Their daughter Tiara-Lee is aged 2.
Yesterday, Paula Bennett and the Prime Minister refused to say whether the Social Development Minister had disclosed her personal connections to the gang member in top-level security vettings.
Gets one's interest, doesn't it? But worse is this piece of shoddy journalism later on (our emphasis added):
The Herald on Sunday sent a list of questions to Bennett and Prime Minister John Key about the potential security risks when a minister or senior official has close personal and family connections with anyone implicated in serious criminal offending and organised crime.
Bennett released a written statement: "My daughter has always been the most important person to me, and I've tried not to bring her private life into my public life."
This is not the first time a minister's family connections with a jailed criminal has called her ministerial judgment into question - but it is the first time the criminal was known to be involved in organised crime.
In 2001, former Associate Corrections Minister Tariana Turia wrote to department officials on ministerial letterhead paper, asking that an adoptive son, Mark Turia, be shifted to a prison closer to his family.
Now the HoS writer, Rebecca Milne tries to link two cases together. For as she later reveals (again, our emphasis added):
But at the time that Halaholo was bailed to her address, from September 12, 2006 to July 5, 2007, she was an outspoken Opposition MP. Four months later, Halaholo was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.
That's right. Tariana Turia was an Associate Minister, writing on ministerial letterhead in a matter directly concerning her portfolio, and with a clear conflict of interest. Paula Bennett was, between September 2006 and July 2007, a first-term backbench opposition MP whose main claim to fame was a weekly breakfast TV appearance. To claim that the two matters are alike is absurd, as is the reference to Bennett's "minsterial judgement"!
As opined ealier, Keeping Stock reckons that this is a shoddy piece of work from what is generally a reasonable newspaper. And we reckon that the ceremonial defrocking of the Minister of Social Development isn't going to happen any time soon if this is the best that the media can do.
UPDATE: The Herald website is reporting that John Key has "full confidence" in Paula Bennett. So does Keeping Stock!