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.
David Shearer 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.