John Key’s secret donkey

May 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has declared he once owned a stake in a racehorse, a week after NZ First leader Winston Peters faced controversy over his share in a racing syndicate.

Key said he owned the horse, which he dubbed a “donkey” due to its lack of racing success, as part of a syndicate with nine other people.

Key bought his share in 2007 and sold it in 2008. He never thought to declare it in Parliament’s register of pecuniary interest until he was asked about it by media, he said.

“I can’t see why I’d need to declare it, but honestly it’s so long ago I can’t really be bothered going through the arguments so I’ve declared it.”

Key said the horse was a failure and said he had never kept his prior ownership a secret.

“It should be more correctly referred to a donkey than a horse.

“I think it managed to win one race where everyone else was running in the other direction and it now lives in Noumea – apparently, hopefully, a happy life.”

Winston could learn some lessons about about how to deal with questions over racehorse ownership!

I await Campbell Live revealing that John Key’s former donkey is in fact Player X in the cricket match fixing scandal!

Winston’s horse

May 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is rejecting allegations from a former colleague that he misused party money and failed to declare interests in a successful racehorse.

Independent MP Brendan Horan, who was elected to Parliament as a New Zealand First member, said Mr Peters should reveal his own spending and interests instead of making “spurious allegations” against Justice Minister Judith Collins.

Mr Peters has been attacking Ms Collins in the House for not fully declaring the details of her trip to Beijing in October, but has failed to land the killer blow.

Yesterday, Mr Horan claimed that his former leader should have declared his part-ownership of a 5-year-old mare named Bellazeel in Parliament’s register of pecuniary interests.

The horse was sired by famous racehorse Zabeel and has itself claimed more than $20,000 in prizemoney in the past year. …

He believed there was no requirement to declare ownership in a horse, let alone a 10 per cent stake in a syndicate lease of a horse.

The lease, which was bought in a charity auction in 2008, has now expired.

MPs must declare all property, directorships, gifts, shares and other interests in the register each year.

Registrar Sir Maarten Wevers said he had not received complaints on the issue, and it was up to each MP to decide whether or not something fell within the terms of the register.

He said the ownership of racehorses by MPs had been raised with his office previously.

Sir Maarten said racehorses that were held by syndicates needed to be declared, but he did not know the full details of the ownership structure of Bellazeel.

“I would think it would certainly be … a business entity undertaking … something for a pecuniary profit. That’s what you race a horse for, I presume.”

Mr Horan and National MP Chris Tremain have previously disclosed part-ownership of a racehorse in the register.

Frankly I don’t care if Winston owns a horse or not. In fact I think the Register of Pecuniary Interests is sometimes too intrusive. What we should know about is if an MP is receiving large gifts from people or companies, and any significant investments they have which could influence their vote. I don’t think we need to know the names of their family trusts, the property they own or if they own a racehorse.

But it is amusing to see Winston hoist on his own petard. I don’t think he has done anything wrong (in this case) but it is a reminder of the old adage about throwing stones in glasshouses. Winston is the last one to lecture on proper disclosures.

Disclosing loans

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

The Herald reports:

Embattled MP Maurice Williamson 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.

MPs’ Pecuniary Interests

May 7th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The 2013/14 register has just been published. Some of the interesting ones:

  • One of the gifts to John Banks was a legal opinion!
  • David Cunliffe has not revealed the names of the two other donors to the TR Trust that funded his leadership campaign
  • Paul Foster-Bell has shares in Mighty River Power (presumably before he was an MP)
  • John Key’s most common gift was golf green fees.  Also the SAS gave him a framed print.
  • Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard had donations from Labour MPs for their legal fees
  • Ian McKelvie is the Chairman of Special Olympics NZ
  • Louisa Wall got tickets to the Rugby Sevens
  • Craig Foss got given a statue of Azog the Defiler

Will Banks use the Cunliffe defence in court

March 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald writes:

On Tuesday, he buckled and revealed the names of three donors who had agreed to be named. A further two would not be named, and their donations will be returned to them. He said it was a lapse in judgment but done with the noble aims of respecting the donors’ wishes for secrecy and keeping Cunliffe at arm’s length from it all. Cunliffe claimed the latter aim was achieved – he had not known the identity of the donors. He also admitted at least one of them had approached him directly to offer a donation, but claimed he had referred that person on to the trustee, Greg Presland, so had not known for certain whether the donation ended up being made.

By this stage a neon sign with “John Banks” should have flared in his head. If Cunliffe’s 2013 donations were “historical”, what were Banks’ 2010 donations? And Banks, too, had argued his donation from Kim Dotcom was technically anonymous because his campaign manager had dealt with it after he was offered it, so he had not known for certain if it was made.

This is an interesting point. John Banks got rightly savaged for having the initial discussion with Dotcom over a donation, and then saying it was anonymous because he left the details to his campaign manager. This is what Cunliffe is now also claiming, so Banks in court can now get up and say Cunliffe did it also.

The question also arises as to how Cunliffe declared the donations to the Labour Party. Labour and Mr Cunliffe have both refused to say whether he declared the donations to the party individually, or as a lump sum from the trust. Presumably it was the latter, given Cunliffe has claimed not to know who the donors were. If so, it might not strictly be against the Labour Party’s own rules but it certainly isn’t in the spirit of them.

This is a very intriguing issue. The fact Labour will not say whether Cunliffe declared just the trust to them, or the individual donors, makes me very suspicious. I doubt Labour Head Office would have deemed it acceptable not to be told of the individual donors (in confidence).  But if they were told of the individual donors, then it means that Cunliffe has lied in saying he doesn’t know who they all were. The only possible way out from the contradiction is to do a Banks and claim he didn’t read the form his campaign manager signed.

If his disclosure to Labour did just name the trust, then they would confirm that to kill the story. I think they did disclose individual donors, and they are terrified at having to admit this because it would compromise their leader so badly.

Cunliffe is now talking about changing the rules to make the situation clearer. If any rules are to be changed, it should be those of the leadership contest, not the Register of Pecuniary Interests. Labour may be selecting its own leader, but it is also selecting the person who could be Prime Minister. No MP who is effectively auditioning to be Prime Minister should be exempt from disclosing donations simply because it is an “internal process”. If anything, it is a greater reason for disclosure.

Somehow I don’t think it is their own rules they will seek to change. If they get the numbers in Parliament, they’ll change the rules of the Register of Pecuniary Interests to exempt donations to leadership campaigns.

Will Cunliffe’s donations be revealed?

March 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe used an “agent arrangement” to take donations to his leadership campaign last November and is refusing to say whether he has disclosed individual donors in the MPs’ register of financial interests or whether they were disclosed as being from a trust.

This sounds too ironic to be true. Surely the “agent” wasn’t one of those secretive trusts that Labour has spent almost a decade railing against and legislated against?

The returns for the Register of Pecuniary Interests were due last Friday, and Mr Cunliffe said his return met both the rules of the register, which requires disclosure of donations of more than $500, and those of the Labour Party, which said all donations would be confidential.

He refused to say how he had met both rules, or whether he had declared donations as being from a trust rather than the original donors.

But he confirmed his campaign was run through an “agent arrangement” rather than taking donations directly. He sought a legal opinion before filing his return and defended the use of trusts.

What this means is that the Leader of the Labour Party used a trust so that we will never know who paid for his leadership campaign – despite Parliament’s Standing Orders requiring all donations of over $500 to be disclosed.

The stench of hypocrisy is massive.

“In the event donations are made to a trust, the trustee will have information about donations which a candidate or campaign team won’t have. So [if] there is a trust involved, it will be the donations of the trust to the campaign that are declared, as per the rules. If there is a trust, trustees owe obligations of confidentiality.”

But who decided to set up a trust? The purpose of the trust was to defeat the transparency requirements of Parliament’s Standing Orders.

I’m also not convinced that Cunliffe can refuse to name his donors, eve if it went through a trust. If he is aware of the ultimate source of the donations, you can argue Standing Orders require him to disclose – or risk a privilege complaint.

Of his rivals for the job, Shane Jones said he had disclosed all donations of more than $500, and the donors, and Grant Robertson said he did not receive any individual donations of more than $500.

So Jones and Robertson have disclosed – it is only their leader hiding behind a trust to protect his personal donors.

In 2005, Labour changed electoral finance rules to stop National filtering large anonymous donations through trusts. Grants made through a trust must now be disclosed separately if larger than the disclosable limit of $15,000 to a party or $1500 for an individual candidate.

Mr Cunliffe said there was “nothing at all” to embarrass him in his return.

That’s because it seems the return will just reveal the trust, and not the actual donors.

Mr Cunliffe also said Labour was likely to raise the issue with the standing orders committee, a cross-party group of MPs which decides on the rules for the register.

“It’s quite clear that having primary-style elections is new and not something that has been explicitly foreseen before in the register rules. It does raise a number of legal technicalities over the match between internal party rules and the rules of the standing orders.

“It would be better for everybody if they were aligned.”

The party can align its rules with standing orders if it so wishes, and drop the confidentially clause around donations. I can only presume that what Cunliffe is proposing is that standing orders be amended to allow Labour leadership candidates in future not to reveal donations to their leadership campaigns.

If any Labour MP or candidate now tries to campaign on better electoral finance transparency laws, they’re going to be laughed at.

UPDATE: Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn comments:

So, as usual, he’s claiming that it was All Within The Rules. But that’s not enough – his behaviour needs to be ethical as well. And by failing to tell us who he owes political debts to for financing his leadership ambitions, David Cunliffe has clearly failed that test and is unfit to be in Parliament, let alone a party leader.

UPDATE2: In 2008 Cunliffe said in Parliament:

Gee, the irony of that man impugning this Government on money issues will not be lost on Kiwis. He is the millionaire that Merrill built, the son of the “Hollow Man”, taking on the Government about transparency. Why does he not tell that to the millionaire brokers of the Waitemata Trust or the millionaire sponsors of the Exclusive Brethren? We believe in one person, one vote; not one dollar, one vote. We do not believe that elections should be bankrolled by big business, which is why the Electoral Finance Act is in place.

So he attacks people using trusts to hide the source of their donations in Parliament, yet uses the same device himself to hide the source of personal donations to his leadership campaign.

Labour leadership contenders will have to disclose donations

February 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe and MPs Shane Jones and Grant Robertson could be forced to publicly declare who gave them donations of more than $500 during last year’s leadership contest despite the party’s attempts to keep them confidential.

The rules for the official register of MPs’ financial interests require them to declare all gifts and donations of more than $500 other than donations for an election. Those returns are due by next Friday.

Sir Maarten Wevers, who oversees the Register of Pecuniary Interests, said the rules appeared to cover money received by the MPs in the Labour leadership primary.

“I would expect them to declare it because it is a donation for something other than an electoral campaign.”

Yep it is a donation that benefited them personally.

It could cause some concern for the three Labour MPs if they had assured donors their contributions would not be made public. The MPs would not have to disclose the value of donations, but would have to provide the donors’ names.

Labour’s rules for the contest stated that donations would be confidential, and the party has refused to release a list of them on those grounds.

That will be hugely embarrassing if donors were assured their donations would remain confidential, but they end up being required to be disclosed in the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

What would be hilarious is if it was disclosed that a donor to Shane Jones was Foodstuffs (competitors of Countdown) 🙂

MP’s Register of Interests 2013

May 8th, 2013 at 3:09 pm by David Farrar

The annual Register of Interests is here:

Some interesting disclosures:

  • Many MPs had a Sheyne Tuffery print gifted by Greenpeace
  • Simon Bridges has honorary memberships of Mount Maunganui  and Tauranga golf clubs
  • Steffan Browning was a director of BioGro
  • Cam Calder owns a restoration project of some ruins in Gers, France
  • David Carter has shares in almost every rural company out there!
  • Jonathan Coleman got a wine decanter and glasses from the US Secretary of Defence
  • Paul Goldsmith has a season pass to the Auckland Racing Club
  • Brendan Horan is part-owner of a racehorse!
  • Steven Joyce got tickets to WOW
  • John Key’s gifts include a Samsung Galaxy tablet from the President of  (presumably South!) Korea, a model of ancient dragon boat from a member of the Chinese Politburo, Russian cognac from President Putin, a bicycle from the President of Philippines and a round of golf with Greg Norman by Duco Events Limited
  • David Parker was given a ticket by Fonterra to hear Al Gore speak. It seems this is deemed of value!
  • Tony Ryall is a director of Maisie and Llewe Limited – textile sales
  • David Shearer has this time included his US bank account!
  • Nicky Wagner has a Timelord Trust
  • Jian Yang helped organised a friendly football game between the All Whites and the Chinese national team.

Hide complains National too soft on Shearer

March 24th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

The frightening part for Labour leader David Shearer forgetting to declare his $50,000-plus offshore bank account is National’s response: next to nothing. The Prime Minister said simply that Shearer’s memory lapse was “unfortunate”.

Unfortunate? That’s scary.

The usual political playbook is straightforward: 1. Make the account suspicious; 2. Keep the story alive; 3. Ensure a public inquiry; 4. Bust Shearer.

The political play is best run by an up-and-coming backbencher. Ministers must be seen as too busy running the country to be bothered.

The backbencher doesn’t allege any wrongdoing. That requires evidence. The only concern is perception.

The backbencher kicks off by asking why an MP and party leader would ever need an offshore bank account. “The political leaders who have secret offshore accounts aren’t the sort we usually have in New Zealand.”

The story is kept alive by pressing hard through the media with new questions every day. Day Two: “Mr Shearer must come clean with just how much he has in his secret account.” Of course, Shearer will refuse. Good.

Day Three: Allege it’s over a million dollars.

Journalists do the rest. They put the million-dollar figure to Shearer. If he doesn’t deny it, then a million dollars it is. If he denies it’s a million, the journalists won’t let go until he declares how much it’s below a million. The account’s dollar value is secured easily enough.

A new day, a new question. When did he last use the account? Who put the money in? When and why? Why hasn’t he closed the account? On and on it goes.

The public inquiry is achieved by making a Breach of Privilege complaint. It’s impossible for Parliament’s Speaker to refuse. If failing to declare $50,000-plus in a foreign bank account is not a breach then MPs are free to declare Mickey Mouse or whatever on their register of interests.

The resulting Privileges Committee is media gold. Shearer must front to a committee of senior MPs, most of whom are on the Government’s side. The questioning is in public, on camera. Week after week he must explain to incredulous MPs how he forgot about having tens of thousands of dollars in an offshore bank account but somehow remembered every year when he completed his tax return.

The whys and wherefores of his overseas banking would be dragged out of him. The committee would want his banking records. He would have little choice but to supply them.

I have absolutely no doubt that what Rodney describes is what would have happened if it was a National Party Leader who failed to disclose for four years in a row a foreign bank account.

Rodney has a theory about why:

But National has done none of this. That means only one thing. National want Shearer right where he is: leading the Labour Party into the next election.

Heh. I think that is reading too much into it. I think it is rather not wanting to appear to be too sanctimonious.

The problem for Shearer

March 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The undisclosed bank account is posing some challenges for David Shearer, beyond just the transparency issue.

Stuff reports:

Shearer told Fairfax Media yesterday there was no advantage to having the account and there was “nothing special about it”.

Asked what that said about his financial expertise, given low interest rates in the US and the exchange rate losses he may have suffered from a rising New Zealand dollar, he shrugged and said: “The bottom line is it is there, and I have nothing more to say about it really.”

Banks today also questioned why Shearer would keep such a large amount of money in an account that paid such low interest – maybe 1.5 per cent – when he could earn more in New Zealand.

Shearer had also disclosed a mortgage in the register, which would charge a higher interest rate than the banks paid on deposits in New York.

“Why doesn’t he transfer some across and pay off his mortgage?” Banks asked.

How an MP arranges his or her personal finances should generally be of no concern to the public – it is a private matter. But when due to a stuff up, you force it into the public arena, people naturally get curious. You just can’t help it.

Now some people have got over-excited and have been saying that Shearer has a conflict of interest with Labour’s policy to spend billions of dollars pushing down the exchange rate, as that would allow him to convert his US dollars into NZ dollars at a higher profit.

I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous and is the sort of paranoia best left to some of the extremists on the left who likewise allege that John Key was asking questions in Parliament on Tranzrail to help their share price, rather than because he was (then) Opposition Finance Spokesperson.

Labour want to waste billions of dollars intervening in the exchange rate because they think it will be popular, not to help their leader make money on currency transactions.

So I don’t think the public will have a bar of the conspiracy theories.

But what the public do understand is paying down your mortgage. It’s something common to most families. You pay much more on your mortgage than you get in a bank, so you always transfer surplus savings against your mortgage.

And what the public will be wondering, even though it is none of their business, is why would you have several hundred thousand dollars in an US bank account, and not use it to pay down or off your mortgage. I mean no one sensibly wants to pay more interest to your bank than they have to.

The only three answers I can come up with are:

  1. You’re financially incompetent and it never occurred to you.
  2. You’re so well off, that saving thousands or tens of thousands of dollars off your mortgage doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things.
  3. There is some other reason to want to keep the money in the offshore account.

Have I missed a significant possibility?

Vernon Small also touches on the political side of the non disclosure:

The blunder shows a slackness and a lack of attention to detail unbecoming a prime minister.

Even having the account – rather than closing it quick-smart when he became leader – is problematic.

What of Labour’s views on economic nationalism? What about investing in local enterprises rather than leaving the money at low interest rates to be invested in the US?

And why not close it and bring it back now? Surely not because he is waiting for the exchange rate to move back in his favour? Mr Shearer, currency speculator?

It isn’t necessary to get overexcited by the ramifications of all this to see the potential for political harm for Labour and Mr Shearer.

By far the worst is that at a stroke he has neutralised attacks he could make, come the 2014 campaign, on John Key’s “brain fades”.

It is not hard to see how they will be turned back on him.

Which is worse: forgetting a swift mention of Kim Dotcom in a briefing by spooks or failing to remember for three years in a row your nest egg tucked away in a New York bank?

Labour had a very obvious campaign around Key having so called brain fades. It is now in tatters.

UPDATE: We have has some useful additional possible explanations. The list now is:

  1. You’re financially incompetent and it never occurred to you.
  2. You’re so well off, that saving thousands or tens of thousands of dollars off your mortgage doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things.
  3. Deliberately not paying off the mortgage, so he appears “an everyday bloke”
  4. Is writing the NZ mortgage payments off tax as an investment property
  5. Waiting for the exchange rate to drop, before he moves the money back to NZ
  6. There is some other reason to want to keep the money in the offshore account (US itunes purchases?)

How much was in the undisclosed bank account?

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

Colin Espiner blogs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Shearer failed to disclose his offshore bank account

March 18th, 2013 at 1:23 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower has tweeted:

David Shearer has corrected MPs Register of Pecuniary Interests after not disclosing United Nations bank account. Says it was mistake.

This means that his declaration to the Registrar has been incorrect for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Mistakes of course can happen, and maybe it only had a trivial amount of money in it, such as $50.

But it would be good to know how material the non-disclosure was and how it was over-looked.

UPDATE: Trevor Mallard blogged in 2010 that Chris Finlayson must be stood down for a minor non-disclosure that year. I can only presume that Mr Mallard regards failing to disclose an entire bank account as far more serious and also warrants a stand down. Also note that the Finlayson incident was entirely technical and non-substantive. What we are still awaiting is how large was David Shearer’s forgotten bank account.

UPDATE 2: NRT on Twitter has pointed out the bank account must have had at least $50,000 in it to be required to be disclosed.

UPDATE3: I/S at NRT has blogged:

 Shearer clearly knows the rules around bank accounts, because he already declares one (a term deposit with Westpac). So he can’t claim ignorance as a defence. If he deliberately tried to deceive the New Zealand public about his assets, then he’s morally unfit to be leader of the Labour Party, or an MP for that matter. But even if we accept his excuse, and ascribe it to sheer forgetfulness (something which I think the New Zealand public would find extremely difficult to believe), then he’s too incompetent for the job. 

Meanwhile, its worth pointing out: knowingly making a false return is Contempt of Parliament, and the argument that this was not knowing requires superhuman credulity. Will Parliament hold its own to account? Or will they once again collude in their cozy conspiracy of silence around these matters?

I’m not as harsh as NRT. I am assuming it is an honest mistake. But it is a pretty big omission, so there is a need for David Shearer to fully explain the omission.

UPDATE4: Cactus Kate has raised an interesting point. Did Shearer declare the bank account to the IRD? If he did not, then that is even bigger trouble. If he did, then how was it included for tax compliance but not for transparency requirements? If every year you are filing a tax return that includes income from the foreign bank account, that should prompt you to remember it for the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

The 2012 Register of Pecuniary Interests

May 24th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The full register is here. Nothing scandalous there, but the media have pointed out that Labour’s campaign on the evils of Sky City’s casino didn’t stop them accepting numerous RWC tickets from Sky City!

Some of the more interesting or unusual entries:

  • Jacinda Ardern got free tickets to four RWC games including the semi-final and final – the most impressive collection for a (then) backbencher
  • Gerry Brownlee was given a framed All Blacks RWC jersey
  • Cam Calder owns a restoration project of a ruin in Gers, France
  • David Carter and Peter Dunne scored “only” three RWC games, but they were the quarter-final, semi-final and the final
  • Charles Chauvel had three overseas trips partially paid for by the UNDP, relating to the UN Commissioner on HIV
  • Clayton Cosgrove is the Patron of the North Canterbury Special Olympics
  • Craig Foss got four RWC tickets, including both semi-finals but missed out on the final
  • Phil Goff had five RWC games, including a quarter, a semi and the final
  • Paul Goldsmith declared income from the Creative NZ Author’s Fund for books he has published in NZ
  • Chris Hipkins made the RWC Final courtesy of Sky TV
  • John Key got the most impressive gift, being a replica of Frodo’s sword “Sting” from Lord of the Rings (a gift from Obama)
  • Trevor Mallard got tickets (he is shadow sports spokesperson) to at least five different RWC games, from the NZRU, IRB, RWC 2011, Rugby World Cup Ltd and Sky City
  • Ian McKelvie is the Chairman of Special Olympics New Zealand
  • Winston Peters has shares in his own strategic development advisory company and also in a project management company
  • Rajen Prasad is an active paid director in the Bank of Baroda (NZ), a subsidiary of the Indian Bank of that name. This might explain why he seems to have so little parliamentary activity!
  • Tony Ryall is a shareholder in a textile sales company with his wife, called Maisie and Llew Limited (very cute – the names of their kids)
  • Pita Sharples also got tickets to a RWC quarter, semi and the final – plus the opening ceremony
  • David Shearer might get the prize for best RWC haul, with six freebie games including the opening, quarter, semi and final
  • Metiria Turei has an interest in NZ Biograins Ltd and Comvita NZ Ltd
  • Nicky Wagner has the coolest name for a trust – the Timelord Trust
  • Louisa Wall was a RWC commentator for TV3
  • National MP Jian Yang declared the gift of a Chinese painting from Labour MP Raymond Huo

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.

2011 register of MPs Interests

May 18th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The 2001 register is here. Some extracts:

  • Jim Anderton still has his Commonwealth Bank of Australia shares
  • Jacinda Ardern got a trip to Sweden part-funded by the International Union of Socialist Youth, to their Congress which she chaired
  • John Boscawen had the Heritage Foundation cover accomodation at a climate change conference
  • Hilary Calvert is a director or controlling interest in 25 companies. She also owns 20+ properties
  • John Key sold his mining shares in Feb 2010
  • Key’s most amusing gift must be the decorated ostrich egg
  • Wayne Mapp got a replica of a bronze chariot from the Vice-Chairman of the China Central Military Commission
  • Phil Goff still owns his Mansfield Tower apartment hs said he would sell

Pecuniary Interests

June 22nd, 2010 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard blogged:

There was some publicity recently about Jonathan Young’s carelessness in relation to his declaration of pecuniary interest.

This week it is all about the hapless Chris Finlayson who is already in serious trouble for the way he kept on changing his description of his relationship with a Supreme Court judge in whose favour he intervened.

Trevor calling Chris hapless is a bit like me calling Usain Bolt slow.

Now it has emerged that Finlayson helped set up a company in 2006, after he became an MP,  and became a director then and has failed to declare it on any return since that date.

Trevor goes on to declare that Chris must stand down as Attorney-General due to this issue.

I’m amazed after the incidents of 2008, any Labour MP who was an MP in 2008 ever has the decency to try and talk with credibility about the Register of Pecuniary Interests. Hypocrisy is not an adequate term to describe this. It is more akin to the CEO of BP going lectures on environmental protection and good public relations.

In case anyone has forgotten let me remind you that every single Labour MP voted that Winston did not breach the rules of the Register when he did not declare a $100,000 personal donation from Owen Glenn, and also tens of thousands of donations from the Velas.

Even worse, Glenn was seeking appointment as a Consul, and the Velas had racing interests which benefited greatly from funding for the industry (such as prizes) which Winston got Labour to agree to.

Now this was exactly what you have a Register for – the abuses uncovered by the Privileges Committee (with help from the SFO) were as severe a conflict as one can have. Undisclosed personal donations from people you were championing.

And what was Labour’s response to the compelling testimony and proof, that exposed Winston as a liar and have broken the rules? They voted against the recommendation of the Privileges Committee, and oh yeah banked $100,000 cheque from the Velas a few days before the 2008 election, when it would not have to be declared until afterwards.

So pardon me while I vomit up, as I see any Labour MP thinking they have any integrity on this issue. It was a low point for parliamentary integrity – and not a single Labour MP had the guts to vote with their conscience.

Anyway back to Trevor’s allegations, I quote from a statement put out to those inquiring:

Since 2006 I have been a  director and shareholder of Te Puhi Trust (2) Limited, with two other directors.

The incorporation is a corporate trustee for a family trust. The incorporation owns no assets – Te Puhi Trust (2) limited exists only to be a trustee for the family trust, Te Puhi Trust (2), whose beneficiaries are the family and charitable causes.

I have no pecuniary interest in any of these entities, as confirmed in a letter from the trust’s lawyer today. Accordingly, I did not declare the directorship of the corporate trustee for the family trust as a pecuniary interest on the Register of Pecuniary Interests. There is no precuniary interest.

I have sought advice this morning from the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests as to whether a directorship with no pecuniary interests should be declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests. I expect to have an answer tomorrow.

Now it is possible that the Registrar may say this should be disclosed, but if this is the case this is a technical breach which involves no possible actual gain by not having declared it. If Winston was a 95 on a 1- 100 seriousness scale, this is around a 2 or 3.

Trevor compares the issue to the problems David Parker had in 2006. Now I will agree that the A-G needs to be held to a higher standard of accountability than a normal MP. But the problem David Parker had is that his declaration that a company had resolved not to have an auditor was disputed by an aggrieved minority share holder who said this declaration was false as he had not agreed. It later transpired that the aggrieved share holder was no longer a share holder, but Parker actually thought he was a share holder when he signed forms saying share holders had unanimously agreed. But his case had an alleged victim claiming disadvantage.

Anyway let’s enjoy the hypocrisy of Labour claiming there is no need to disclose $100,000 donations towards your personal legal fees, but that you do need to disclose a non-pecuniary directorship.

Keeping the register accurate

June 4th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Taranaki Daily News reports:

MP Jonathan Young failed to declare to Parliament a pecuniary interest in a company in which he holds a directorship, triggering a “please explain” demand from the Labour benches.

Mr Young, National MP for New Plymouth, is a director of Seaview Super Trustees Limited, a firm he says “carries his trust’s properties”, and for which he is listed by the Companies’ Office as holding a 50 per cent shareholding. The other 50 per cent is held by his wife, Maura. Another director listed, without a shareholding, is North Shore accountant Mark Thompson.

Parliamentary rules require that MPs must declare any interest where they hold a directorship or more than 5 per cent of the voting rights.

Labour MP Pete Hodgson said that at the very least, Mr Young “had some explaining to do”.

He does. It clearly should have been disclosed. However I am not aware of any “gain” from non disclosure, and think that the omission would be accidental.It sounds like it is associated with a trust which he did declare.

A similar apparent non disclosure comes from Shane Jones. It was reported in July 2009:

The New Zealand United States Council is sponsoring a visit to Washington DC by Hon Shane Jones and Craig Foss MP, respectively Chair and Vice Chair of the New Zealand United States Parliamentary Friendship Group in the 49th Parliament. …

In Washington DC 20-23 July Shane Jones and Craig Foss will meet their counterparts from the Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus

Now if we turn to the Register for the year ending 31 January 2010, we find:

Craig Foss:
United States of America – representing New Zealand-US Friendship Group. Contributor to travel:
NZ-US Council (USA domestic airfare). Contributor to accommodation: NZ-US Council.

And when we turn to Shane Jones we find:

Shane Jones
Rarotonga – play in New Zealand Parliamentary rugby team in match against Rarotongan
Parliament team. Contributor to travel: Air New Zealand (subsidised airfare). Contributor to
accommodation: Parliamentary Rugby Club (subsidised accommodation).

So Shane has failed to disclose the funding from the NZ-US Council.

Now like with Jonathan Young, I don’t think there is anything sinister about it. But maybe Pete Hodgson will be calling on Shane Jones to also “explain himself”. That is when he takes time off from pursing H Fee Mark II.

Also of note is that bloggers pointed out Chris Carter failed to disclose his trip in January 2010, to St Kitts and Nevis to observe elections. Carter has now filed an amended disclosure, including this.

Amusingly Lockwood Smith also forgot to disclose gifts of a kilt and a vase, which he also included in an amended disclosure!

2010 MPs Register of Pecuniary Interests

May 19th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Register is here. Some of the interesting parts:

  • Jim Anderton still has his shares in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. He forces taxpayers to fund Kiwibank while he invests in the evil Australian banks
  • Jacnda Ardern had trips to Hungary, Thailand and Argentina as part of her role as President of the International Union of Socialist Youth
  • David Bennett got free tickets to the Tua vs Cameron fight – lucky bastard.
  • Cam Calder is a share holder in Vibration Technology International Limited – guessing this is not an offshoot of DVice?
  • Ashraf Choudary part owns 21 acres in Pakistan
  • Paul Hutchison has shares in South Pacific Star Cinemas Limited
  • John Key’s gifts range from bottled water to Top Gear tickets to glass urns with gold embossing
  • Wayne Mapp had presents from the Vietnamese Communist Party and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army
  • Nicky Wagner has an interest in the Timelord Trust – is she from Galifrey?
  • Pansy Wong has shares in the Christchurch Gondola

UPDATE: I missed that TVNZ paid for Darren Hughes to fly to the USA for the Breakfast show. An unusual decision!

MPs Pecuniary Interests

May 28th, 2009 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

The 2009 Register of MPs Pecuniary Interests has been published. Some of the entries I found interesting:

  • Anti-Australian bank campaigner Jim Anderton still has shares in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
  • Jacinda Ardern sounds like a young Che with her accommodation in Mexico for the International Union of Socialist Youth (which she chairs) paid for by the Partido de la Revolución Democrática of Mexico.
  • Agriculture Minister David Carter has an extra incentive to have a successful agricultural sector as he has shares in most rural companies.
  • Judith Collins was gifted a Blake Twigden painting.
  • Roger Douglas has shares in most of the NZX50!
  • Attorney-General Chris Finlayson gets royalties from a legal text he wrote (before he was AG).
  • Most of the Green MPs are involved with the Green Futures Superannuation Trust that buy properties in Wellington for them to live in, charging the taxpayer the rent.
  • David Garrett has an interest in a Tongan waste management company.
  • Nathan Guy has around six family trusts.
  • Kevin Hague is involved with Mountain Biking NZ so presumably a big fan of the cycleways.
  • John Key has set up a blind trust.
  • Melissa Lee has interests in three martial arts companies.
  • Paul Quinn has shares in Xero (like me).
  • Heather Roy pays her territorials salary to the RSA.
  • Nick Smith has had some contribution to his legal fees in Osmose v Wakeling & Smith from Parliamentary Service, as approved by the Speaker.

The SFO outcome

October 11th, 2008 at 10:34 am by David Farrar

I am totally unsurprised by the outcome of the Serious Fraud Office inquiries into the Spencer Trust. And the outcome is in no way a clearance or an exoneration. What it says is laws have been broken, but not fraud laws.

NZ First’s failure to obey the electoral laws of New Zealand is what made the investigation occur. Because the public facts were that Bob Jones had stated he had made a $25,000 donation intended for NZ First, through the Spencer Trust, and the NZ First Party had filed a donations return saying it had not received any donations in 2005 of over $10,000. To quote the SFO:

There were two competing explanations for how this could be.

  1. The Spencer Trust never passed the money onto NZ First, which would be possibly fraudalant
  2. The Spencer Trust did pass the money onto NZ First, and NZ First filed a false electoral donations return

No 2 was always far more likely. And thanks to the SFO investigation we now know this is true. In fact we know that NZ First has filed a series of false returns, as has Winston Peters personally, and Peters has lied on multiple occassions about these returns, including giving false information to the Privileges Committee.

This is no case of an accidential omission on a return, due to Mrs Muggins the branch secretary. This was a strategy signed off by the Leader. Let us look at the multiple false returns and statements:

  1. A false donations return for 2005
  2. A false election expenses return for 2005
  3. A false donations return for 2007
  4. A false return on the Register of Pecuniary Interests for 2006 (Payment of debt to Bob Clarkson for Peters)
  5. A false return on the Register of Pecuniary Interest for 2006 (Payment of debt to David Carter for Peters)

Now these are not just mistakes or errors. Only because of the SFO investigation has this come to light. And it gets even worse. Most semi-honest people would, once they had been caught out, would at least reveal all. But no Peters does not.

He was instructed by the House of Representatives to file amended pecuniary interest returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007. And all he did was amend them to include the two donations that had already been publicly forced out (Owen Glenn and Spencer Trust for Clarkson) but he didn’t declare the $13,640.37 the Spencer Trust paid on his benhalf to David Carter in 2006. These are the actions (assuming Weekend Herald is correct) of a pathological liar, not a cleared man.

And on that issue, it sounds like Eye to Eye at 11.30 am on Sunday will be interesting watching as Matthew Hooton is on the panel with Peters as the guest. Quoting Roar Prawn:

TVNZ sources say that Willie Jackson’s Eye to Eye tomorrow will be one of the most fiery TV debating shows ever seen in New Zealand.

Winston fronted up to the Green Room, last night to tape the show that airs on 11.30 on Sunday on TVNZ, thinking he would be up for a cosy chat with his mates Barry Soper and Chris Trotter.

He was high on hearing that the SFO had dropped criminal charges, but he was less than impressed when he realised that Jackson had decided to replace Trotter with Matthew Hooton.

Hooton won’t talk about the encounter but BustedBlonde’s media sources say that Winston tried to bluff his way out of appearing with Hooton, . saying there was no way he was going to be with someone who called him a liar.

Before they even got on air, we understand Hooton then called him a liar, a crook and a lying c***t straight to his face.

Anyway, things didn’t get much better on air, and the air was so blue Jackson had to stop the pair at one stage and re- record the show.

Our sources say that Winston always wins these debates on points but Hooton had him on the ropes more than once refusing to kowtow to the liar (our words)

Our sources say it was one of the most brutal encounters they had ever witnessed on NZ television.

That is very typical of the mischievous Willie Jackson – invite Peters on and then have Hooton on also. Can’t wait to see it.

Winston declares Spencer Trust donation

October 3rd, 2008 at 7:23 am by David Farrar

The Parliament website now records the amended return by Winston Peters for the year to 31 January 2007.

A gift from the Spencer Trust towards his electoral petition costs has been declared.

This would never have come to light if it were not for the SFO. Peters and Henry supplied false evidence to the Privileges Committee about this issue.

Now Peters has officially declared the gift, known to be $40,000, the ball is in the PM’s Court. The Cabinet Manual says:

Ministers who accept gifts worth more than the prescribed value must not only disclose them to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, but also must relinquish them, unless they obtain the express permission of the Prime Minister to retain them.

Helen Clark must give her “express permission” or Peters is required to relinquish the gift.

Will Clark give her permission for a Minister to keep what was effectively a personal donation of $40,000? That is 80 times greater than the disclosure limit and probably the biggest gift by a magnitude ever received by a Minister.

And is the Prime Minister at all concerned that the ultimate source of the money was almost certainly the Velas? Does she think Cabinet should have been informed of these personal donations to the Minister of Racing, when they accepted his recommendation to spend taxpayer money on bigger prizes for horse races?

No way back

September 29th, 2008 at 6:26 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports on how the posibility of National and NZ First working together has gone beyond the point of no return.

This is a good thing.

Also one has to amused at Winston’s claim he doesn’t know if he can trust Key any more. That’s like Jim Jones saying he is worried about the cleanliness of the grape juice. Mind you he may have a point – he can’t trust Key to cover up for him, as Helen did.

One other issue of note:

Given the way Mr Peters has been able to turn a damning privileges committee finding against him into a political weapon, he could make a serious impact in the polls with a finding of “cleared” during the election campaign.

The SFO investigation has already revealed that NZ First filed at least one and arguably three years of electoral donation returns were false. It is also revealed that Peters and Henry gave false evidence to the Privileges Committee and that his Jan 2007 return to the Registrar of MPs Pecuniary Interests.

Just because there may bo no prosecution for fraud under the SFO Act, does not mean that NZ First has been cleared if they are facing prosecution under other acts for information revealed from the investigation.

The Privileges Committee Report

September 22nd, 2008 at 8:20 pm by David Farrar

The Privileges Committee report has just been released and is online here.

I will comment on it shortly once I have read it. It is 280 pages long.

By a majority vote, they have recommended Peters be censured by the House. I can not recall the last time an MP was censured.

The majority includes United Future’s Peter Dunne, the Greens’ Russel Norman and Te Ururoa Flavvel from the Maori Party. This is every party on the Privileges Committee except members of Labour First. Note Peter Dunne is a Minister in the Government and the Greens have a co-operation agreement with Labour and the Maori Party abstain on supply and confidence.

They note on the issue of Henry refusing to disclose who suggested Henry approach Glenn for money:

We have received advice that legal professional privilege relates to communications made for the purpose of conveying legal advice and that it does not relate to the identity of a client, particularly when the issue does not relate to the communication of legal advice.

We note that legal professional privilege should not be used as an excuse to withhold information requested by the Privileges Committee, particularly in circumstances where this privilege does not apply.

They make the point that they have required a high standard of proof for their findings, as the allegations are serious – beyond the normal balance of probabilities.

They have determined that there was no debt from Peters to Henry, so no adverse finding there. But they have found the $100,000 constituted a gift as it benefited Peters:

We consider that the payment was of benefit to Mr Peters. Mr Henry’s work on the election petition did not create a direct legal obligation for Mr Peters to pay Mr Henry’s fees. However, Mr Henry told us that Mr Peters “knows that he owes me in the moral sense…”,18 and most clients would acknowledge such a moral obligation to pay a barrister.

A third-party payment to a member’s barrister benefits the member by discharging the moral (and potential legal) obligation to make payment and also by enabling the barrister to provide more assistance to the member in the future. Further, in these particular circumstances the payment contributed to funding an election petition which, if it had been successful, would have been of political benefit to Mr Peters.

They further note:

It is clear that the intent of the donor in this case was not to benefit the barrister. It was the member’s legal expenses that were being contributed to, not the barrister’s wellbeing. Mr Henry’s actions on receipt of Mr Glenn’s money were also unusual. Mr Henry wrote a “pro forma” invoice for GST and income tax purposes. We do not believe this is the normal response of the recipient of a gift. For a GST invoice to have been written, there must have been a taxable supply of services by Mr Henry. The relevant services were received by the member (or his solicitor, Mr Gates, on his behalf).

Together, these elements show clearly that the payment constituted a gift to Mr Peters.

On the issue of whether Peters knew:

The majority of us believe it is extremely unlikely that Mr Peters and Mr Glenn could have had a conversation on that date without the issue of a donation being raised, even if the original contact with Mr Glenn had been by Mr Henry, as claimed by Mr Peters and Mr Henry. The majority of us consider that the sequence of telephone calls followed immediately by an email containing bank account details indicates that the topic must have arisen during one or both of those conversations. It would have assisted our consideration if Mr Peters or Mr Henry had been able to recall more detail of their telephone conversation. Given the evidence before us, the majority of us concluded that Mr Peters had some knowledge of Mr Glenn’s intention to make a donation.

And their conclusion:

The majority of us find that Mr Peters had some knowledge of the $100,000 donation. Further, we find that Mr Peters, having an understanding of the arrangement by which funds were raised by Mr Henry, needed to make an honest attempt to file a correct return. For both these reasons, the majority of us find that a contempt occurred.

The proposed penalty:

Making a false or misleading return is a serious matter, akin to misleading the House. The majority of us therefore recommend that Mr Peters be censured for knowingly providing false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests, and ordered to file, within seven days of the House so ordering, amended returns for the years ended 31 January 2006, 2007, and 2008 covering any gifts, debts, or payments in kind that he has not previously registered. We request that the registrar ensure that the amended returns are published, recording that they are made subject to an order of the House.

This could be interesting, as it means any other donation to Peters legal fees, in excess of $500, has to be disclosed – if the House accepts the recommendation.

Now on the part regarding who paid for the $40,000 to Clarkson. Brian Henry is saying that as the cheque was from Wayne Peters’ trust account, he saw this as a reimbursement by Winston personally. Hilarious.

Now onto the letter from the SFO. The Director makes it very clear he got advise on whether to inform the Committee, and he has also bent over backwards to be fair to the donors who paid the $40,000 by redacting their names. He even asks the Privileges Committee not to order him to supply further information, even though he acknowledges a request from the Privileges Committee over-rides the secrecy provisions of the Serious Fraud Act.

The money laundering around the $40,000 is fascinating. Brian Henry did pay the $40,000 but the day before he sent Thompson WIlson (the law firm where two of the Spencer Trustees then worked)  his bank account details.

The Spencer Trust only has $15,400 being left over donations from Donor A. Then Person B (not Winston Peters we are told) lent the Trust $24,600 so they could pay $40,000 to Brian Henry  on 5 April.

Donor A (almpost certainly the Velas) then donated 4 cheques of $9,999 on the 7th of April 2006. Each cheque was from a different subsidiary company.

This allowed Person B’s loan to be repaid on 7 April.

What this means is that Donor A (almost certainly the Velas) personally donated $40,000 to pay off the $40,000 debt Peters owed Clarkson. He has to now declare this on his amended returns.

This raises massive issues relating to the conduct of his portfolios. The whole idea of disclosure is that the transparency it brings to whether Government decisions are affected by donations or gifts to an MP.

So the Minister for Racing in 2006 had Donor A – almost certainly the Velas, pay a $40,000 debt on his behalf. The Velas are multi-millionaires in the racing industry.  And the Minister of Racing convinces the Government – against Treasury advice – to provide lots of money to the racing industry.

Does Helen Clark not think that this gift should have been disclosed as it strikes at the heart of decision making in her Government? And no it is nothing to do with NZ First – this is a personal gift to the Minister of Racing from persons massively affected by the policies he is responsible for in his portfolio.

Helen actually has three decisions to make. They are:

  1. Does she sack Peters as a Minister for breaking the Cabinet Manual and not disclosing a $100,000 gift (let alone the multiple lies Peters has told)
  2. Having the $100,000 gift declared, does she allow Peters to keep it? Probably as it was paid to Henry, not Peters – but here is the big problem for her.
  3. The $40,000 from the Velas (assuming it is them) has to now be filed on the Register by Peters. Clark has to now decide whether she lets him keep the $40,000.

Here is the Cabinet Manual quote from section 2.79:

Ministers who accept gifts worth more than the prescribed value must not only disclose them to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, but also must relinquish them, unless they obtain the express permission of the Prime Minister to retain them.

So it is clear Helen has to decide whether Peters keeps the $40,000 gift (payment of a debt) from the Velas.

Now how corrupt will she look, if she says it is okay for her Minister of Racing to take and keep $40,000 from a family/company which has benefited hugely from the decisions of the Minister of Racing. He managed to force through millions of dollars of funding of racing prizes, against the advice of Treasury.

Clark has to make a decision on this. Peters has to relinquish the gift unless she gives her express permission he can keep it.

No wonder Winston wanted the SFO evidence suppressed. It was bad enough that NZ First had benefited by huge donations from the Velas, but to have it revealed that Peters personally was gifted $40,000 from them is hugely damaging.

Now it is possible the donations were not from the Velas but read the SFO letter and it looks highly likely. We should know more when Peters does his amended returns.

And as you consider all this, consider what depths the ethical standards of the Clark Government have descended to. Clark condones a Minister who:

  1. breaks the rules of the Register of Pecuniary Interests
  2. breaks the rules of the Cabinet Manual
  3. fails to disclose a $100,000 gift
  4. tells multiple lies about it
  5. gives false evidence to the Privileges Committee
  6. benefits with $100,000 towards his legal fees from a billionaire whom he then lobbies to be made Consul to Monaco
  7. has a $40,000 debt paid off by a company/family that benefits greatly from policy decisions he makes as Minister of Racing
  8. has filed false donation returns to the Electoral Commission

Any one of these should be enough for dismissal arguably. But Clark is keeping him on despite all of the above. Could standards possibly get any lower?

More changes to Winston’s stories

September 21st, 2008 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young has a very useful blog entry analysing what Winston says now, and what he said before the truth came out.

As readers will know, Winston is outraged because the SFO passed on evidence to the Privleges Committee that proved Peters and Henry lied. In Winston’s world it is outraegous if law enforcement agencies expose his lies.

Audrey notes:

Peters confirmed that the Spencer Trust had reimbursed his lawyer Brian Henry the $40,000 Henry had personally paid for costs awarded against Peters in the Tauranga electoral petition, talking to drive-time host Larry Williams on Friday night:

This is quite crucial because if anyone but Peters paid that $40,000 debt then beyond doubt that had to be declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

”Mr Henry paid the money initially. He was later reimbursed out of the trust account from the Spencer Trust funds. In that sense yes,” Peters said. ”But that was a trust to assist the New Zealand First Party and any actions it might take. What’s wrong with that?”

What is wrong is Winston failed to disclose this. Just as NZ First failed to disclose donations from the Spencer Trust.  This is not a series of one off “mistakes”.

The great service done by the SFO investigation has been to expose the failure of NZ First and Peters personally to disclose funding from the Spencer Trust. And in case anyone really thinks it was all a mistake – consider the fact that these “mistakes” only came to light due to the SFO. Peters did not at any stage move to correct on his own initiative his public statements. He only admits to something once law enforcement agencies pry it out of him.

It means that the information Peters gave in a speech on August 20 to supposedly “clarify” what had been said about the $40,000 at the privileges committee two days earlier was actually not true.

“Mr Henry paid the money [$40,000] to ensure the bill was paid in time – and he was later reimbursed by myself,” Peters told Grey Power in Upper Hutt.

“He checked his records yesterday and found this was indeed the case.”

A clarifying letter was sent to the privileges committee to that effect.

People should be very aware of this point. The lie which has been exposed by the SFO is not about what was said at Privileges Commitee in response to Russel Norman. Most people would accept that you could be mistaken when responding to an unexpected query on the spot.

But what we have here is Peters claiming two days later, in a formal speech, that he had “checked the records” and Peters had reimbursed Henry. And they were so certain of this info, they sent a letter to the Privileges Committee stating this.

Their claim and letter was false. The Prime Minister once again keeps Winston with his baubles of office despite the fact he has been exposed at deliberately deceiving the public and the Privileges Committee. This was no mistake made in the heat of the moment. It was a statement made two days later which they claimed was based on a check of records.

Peters’ admission about the reimbursement also raises questions about whether the $40,000 should have been declared to Parliament in 2007 in the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

There is no question that it should have been.

We now know the Spencer Trust was run by Winstons’ brother, law partner of his brother and a staff member in Winston’s office. And it paid personal bills on behalf of Peters. So Audrey reminds us of this press conference:

Q: Mr Peters are you seriously saying that people are meant to believe that you don’t know what the ST is used for?
A: Yes I do. You know why? Because those are the facts.
Q: We asked your brother yesterday and he wouldn’t answer the question.
A: Well Audrey you should show a bit of knowledge, experience and a bit of commonsense, right? Go and ask him again.
Q: Who should we ask?
A: You’re entitled to ask it all the questions you like.
Q: But you’re not answering them.
A: How can I answer them if I’m not in charge of the trust.
Q: Because you know what that trust is using the money for.
A: Sorry I don’t.
Q: Really?
A: Well I just said no I don’t.

And as you read what are really bare faced lies (unless you think Winston can somehow not know that the Spencer Trust paid a $40,000 debt on his behalf), remember once again that Helen Clark has no problems keeping Peters on.

Audrey also goes back to the original Privileges Committee hearing when Brian Henry lied and insisted he paid for it personally (you would know the difference between paying $40,000 out of your own pocket and temporarily paying $40,000 and getting reimbursed). He obviously did not want to admit the Spencer Trust effectively paid for it, so in response to an incredulous Wayne Mapp:

Mapp: Are you seriously suggesting that you would’ve paid $40,000 in court costs which were against Mr Peters and you advised Mr Peters of that fact, and that Mr Peters would not have understood that that would’ve effectively come out of the $100,000 – well the donations received?

Henry: Mr Mapp, I’m not ‘seriously’ saying it; I am saying it. I’m not suggesting it. I’m telling you exactly what I did…..So don’t slur it – this is what I did. I’d like to finish with Mr Mapp….Mr Mapp I am telling you what I did. So please do not slur it or belittle it by saying ‘Are you seriously suggesting….’ This is actually what I did. You mightn’t like it but that’s what I did.

Such outrage, all faked.

Whale Oil also blogs about further revelations from Spencer Trustee Grant Currie. On radio Currie said that they spent money on behalf of NZ First, after consulting with “someone” who was not a duly elected office holder of NZ First. That someone would be McClay on behalf of Peters I suspect.

You have to wonder if there is a single MP or office holder in NZ First with any spine? The party president didn’t even know of the Spencer Trust. Money meant for NZ First went into the trust, and then spent on behalf of the party bypassing the authority of the NZ First President and Board.