How much was in the undisclosed bank account?

March 20th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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I don’t know about you, but I’m forever forgetting about my offshore bank accounts with large amounts of cash in them. It’s a job to remember to tell the IRD about it, let alone to declare them where I might have a conflict of interest. 

But then, I’m not an MP. More particularly, I’m not the leader of the opposition, nor the head of a party that has made something of a habit of calling for the heads of other MPs whose memory has been somewhat imperfect. 

claims he “forgot” about his account with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City when he came to declare his financial interests to Parliament, as is required under the MPs’ Register of Pecuniary Interests.

Well, we all make mistakes, and none of us are getting any younger except policemen. But Shearer didn’t just forget the one time. He forgot four times in a row – 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

To compound matters, though he forgot to disclose the account to Parliament and therefore to the public, he did remember to tell the IRD about it. He also remembered to tell Parliament about his other bank account with Westpac.

Given that only accounts with more than $50,000 in them must be publicly disclosed, it’s highly surprising that this slipped Shearer’s mind. Either the Labour leader is extremely forgetful, or he has a lot more money stashed away than any of us thought.

We don’t know the actual amount, since Shearer hasn’t disclosed that, because he doesn’t have to, but it could be considerably more than $50,000.

I was on NewstalkZB yesterday with Colin, and this issue came up. While $50,000 is a lot of money to overlook, it looks even worse if it is even more than that.  So how much could be in the account? Well it was used to collect his UN pay.

According to the UN, the salary of a senior manager in a Middle East post would be around US$190,000 a year. Now consider that this is tax free, and that when you are on assignment basically all your living and travel costs are work expenses. So the vast majority of your salary can be saved.

Shearer worked for the UN from 1989 to 2000 and 2002 to 2009, which is a total of 18 years. The total UN salary over that period could have been a bit over US$3 million tax free and expense free. To have an account balance of only US$60,000 means you saved only 2% of it. If you saved 20%, then the account might have over US$500,000 in it.

Note I’ve got absolutely no issue with how much David Shearer earnt at the UN – he did good work there. And good on him for saving a lot of it. That’s prudent.

But if you forgot to disclose an account for four years in a row, then there is a credibility issue around how you forgot that is linked to how much was in it.

On the lighter side, enjoy this satire from The Civilian:

The revelation is the latest in a string of surprising admissions from David Shearer that began yesterday after he was suddenly reminded of an overseas bank account he’d forgotten to disclose on the Parliamentary Register of Pecuniary Interests. Since then, Shearer has also remembered that he hasn’t paid taxes in four years, and last week burgled a small dairy in central Wellington.

When asked what he stole, Mr. Shearer replied “Snickers.”

A number of Labour MPs stood alongside their leader at today’s press conference to offer him their support. Not amongst them was backbench MP David Cunliffe, who had volunteered to phone constituents on Shearer’s behalf to let them know of the affair first-hand.

Heh.

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45 Responses to “How much was in the undisclosed bank account?”

  1. Tristan (63 comments) says:

    It is laughable that Shearer is the one that is being portrayed as the scheming money man against Key the 30 million dollar man who traded in stuff for most of his life.

    Trouble is Shearer only has him self to blame. It is fucking par for the course that Shearer managed to take one of the few weak points of key (the rich prick one) and turn it into an own goal…now that of line attack is dead. well fucking done.

    I hope key opened one of the older bottles of Krug Brut because its his lucky day.

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  2. Black with a Vengeance (1,610 comments) says:

    Down the fucking road with him!!!

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  3. Francis_X (149 comments) says:

    Pffft!

    At least Sheaerer fronted up to his cock up. It didn’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming from him, as with Banks. Or a police investigation. And Shearer didn’t come up with a million excuses or finger-pointing at others like Key does.

    Banks is still an oily, sleazy con-artist who has done more damage to the right than any leftie.

    Whether we like it or not, Shearer came out of this looking a hell of a lot better than either Banks or Key. Something the right should learn from if we’re not going to turn away voter support at the next election.

    And by the way, Diack should tell Banksie to stay off the radio. His performance this morning on State Radio made him look even more deranged with his ranting. God help us.

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  4. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    Shearer is doing everything he can to ensure that National wins the election in 2014.

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  5. dime (9,611 comments) says:

    “Whether we like it or not, Shearer came out of this looking a hell of a lot better than either Banks or Key.”

    than Key? what on earth did Key do?

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  6. Barnsley Bill (982 comments) says:

    Shearer has front footed a leak. There is no other credible explanation for him fessing up at this stage. Sadly for him his refusal to fully disclose how much and where he got it from leaves all of us free to speculate on where the money may have come from and how he got it.
    So I shall kick it off.
    Is it money from the trade in blood diamonds, or possibly commissions for selling organs on the international organ market.
    Or maybe the profits from his mango jam operation, we already know what he did with the skins.
    And as for the amount. I think there is 3,734,550 us dollars in the account.
    DPF should offer a prize for the person who gets closest to guessing the actual number.

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  7. stigie (974 comments) says:

    Ok Francis_X, what did Key do ?

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  8. DRF (19 comments) says:

    This money has been sitting offshore presumably while he waits for a more favourable exchange rate to move it back, something he has been strongly advocating for in parliament and elsewhere.

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  9. Pete George (23,168 comments) says:

    Shearer has left himself open to speculation over this with the facts that he “forgot” about disclosing the account until now and that he has a foreign bank account with a substantial sum in it (not usually the best way to invest money).

    But in the whole scheme of things the pecuniary register is only a very vague indication of financial interests. It’s impossible to tell much substance from any MP’s wealth or investments. Key has some properties and some trusts. Same for Shearer – he also has an ASB bank which must have $50k or more.

    Details of Shearer’s disclosed pecuniary interests.

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  10. BeaB (2,074 comments) says:

    It is obviously over $1 million or else he would tell us. How many millions does he have stashed away is now the question.

    Very brave to be ‘at least’ honest (what a low standard he sets himself) when this was likely to come to light and better now than next year for his chances.

    I think he has to resign. He has pinned his reputation on his superior integrity, memory and opposition to foreign funds. His credibility is totally shot and I cannot see how anyone can defend him.

    He has undermined every attack he has tried to make on John Key and National will make mincemeat of him – in the most gentlemanly way of course.

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  11. Rick Rowling (823 comments) says:

    UN salaries are tax-free

    It’s interesting how Labour / left wing people are keen to get tax free salaries at the UN.

    I would have thought that it conflicted with their principles.

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  12. davidp (3,551 comments) says:

    I’ll repeat some of the questions I had yesterday, since none of them have been answered:

    1. The tax returns that prompted Shearer to remember his secret account can’t have been NZ ones since it is the wrong time of the year. Does Shearer file US tax returns? Is he a US tax payer? Does the US take the bulk of the tax, and his NZ tax return merely shows that the money has been taxed at source?

    2. Why wasn’t the money repatriated to NZ and deposited in a NZ bank? What reason does Shearer have for maintaining large amounts of foreign currency, and maintaining the money offshore rather than in a US-denominated account in a NZ bank?

    3. Was Shearer maintaining the account because he has an intention to return to the US for employment purposes?

    4. Did Shearer own property in the US, now or in the past? If he has sold property then was the money deposited in a NZ bank or in the secret account?

    5. Why does Shearer support a US owned bank rather than, say, Kiwibank? That’s a pretty poor show from a man who supposedly believes in government ownership of NZ banking assets.

    6. Why didn’t he disclose this conflict of interest when he and Norman were lobbying to devalue the NZ dollar, thereby creating a windfall profit for people with foreign currency holdings?

    7. Did Shearer ever offer to voluntarily pay NZ tax on his tax-free UN salary? If he didn’t, then why wasn’t he willing to do his share to address issues like child poverty?

    8. Just how much money is in the account? Face it, we’re probably talking millions.

    At this stage we really need to see Shearer’s bank statements, NZ tax returns, and US tax returns dating back to the year before he returned to NZ. He is hiding something.

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  13. dime (9,611 comments) says:

    “It’s interesting how Labour / left wing people are keen to get tax free salaries at the UN.” – im sure they donate a lot to charity lol

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  14. Barnsley Bill (982 comments) says:

    At least we now know what his motivation was every time he shrieked about the exchange rate.

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  15. bringbackdemocracy (412 comments) says:

    Shearer has over $50,000 in a US bank account earning 1.5% interest.
    Shearer has a mortgage in NZ on his house, on which he is paying 5.5% interest

    Shearer thinks his financial skills will solve NZ’s financial problems. Yeah right!!!!!!

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  16. Chuck Bird (4,741 comments) says:

    Does anyone have a blank form if there is one? If there is not one there must be something in writing saying exactly should be disclosed.

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  17. Pete George (23,168 comments) says:

    Chuck, there is a document that says what must be disclosed:
    Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament: Explanatory notes – 2012/13

    It includes:

    You do not need to indicate the amount of the debt, only its existence.

    You will need to include bank deposits if they are over $50,000.

    That part is quite clear.

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  18. hmmokrightitis (1,558 comments) says:

    Shearer didnt “sit down to do his tax returns”. His accountant does his tax returns, because of their complexity. Has done for years. He might have sat down to sign them off, but thats the limit really.

    As for the amount, thats going to come out. And people are going to get a surprise.

    And again, just sayin :)

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  19. Pete George (23,168 comments) says:

    More scathing criticism is coming from what should be friendly territory, The Standard:

    If Helen Clark was in Shearer’s position, nobody would believe she had forgotten. She had incredible attention to detail. She had decades of experience. She had an outstanding chief of staff – no way would Heather Simpson let this happen.

    Shearer is just way out of his depth, a total lightweight, and unsupported by anybody who is half as good as Simpson, Cullen, etc. The sad part is not that Shearer stuffing up is unbelievable, but that it’s all too believable.

    It’s hard to imagine it happening under H1, H2 and Cullen, nor the way it has played out.

    Anyway, even the most generous interpretation of Shearer’s behaviour – that he is an idiot – won’t help. Incompetence gets punished at the polls as much as corruption, if not more so.

    Currently I feel that I’m watching a train wreck that is not only in slow motion, but looped as well. Shearer stuffs up again, and again, and again… and again… and again… and… again… and…

    I wonder what non-political people think of him when they see him on TV. One person I know cringes or rolls their eyes.

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  20. KiwiGreg (3,211 comments) says:

    @ davidp – the time limit for filing returns is 31 March of the year following. It is entirely possible to be doing your 2012 return in Feb 2013.

    Just not your 2011, 2010, and 2009 returns.

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  21. Chuck Bird (4,741 comments) says:

    Thanks PG. It does not specify NZ banks only or specify to include overseas banks.

    However, he should have thought do I include overseas accounts? If he did and was not sure he should have sought advice. It would be good to know if he filed his interests himself or got someone with more expertise like an accountant to do it.

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  22. BeaB (2,074 comments) says:

    You are left thinking he kept this stash of millions secret so he could be elected leader.

    I wonder if anyone in the media will have the guts/curiosity/professionalism to get answers to davidp’s very relevant and important questions.

    What a coup for the Espiner/Garner show to save it from more crap like the time wasted on vacuous Anna Guy.

    Shearer’s offshore bank account has all the makings of a juicy political scandal and just when we are seeing Julia Gillard begging to be kept on because she is a ‘feisty woman’ for god’s sake.

    Come on, MSM. Show us what you are made of!

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  23. Zapper (950 comments) says:

    Good post BeaB. I had a chuckle when Gillard referred to herself as feisty, the same day Katherine Rich complained about female politicians being called that very thing.

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  24. Pete George (23,168 comments) says:

    Any half capable MP could file their own interests, it’s very brief and straightforward. This is Shearer’s for 2012:

    David SHEARER (Labour, Mt Albert)

    4 Beneficial interests in, and trusteeships of, trusts
    Sackville Trust
    Lawrence Wat Trust

    6 Real property
    House, Avondale, Auckland
    House, Point Chevalier, Auckland
    Section (jointly owned), Whananaki

    7 Superannuation schemes
    United Nations Pension Scheme
    Parliamentary Scheme – Sackville Superannuation Trust

    8 Debtors
    ASB – term deposit

    9 Creditors
    Westpac – mortgage

    That wouldn’t be very difficult. And presumably just added:

    David Shearer (Labour, Mt Albert)

    8 Debtors
    Chase Bank – term deposit

    But it would be prudent for new MPs, end especially high profile MPs like party leader, to run it by someone with some expertise.

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  25. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    1. The tax returns that prompted Shearer to remember his secret account can’t have been NZ ones since it is the wrong time of the year. Does Shearer file US tax returns? Is he a US tax payer? Does the US take the bulk of the tax, and his NZ tax return merely shows that the money has been taxed at source?

    (a) He could easily be filing his NZ return late. The US is a 31 December year end and he might not have received his witholding tax details until late. Look at your own tax return guide and you’ll see that a credit for foreign taxes is allowed, so no doubt he claims credits for US tax paid.
    (b) Who knows? If it’s only interest income taxed at source, probably not because there is probably no need to.
    (c) Except for US tax on investment income taxed at source, unlikely given he lives here unless he is a US citizen.
    (d) Possibly if he has whopping US income (investments).

    Anyway, is any of this any of your business? Aside from the requisite disclosures (that he failed to make) there is no entitlement for us to have the intimate financial details of our politicians.

    2. Why wasn’t the money repatriated to NZ and deposited in a NZ bank? What reason does Shearer have for maintaining large amounts of foreign currency, and maintaining the money offshore rather than in a US-denominated account in a NZ bank?

    (a) That’s his business, not yours.
    (b) see (a)

    3. Was Shearer maintaining the account because he has an intention to return to the US for employment purposes?

    That’s his business, not yours and so what if he is? There is no rule requiring politicians to disclose any future career aspirations?

    4. Did Shearer own property in the US, now or in the past? If he has sold property then was the money deposited in a NZ bank or in the secret account?

    None of your business.

    5. Why does Shearer support a US owned bank rather than, say, Kiwibank? That’s a pretty poor show from a man who supposedly believes in government ownership of NZ banking assets.

    Perhaps; would you expect anything else from him. OTOH, he may have perfectly valid reasons for maintaining foreign bank accounts. No doubt Key does too (in Hawaii) also for perfectly valid reasons.

    6. Why didn’t he disclose this conflict of interest when he and Norman were lobbying to devalue the NZ dollar, thereby creating a windfall profit for people with foreign currency holdings?

    He forgot. The dog ate his bank statements. If he had complied then there would have been no need for anysuch disclosure because the account would have been a matter of public record.

    7. Did Shearer ever offer to voluntarily pay NZ tax on his tax-free UN salary? If he didn’t, then why wasn’t he willing to do his share to address issues like child poverty?

    Do you volunteer to pay more tax than you owe?

    8. Just how much money is in the account? Face it, we’re probably talking millions.

    None of your business if there is no disclosure obligation. Why single Shearer out just because he’s a fuckwit.

    At this stage we really need to see Shearer’s bank statements, NZ tax returns, and US tax returns dating back to the year before he returned to NZ.

    None of your business

    He is hiding something.

    Speak to Reid about that.

    Seriously, Shearer may be an incompetent, lazy, indecisive fuckwit and a hypocrite who has made the mistake of pissing into a gale and now reaps the rewards, but that doesn’t impose higher standards of disclosure upon him relative to other politicians. None of this is really any of your business. Instead, just hope that hmmmokeydokey is right, grab some popcorn, lean back and watch the show.

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  26. scrubone (3,074 comments) says:

    I’m inclined to agree with thedavincimode. This is a massive fuss over very little, and it prompting people to demand answers to questions they simply don’t have the right to.

    Hey, it’s nice that the Labour leader has been made to look like an idiot. But really, does anyone really think that him having money stashed overseas would change his position on anything? I have severe doubts myself.

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  27. hmmokrightitis (1,558 comments) says:

    TDM, completely right on all counts. It is none of our business how much is in that account. The issue is one of transparancy, and for Shearer, because of noise he and his party has made, credibility. You dont demand an MP stand down for something that when you do it you wave it aside as a mere nothing.

    At worst he will go – as noted, there is more to come, the MSM need the will to dig, because there is more, particularly when you try and align his personal position with his publicly stated. At best he will stay and his ability to lead an effective opposition will be reduced. I didnt think that possible, but there you go :)

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  28. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    because there is more

    Ooh err! You’re such a tease! :lol:

    Popcorn and drinks perhaps. :)

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  29. Barnsley Bill (982 comments) says:

    As usual you geniuses are completely missing the point.
    Shearer has been banging on about exchange rate intervention for over a year.
    He has been demanding that the govt and or treasury step in and try and force the value of the kiwi dollar down.
    If Shearer has a million bucks in US$ and the kiwi $ – US$ exchange rate is forced down by 10% he will make another quick 100k.
    This is the clearest case of self interest we have seen in a long time.
    Has he got a million bucks in the shady off shore bank? The longer this goes without him telling the truth the more it is likely to be.
    Another multi-millionaire trying to force change for his own benefit.

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  30. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    FFS Bill. You’re sounding like a whining bitch pinko.

    Pollies own houses – conflict of interest in dealing with house inflation. Kids – WFF, PPL. Farms – food price inflation. They are affected like everyone else in all their decisions. If you want to suggest that politicians must make comprehensive financial disclosure beyond what is required then do so. If you want to pick on Shearer for being a fuckwit and a liar, then find a better way than to do it than parrot the same bullshit rhetoric that comes from liebour and the melons day in and day fucking out.

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  31. bringbackdemocracy (412 comments) says:

    Does he need the bank account because he’s a plant still on the UN payroll?

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  32. muggins (3,142 comments) says:

    I see Shearer is going to reveal where he was on the 20th June 1994. Looks like the police might have arrested the wrong David.

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  33. freemark (498 comments) says:

    @Muggins
    http://www.justice.govt.nz/courts/youth/legislation-and-decisions/search-by-date/1994/police-v-r-t-20-june-1994-yc-henderson-crn-4290014383-harvey-dcj

    Aahh, maybe he was here as well..

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  34. wat dabney (3,716 comments) says:

    It’s probably just a bit of loose change he left in his codpiece when he sent his tights to the laundry

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvyRrYE5vJA&t=7m16s

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  35. OneTrack (2,759 comments) says:

    “scrubone (2,066) Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
    I’m inclined to agree with thedavincimode. This is a massive fuss over very little, and it prompting people to demand answers to questions they simply don’t have the right to.

    Hey, it’s nice that the Labour leader has been made to look like an idiot. But really, does anyone really think that him having money stashed overseas would change his position on anything? I have severe doubts myself.”

    Massive? A bit of a mention on Kiwiblog and a few blogs. MSM? Nothing to see here, move along.

    But if it was someone on the right?

    And as I write, Labour are (again) going on about why is it that John Key can’t remember what was said in a 5 minute powerpoint presentation over a year ago. So, in other words, we (they) expect Key to remember absolutely everything and they expect the Labour leader (any left politician?) to forget about an overseas bank account containing over 50000 and maybe up to 3 million US? dollars, meanwhile campaigning loudly about forgetfulness and rich pricks.

    The hypocrisy is amazing.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

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  36. wat dabney (3,716 comments) says:

    The hypocrisy is amazing.

    I think that’s most people’s point. Shearer’s previous sanctimonious finger-pointing and school-yard point-scoring have backfired and exposed him as the pathetic little shit he is.

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  37. davidp (3,551 comments) says:

    thedavincimode>That’s his business, not yours.

    I disagree. Shearer has two macro issues that he needs to address:

    1. Credibility. In the past he has taken a mock hard line on other people’s transgressions of memory, including calls for people to resign and John Banks being investigated by the police. Now we’re supposed to believe that there is nothing to see here… move along. Shearer needs to come clean and let us examine the evidence to determine for ourselves whether this was a simple mistake, or something more than that. For instance, if the account has $50k in it and hasn’t been touched in years then that supports Shearer’s story, but the opposite is true if he is actively investing and managing the account. We don’t need to take his word that everything is innocent.

    2. Hypocrisy. Shearer has been promoting a shamefully nationalist economic policy based around NZ ownership of assets, NZ ownership of land, and restrictions on Chinese investment. Now we find out that he has significant assets held overseas. Full disclosure will allow us to determine the extent of the hypocrisy.

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  38. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    1 Credibility. Didn’t know he had any to lose

    2. Hypocrisy. From a politician? Good heavens. ;-)

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  39. Johnboy (15,460 comments) says:

    Whatever the sad little bugger has stashed away in foreign bank accounts it’ll be bugger-all in comparison to what the UN no. 3 person has in hers after her little junket is finished! :)

    Socialists…don’t you luv em! :)

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  40. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    davidp

    I understand what you’re saying, but that isn’t the point . It’s his business. It’s his choice as to whether he wants to address his issues regarding credibility and hypocrisy. Wat put it almost perfectly:

    Shearer’s previous sanctimonious finger-pointing and school-yard point-scoring have backfired and exposed him as the pathetic little shit he is.

    My only point of difference is that this isn’t the first time.

    Even if shearer came clean and proved that he is a good guy on this issue, it does nothing to absolve him from the previous bullshit and hypocrisy.

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  41. Nick K (1,104 comments) says:

    Captain Mumblefu*k strikes again.

    God help NZ if he leads this country with Red Russell and Wogistan Winston up his ar*e.

    Can you just imagine it. I’d rather eat glass than live through that.

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  42. David Garrett (6,668 comments) says:

    Nick: Sadly there is every prospect of it…and you and me both too old and too connected to fark of to the Big Island! (Well, I’m too old, maybe not you…)

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  43. Pete George (23,168 comments) says:

    I agree with thedavincimode that details of Shearer’s financial interests beyond what he is required to reveal is none of anyone else’s business, the same as for every other MP.

    But what Shearer’s business should be (and it should lso be Labour’s business) is repairing some of the credibility damage this has caused both Shearer and Labour.

    Shearer could do this by assuring the public that the US account was virtually idle and not being actively used, and that there was not significantly more than $50k in the account. If he does nothing he leaves open plenty of scope for ongoing speculation and accusations.

    Shearer is also within his rights to reveal nothing, but he has to accept inevitable consequences of this.

    Sometimes small mistakes have large implications and effects. It may seem unfortunate and unfair, but life ain’t fair, especially political life.

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  44. Chuck Bird (4,741 comments) says:

    “God help NZ if he leads this country with Red Russell and Wogistan Winston up his ar*e.”

    There is no guarantee Winston would not go with National. From my experience with political parties there are very few MPs that are trustworthy.

    I joined ACT the second time because Rodney told me he supported referenda over conscience issues I have it on audio at a meeting of Family First. I believed him – silly me.

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  45. Chuck Bird (4,741 comments) says:

    John Armstrong: Unflashy Shearer starts to turn the numbers around

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10872575

    I wonder how long this turn around lasts if there is enough pressure put Shearer to disclose how much is in his overseas account. That way the public can decide if there may be a conflict of interest.

    A one or two hundred thousand gain in bringing the money back to New Zealand is a lot different than $5,000 gain. The public have a right to know the facts. Sorry Mr Shearer.

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