So John Banks has been found guilty of electoral fraud, of knowingly filing a false electoral return to hide large donations. Yet despite apparently breaking our laws, he will continue to make them, in likelihood remaining in Parliament until it rises in July for the election runup. The response by John Key and the National Government escalates a worrying trend of blatant disregard for democratic integrity. And this don’t care attitude is having a direct impact on our land and oceans, and our right to stand up for them.
Banks’ career as the sole representative of the Act party has been chequered with accusations of cronyism and corruption, from the ‘teapot tapes’ meeting with Key prior to the 2011 election, to his deciding vote on Skycity deals after receiving large donations from them.
Key and company have stood by Banks throughout, and rely on his vote in Parliament, particularly for unpopular legislation like Skycity. But this is nek level. Banks has been found guilty of electoral fraud, a serious criminal offence. The response from Key and Brownlee is as though Banks had been caught eating gummy bears during question time, not committing a crime of major corruption.
As Leader of the House, Brownlee confirmed that Banks would stay in Parliament, arguing that as sentencing won’t happen until August, the Act MP can stay in the sandpit despite being found guilty. This is pure fudge. Brownlee then said it was not for him to comment, but added he thought Banks was an “honourable man.” Key similarly said it was “not for me to offer a view."
But if your coalition partner is found guilty of fraud, failing to act isn’t ‘remaining neutral’. It’s taking a strong stance in favour of corruption.
Key seems to think his own personal rapport with Banks is a good enough replacement for the High Court’s decision. He says he still stands by the Act leader, saying “I've always found him to be very honest" and calling him an “honest straightforward guy.” By what kind of standards? This shows real contempt for parliament and for the people of New Zealand.
We’ve seen Key promote his own personal opinion as gospel before, as when he appeared on the BBC’s Hardtalk. The interviewer asked about New Zealand’s fresh water quality, comparing our ‘100% pure’ brand with the fact that half of our lakes and 90% of our lowland rivers are classed as polluted. Key tossed off the findings, from a study by scientist Dr. Mike Joy, saying “He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview… I think for the most part, in comparison with the rest of the world, we are 100% pure.” Well that’s ok then is it?
It’s the same kind of thinking that made protest at sea illegal last year, rushing what became known as the ‘Anadarko Amendment’ through Parliament without select committee scrutiny or public input. It’s an arrogant scorn for democratic process that was repeated this year when deep sea drilling was made non-notifiable - now we don’t get any say in something that affects us all.
We’re told that Banks is a nice guy really, that we don’t need these silly democratic processes, just trust the boys in charge and everything will be fine. How obvious does this nonchalant scorn have to get before we say ‘ka nui, enough!’?
This blog is part of the #election2014 series. The series discusses New Zealand politics and the policies and, sometimes, lack of them, of our political parties. We hope that it provokes a bit of debate.
Greenpeace is non-party political. We do not align ourselves with any political party and are committed to the principle of political independence. To maintain our independence, we don’t accept money from governments, corporations or political parties.