Disclosing loans

May 11th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Embattled MP is facing fresh trouble after it emerged he failed to declare a top-of-the-range $899 smartphone.

The Pakuranga MP claims he did not have to disclose the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone in a register of pecuniary interests, released this week, because it was a long-term loan and not a gift.

Prime Minister John Key and Communications and Technology Minister Amy Adams were also given phones — Key got three — but both declared them on the gifts register.

Williamson told the Herald on Sunday Samsung contacted him through a public relations firm to offer him an “extended trial”.

Williamson said he was known as a fan of technology and companies often wanted to show him their latest products. “It will go back to Samsung and hence, no gift occurred.”

There is still a benefit from the loan. But does it meet the threshold?

The Registrar of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests, Sir Maarten Wevers, said it should be on the register if Williamson had more than $500 worth of benefit from the phone over a 12-month period.

“If you were lending someone a house for a year or a car for a year and it has a value of more than $500, I would expect that to be included in your return,” he said. “If you’re in doubt you should declare. That’s the rule of thumb.”

Sir Maarten said he would check with the Office of the Clerk on Monday to see whether there were for any precedents for this sort of thing

Constitutional law expert Andrew Geddis said Williamson was wrong to say it was not a gift. “There’s still a gift involved in that he’s gaining free the use of this device for the period in which it is in his possession,” the Otago University professor said.

I agree with Sir Maarten and Andrew. However the “value” of the loan would seem to be under the $500 threshold.

One could treat the $899 as an interest free loan. At even 10% interest hat is just $90 a year of value.

Or one could take a depreciation type approach and say a mobile phone tends to last for three years, so $900 over three years is $300 a year of value – still uner the threshold.

Having said that, the maxim of “If in doubt, declare” is a wise one.

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54 Responses to “Disclosing loans”

  1. gump (1,620 comments) says:

    There’s no penalty for declaring it. So he should have declared it.

    The most amusing thing about this story is the line “An internal Samsung email obtained by the Herald on Sunday shows Williamson inquired about the company’s programme of “gifting” products to politicians.”

    So he organised the gift for himself. Charming.

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  2. OneTrack (2,981 comments) says:

    ffs – so the left stream media dirt machine now on the trail of Williamson. An $899 phone? Haven’t they got anything better to report on? And they wonder why nobody except Labour voters are reading the herald anymore.

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  3. All_on_Red (1,559 comments) says:

    Nit picking petty pricks. This is just blatant smearing now.

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  4. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Yes, perhaps more politicians should be asking Samsung for free phones.

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  5. NK (1,223 comments) says:

    Truly inconsequential and certainly a “who gives a F***” moment.

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  6. burt (8,201 comments) says:

    It’s obvious he should apply the Cunliffe defence. Give the phone back and say it never happened. Move On !

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  7. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Why should he give the phone back when he went to the trouble of emailing Samsung to ask for it?

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  8. Don the Kiwi (1,686 comments) says:

    He perhaps should have declared it – but FFS – we-re now getting so bloody nit-picky its a joke. There is a human element involved.

    Who raised the issue – probably that fat poofter who’s being ranting about Juditch Collins for the past month or so.
    I bet it wouldn’t be too difficult to rake up some shit on him that could be made to stick.

    Its time the govt. fought fire with fire. Sick to death of these petty attacks – expecially where there is no substance to the claims, and it is purely personal attacks.

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  9. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I have to agree Don (except for your homophobic comment), although maybe government MPs could make themselves lesser targets by declaring gifts properly, not trying to influence police investigations and not lying to Parliament.

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  10. Ben2001 (25 comments) says:

    I would be curious to know why Samsung thinks it appropriate to give/lend phones to government ministers? Why do ministers think it appropriate to accept them? Even if they are declared it once again heightens the public perception that ministers can be bought. Like Maurice I am interested in technology but somehow I do not think Samsung would lend me a phone if I asked.

    As for MW he is either gormless or arrogant; I suspect the former. He is essentially using the Len Brown defence in saying it was not a gift; the same way LB. Tried to claim room upgrades and free rooms were not gifts.

    It seems to me that politicians of whatever political hue have a permanent sense of entitlement. Had it been a public servant accepting this gift he or she would have been shown the door. Even the great perk buster Rodney, allowed himself to be ‘corrupted’ by the whole rotten system.

    It is news items such as this that reinforce public perception that politicians are in it for what they can get. It is no good Cunliffe and co getting all high and mighty. The rest are just as bad, itching for the day when they form the government and can replace the current bunch at the trough.

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  11. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Good summary Ben. To be fair to Williamson, he’s been in the trough so long that he’s probably forgotten how to pay for anything himself.

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  12. lolitasbrother (636 comments) says:

    oh for gods sake he has a phone ,drip off

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  13. themono (129 comments) says:

    I gather from a quick google that the average lilfespan of a phone is closer to 18 months in the US (no idea if the same applies here, but wouldn’t be surprised). If you’re depreciating that linearly then you’d hit $600 over a year.

    (Not that I’m an accountant or an expert on cellphone lifespans, just thought your 36 month assertion seemed a bit off).

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  14. Yvette (2,766 comments) says:

    What would be the interest on Cunliffe’s secret leadership campaign LOAN of at least $20,000?
    [A loan is what a donation turns into when you give it back after six months – right?]

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  15. dime (9,796 comments) says:

    But but it was a top of the range $899 smart phone!

    Or a run of the mill g4

    The herald really are sacks of shit

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  16. Nukuleka (301 comments) says:

    This is becoming ludicrous. I’m not a fan of the man nor do I approve of the problems he has caused for John Key and the National Party, but for heaven’s sake this is trivial stuff. If any opposition party jumps on this bandwagon then that is further evidence that they are truly focussing on the BIG issues that NZ faces!

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  17. Spam (588 comments) says:

    My Samsung S4 cost $560. If it came from Samsung direct, it would be wholesale, and less than $500 (although I don’t know how these things get valued for declaration purposes)

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  18. Ed Snack (1,838 comments) says:

    Themono, you can probably sell a 3 year old Samsung for $100, an S4/5 anyway, three years is sort of the reasonable lifespan of these devices. Only iPhones still retain significant value at that point it seems.

    There is/was a thing for fancy phones to be “lent” to opinion formers, Vodafone used to have a program to gift a few phones to such people. Apple doesn’t but they rarely ever do, but Sammie are right into that sort of thing.

    I reckon it’s pretty trivial and as a three year loan (convenient fiction) it is possibly under the $500 disclosure level, but why risk it. This is a case of kicking someone while they’re down, but Williamson the life-long trougher deserves it, and any other derision that comes his way. I wonder if he’ll get the hint and decide to spend more time with his family (poor sods) after the election.

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  19. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (872 comments) says:

    This is a outrageous and Williamson should be sacked…oh wait…..

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  20. flipper (3,950 comments) says:

    So let us assume that he should have declared it.

    But what is the penalty for a non declaration???
    Who would enforce that “penalty”?

    Unless i am way off the planet, this is not a breech of any Statute or regulation issued pursuant to a statute. It is rather like the Cabinet Manual crap. People write/speak of that as if it is Statute law. It is simply an executive administrative fiat….put together for the guidance of apparently wise/dumb men /women. :-)

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  21. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    The problem he has is Adams declares hers as a gift and says she’s keeping it. That’s probably a true reflection.

    Its a trival sum of cash, but its another day with a National mps on the take story in the press.

    I notice the hetald story labels him an ex mp, did I miss something?

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  22. backster (2,141 comments) says:

    I think Samsung and others should be able to donate their gifts to a secret Trust set up for the purpose.

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  23. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    The fact that he asked for the gift/loan makss this anything but trivial. How many MPs ask businesses “what is your policy on phones (meals/hotel rooms/personal benefits) for MPs? The sense of entitlement by MPs generally has gone way over the threshhold to corruption. A major investigation is needed.

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  24. flipper (3,950 comments) says:

    Nukuleka (93 comments) says:

    May 11th, 2014 at 10:45 am

    This is becoming ludicrous. I’m
    *****

    Yep….and the Q + A mini poll this morning confirmed that it is not having any significant impact on voters.

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  25. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Yes flipper, why bother with petty things like a Cabinet Manual or a register of pecuniary interests? FFS.

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  26. themono (129 comments) says:

    @Ed Snack

    Just checked Trademe for prices on the Galaxy S III (which is now two years old) and it seems to be around $300 prevailing price. So you’re clearly right that these phones do still hold a decent bit of value after 18 months.

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  27. tvb (4,326 comments) says:

    If in doubt declare it for f***s sake. Why try and be smart and say it is a loan. I get the impression the PM could not get rid of Williamson fast enough though he has done some quite good work as a Minister.

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  28. flipper (3,950 comments) says:

    mikenmild (9,198 comments) says:

    May 11th, 2014 at 10:58 am
    ****

    You cardigan sporting fool. The point is that they are NOT supported by any Statute.

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  29. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    What sort of a fucxkwit point is that? They are still the rules.

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  30. itstricky (1,772 comments) says:

    Sessh why go to effort of trying to “calculate” whether this was a gift or not? Just change the title of the post to:

    “Williamson gets caught out again and again tries to fudge his reason for being caught out.”

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  31. Kea (12,041 comments) says:

    Once again Labour approach an election with no coherent policy and resort to ever increasing petty attacks on the Nats, (well that and infighting and back stabbing each other) :)

    Who can forget the hilarious pretend outrage of the media, when Key had a cuppa with some guy. ? No wonder Labour has become a minor party increasingly desperate to align with someone, anyone, to have some sort of influence.

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  32. Kea (12,041 comments) says:

    What sort of a fucxkwit

    milky, please moderate your language. Its a Sunday and children might be reading. I know your bitter about the collapse of the USSR & the Klark govt, but please don’t lash out blindly at the good people of KB :)

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  33. ShawnLH (4,482 comments) says:

    Regardless of the issue Williamson really does have to go. He is too much of liability.

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  34. bc (1,365 comments) says:

    Is that true, he begged for a freebie phone?
    What a loser. Isn’t that the type of thing Len Brown does?
    As if his salary and perks wasn’t enough. If it was a Labour MP everyone here would be making comments about pigs with their snouts in the trough.

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  35. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    But he’s not a Labour MP, is he? Therefore the issue becomes ‘petty’.

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  36. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    milky, please moderate your language. Its a Sunday and children might be reading.

    If parent’s are stupid enough to allow their children on the computer and especially the internet to read controversial blogs like Kiwiblog, then those parents deserve everything their children will become, by being exposed to such things.

    The children reading this – please note the behaviour of the ‘adults’ on this site, and do everything you can to try and not be like them when you grow up! (and whatever you do DON’T vote National – it will make you a grumpy old bugger like KEA) :P

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  37. Viking2 (11,368 comments) says:

    The answer from Key should have been; “oh Please”
    when we investigate the amount of tax The Herald and its stable mates pay in NZ.
    Are they like IAG and other Aussie companies who have been rorting the taxpayer of NZ for years?

    I recall there was every attempt to do so.
    I would prefer to see a lot more money spent on screwing the arse of these leeches than bothering individual Kiwi’s.

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  38. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    I can understand the phone thingy sounding like a con – but when a person is an MP, they are busy – the small stuff gets lost among the important stuff. Its hardly a shooting offence, and anyone that attempts to make something of it (regardless of which party the member belongs to) is frankly being rather pathetic.

    Yes, now its been highlighted, I’m sure he will remember to declare next time (if there is a next time for him).
    However, I’m not all nice :P – ringing the cops is an unforgiven sin still!

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  39. AG (1,823 comments) says:

    However the “value” of the loan would seem to be under the $500 threshold.

    Which is what I said to the reporter. Not sure how you’d calculate the market value of using a cellphone for a year or whatever.

    I guess the only issue is that Adams and Key erred on the side of disclosing their phones and Williamson didn’t.

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  40. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    Crikey, the planets must be in a strange alignment..I am agreeing with the Professor twice in as many days…

    I recall it being drummed into me from day one: if you are doubtful about something, FFS declare it….

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  41. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    Judith: Do you think, just perhaps, old Kea was taking the piss?

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  42. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    @ David Garrett (5,298 comments) says:
    May 11th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Oh no, Kea wouldn’t do that. Not our serious, straight talking Kea !! :P

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  43. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    he should have declared it, easier to deal with then than now.

    Maurice is Nationals Annette King, been there years without really achieving shitloads – time to go Maurice, a couple of directorships will keep you busy.

    If the greesn or labour hadn’t done this we’d have been all over them.

    Rule: You can’t get shot if you don’t have ammo. Maurice you are supplying the ammo!!!

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  44. MT_Tinman (3,102 comments) says:

    $899 for a S4?

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  45. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    PEB: I tend to agree with you..although Maurice was a refreshing exception to the bland boring usual rump of the Nats..never daring to be even mildly controversial because it might have caused them problems down the track….

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  46. wreck1080 (3,858 comments) says:

    The thing that looks bad to me, is that Cunliffe didn’t declare it but everyone else did.

    The perception is that it looks a bit dodgy even if he followed rules.

    Another thing , that Cunliffe almost demanded a free phone which smacks of the ‘aaron gilmore’ don’t you know who I am type of arrogance.

    And, that, really makes people mad.

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  47. OneTrack (2,981 comments) says:

    bc – “What a loser. Isn’t that the type of thing Len Brown does?”

    Now you mention it, yes. Yes, it is the sort of thing Len Brown does.

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  48. Duncan Brown (16 comments) says:

    “long-term loan” equals bending the rules to see if they’ll break. Just like Cunliffe’s trust with anonymous donors, “It will go back… and hence, no gift occurred.” Politicians would do themselves a favour if they worked to the spirit rather than the letter of the rules.

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  49. Jaffa (85 comments) says:

    What a lot of petty minded nit pickers!

    Aww, he got a phone, what did you get?

    I got a watermelon statue!

    I want one, too!, or I’ll tell!

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  50. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    Actually, I am more interested in WHO is loaning these phones. I’m wondering what I can offer to get one – is it possible to ‘sell’ your vote – I mean if the pollies can ‘sell’ their time – why can’t I / we sell our political ‘allegiance’?

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  51. calendar girl (1,214 comments) says:

    Do you have any political allegiance, Judith, for sale or otherwise? From the many of your near-6,000 posts that I’ve read on KB over the years, it’s not easy to detect a set of consistent political principles.

    I enjoy reading your contributions (aside from the Bain- and Collins-related crusades which I have long scrolled past), and I welcome your occasionally-mischievous humour. But at times I struggle to understand whether there is an underlying philosophy that guides your thinking. It’s not mandatory to have one, of course, so forgive my curiosity if it so happens that you prefer to assess issues against ad hoc yardsticks.

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  52. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    @ calendar girl (1,122 comments) says:
    May 11th, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    I honestly don’t know who I will vote for this time round, and have no particular political allegiance.

    The only thing I feel for sure is that we have strayed away from admirable politics and entered the dark realm where political campaigning has become more about personalities, than what is good for this country (inflamed of course by the media).

    We are getting closer to the election and I still don’t know what the policies are for the areas I am interested in. Instead I can tell you who is receiving which gift, who is not declaring what they should do, and who is cuddling up to whom – none of which will tell me how my life is going to be affected by whichever party is elected – in short, there is nothing (or very little) getting through to the electorate, that is of the least bit of use to someone like me – a ‘politically confused’ voter.

    (I often make comments ‘tongue in cheek’ – an old habit of trying to make people think of the ‘other side’ and don’t always believe in what I’m saying! It’s something I do to my students to make them think beyond the ‘obvious’ )

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  53. gump (1,620 comments) says:

    For those people querying the cost of a Galaxy S4 phone – he took delivery of it on May last year.

    It was an $899 phone twelve months ago.

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  54. calendar girl (1,214 comments) says:

    Thanks, Judith. I endorse your comments about the nature of modern political campaigns and the media’s self-chosen role in relation to them. Elections waged on the basis of trivialities, personalities and personal slurs – rather than on comprehensive manifestoes scrutinised and compared dispassionately by competent media – are not particularly conducive to a healthy democracy.

    I hope that the electoral landscape becomes clearer for you as the year unfolds, and that the ultimate outcome delivers most of whatever you are searching for. There’s no prospect of seeing in that time any improvement in our country’s unprofessional journalistic standards. Sadly, those of us who care about who governs in the best interests of the country will just have to do the analyses ourselves, as best we can.

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