Winston Peters was defiant to the last minute of a two-hour debate in Parliament on Tuesday but at the end of it MPs voted 62-56 to censure him over the $100,000 donation from billionaire businessman Owen Glenn.
The privileges committee called for him to be censured in a report it released on Monday night, saying the New Zealand First leader must have had some knowledge of the donation which was made in December 2005.
The committee decided he had knowingly misled Parliament by not declaring the donation, and was therefore in contempt of its rules.
Peters still insists he knew nothing about the donation until July this year.
The committee’s conclusion was supported by eight of its 13 members. The other five did not agree, and those opinions were reflected when the censure vote was taken.
National, the Greens, the Maori Party, ACT, United Future and two independent MPs supported the censure motion. Labour and NZ First opposed it.
During the debate attention focused on the events of December 14, 2005, when Peters held a phone conversation with Glenn.
Immediately after that he called his lawyer Brian Henry, and minutes after that call Henry emailed Glenn giving his bank account details so the donation could be paid into it.
Glenn’s evidence to the committee’s inquiry was that the donation was discussed when he spoke to Peters.
“Members of the committee believe it is extremely unlikely that the donation wasn’t mentioned,” said National MP Simon Power, the chairman of the privileges committee, when Tuesday’s debate began.
“The email indicates it must have been.”
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the sequence of events was compelling evidence, and he believed Peters did know about the donation.
United Future leader Peter Dunne said there had been a lot of drama around the inquiry but the issue hinged around the events of December 14.
It boiled down to whether or not the donation was mentioned during Peters’ conversation with Glenn.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, a member of the committee, said there had been contradictory evidence about that because Peters said the donation was not mentioned.
He said some of Glenn’s testimony had been contradictory, and he did not think Glenn had been an entirely reliable witness.
Dr Cullen said a higher degree of proof was needed to take a step as serious as censure by Parliament, which had happened only three times in the last 35 years.
Peters said the inquiry had been a premeditated attack on himself, his MPs and his party.
Glenn’s donation was used to pay his lawyer’s legal fees, and Peters said other MPs had used donations for the same purpose without declaring them.
He spoke of “a hymn of hate” over the years and said he had been singled out.
“This inquiry was about politics… MPs cannot make decisions based on what they think probably occurred,” he said.
The committee’s process had been “a banal, useless facade” about a donation he could not have declared because he had not known about it.
“The only court I will stand before is on November 8,” he said, referring to the election.
The committee has ordered Peters to submit accurate declarations of donations for the last three years.
The Serious Fraud Office and the Electoral Commission are holding separate inquiries into other donations to NZ First.