NZ POLITICS DAILY: Banks-Dotcom scandal Q&A

Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand politics. That at least will be the public’s verdict on the latest political finance scandal involving government minister John Banks and campaign finance practices.

This scandal therefore has the potential to have a significant impact on politics in this country. It will reinforce to the public the grubby and deceitful character of politics, and increase their suspicions about the probity of relationships and money between politicians and the wealthy. Many voters already believe that politicians, parties and governments aren’t to be trusted, and this scandal will do little to change their minds.

The Banks/Dotcom scandal is such an explosive one that it’s already being reported internationally – see, for example, the coverage in Britain Guardian newspaper: Kim Dotcom donation claims rock New Zealand coalition. The story broke, first, on TV3’s Campbell Live show on Friday, which contained revelations about Kim Dotcom’s donation to John Banks’ mayoral campaign, complete with video of Banks toasting the Megaupload founder at his birthday party – see: Banks knew about 'anonymous' Dotcom donation – reports and the actual video
 
There are many aspects and ramifications of the scandal that are currently being explored in the reporting and analysis of the scandal, including the following questions.
 
1) Why has this scandal emerged?
 
The story goes (according to David Garrett commenting on Kiwiblog), that Mr Dotcom, having found himself an unwilling resident in the Epsom electorate (namely Mount Eden prison), asked the local MP (and birthday party attendee) for help but was rebuffed. It seems that the internet tycoon sought revenge on John Banks by releasing the details of his donations. And it’s now reported that Dotcom is intending to supply records to back up his claim that Banks was well aware of the origin of the anonymous donation. The on-going saga is well reported in the following items: Dotcom to supply records to prove Banks donationPolice look at Banks' Dotcom funds, and Banks' funds: Dotcom checks books
 
2) Has John Banks actually broken the law, and what are the chances of a conviction? 
 
It appears that if Banks is charged, the burden of proof will lie with the prosecution to prove that Banks knew the source of the donation. For a legal analysis see Andrew Geddis’ So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin and Graeme Edgeler’s The law may be that stupid
 
3) Can John Banks and Act survive the public’s judgement?
 
For Banks and the Act Party this is a matter of survival so you can expect them to fight using whatever weapons they have, including legal technicalities – so there is still a strong chance that no prosecution will ever be made. Of course as Gordon Campbell points out, ‘Maintaining a defence of plausible deniability may serve to keep you out of a courtroom, but it doesn’t do much for the credibility of you and your party in the court of public opinion’ – see: On the John Banks vs Kim Dotcom saga
 
Although Labour has called for Banks to stand down while the claims are investigated they have been joined by others who you would think might be a little more sympathetic to Banks including Rodney Hide along with David Farrar and Karl du Fresne, both of whom agree that it ‘doesn’t look good’.
 
If Banks decides to dig in, this could be played out in slow motion – very slow motion, as Cameron Slater points out. The Police record on dealing quickly with these sorts of allegations is not good and it could easily drag out until after the 2014 election – see Cameron Slater’s Stand Down?.
 
The situation is looking very messy for John Banks, particularly as many found his response on Sunday’s Q + A evasive and unconvincing – watch here. In this regard, John Hartevelt says that ‘Even if Banks does sneak out of this one without official censure, he has utterly failed on numerous counts of political judgement’ – see: Is Banks broken or just bruised?. Hartevelt also says that ‘John Banks has really blundered his way through’ with ‘bizarre bluff and bluster’. For similar commentary, see Russell Brown’s #JohnDotBanks and all, and my TV3 Firstline interview: Bryce Edwards on Kim Dotcom's John Banks donation and Video
 
4) How will the National Government be affected by this scandal?
 
The impact on the National-led Government could also be significant, again with risk of ‘rottenness’ pervading its dealings with political finance, the elite, and companies such as SkyCity. There is a real danger for National that it will be strongly tainted by John Banks’ dodgy dealings, because it has arrived in the wake of increasing suspicions involving ACC, and the SkyCity convention deal (as well as Phil Heatley’s use of ministerial credit cards, and Pansy Wong’s use of parliamentary resources). 
 
At the moment it’s being reported that the Prime Minister is standing by his minister. But as Audrey Young reminds us in her very good opinion piece today, John Key also stood by Nick Smith too – ‘until he didn’t’ – see: Banks vs Dotcom - a mystery for the police
 
It’s the perception of course that will be most worrying to John Key and National. All that is missing now is for Bronwyn Pullar’s name to crop up in the mix (although Cameron Slater does say that Michelle Boag was in charge of Banks’ fundraising) and all of National’s scandals will have converged – and that’s a big danger for the Government. 
 
5) What would happen in a by-election?
 
If there was a by-election, it raises some fascinating possibilities. The most likely scenario would be for list MP Paul Goldsmith to win the seat for National, thus gaining National another list MP. Of course this would also mean the demise of Act as a parliamentary party and, in all probability, as a political force. For a wider survey of what might happen, see Geoffrey Miller’s guest post on the liberation blog, which outlines Five possible consequences of the John Banks donation allegations, including a merger between Act and National.
 
On a lighter note John Banks’ repeated references to cabbage boats is explored by Toby Manhire (John Banks and the whole cabbage boat business), and parodied by Scott Yorke (A Statement By John Banks). 
 
6) Will this lead to changes to political finance laws?
 
It seems inevitable that changes will come partly as a result of this scandal – see for example, Chloe Johnson’s Loophole may close, Chris Keall’s Banks needs to stand down and shut up – Hide, Mike Smith’s Policy for Money?, and No Right Turn’s Time to reform local electoral law
 
The public are already suspicious about the cash-based relationships between politicians and wealthy individuals or corporations, and the issue of anonymous donations go to the heart of this. The disclosure of donations to political parties in 2011, due to be publicly released tomorrow, will receive more than the usual scrutiny.
 
And it’s certainly the case that the law covering donations to local government candidates is far less restrictive than that covering parliamentary elections where anonymous donations are limited to $1500 except where the donation is made through the Electoral Commission to guarantee anonymity. The rules for parliamentary candidates would probably also have prevented Banks from accepting donations from Kim Dotcom because he would likely have been classed as ‘an overseas person’ which would have also limited such a donation to a maximum of $1500.
 
6) Can Labour benefit from this scandal?
 
National's misfortune could finally be Labour's gain. The question for Labour is will its struggling leader be able to capitalize on this in a way that he has not been able to so far? The nice guy, non-politician image Shearer has been working to cultivate seems to be tailor made to benefit his party on issues like this.
 
Speculation continued over the weekend about Shearer’s leadership with the Sunday Star Times saying that he was An implausible Prime Minister and Brian Edwards indulging in some ‘I told you so’ in On David Shearer And Wisdom Before And After The Event.
 
Audrey Young reports that Shearer has hit back, angrily denying rumours of deep divisions in his office (see: Rumours of office rift rile Shearer), singling out the Labour-aligned blog, The Standard, for particular criticism. The Herald (Labour leader shaping up as quiet achiever) and David Farrar (Let Shearer be Shearer) both argue that Shearer deserves at least until the end of the year to prove he is up to the job (although Farrar’s input will no doubt trigger a frenzy of speculation about his motives – is it a double bluff?)
 
While there seems to be a consensus emerging that Shearer should be given until the end of the year, Danyl Mclauchlan and Martyn Bradbury point to a speech given by David Cunliffe at the weekend, supposedly about economic development ideas, but looking more like the type of basic positioning statement that many have been waiting for from Shearer – see Mclauchlan’s Cunliffe shores up the base (which also incudes the text of the speech) and Bradbury’s Cunliffe launches 'True Labour' speech. See also, David Farrar’s analysis of the speech
 
Other important or interesting political items today include:
 
Steve Braunias has a warning for David Shearer about who he gets into bed with in the very funny Secret Diary of David Shearer.
 
Matthew Hooton speculates that a Key, Peters reconciliation on 2014 cards.
 
Elizabeth Puranam reports that Thousands join Auckland asset sale protest on Saturday, and the Citizens Initiated Referendum petition on the assets has formally begun collecting signatures – see: Keep our assets. Sign the petition. Investment banker Rob Cameron, who led the 2009 taskforce which proposed the asset sales, has blasted the Government’s attempts to sell the policy as ‘a disaster’ – see: RNZ’s Cameron critical of efforts to sell asset sale benefits.
 
The Electoral Commission has released results of a survey on why record numbers of people didn’t vote in last year’s election – see: 'Low value of vote, lack of trust' key to poor election turnout.
 
Phil Kitchin reports that a key meeting between Bronwyn Pullar, Michelle Boag and ACC staff was recorded, and it appears to contradict ACC’s version of events – see: Recording at odds with ACC extortion allegations.
 
Bryce Edwards

 
Today’s content:
 
John Banks donation scandal
John Campbell (TV3): Banks knew about 'anonymous' Dotcom donation – reports
David Fisher and Adam Bennett (Herald): Dotcom to supply records to prove Banks donation
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): John Key stands by Banks on Dotcom donations TV3/RadioLIVE: Donations scandal is Dotcom's revenge - former MP
David Fisher (Herald): Dotcom's secret donation to Banks
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Banks questioned over Dotcom donation
Chris Keall (NBR): Banks needs to stand down and shut up – Hide
Geoffrey Miller (Liberation): Five possible consequences of the John Banks donation allegations
Jane Luscombe (TV3): Calls for John Banks to be stood down as minister
RNZ: Criticism of PM over Banks
Karl du Fresne: Could this be poetic justice for Banks?
Keeping Stock: Perception is everything
RNZ: Further complaint tipped over mayoralty campaign donations
RadioLive: Police expected to investigate Banks' campaign donations
Andrew Geddis (Pundit): So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Geddis on donations
Toby Manhire (Guardian): Kim Dotcom donation claims rock New Zealand coalition
Toby Manhire (Listener): ohn Banks and the whole cabbage boat business
Chloe Johnson (Herald): Loophole may close
Jacqui Stanford (Newstalk ZB): Labour wants Banks stood down
TVNZ/Newstalk ZB: Labour calls for John Banks to be stood down
RadioLIVE: Prime Minister wades in to Banks electoral debate
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Dotcom Banks donation
TVNZ: Donation allegations mostly 'humbug' – Banks
TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of David Parker and John Banks interview
TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of panel response to John Banks and David Parker interview
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Nothing to hide over Dotcom donation, Banks says
Jane Luscombe (TV3): Trevor Mallard to call police over John Banks' campaign donations
Russell Brown (Hard News): #JohnDotBanks and all
Chris Ford: ACT and John Banks: are they gone?
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): A Statement By John Banks
The Standard: Policy for Money?
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): Epsom By-Election Alert - John Banks in cash scandal meltdown
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): John Banks has to stand down - call crime stoppers and make a complaint 
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Stand Down?
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Mallard’s complaint and Len’s office
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): No one is asking about Brown’s anonymous donations
Audrey Young (Herald): Banks vs Dotcom - a mystery for the police
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the John Banks vs Kim Dotcom saga 
Graeme Edgeler (Legal Beagle): The law may be that stupid 
TV3: Bryce Edwards on Kim Dotcom's John Banks donation
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Dotcom Donations
 
Labour Party
Kiwipolitico: Fortune-cookie strategy and the Labour leadership
Steve Braunias (Taranaki Daily News): The Secret Diary of . . . David Shearer
Audrey Young (Herald): Rumours of office rift rile Shearer
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Shearer must act now
Anthony Hubbard (SST): An implausible Prime Minister
Herald: Editorial: Labour leader shaping up as quiet achiever
Brian Edwards: On David Shearer And Wisdom Before And After The Event
David Cunlifee (Red Alert): Economic development ideas
Danyl Mclauchlan (Dim Post): Cunliffe shores up the base
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): Cunliffe launches 'True Labour' speech
Vernon Small (Stuff): Shearer doomed, say critics on Left
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Left divided over low-profile leader
Hamish McConnochie (Salient): Shearer’s nightmare timing
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): A leadership retrospective
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): The role of a deputy
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): The roll of a deputy 
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Is John Key's Leadership Doomed?
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Or Maybe There's Nothing Going On
Danyl Mclauchlan (Dim Post): First mover advantage
Anthony Robins (Standard): Rumours just the usual mischief
TV3: Former Labour president says Shearer safe as leader
Katie Bradford-Crozier (TV3): Shearer firm amid dysfunction rumours
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Let Shearer be Shearer
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Cunliffe speech
 
Low voter turnout
Electoral Commission: 2011 voter and non-voter survey reports
Isaac Davison (Herald): 'Low value of vote, lack of trust' key to poor election turnout
Isaac Davison (Herald): Survey reveals why Kiwis didn't vote
RNZ: Submissions on election votings about to close
No Right Turn: Why we don't vote
 
MMP Review
Richard Harman (TV3): Self-serving submissions in 1st week of MMP hearings
 
Asset sales
Neil Reid (Stuff): Thousands join Queen St hikoi
Elizabeth Puranam (TV3): Thousands join Auckland asset sale protest
Cherie Howie (Herald): Protest march's simple message: No
RNZ: Thousands protest partial asset sales
Newstalk ZB: March a wake up call – Shearer
Phil Twyford (Red Alert): Keep our assets. Sign the petition.
RNZ: Cameron critical of efforts to sell asset sale benefits
 
SkyCity
David Fisher (Herald): Poor communities feed pokies most
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Skycity pokies deal to have risk provisos
Sean Plunket (Dom Post): Skycity deal is shonky, John Key
TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of Len Brown interview
TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of panel response to Len Brown interview
Rodney Hide (NBR): Wowsers deal crooked hand on pokie debate
 
National
Matthew Hooton (NBR): Key, Peters reconciliation on 2014 cards
Brian Edwards: Question: Can being fabulously rich and still in one’s prime affect a Prime Minister’s approach to the job?
David Kennedy (Local Bodies): The National Govt. and the Scent of Fish
RadioLive: Scandals 'a distraction' - National president
Dene Mackenzie (ODT): Change of heart for National Party
 
ACC
Phil Kitchin (Stuff): Recording at odds with ACC extortion allegations
Herald: Recording shows ACC claims false – Pullar
The Standard: Tape of ACC-Pullar meeting raises more questions
 
Christchurch
Rob O’Neill (Stuff): Christchurch rebuild blueprint on its way
Georgina Stylianou and Charley Mann (Stuff): Dalziel calls on Key to intervene in red-zone deals
The Political Scientist: City in a box
John Patterson (Press): Trapped in quake-damaged suburbs
RNZ: Master plan urged for eastern suburbs
 
Other
TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview
TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of panel response to Paula Bennett interview
Edward Rooney (Herald): Hide reveals plan by Brash for by-election
Rodney Hide (Herald): Perk-buster politician sharpening his pencil
Frank Macskasy (Frankly speaking): Interview: A Young NZer Acts to make a Difference
Rob Hosking (NBR): What could derail Bill English’s surplus
Duncan Bridgeman (NBR): Fonterra calls critics’ bluff but will it get support?
Grant Duncan (Policy Matters): Universities cut their noses to spite their faces
Tim Groser (NBR): Eating at the grown-ups’ table
RNZ: Hillside never in running for contract
Jamie Morton (Herald): Mayoral pay increases 'fair to ratepayers'
TVNZ: Wellington region may merge into supercity
James Henderson (Standard): Classy

 

 

 

 


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