TV3 had as their lead story tonight an item on how the PM had said at a dinner he is a part owner of a vineyard, yet how all his assets are meant to be in a blind trust.
On the face of it, there seems to be a contradiction between the two. The PM’s Office put out a press released saying:
“As is well known, after becoming Prime Minster I established a blind trust,” says Mr Key.
“The trustees of that blind trust have full control of the management of all the assets not listed in my pecuniary interest register.
“I am not aware of any of the assets contained in the blind trust. I have no rights to either acquire assets, dispose of assets, or to instruct those who manage them. Nor am I able to be informed of what is in the trust.
“Quite appropriately, this continues to be the case.
“I set up the blind trust after becoming Prime Minister so I didn’t have any conflicts of interest through my investments, and that is the case because I don’t know what my investments are.
“To the best of my knowledge, the only people who can be certain what assets the blind trust owns are the trustees, and anything else is mere speculation.”
However this didn’t quite answer in my mind how then did the PM seemingly know the blind trust owned a vineyard. So I e-mailed the PMs Office asking for more info. They gave me a call, and this is the situation as I understand it:
- Nov 2008 – Key wins election as PM
- Dec 2008 – Key had the blind trust set up and existing assets transferred into it. This included the part-share in a vineyard.
- Jan 2009 – this is when Key was at a dinner and mentioned he has part-shares in a vineyard – just three weeks after he transferred them in. So he was assuming that in the three weeks since the blind trust was set up, the shares had not been sold
The PM correctly says today he has no idea if the blind trust still owns a part-share in the vineyard. I don’t really see what the story is then. If his dinner comments had been made a year or two after the blind trust was estblished, that might suggest an issue, but it was a reasonable assumption to make just three weeks later that the shares were still there.
TV3 also tied into the story the bottles of Pinot he gave away at Xmas time, and had branded JK Pinot. However this wine did not come from Highwater (the vineyard that he previously (and the blind trust may stll currently) but another vineyard.
I really can’t see anything at all the PM has done wrong. He correctly put his assets into a blind trust, and to this day doesn’t know whether its investments have changed or not from two years ago.
At worse he may have been imprecise in his response to the question “You’re a vineyard owner yourself aren’t you,” in January 2009. Instead of saying “I am”, he would have been more precise to say “I probably am, but I transferred the shares three weeks ago into a blind trust, and I am not sure if the trustees have sold them or not“.
No doubt Labour though will get terribly excited and demand a commission of inquiry or some such.Tags: John Key, TV3