Shearer declared bank account to IRD but not Registrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour leader says his failure to declare a US-based bank account with more than $50,000 in it on the MPs’ Register of Pecuniary Interests was simply an oversight. …

Mr Shearer would not reveal how much was in the account, but MPs are required to include accounts with more than $50,000 in them.

He had included his UN pension scheme in the register since becoming an MP, but Mr Shearer said he realised, while he was doing his tax paperwork recently, he had not included the bank account in the register. Inland Revenue had known about the account, for tax purposes.

This is the puzzling part. You are filing a tax return every year where you include the bank account and interest earned, but it never twigs that you should also include that is your Register of Pecuniary Interests.

I am sure it is a genuine mistake, but it is very sloppy.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday would not comment on Mr Shearer’s omission, saying it was up to Mr Shearer.

Could you have imagined what would have happened if the situation is reversed.

We already have the precedent that Trevor Mallard called for Chris Finlayson to be stood down over a non-substantive omission.

If John Key had forgotten to include a foreign bank account, I have no doubt that Labour MPs would be calling him corrupt and a liar. They would be demanding an inquiry into what other bank accounts he hasn’t disclosed, and they would have filed contempt of Parliament charges with the Speaker to refer to the Privileges Committee.

Rather than be a minor story in the Herald (and it seems no mention at all at Stuff), it would be the lead item for at least a week.

Personally I’m glad National MPs are acting like decent human beings and not accusing Shearer of anything. I believe it was a genuine sloppy mistake. But I have no doubt at all that if the situation was reversed there would be hysterical language used against Key by Labour MPs.

Scott Yorke adds a typically humourous touch to the issue:

Labour Party leader David Shearer has moved quickly to discipline one of his MPs for failing to declare a pecuniary interest.

“I expect high standards from my MPs” said Shearer, as he announced that MP David Shearer would be stood down from all duties. …

Labour’s leader said he hoped the move would be a “wake-up call” to members of Labour’s caucus.

“These rules exist for a reason, and we have to take them seriously” Shearer said.

Shearer agreed that the failure by one of his MPs to follow the rules was a “bad look” that “let the side down”.

But he refused to be drawn on whether he would reinstate the MP for Mt Albert after a spell on the backbenches. …

The demoted MP last night refused to comment on the decision by his leader. But he confirmed that he still fully supported David Shearer as leader of the Labour Party.

Heh.

John Banks has also pointed out Labour’s double standard:

Labour Leader David Shearer should apply his own ethical standards to himself and stand down, ACT Leader said today. 

“Shearer is on record as saying those who suffer from a memory lapse aren’t fit to hold office,” Mr Banks said.

“But yesterday, Shearer admitted he ‘forgot’ to declare more than $50,000 he has stashed away in an overseas bank account.  

“Worse, he didn’t forget once, he forgot four years in a row.   Shearer’s hypocrisy is staggering.    

The Local Electoral Act amendment bill will be debated soon. It was going to be open season on John Banks, but now when Labour point out his failure to disclose, they’ll have their own leader’s failure thrown back at them.

An updated story has John Key saying:

“In the end it’s a matter for him,” Mr Key said today.

“People make mistakes. I make mistakes and when I do, I try and tell people I’ve made them. It’s just that you don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say you’ve made a mistake, but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”

Again, incredibly mild.

You can vote in my sidebar poll on What are you least likely to forget?

The options are:

  • A 5 second mention of Kim Dotcom in a powerpoint briefing
  • The existence of a foreign bank account with at least $50,000 in it, for three years

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