The Banks file

February 18th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Ombudsman has ordered the release of statements given to police by outgoing ACT MP John Banks, ruling it is in the public interest.

But the statements would not be handed over until after Banks’ trial over allegations he knowingly filed a false electoral return following his failed 2010 bid for the Auckland mayoralty.

Seems a sensible decision by the Ombudsman. However I do wonder about the precedent. Must statements made in the Hughes assault investigation be publicly release also, based on this precedent?

In a decision released today, Ombudsman Ron Paterson said police were right to refuse some parts of the request, but not to withhold the statements in full.

In their response to the request, police said public interest had to be balanced with the privacy of the person, particularly if allegations remained unproven.

When there is a balance, I favour the public interest.

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Banks not to stand in 2014

December 4th, 2013 at 10:40 am by David Farrar

ACT have announced:

Today, Hon John Banks, MP for Epsom and leader of ACT, has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the 2014 General Election.  John has decided, after 36 years of public service, that it is time for him to spend more time on his family and his private business interests.  In the meantime, John will continue as the MP for Epsom and Leader of ACT.

As part of its candidate selection process for general elections, the Board of ACT will shortly be opening nominations for candidates to stand for ACT in the 2014 General Election.  We have a number of very talented potential candidates and we expect to name our key candidates, including a new candidate for Epsom, by the time of our annual conference in early March.

An inevitable decision. I can’t see ACT able to hold Epsom unless someone with a proven track record of local support such as Cameron Brewer stood for them.

UPDATE: Banks has said he will stand down as Leader at the conference in March 2014.

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Good to see Crown Law Independence

October 26th, 2013 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Crown Law will take over the prosecution of John Banks on a charge of knowingly filing a false election return.

Private prosecutor Graham McCready received a letter today from Solicitor General Michael Heron confirming he would intervene in the case.

This is bad news for John Banks, but good for an independent judicial system. The prosecution of a (former) Government Minister is obviously not something overly helpful to the Government, and it would have been easy for Solictor General to leave it as a private prosecution. But good to see that they will act independently when they think it is the right thing to do.

Banks has a judicial review of the District Court decision to send it to trial, so that has to be dealt with first.

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Young on boundaries

October 24th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes in NZ Herald:

The electoral gods could well be shining on Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

One of the two biggest areas of growth in Auckland has been in his own backyard on the North Shore and that means a new electorate seat could be created virtually around him.

If National stood a low-profile candidate rather than a heavyweight like List MP Steven Joyce, and Prime Minister John Key gave voters a steer in the right directions, Craig could be well-placed to take a new seat.

That would provide National with a new potential support partner to replace or supplement the ones that have been self-destructing since the last election: Act whose leader John Banks resigned as a minister last week, United Future whose leader Peter Dunne was forced to resign in June, and the Maori Party.

As I have said before National have five potential support partners – ACT,, United Future, Maori Party, Conservatives and NZ First. What we don’t know is how many of them will make it, how many can actually work with National, and how many will National need to be in the running to form a third term Government.

Key this week dismissed New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as someone who talked in more riddles than the Mad Hatter. Hardly the behaviour of a Prime Minister who expects to be propped up by Peters after next year’s election.

Key called it straight. It is far from certain that National will change its stance on NZ First. I’m not saying they won’t change – just that it is dangerous to make that assumption at this stage. I expect a decision would be made around the middle of 2014.

There will definitely be one new electorate created in Auckland after the census figures were announced last month and Craig told the Herald yesterday that he would most likely stand in the seat if it is in his patch – he lives on the border of East Coast Bays and Rodney.

“It would be very, very nice for us. We know it’s a good area for us. It would be very nice if the seat ended up here,” he said.

“If it works out that they go for the electorate that has grown the largest, which is Upper Harbour, and put a new electorate in there, I’m going to be living in it so it’s going to be all very convenient.”

If the Conservatives are polling enough to get four or more MPs, then centre-right voters in a new seat could well vote tactically.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, too, is known to be considering standing in an Auckland seat – and the new seat would have to be a possibility or a vacancy if Murray McCully were to shift to the list from East Coast Bays – a repeated rumour.

When asked to comment on the Conservatives and the new seat Peters said: “Elephants don’t run round the forest stomping on ants.”

Peters was too chicken to stand in a seat in 2011, so I don’t expect he will risk failure.

National pollster and Kiwiblog commentator David Farrar says things are looking good for the Conservatives.

“Even before you get into any political deals, the way the census has happened, actually, is very happy for the Conservatives, assuming that’s where the new seat is.”

Farrar also believes there is no need for the “cup of tea” photo opportunity to send signals to voters.

“Generally voters, if they want a centre-right or centre-left Government, can work out what’s the smart thing to do. So if there was a seat and Colin Craig was standing for it and they are polling 3 per cent in the polls and the candidate for National is a worthy but low-profile person, you could well see Conservatives do very well there without needing any sort of arrangement.”

Centre-right voters tend to be pretty intelligent. They don’t want a Government that will tax and spend, borrow more, nationalise companies etc. They will vote for minor party candidates if that helps stop a Labour/Green/Mana Government.

Farrar believes that if Banks lost his judicial review against going to trial and then lost the trial as well, he would not only be kicked out of Parliament as required under the law, it would finally destroy Act as well.

“I think the brand would be too damaged.”

A party can not survive its leader and sole MP losing his seat due to a conviction over electoral matters. Note I am not saying I think Banks will lose. Andrew Geddis has a very useful blog post on this issue which is worth reading. The key para for me:

I can’t for the life of me see why Banks would have sat down and thought something along the lines of “Dotcom and Sky City have given me all this money, but I don’t want anyone to know that they did and so I’ll deliberately lie about where it came from in my return even though I know that it is completely illegal to do so.” He was, after all, the losing candidate  in the mayoral race. Why would anyone have cared who gave him money, and why would he feel the need to make a decision to hide its source after the campaign was over? So any sort of claim that Banks deliberately or maliciously sought to evade the requirements of the Local Electoral Act strikes me as deeply implausible.

This is key – Banks had lost. There was little, if any gain, in not declaring the donations.


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Where to for ACT

October 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Does ACT have a future after its leader was committed to trial over his 2010 Mayoral election return?

Well firstly it depends on the outcome of the court case. If he loses, and is convicted, then his seat in Parliament is automatically vacated. That means a by-election in Epsom, and unless ACT stood an incredibly popular candidate (such as Cameron Brewer) then they would not win the by-election and be out of Parliament. I think that would be the end of the party, which would dissolve. That may create an opportunity for a new party in time, but probably not until 2017 at the earliest.

The fact the Solictor-General is looking at taking over the prosecution is somewhat ominous.

If Banks wins, then he remains in Parliament, and becomes a Minister again. However that does not mean plain sailing.

Banks defence is basically that he signed a legal declaration of his election expenses and donations, but didn’t read it. That may mean he legally didn’t willfully break the law, but it’s an awful look.  If his non-reading had occurred as a parliamentary candidate, that would be fatal. He is slightly saved by the fact that when he signed the return he though his political career was over. But regardless of timing, it looks bad. As I said previously, it is bad to be personally involved in receiving two donations and then sign a return saying he doesn’t know who his donors were. It may be legal (as Len’s trusts were), but is the public concerned just about legality?

Even if Banks wins, it is hard to see him winning Epsom again. Having said that ACT have won it three elections in a row, when almost no one thought they would or could.

If there is a by-election, then I would expect National to win it easily. Epsom voters are not going to vote for giving the Maori Party the balance of power or worse a Labour-Greens Government. Paul Goldsmith would become the MP for Epsom and Jo Hayes would become a List MP.

So I don’t see big issues for the Government before the general election, except for a possible distracting by-election campaign.

The bigger challenge is the next general election. National has five potential coalition partners, and none of them are ideal – and probably more than one of them will be needed. The five potential partners are:

  1. ACT – very reliable in a voting sense and pushes National into areas most of its supporters want. But not likely to be back.
  2. United Future – also a reliable and stable partner, even though more inclined to vote independently on non-core issues. But will Dunne stand again, and would he win?
  3. Maori Party. They will be back with at least one seat, probably two. A third is possible – a list seat if they get over 2% party vote. However they have never had to choose between a National and Labour led Government. They could well choose to go with Labour. And if they do choose National, their policy demands could be unpopular.
  4. Conservatives. It is hard to see them making 5% but they could well make 2.8% and get four seats if they win an electorate. If a new Auckland seat is in an area where they have some strong support, then the lak of an incumbent National MP could see centre-right tactical voting to get them in. The downside is that if this looks likely it might scare some socially liberal voters to Labour. Against that, most of the core issues for the Conservatives are conscience issues and not something likely to be part of any coalition agreement (except maybe to agree to no further law changes in certain areas). I can’t see any possibility of repealing same sex marriage, prostitution, abortion laws etc. Maybe the anti-smacking law could go as a policy victory for them?
  5. NZ First. Winston hates John Key and wants utu on him, The jury is out on whether the bigger utu is to sack John Key or make him subservient to him. Either option is rather unpleasant to contemplate. But you can’t rule out a deal if a National-NZ First majority is possible and a centre-left Government is only possible if the Greens are part of it.

So National does have options if ACT goes, but they are not great options. But politics is the art of the possible!

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GCSB Changes

July 23rd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

John Key has announced the following changes to the GCSB Bill after negotiations with John Banks and Peter Dunne:

  • A set of guiding principles will be added, in line with requests from Mr Banks and Mr Dunne.
  • The Inspector General will be supported by a two-person advisory panel.
  • The removal of the proposed Order in Council mechanism which would have allowed other agencies to be added to the list of agencies able to request assistance from the GCSB. Any additions beyond the Police, NZSIS and NZ Defence Force will now be required to be made by a specific amendment to the legislation.
  • To ensure effective oversight in the issuing of a warrant, the Bill will be amended so the Inspector General is informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander.
  • The GCSB will be required to report annually on the total number of instances where it has provided assistance to the Police, NZSIS or NZ Defence Force.
  • The GCSB will also be required to report annually on the number of warrants and authorisations issued.
  • The Intelligence and Security Committee will hold public hearings annually to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the NZSIS.
  • There will be an independent review of the operations and performance of the GCSB and NZSIS and their governing legislation in 2015, and thereafter every 5-7 years.
  • Mr Dunne will have a role in the Government’s upcoming work to address the Law Commission’s 2010 report Invasion of Privacy: Penalties and Remedies. This work will include a review of the definition of ‘private communication’, which was highlighted as an issue by submitters on the GCSB legislation.

These are good changes. I had talked on TV about one area of concern being the proposed ability for the Govt to add other agencies onto the list of agencies the GCSB can assist with interceptions. Having Parliament, not the Government, make any changes is desirable.

Despite these significant changes, Labour appears to still be voting with the Greens against the bill. Ironic as it was a Labour Government that caused this problem with their 2003 law change.

Dunne and Banks have shown how you can have a constructive role in improving legislation.

Also the Herald reports:

Mr Key said today that he did not believe that the GCSB had engaged in the mass collection of metadata and he confirmed that it should be treated the same as communication and any collection of it would require a warrant. He planned to make a clear statement about it in the bill’s second reading.

Also welcome.


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A 60-60 tie?

July 8th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

Act Party leader John Banks will make a rare vote against his coalition partner National this week to maintain his passionate defence of animal rights.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill is expected to return to Parliament tomorrow and the Government could come close to losing a vote on a Green Party amendment which would ban animal testing for the purposes of approving legal highs for sale.

The bill states that animal testing should not happen if alternatives exist, but some MPs want the tests ruled out.

A proposed ban on animal experiments tabled by Green MP Mojo Mathers has the support of Mr Banks, who told Parliament on Wednesday: “Protecting animals is ingrained in my soul.”

Mr Banks said the bill was well-intentioned but he could not support it in its present form.

It was “totally unacceptable” that the bill failed to rule out “testing these recreational drugs on innocent animals”. …

If it passed, Ms Mathers’ amendment would block drug-makers from using information gained from animal testing to prove that their products were “low-risk”.

It was opposed by National and United Future.

Whether it succeeds could hinge on the fact that new Labour MP Meka Whaitiri will not be sworn in when the vote is held.

At present, the amendment is believed to be supported by 60 MPs and opposed by 60 MPs. New Zealand First has not publicly stated its position but is expected to support the amendment.

It was expected to pass if Ms Whaitiri was able to cast her vote. But the new Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP, who was elected in a byelection last week, will not be sworn in until the end of the month.

If the vote is tied, the amendment fails.

In the old days, the Speaker would have a casting vote which would be used to maintain the status quo. Now, there is no casting vote and a tie means the vote fails.

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Shearer declared bank account to IRD but not Registrar

March 19th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour leader David Shearer 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.


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 John Banks 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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The wrong cabbage boat quote

December 17th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

As many will have seen, Massey University is running a competition for best quote of 2012. One of the more well publicised finalists is:

I did not come up the river on a cabbage boat. (John Banks responding to media questions about Dotcom.)

There’s just one problem with that quote. It’s wrong. The actual quote by John Banks was:

I think you think I came up the river on a cabbage boat.

Now if this was just a news story, it wouldn’t matter. But if you are running a quote of the year competition, you’d think you’d check the quote was in fact an accurate quote.

Now as Toby Manhire has blogged, Banks has referred to cabbage boats many times, as far back as 1999. He did once say “I didn’t come up the river on a cabbage boat.” but that was in 2011, and in response to the extraordinary policy gains ACT managed in the coalition negotiations.


The Banks file

September 12th, 2012 at 6:41 pm by David Farrar

Below is the file on the Banks investigation, released by the Police under the OIA. What is interesting is that the donations appear to be a thank you for Banks previous offer to advocate residency on behalf of Dotcom.

The highlight is the statement by Kim Dotcom that when Banks met his wife Mona, Banks said “Your wife is the most beautiful women I have ever seen”. Dotcom comments that he was surprised by this comment. Not because his wife isn’t beautiful, but because Mrs Banks was present!

Docs for Disclosure

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Defending Banksie

August 31st, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Guy McCallum blogs:

There are politicians in this world who clearly just don’t get it. It is not always because they are incompetent or corrupt, though we can pronounce these two conditions as leading causes. No, I think it is chiefly because they are scared witless by the fact that they know they have lost touch. And so much do they value their own hides that they won’t admit it, and sadly, won’t admit to the change of heart they know is necessary.

This week, and in particular, we have learned that this is not John Banks. He changed his mind on marriage equality (and by all accounts, over time), and while he might have been seen to be uncomfortable about it in front of the camera, he was most certainly undaunted by the prospect of others seeing his change of heart.

Along comes Duncan Garner of 3 News to ruin what was for a lot of people, a moment in history. He, in my view, unfairly criticised Banks for his position on marriage equality, which seemed to surprise people. Then Garner, holding onto the past with a death grip, wouldn’t let us forget the unfortunate comments that Banks had made a substantial amount of time ago, without a much deserved context.

Garner then questioned whether Banks was a joke, for doing something as heroic as changing one’s mind, in extending legal rights to a section of society that has long deserved them.

One must wonder why gutless politicians won’t ever admit they’ve changed their minds for the good. They do so, apparently, at their own peril.

Instead, they prefer the slow death of seeming evermore out of touch and on the way out to the hard questions they might get if they were just honest. Just look at the People’s Phil Goff who could not steel himself to admit that he was once a neo-liberal, while he crusaded about as Labour’s social democrat. If he had the courage to say he’d changed his mind, maybe he’d still be in the front row of the opposition benches.

My mission in writing this is point out why Garner got it wrong. I think the emotive inclinations that so many in his profession give into, led him astray. For changing his mind, Garner seemed unwilling to forgive whatever it was that Banks must have done to him. In doing so, Garner teaches us a rather valid lesson here – that a grudge can work its mischief upon its master if should they overlook the rational thinking processes that almost everybody has.

John voted for marriage equality because it was the right thing to do. He has very little to explain in this regard. Though, as I write this, there are politicians who voted against marriage equality, now frantic about what they should do next to avoid being lumped in with crazy Colin Craig. Wondering, that is, how to explain their failure to act with courage to those who expected more of them.

Doing something because it is right requires tremendous strength of mind (endurance I would say) which is not easy to find. Its the high road and the narrow path. On the other hand, being negative about someone’s change of heart under these conditions is too easy, and something easy as such is cheap as well.

I wish that every member of Parliament would have the same courage that John Banks and those others put on display, for whom voting in favour of marriage equality was an intrepid but rewarding journey.

I was thrilled when I heard that John was voting for marriage equality, which was a few days before the decision was made public. I know he thought long and hard about his vote, and talked the issues through with a lot of his friends – as Paul Hutchison did also.

The comments John Banks made in 1986 will always remain on the record. But his views have changed over time – this is not a sudden about-face, but a journey.

When John was an MP in the 1990s, one of the researchers who was a reasonably good mate of his was Paul Sherriff. Paul happened to also win Mr Gay Wellington. Now I’m not arguing the “he has black friends so is not racist” card, but am pointing out that even in the 1990s his views were not the same as in 1986. Also he could seperate out his views on the issue, from how he treats individuals.

When he was Mayor of Auckland, his Chief of Staff was Stephen Rainbow. This is a job appointed by the Mayor himself. Stephen is gay, and John and Stephen had an excellent friendship and working relationship. Through Stephen, he saw a couple in a loving stable and happy same sex relationship.

Without that exposure to a loving stable same sex relationship, it is possible John may have never voted for the first reading of Louisa Wall’s bill. Our experiences help shape us.

As I said in the Listener profile, I was anti homosexual law reform when I was a 17 year old at school. It was the experiences and friendships that I developed at university that caused my views to shift quite radically on that issue. I believe it is a good thing when views genuinely change over time – something to be celebrated not ridiculed.

Now I am not suggesting today that John’s views are in any way the same as mine on social and moral issues. What I am saying is that I do believe he accepted the case that allowing a loving same sex couple to marry, is actually good for the institution of marriage.

I salute him for his vote (though I do wish he had articulated his reasons publicly) on both bills this week.

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Banks v Mallard

August 6th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


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More on the John Banks donations

July 29th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis has blogged:

That said, let’s just note what we’re left with at the end of the Police’s investigation. We know John Banks went around wealthy people and companies getting donations in the five figures. The Police clearly are of the opinion he did so in full knowledge they were giving him this significant support. But he then signed a document purporting to accurately declare who had given him the money for his campaign apparently without even reading it, but simply after asking the volunteer who put it together “you’re sure this is accurate?”

It is worth noting that while John Banks broke no laws, I don’t regard it as a good thing that he signed a donation return saying he did not know who his donors were, when he was involved in personally receiving two of the donations. It was legal, yes, but it is not a good look.

To be fair, I would point out that Len Brown also may have known who many of his undeclared donors were, as he filtered his donations through a trust, which meant he could know who donated to the trust, but not have to disclose them. Just as with John Banks, Len Brown broke no law – but it was also a bad look.

As many have said, the Local Electoral Act needs to be amended before the 2013 elections.

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No charges against Banks

July 26th, 2012 at 1:42 pm by David Farrar

The Police have announced:

Police investigating allegations that the Hon John Banks knowingly transmitted a false electoral return have decided there is insufficient evidence to consider a prosecution for an offence under section 134(1) of the Local Electoral Act 2001.

This follows complaints about returns filed relating to donations from Sky City Casino, Mr Kim Dotcom and a radio advertising donation to the 2010 Auckland Super City mayoralty campaign of Mr Banks.

The inquiry has established the return was compiled by a campaign volunteer who assured Mr Banks it was accurate before Mr Banks signed and transmitted the return.

In terms of Section 134 (2) of the Local Electoral Act relating to transmitting a false return there is a statutory limit of six months from the time of elections when complaints must be laid. Police first received the complaint for investigation on 27 April 2012, well after the expiry of six month period. Police are therefore unable to consider charges pursuant to Section 134 (2).

That will be a relief to obviously John Banks, but also the Government.

The Local Electoral Act is quite deeply flawed, and I hope the Government introduces a bill to amend it, to brings its donation transparency requirements in line with the main Electoral Act.

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Shearer defends Jones

May 21st, 2012 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at the NZ Herald reports:

Mr Shearer has been calling on Act leader John Banks to be relieved of his ministerial portfolios while police investigate whether he breached the Local Government Electoral Act by declaring donations to his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign from German billionaire Kim Dotcom as anonymous.

But he said last night the questions around Mr Jones’ involvement in the Yan case were not as serious as those around Mr Banks donations from Dotcom.

The strength of the evidence against Mr Jones was “very arguable”.

Mr Jones has declined to comment on the matter.

Shearer’s comments defy comprehension, and reinforce that this is just “gotcha” politics rather than anything serious.

Let’s look at what the two cases have in common. Dotcom was a request to buy a house. Yan was to gain NZ citizenship. Both donated to politicians campaigns, and had politicians advocate on their behalf.

But in the case of Banks, he was neither MP nor Mayor when he advocated – and most importantly he was not the decision maker.

But in the case of Jones, we was the actual Minister who made the decision to grant citizenship. He did it against the advice of officials. He knew of the allegations that Liu was a wanted criminal, with multiple identities. Yet he still gave citizenship, and had a special ceremony in the Labour Caucus Room for it, attended no doubt by some of the MPs Liu had financially supported.

While in the Dotcom case, officials made no recommendation, yet it was still turned down.

So for Shearer to claim the questions around Jones are “not as serious” as those around Banks is a position not grounded in reality.

Also at least Banks has fronted up and answered questions (albeit not that well) on his issue. However Jones has spent years refusing to answer the question of why he granted citizenship against the advice of officials – except the obvious one that it was to keep his colleagues happy, who had been receipients of largesse from Liu.

Shearer’s comments on the Liu case mean we can pretty much ignore him in future on issues of ethics.

UPDATE: The original stories on this back in 2008 said that the room in Parliament used for the special citizenship ceremony was the Labour Caucus Room. I am informed that Mr Samuels says it was in fact the Maori Affairs Select Committee Room (which needs an MP to book it). The ceremony was two days after the approval, in contrast to the normal process where it takes weeks.

I also understand that Jones says he granted citizenship because he was told Liu could be executed upon his return. This is crap though, as Liu had permanent residency anyway. Also if someone really fears for their life, they seek asylum. He was wanted in China on fraud charges, and simply didn’t want to face them. There isn’t a single shred of proof that he feared for his life because he was associated with the Falun Gong, as he now alleges. What there is proof of is that he lied on immigration documents, had multiple passports and multiple identities and was wanted by Interpol.

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More on Banks and Dotcom

May 17th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

ACT leader John Banks says he gave away a luxury gift basket from German millionaire Kim Dotcom, who is at the centre of a series of allegations surrounding donations to the former Auckland mayor.

Mr Banks confirmed yesterday that he had failed to declare the gift in the register of MPs’ pecuniary interests. MPs are supposed to declare all gifts worth more than $500.

The register is due to be published by the end of the month and MPs were supposed to complete their declarations by February. They are allowed to make adjustments, however.

Mr Dotcom has reportedly claimed that in December he left the hamper worth about $1000 for Mr Banks at the Hong Kong Grand Hyatt.

Mr Banks responded to the gesture with a thank-you note signed “warmest best”.

In a statement last night, Mr Banks confirmed he received the gift basket but said he did not accept it and gave it to hotel staff.

“I have learned through the media today that the gift was supposedly worth more than $500, an amount which requires disclosure under the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests.

“Subsequently my office sought clarification from the registrar on the appropriate course of action. As we are unable to confirm the actual value, their advice was to make an addition to my return … which I have now done.”

An MP could complain to the Privileges Committee, if thy think the return was deliberately inaccurate. However that would only be accepted if there was some evidence that Banks knew the value of the gift basket was over $500. I have to say that I would not generally assume a hotel gift basket was worth over $500, so even if a complaint is lodged with the Speaker (which Labour could well do as a publicity stunt), I’d be surprised if it is referred to the Privileges Committee.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key confirmed yesterday that he had met Mr Dotcom’s bodyguard, Wayne Tempero.

The meeting was about a self defence programme for young women and happened before Mr Tempero went to work for Mr Dotcom.

Good God. How is this relevent.

It was claimed yesterday that Mr Banks had proposed a meeting between Mr Tempero and Mr Key over Mr Dotcom’s “future efforts for New Zealand”.

Mr Key has repeatedly said he had never heard of Mr Dotcom till his arrest on internet piracy charges.

A spokeswoman for Mr Key said he has met Mr Tempero once at his electorate office “many years ago”.

“Mr Tempero had returned to New Zealand and was looking for support for self-defence programme he was looking to run for young women,” she said.

I suspect this was before Key was even PM. The reality is that once you are PM, you spend less time in electorate clinics.

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The Dotcom Banks rap

May 7th, 2012 at 9:07 am by David Farrar

This revenge song by Kim Dotcom is pretty funny. But even funnier was that when I watched it, the Google Ad which came up was for Hong Kong hotels :-)

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Hotel discounts

May 3rd, 2012 at 12:18 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Act leader John Banks last night released a hotel invoice to attack claims he got a discounted deal in Kim Dotcom’s favourite Hong Kong hotel – and showed a room rate about half of the current quoted cost.

As any regular traveller will know, very few people pay the rack rate at a hotel. Suggesting that one gets a discount as a special favour is naive or mischievous.

It followed claims in Parliament that Mr Banks was given a discount for the hotel stay, which Dotcom helped to arrange.

The invoice showed Mr and Mrs Banks stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and were charged $678 a night.

But staff at the hotel’s reservations desk last night said the rate for the room the Banks stayed in was $1303, including a 10 per cent service charge.

But, did the Herald do what I did – and check what rates you can get through different websites?

Last night, Mr Banks’ staff insisted there was no discount attached to the hotel stay. A spokeswoman said she was present when Mr Banks sought and received an assurance there was no discount attached to his bill.

She said Mr Banks asked specifically if there was any discount applied to his bill and was told by the hotel manager there was not.

Mr Banks had earlier sought a copy of the bill from the hotel showing he and his wife were billed HK$4290 ($679) a night for four nights’ accommodation. “I was absolutely pedantic about paying for everything in Hong Kong myself and the management of  the Hyatt Hotel will attest to that. …

Staff on the hotel reservation desk identified the room the couple had stayed in – room 2317 – as one of the Grand Deluxe Harbour View rooms.

They said the room rate was currently HK$7500 plus a 10 per cent service charge. The total figure in New Zealand dollars was $1303 a night. …

The Hyatt website offers a discounted price of $805 for guests that pay for their stay on arrival. The invoice provided by Mr Banks showed the bill was settled on check out.

The main hotel website is often the most expensive. Let us see what rates for a grand deluxe harbour view room we can get via Trip Advisor.  Now John Banks paid NZ$2,716 for 4 nights.

  • – NZ$2,466
  • Agoda – US$2,012 = NZ$2,493
  • Expedia – NZ$2,728
  • Venere – NZ$2,728

It is quite legitimate to criticise John Banks for downplaying the extend of his relationship with Kim Dotcom. Claiming to forget that he flew to his mansion in a helicopter is stretching credibility. But this story about a so called special hotel discount is a beat up, as far as I can tell.

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More on Banks

May 1st, 2012 at 8:20 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The donation scandal engulfing Act leader John Banks spread last night as it emerged he lobbied personal friend and Government minister Maurice Williamson over internet tycoon and donor Kim Dotcom.

Mr Williamson, the Minister of Land Information, last night admitted Mr Banks had lobbied him over a property purchase in Coatesville, just north of Auckland, Dotcom wanted to make. …

Mr Williamson said: “John Banks did call me to advocate on behalf of Kim Dotcom with regard to the OIO [Overseas Investment Office] application on the Coatesville property. Mr Banks and I have been good friends for years. It is a matter of record that the ministers considered the application, but declined it.”

Dotcom told the Herald Mr Banks referred to being “very close” to Williamson, whose approval was necessary before he could buy the $30 million Coatesville mansion he rents.

He said the comment was made by Mr Banks in reference to his application to buy the mansion.

“He said he knows lots of people from when he was a minister. He knows Williamson … They are very close.”

Dotcom said he believed Mr Banks spoke positively to Mr Williamson about his application.

Overseas Investment Office officials left the decision on the application to ministers, and Mr Williamson approved it in April last year.

But it was eventually declined after it was rejected by Associate Finance Minister Simon Power.

Three months after approving it, Mr Williamson changed his mind and joined Mr Power in rejecting it.

I’ll come back to this issue. Also of note is:

Mr Banks yesterday continued to refuse to be interviewed, but issued a statement in which he said he was unaware Dotcom had donated to his campaign and denied ringing the internet magnate to thank him.

“I could not have, as any such contribution was anonymous.”

But he said he had spoken to Dotcom on “other matters”.

In an interview in January, Mr Banks said those other matters included advice on Dotcom’s OIO application and residency.

He said the advice was “just the process”, and their conversation was “in total of 15 minutes, maybe 20 minutes”.

It is significant that Banks is now saying he did not thank him for the donation, because in my mind that is the issue that would most undermine a defence that the donation was anonymous. I suspect any Police investigation will focus on this issue.

Let’s look at a number of related issue.

Did Banks solicit a donation from Kim Dot Com?

Yes, there seems little dispute there. It is not denied that he suggested they make it two donations of $25,000 rather than one of $50,000. The bizarre thing however is that this has no impact on disclosure.

Can you solicit a donation and then claim it is anonymous?

At parliamentary level probably not, at local government level, basically yes you can. See this post by Andrew Geddis and this post by Graeme Edgeler.

Was Banks unusual in not declaring his donors?

No. As 3 News reported, Len Brown received $499,000 of anonymous donations (Banks had $638,512). Len Brown used the legal avenue of having most donors donate to a trust and then the trust making a donation to Len Brown. This means that Len Brown could legally know who had donated to the trust (and de facto know who had donated to him), but not have to legally disclose their identity. This is also what National used to do before the law changed for parliamentary elections with the Waitemata Trust.

So the issue is not about whether a Mayoral candidate knew who donated to them. The law allows them to know, if they structure it in the right way. The law is about the identifying donations, not donors. The key issue is whether Banks broke the law. If you think Banks is unfit to be an MP because he may have a very good idea of who his likely donors are, then one would have to argue that Len Brown is unfit to be Mayor if he has a very good idea of whom may have donated to the trust which donated to his campaign.

Should the law be changed?

Yes, absolutely. The provisions of the Electoral Act around donations should basically be put into the Local Electoral Act.

Did Banks break the law?

That is for the Police to form a view on, and a court to decide. The key issue will be whether Banks knew the that Kim DotCom was the source of the two $25,000 donations. It is very hard to prove that someone knew something. However the timing of any phone call from Banks to Dot Com will be a key issue. In the Peters and Owen Glenn case, phone records showed Peters phoned his lawyer a few seconds after talking to Owen Glenn, and his lawyer then e-mailed Glenn asking for money referring to the conversation you have had with my client. That was pretty much proof beyond reasonable doubt that Peters knew of the donation.

If Banks phoned Dot Com the same day as the donations were received, or even the next day, then it makes it look more likely that the call was to thank him for the donation as Dot Com alleges. If it was some time later, then the call being for other reasons is more plausible.

Is this just like the Winston Peters and Owen Glenn case?

Yes, and no. Both involved donations, where the MP denies they knew of the donation. Both involved very wealthy donors, who seemed to be seeking “influence” rather than ideological support of a party or policy position.

The donations to the Banks campaign was before Banks was an MP, or indeed a member of the ACT Party. It relates to his local government campaign, and the disclosure requirement is the Local Electoral Act. Breaches of that are a matter for the Police, who will investigate.

The donations from Owen Glenn was made when Peters was an MP, and was to his lawyer to effectively pay for Winston’s legal expenses. This doesn’t have to be disclosed under any law, but was required to be disclosed by Parliament’s Standing Orders around disclosure of interests. The Privileges Committee was the body responsible for investigating any breaches, and did so – finding Peters did know of the donation, and had filed a false return. Labour voted in favour of Peters both at the Privileges Committee itself, and against the finding of the Privileges Committee report. They did not accept that Peters knew of the donation, despite the massive weight of evidence from phone logs and e-mails.

Should Banks be stood down while this is investigated?

I find it hard to see how this is credible. A number of MPs are under investigation by the Police for breaches of electoral laws. None of them are standing down – despite the fact these relate to breaches of the parliamentary Electoral Act not the Local Electoral Act. Helen Clark did not stand down as PM despite the referral to the Police of Labour’s $400,000 overspend.

The other factor is that the Police can take a very long time to decide on electoral law issues. Often over a year.

The appropriate threshold for a stand down in this case would be if the Police laid charges.

This is not to say that we should regard the law as the minimum ethical standard for MPs and Ministers. It is not. That is why we also have the Cabinet Manual and Standing Orders. But this allegation is about actions by Banks before he was even an MP, is not related to his duties, and the evidence is contested.

So how about the lobbying on behalf of Kim DotCom on a property purchase?

It has some parallels to the Bill Liu case

What was the case?

He was a Chinese businessman who donated to several MPs who advocated on his behalf to become a citizen. Shane Jones approved his citizenship despite strong advice from officials not to do so, as they said he had criminal convictions, and many aliases. Dover Samuels presented the citizenship to Liu in the Labour Caucus Room.

How do the cases differ?

John Banks was a private individual (neither MP, Mayor, or candidate) when he lobbied Maurice Williamson. Dover Samuels was a sitting MP.

The officials took no position on the Dot Com application, they strongly oppossed the Liu application.

Shane Jones granted Liu citizenship despite knowing of the criminal concerns. Simon Power declined consent, and Maurice Williamson after initially supporting it, also then declined it.

Should Banks have disclosed Dot Com was a donor, when he lobbied Williamson on his behalf?

Personally I think if you ever advocate on behalf of someone, you should be very upfront and transparent over your relationship and connection to them. I believe it is better to “over declare” than “under declare”. That is one reason I disclose on this blog even very minor dealings.

On the legal side, Banks as a private individual had no obligation to disclose that Dot Com had been a donor to him, even if you accept he knew Dot Com was a donor.

It will be interesting to consider whether Holly Walker’s lobbyist bill would cover situations like this one.

Again personally, I didn’t like Winston Peters lobbying to get a honorary consul position for Owen Glenn, when he knew Glenn was a donor.

I also don’t like John Banks lobbying for Kim DotCom to get a ministerial decision in his favour, when at a minimum he has good grounds to suspect that DotCom had donated to his campaign (even if he legally did not know how much, and which donations).

While disliking both sets of actions, I point out that Peters was actually the Foreign Affairs Minister when he was lobbying on behalf of Glenn, and his lawyer received the money while he was Minister. Banks was a private individual at the time he lobbied. Labour’s position was that Peters did nothing wrong with lobbying for Glenn while not disclosing he had donated $100,000 to pay Winston’s legal fees – so their outrage over Banks is totally fake.

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Geddis on donations

April 29th, 2012 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

University of Otago Faculty of Law professor Andrew Geddis said candidates were allowed to meet potential donors and advise them how to give anonymous donations.

“If the candidate subsequently learns a large ‘anonymous’ donation was made to her or his campaign in the days after the conversation, the candidate can claim not to know who it came from,” Geddis said.

I made this point yesterday also. You may know they were going to be a donor, but not which donation was their one. However if the donor was thanked by the candidate afterwards for the donation, that would weaken the claim not to know.

University of Otago lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards said allowing anonymous donations was a serious loophole.

“I think from this point on there will be an increasing call for the ability of anonymous donations to be scrapped.

“It’s almost inevitable we will see that loophole close,” Edwards said.

The sensible thing to do would be to apply the the donation provisions of the Electoral Act to the Local Electoral Act.

It is worth noting that Len Brown also had anonymous donations. His were legally funneled through a trust, so they donated to the trust, and the trust donated to his campaign.

Yesterday, Labour leader David Shearer called for Prime Minister John Key to stand Banks down from his ministerial portfolios.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said Banks had assured him he had complied with local body electoral law.

Any call for a stand down is ridiculous. While I regard the allegations by DotCom as serious, they are just untested allegations, and they in no way relate to to any actions by Banks as a Minister or MP.

If the Police investigate (which is inevitable), and if they decides to lay charges, then there could be a question of “standing down”, but if MPs and Ministers were required to stand down over untested allegations of electoral breaches then a lot of Labour MPs would still be stood down pending resolution of the complaints the Electoral Commission referred to the Police last election.

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The Dotcom Banks donation

April 28th, 2012 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

David Fisher reports:

Act leader John Banks asked for a $50,000 political donation to be split into two parts so it could be made anonymously, says Kim Dotcom and one other witness.

This is unusual, as splitting the donation has absolutely no impact on whether or not it can be anonymous. The level for disclosure is $1,000.

Dotcom said the request was made on April 15, 2010, when Mr Banks was preparing to campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.

He said there were at times three other people in the room while the donation was discussed – and Mr Banks rang later to thank him for it.

The allegation comes after police were asked to investigate Mr Banks’ listing of a $15,000 donation from SkyCity as “anonymous”.

I regard this allegation as far more serious than the Sky City one. As far as I know no one has suggested Banks knew personally of the Sky City donation, which allow him to declare it as anonymous.

If the allegations are correct and that Banks both solicited the donation, and was made aware of when it had been made, and then thanked the donor for it – well I find it hard to see how you can claim that “the candidate concerned does not know who made the donation”, which is the test in the Local Electoral Act.

The only wriggle room might be that if Banks did not know of the amount donated. He could claim he was aware of him being a donor but did not know how much, so hence for that specific donation did not know who made it. Personally I regard that as still being against the spirit of the law, but courts decide on the wording.

This again reinforces to me the need to have much tighter donation transparency requirements for local government elections.

Political candidates are required by law to declare donations if they know who made them. Failure to do so is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

A vacancy is automatically created if any MP is convicted of an offence punishable by two years or more, no matter what punishment they get.

In the case of Mr Banks, a conviction would place at risk his Epsom seat under the Electoral Act and force a byelection. The loss would leave the Government exposed, with its 59 votes in the 121-seat Parliament supplemented only by United Future’s one and the Maori Party’s three.

It is worth noting that a complaint has not yet been laid over the Dotcom donation, once it has it will then be referred to the Police, they will have to investigate and decide whether to lay charges, and if they do then it goes to a court to decide.

Based on their usual speed with electoral issues, this could take some time. If all this did happen and Banks was convicted, then I doubt the overall Government majority would be at risk, as National would win an Epsom by-election with ease.

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Local body donations

April 27th, 2012 at 1:09 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has lodged an official complaint about Act leader John Banks failing to disclose a $15,000 donation was from SkyCity during his 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign.

Mr Mallard lodged the complaint with the Auckland Council electoral officer this week. He also asked the electoral officer to scrutinise “anonymous” donations of radio advertising Mr Banks had included in his return.

SkyCity gave $15,000 each to Len Brown, now mayor, and Mr Banks, his rival, during that campaign.

Although Mr Brown’s donation return listed SkyCity as a donor, Mr Banks’ listed an anonymous donation of $15,000. It did not mention SkyCity.

The penalty for knowingly filing a false return is up to two years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000.

There is a lesser penalty of a $5000 fine if the candidate did not know it was false. MPs convicted of crimes with a penalty of two years or more can not remain in Parliament.

However, Mr Banks said he was not concerned about the complaint, dismissing it as Mr Mallard “up to his old timeless tricks”.

He said he had not known at the time that the donation was from SkyCity and his donations return was accurate as at the date he signed it.

“I signed the document at the said time to the best of my knowledge.” …

Asked how it was that Mayor Brown had known about the SkyCity donation yet he had not, the Act leader said his campaign accountants had dealt with the finances for his campaign and he had based his return on the information they gave him.

Asked if it was possible they had known the donation was from SkyCity, he said it was.

Auckland Council’s electoral officer, Bruce Thomas, said he would consider the complaint and decide whether to refer it to police.

It has been referred to the Police, but that in itself is not of significance. Local electoral officers are basically required to refer every complaint to the Police. The WCC referred to the Police a complaint from a Councillor that I had linked to his official profile without his permission! Yes, seriously.

Anyway let us look at what the Local Electoral Act 2001 says. You need to be aware that it is very different to the Electoral Act, which is much much tighter in terms of donation disclosure.

anonymous, in relation to an electoral donation (as defined in section 104), means a donation that is made in such a way that the candidate concerned does not know who made the donation

So the Act says it is only the candidate who needs to now know the identity. Again this is different from the Electoral Act.

electoral donation, in relation to a candidate at an election, means a donation (whether of money or the equivalent of money or of goods or services or of a combination of those things) of a sum or value of more than $1,000 (such amount being inclusive of any goods and services tax and of a series of donations made by or on behalf of any one person that aggregate more than $1,000) made to the candidate, or to any person on the candidate’s behalf, for use by or on behalf of the candidate in the campaign for his or her election

So a donation of $15,000 definitely qualified.

S109(1) states:

Within 55 days after the day on which the successful candidates at any election are declared to be elected, every candidate at the election must transmit to the electoral officer a return setting out—

  • (a)the candidate’s electoral expenses; and

  • (b)the name and address of each person who made an electoral donation to the candidate and the amount of each electoral donation; and

  • (c)if an electoral donation of money or of the equivalent of money is made to the candidate anonymously and the amount of that donation exceeds $1,000,—

    • (i)the amount of that donation; and

    • (ii)the fact that it has been received anonymously.

So if the candidate knows who made the donation, then they must supply a name and address, while if they do not, just the amount and the fact it was anonymous.

So the test for the Police is simply did John Banks know Sky City donated $15,000 to his campaign. Unless there is proof that he did know (a meeting, e-mails etc), then I can’t see the complaint has any chance of succeeding.

Personally I think the Local Electoral Act should be updated to have similar transparency requirements to the Electoral Act. This would mean:

  • Anonymous donations to a candidate could not exceed $1,500
  • a donation is anonymous where a candidate “could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor”

But that is not the current law for local government donations. So I see a very small possibility of the Police taking action.

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The corruption would be if politicians decided charges

March 11th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Stock in the SST reports:

Labour MP Phil Twyford has tabled a petition calling for an investigation into the decision not to proceed with charges against John Banks and Don Brash as directors of the Huljich KiwiSaver scheme.

Twyford won’t comment on the petition, which is the work of former Auckland mayoral candidate Penny Bright who is incensed that Banks, the minister for regulatory reform, escaped having to defend himself in court for signing a prospectus that contained false and misleading statements.

The petition now must be considered by the Commerce Select Committee, made up of nine MPs of which five are from the National Party. 

People may not be aware that there is no significance to what has happened. An MP who tables a petition does not mean they agree with ts intent. Almost all MPs will accept a petition.

The Office of the Clerk allocate the petition to a select committee. There is no vote about accepting it. It is automatic. I could do a petition asking for the House to declare war on Australia and liberate Tasmania by armed force, and it would end up with the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

The Commerce Select Committee does not need to respond to the petition, beyond reporting it to the House with no recommendations.

Now as to the substance:

The FMA said the Securities Commission “obtained the advice of respected counsel on this issue. That advice was then reviewed and confirmed by a Queen’s Counsel. The commission considered that advice and the results of its investigation carefully.

“It formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to show that either Dr Brash or Mr Banks would have known that the prospectus contained misleading information.”

What Bright is seeking to do is in my opinion a form of corruption in itself. She is asking for politicians to overturn the decision of an independent authority, and prosecute people because she does not like their politics. This is what you get in Zimbabwe, not New Zealand.

MPs should never be involved in deciding if charges should have been laid against anyone, let alone other politicians. The sole exception is of course the Attorney-General, but even then this is almost always delegated to the Solicitor-General.  And even then it is usually that the AG has to consent to a prosecution – not that the AG can determine that someone should be prosecuted, against the decision of the appropriate prosecuting authority.

So this petition will go nowhere, and that is a good thing.

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The Teapot tape online

January 26th, 2012 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

A copy of the teapot tape has been placed online, and the link e-mailed to a huge number of people from an anon e-mail address.

There are a very small number of people who have that file. Bradley Ambrose and the senior staff of the Herald on Sunday and TV3. Will any of them be brave enough to admit they did it? I will say I don’t think it is anyone from the Herald on Sunday. To be fair to them, they didn’t publish the tape originally, and it was TV3 that turned it into a daily circus.

I said before the election it was inevitable it would come out at some stage.

The recording is on You Tube (uploaded by 2Johns2Cups), plus two other locations. I’m not providing a direct link due to the questionable legality, but I do not believe saying where it has been published (as I have done) makes me a publisher, anymore than when newspapers reported Whale Oil had broken a suppression order (which sent everyone off to his site).

The irony is that the recording is quite benign, as the PM has said. The media beat this up into a nonsense, that just lowered their standing with most New Zealanders.

Hopefully this release will mean that we can all move on now, except of course we await the Police decision on the legality of making the recording.

Please do not post a direct link in the comments.

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Plunket in Metro

January 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A hilarious column by Sean Plunket in Metro on the National-ACT negotiations after the election. Worth getting Metro just to read the whole thing. Some extracts:

Banks: Golly it was close, wasn’t it? Great to be back in Parliament as a National… oh, sorry… Act MP. No, no tea, thanks Prime Minister. Anyway boss, what am I here for?”

“So what is it you want Banksy?” queries Key.  “I know you are going to drive a bloody hard bargain, mate”

“Not really,” says Banks. Then adds quizzically, “What do I want?”

“You are one wily old fox, aren’t you, Banksy? Pulling the old I-don’t-know-what-I-want-trick, when I know and you know that you want charter schools.”

“Charter whats?” says Banks.

“Charter schools, Einstein. You know schools where we can blow away the national curriculum, give those pinko teachers the boot and say it’s all in the cause of improving outcomes for kids like you and me who climbed their way to the top despite a failing state education system.”

“Sounds good, Leader. We’ll take it”

One can’t be sure that isn’t how it went, which is what makes it so funny. Then he carries on:

Banks moves towards the door. “If there is nothing else, I’ve got an optician’s appointment to replace those silly glassses.”

“You’ve got me again Banksy!” says Key as he mimes being shot through the heart and falling dead. “The old that’s-all-I-want-and-I’m-on-my-way-trick! You weren’t really just going to walk out the door without even asking for a departmental spending freeze that would require any minister wanting a budget increase to have it approved by Parliament?”

“Yes I was, actually” Banks looks increasingly confused.

“Okay, you can stop twisting my arm now, Banksy. It’s yours.”

And the conclusion:

“I’m happy with that. Is there anything else I want?”

“Oh, there are a couple of other issues you’ll be wanting to hold my feet to the fire on, but why not just sign the agreement here and I’ll get Steven Joyce to fill in the details.”

“Righto, boss. I’ll see you in a couple of years, then.”

Plunket must have been in the room :-)

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