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Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

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Jami Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges

Whatever drama is taking place before our eyes, one certainty should be borne in mind: this is not a story of Good vs Evil; Light vs Darkness; a lone battler for justice vs corruption in our highest political places. What we are seeing are two faces of the same coin at war with each other.

One is motivated by revenge – for ambitions thwarted.

The other is motivated by desperation – for pure political survival.

Jami Lee Ross has been associated with a small cabal of far-right political activists; Simon Lusk, David Farrar, Judith Collins, Aaron Bhatnagar, and Cameron Slater. (There are others, but they are bit-players.) More on this shortly.

Ross was better known for his Employment Relations Amendment Bill in 2013 which  would allow businesses to break strikes by employing temporary scab labour during industrial action. Ross’s undisguised hatred for unions was apparent when, in June 2012, he released a vicious attack public attack on the Maritime Union (involved in a bitter dispute at the time with the Ports of Auckland management);

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland.

For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.

For Simon Bridges, he is better known for enabling legislation criminalising/banning protest action against deep-sea oil exploration;

The government is set to crack down on environmental protesters with fines of up to $100,000 or a year in jail for those who target offshore oil and gas operations.

Energy minister Simon Bridges today announced “stronger measures to protect offshore petroleum and minerals activity from unlawful interference”.

Individuals who intentionally damage or interfere with mining structures, like rigs, or vessels face a 12-month prison sentence or a $50,000 fine. Organisations face a penalty of up to $100,000.

Activists who break a 500-metre “no-go” zone around structures would be liable for a $10,000 fine.

A year later, and National continued to curtail public rights to protest oil and gas exploration in our waters;

The public will lose their right to formally oppose deep-sea oil and gas exploration from tomorrow.

A law change will see applications by oil giants go through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will now be “non-notified” preventing members of the public lodging a formal protest.

Environment Minister Amy Adams said  the new classification was the “pragmatic option” for exploratory drilling. She believed it provided regulation “proportionate to its effects”.

Neither men fit any notion of being “Champions” for public scrutiny and openess when it comes to political matters. Both are on record willing and able to curtail workers’ rights for collective bargaining, and public rights to oppose environmentally damaging fossil fuel exploration.

Furthermore, if we disregard the (now admitted) sexual shenanigans and the controversial (though not illegal) tape recordings by Jamie Lee Ross, there remain several questions  that deserve far greater scrutiny.

The $100,000 Donation (the real one, not the fabricated Donghua Liu/NZHerald version)

Was a donation of $100,000 made by Chinese businessman, Zhang Yikun?

According to Southland mayor, Gary Tong, who was on a recent business trip to China  with the businessman, Mr Zhang denies ever making such a donation.

Assuming that a donation was made, where was the $100K deposited? In his now infamous recorded conversation with National Parliamentary leader, Simon Bridges,  Jami-Lee Ross pointed to the amount being  deposited into a “Botany electorate account”.

“What would you like done with it? It’s currently sitting in a Botany electorate account.”

In a follow-up text message to National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, Ross said;

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In what form was it deposited – one lump sum, or in smaller amounts?

According to Ross – in the same text message – they were “all under $15,000”.

The following conversation between Bridges and Ross is suggestive that there is a question how the donation should be disclosed to Peter Goodfellow;

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Bridges: The money’s fine sitting there in the Botany account. I don’t know what your arrangement is with Goodfellow or not, that’s all. I need to talk to him. I’m actually seeing him tonight, I wonder if I should.

Ross: I don’t think we can.

Bridges: I should wait and get the right words.

Ross: I don’t think we can raise tens of thousands and completely keep him out of the loop.

Bridges: No, no we can’t.

Ross: Maybe if you’re just honest with him about it.

Bridges: I think that’s right. I’ll raise it with him but we should probably just think it through. I mean, it can be in the Party but I do just want to make sure we’ve got that money to do those things. Don’t you think?

Ross: Donations can only be raised two ways: Party donation or candidate donation.

Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine. But if it was a candidate donation that’d be different. So making them party donations is the way to do it. Legally though if they’re party donations they’re kind of under Greg’s name as the party secretary.

Bridges: We need to tell them, I get that. I get that. I’m going to tell him…I think he’ll accept it I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for. Unless I get him to…leave it with me. I might talk to McClay as well; see what he’s got up his sleeve. Because Peter is going to be with me at this meeting in Wellington, is all. If I then brought him after that…good work though man, that’s a lot of money.

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In the last highlighted extract Ross practically spells out to Bridges that the donation was made by “multiple people and multiple people mak[ing] donations“.

Tellingly, Bridges accepts Ross’s statement without question. He reconfirmed his acceptance of multiple donations/donors on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 24 October. When asked by Suzie Ferguson if he had “found the $100,000 donation yet“, Bridges replied;

We’ve established that the position is , it was some seven donations from eight people. I didn’t know that at the time – [inaudible].”

Ms Ferguson pressed the point by asking if it added up to $100,000. Bridges replied;

“Look, I think it’s something very much like that, yeah.”

Bridges’ claim he was unaware of multiple donors is at variance with what Jami Lee Ross told him during their recorded conversation;

“Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they’ve done it meets the disclosure requirements…it meets the requirements where it’s under the particular disclosure level because they’re a big association and there’s multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that’s all fine.”

National Party President, Peter Goodfellow confirmed unequivocally that no  “$100K” donation had been received by the National Party office;

“There was no such donation. The Botany Electorate of the National Party received eight donations, and Mr Ross declared eight donations to us.”

It will be a  simple matter for Police to conduct a forensic accounting investigation. Once deposited into the Botany-National account the electronic money trail will be relatively straight forward to follow.

If – as Peter Goodfellow claims, and Ross outlined in his recorded conversation with Bridges – it was deposited in smaller amounts, again it would be straight forward to trace the source(s) and donor (s).

If dodgy dealings were involved and the $100k was split into “eight donations“, an electronic trail will reveal the donor(s). The Police probably have those details by now.

Furthermore, if seven of those “eight donations” were individuals who happened to receive an identical sum of, say, $12,500 from Zhang Yikun; and those seven individuals then donated precisely the same sum of, say, $12,500 to Botany National – then a prima facie case exists that an attempt was made to circumvent the Electoral Act 1993.

If it became known that Mr Zhang received that $100,000 from a foreign government – or state-sanctioned entity controlled by a foreign government – that would be explosive! It would cripple the National Party for years to come.

The bottom line is that a donation was made. The question is: how was it made? Both claims of a single $100k donation  and “eight donations” cannot be reconciled.

Someone is lying. By now the Police probably have a good idea who.

Perhaps not quite so “insignificant?

All of which makes Bryce Edwards recent remarks questionable;

“The extraordinary National Party scandal currently unfolding before our eyes is undoubtedly high drama. It has it all – leaks, anonymous texts, threats, secret recordings and explosive allegations… At its heart, however, the scandal is empty. It contains nothing of significance for democracy and society.”

As a series of stories on Radio NZ’s Morning Report began to explore – whilst the prurient side-show of sex, tapes, and personality-plays dominated media headlines last week (15- 19 October) – the real issues of campaign donations is yet to play out.

Ross’s allegations may  be the critically-needed spark that reviews our party donation rules by casting the glare of public scrutiny over ways  the Electoral Act has been, and is, being rorted.

The Four Anonymous Women, What The Nats Knew, And When They Knew It

The  issue raised by the story of four women allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross was raised by independent media, Newsroom, on 18 October – three days  after National party leader Simon Bridges held his press conference identifying  Ross as the leaker of his travel expenses.

The story was written by Newsroom   veteran journalist Melanie Reid and Cass Mason.

Initially, all four complainants were anonymous. Which made any similarities to the revelations by three women against US Supreme Court (then-)nominee, Brett Kavanaugh questionable. Those three women – Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick – came forward and made their identities public.

One, Christine Blasey Ford, appeared before a Senate Judiciary committee where she was subjected to intense scrutiny and questioning. Her demeanour and testimony was composed, compelling, and credible.

One day prior to the Newsroom story being published, National’s deputy leader, Paula Bennett accused Ross of unspecific “inappropriate behaviour”;

“He had gone out there and said we had been accusing him of sexual harassment of women and that’s not true, and we haven’t done that and he likened himself to Brett Kavanaugh, which was quite extraordinary in his hour-long stand-up, so I continued to be asked about sexual harassment and we hadn’t put sexual harassment to him, but we had put inappropriate behaviour to him.”

It was also in this story that Ross’s allegation that Simon Bridges had met with businessman Zhang Yikun was first confirmed by the National Party. Until this point, Bridges had been evasive in answering media questions on any donations.

All four women are apparently connected to the National Party. One has come forward – former National Party Candidate for Manurewa, Katrina Bungard;

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Ms Bungard’s conflict with Ross began in 2016/17. Ross was campaigning vigorously to have his wife, Lucy Schwaner, appointed to the Howick Local Board.

This was National Party intra-politics with Ross allegedly threatening Ms Bungard for not supporting his wife onto the Howick Local Board. At one point, Ross had served a trespass order against Ms Bungard, to prevent her attending a National Party event. Far-right political operative, Simon Lusk, became involved on behalf of Jami Lee Ross.

Ms Bungard complained to the National Party hierarchy. Apparently, Ms Bungard was satisfied at the time with the National Party’s action addressing Ross’s alleged bullying;

“They helped me at a really stressful time and I am thankful for their assistance.”

Ms Bungard has stated that if  Ross resigned , she would run for his Botany seat in the by-election.

As our American cuzzies put it, Ms Bungard “has skin in the game” – she would stand to benefit materially and politically if Jami Lee Ross resigned.

The other three alleged complainants remain anonymous and their stories cannot be scrutinised or verified.

Other Complainants come forward

David Collings, chair of the Howick Local Board, alleges that he also had a confrontation with Ross. On TV3’s The Nation, Mr Collings painted a grim picture of Jami Lee Ross;

“It got very nasty. He actually threatened, attacked my members, for support. For example, my deputy chair [Katrina Bungard] has aspirations – she’d be a great National MP… he’s used that over her to try and get his way. Threatening her – ‘you’re political career will go nowhere’ – other members of the board, even a sworn police officer, veiled threats about your employment.

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Oh, it got very nasty.

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I wasn’t even contacted. But obviously, I knew exactly what was going on, even was privy to… I think it was on the actual day of our meeting when we elected the chair. He called through – and I’ve said it before – in, like, a Darth Vader voice, ‘I can’t believe you’re willing to give up your political career.’ Sorry, I can do a better Darth Vader voice than that, but that’s what it was like. But like Freddy Krueger or something.

[…] I’m not sure if he said it was him, because I was actually going to try and get my phone to try and record it, so I missed the end of it. But it was on – what do you call it – a cell phone that was untraceable, sort of thing – no number.

We complained to the National Party, and Greg Hamilton – who was the manager at the time – was quite helpful. He said, ‘What you’re telling us is not right. An MP shouldn’t’ be getting involved in something in local government, particularly when his wife is involved.’ Greg was quite helpful, but it didn’t stop.”

Mr Collings went on to describe Ross as;

“Look, this guy – we’ve got a guy in our area that makes Todd Barclay look like an angel.”

National Party member, Katrina Bungard is Deputy Chair of the Howick Local Board.

TV3’s The Nation co-host, Simon Shepherd introduced  David Collings as the chairperson of the Howick Local Board.

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What wasn’t disclosed is that Mr Collings was elected on the right-wing ‘Vision and Voice‘ ticket; a local  grouping of  members that appears to be National Party-aligned;

David Collings

Bob Wichman

Garry Boles

John Spiller (formerly member of National-aligned )

Peter Young

Katrina Bungard (former National candidate)

Adele White (supported by Jami Lee Ross in a petition, 2013)

Lucy Schwaner (Jami Lee Ross’s wife).

As described in a Newsroom story;

Many on the Howick board are National Party types but the party doesn’t stand candidates directly.

It would appear that David Collings also “has skin in the game”.

Obvious questions should be raised as to why the complainants have only now made their stories about alleged harassment public. As Tim Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West, pointed out to Newshub;

“You’re jumping to a whole lot of assumptions about behaviour you don’t know about and I don’t know about.

There are allegations that have been made, but I think given the situation we’re now in, the best thing is for us all to just step back, allow authorities do the jobs they’re needing to do, and I don’t think it’s helpful for us to be involved in public speculation.

As I say we have some allegations that have been made, they may be wildly at variance from the facts.”

The conclusion that this is a “pile on” by National Party members and supporters cannot be easily ignored. Alleged bad behaviour is apparently tolerated by National as long as everyone ‘tows the party line’ and remains loyal.

National Party action over past harassment charges

Justifying Ross’s expulsion, an un-named National Party spokesperson said;

“What Jami-Lee has done and continues to do is unacceptable and the more that comes to light the more we know we made the right decision to expel him from the Caucus.

We are supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour.”

However, many of the allegations made against Ross appear to have been recent-historical and have only now surfaced.

Whilst National was “supporting those women who came to us as a result of Jami-Lee’s behaviour” one complainant was encouraged (?) to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Signed two years ago,  National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, denies it was a NDA;

“We haven’t used any NDAs. That matter was a private matter and they wanted confidentiality, so they both agreed that it would be kept confidential.

That’s the only instance that I’m aware of in my time as president that we’ve had an issue like that and it’s certainly the only time that the parties have requested confidentiality.

It was a matter that was raised by a couple of people and was dealt with – and actually to the satisfaction of the parties.

We acted quickly and helped them to resolve the differences and move on.”

According to Peter Goodfellow, the document was not a NDA but rather a “gentlemen’s agreement”. Which is a quaintly odd euphemism, as one of the signatories was a woman.

Despite the agreement; despite the complaints made over his alleged behaviour, Ross’s career continued to rise within the National Party. He rose to become National’s Senior Whip.

Though the National hierarchy had been aware of complaints  about Ross’s alleged behaviour, at least one woman who complained was silenced through a non-disclosure agreement – and in the meantime Jami Lee Ross continued his rise through the National hierarchy. He was rewarded, whilst complainants were silenced.

His promotion makes a mockery of the sanctimonious utterances of both Simon Bridges and his deputy, Paula Bennett;

“I am in admiration of the courage of these women for what had happened. As soon as I was aware of inappropriate conduct, I acted immediately I knew nothing before the leak investigation about any of these sorts of things … within a day of knowing about them I confronted Jami-Lee Ross about this.” – Simon Bridges

“I think there are bound to be other women, at various degrees, he was grooming. I feel a sense that people deserve to feel safe and particularly from someone in power. I think those women are incredibly courageous and strong to have spoken out. I’m sure when you are dealing with that potentially narcissistic personality, then any kind of position of power would feed into that.” – Paula Bennett

Simon Bridges denies any knowledge of Ross’s alleged bad behaviour. This seems unlikely in a ‘pressure-cooker’ political environment where people talk to each other and gossip runs rampant.  Bridges’ claim of not knowing is simply not credible.

In Parliament, people talk. Especially staff. And often that chit-chat gets back to politician’s ears.

The culture of the National Party seems geared toward rewarding brutal politics and hiding away the victims of those who wield the power. This fact has been made abundantly clear to the public.

Sectioned into care?

On Sunday 21 October, the media reported that Ross had been taken into “mental health care“.

There were suggestions he had been “sectioned” – admitted under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act. This usually involves psychiatrist reports and a decision before a sitting judge. A Court Order is made for compulsory treatment. It takes time to be “sectioned” and is not an easy process;

For the first month, the patient must accept treatment. From the second month onwards, the patient is not required to accept treatment unless they give informed consent, or treatment is considered in the interests of the patient by an independent psychiatrist (not being the responsible clinician), or the patient needs emergency treatment and it is not possible to get their consent.

Two days later, on Tuesday 23 October, Ross was discharged from care.

Two days.

According to David Fisher at the NZ Herald, the “friend” assisting Ross after his “discharge was none other than – Cameron Slater;

It is believed Slater has been personally supporting Ross since the weekend and his assistance extended to helping the MP in his release from Middlemore Hospital’s mental health facilities yesterday.

In the two days that Ross was in “mental health care”, the media spotlight went from the beleaguered rogue MP facing numerous allegations of “bad behaviour”, harrassment, extra-marital affairs – to National Leader Simon Bridges.

Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on Tuesday 23 October focused on interviews and hard questions put to Bridges, the National Party, campaign donations,mental health, and workplace harassment. Anything but Jami Lee Ross;

And more the following day on ‘Morning Report‘;

All of a sudden, the blow-torch of media attention was off Ross and on Simon Bridges and the National party in most instances.

If Ross really was admitted into “mental health care” – it was a timely coincidence.

If not, it was a strategic master-stroke – whoever planned it would fit the role of a Bond villain with perfection.

Which leads us to…

The Dirty Politics Cabal

Conspiracy of cock-up?  Jamie Lee Ross’s recording  of conversation(s) with Simon Bridges was either a shrewd decision to cover his back-side as he fell from grace with his Leader – or something far more calculating and sinister.

Bridges claims  that he believes Ross have may been planning and executing his strategy for a considerable period of time;

“I think he has been recording me, and potentially many other members of Parliament, for a very long time.”

So obviously not a spur-of-the-moment, rash-impulse kind, of thing by Ross.

As the Ross/Bridges crisis unfolded since 15 October, several names began to show up – names which feature prominently in Nicky Hager’s expose, Dirty Politics:

Assuming – for a moment – that the most machiavellian planning has gone into destroying Simon Bridges as the leader of the National;

  1. Who would benefit?
  2. What would be the likely outcome for the Party?

In answer to question one, the likely successor to Bridges being deposed would be Judith Collins. Ms Collins featured recently in the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton polls, just marginally behind Simon Bridges;

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Jami Lee Ross’s full scale assault has inarguably destroyed his political career. He may even be unemployable in the private sector, as Kiwiblogger David Farrar, and former MP, Tau Henare, pointed out recently.

But his attacks on Simon Bridges has also undermined his leadership – perhaps beyond repair.

If National falls any further in polling; and Bridges’ popularity drops further; and Collins’ popularity  rises – the inevitable would happen. Bridges would be rolled and Judith Collins installed as the new leader.

In answer to question 2: National would lurch hard-right. New Zealand politics would suddenly become more partisan; more divisive – in short, more like Australia. The hard-right warriors Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, Aaron Bhatnagar, Jami Lee Ross, et al, would have their new leader and National would become the vehicle for their political agenda and aspirations.

Jamie Lee Ross would eventually be “rehabilitated” politically  and would be appointed to various SOE boards as Collins’ ‘head kicker’.

Far-fetched conspiracy la-la stuff? Perhaps… though even  David Fisher seemed compelled to write in the NZ Herald;

“It’s impossible to know exactly when Ross took a step down what he sees as a righteous – and what Bridges calls treacherous – path.  It’s also difficult to know where it ends. Ross’ actions have shown clear signs of strategy.”

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References

NBR: Ports behind strike-breaking bill – Ross

Scoop media: Jami Lee Ross – Union biting the hand that feeds

Newstalk ZB: Ross saga – Businessman denies making $100k donation

Fairfax media: Environmental protesters’ Govt crack down

Fairfax media: Law will hit deep-sea drilling protesters

Fairfax media: Jami-Lee Ross admits affair with MP, pledges to stay on in Parliament

NZ Herald: Full transcript – The Jami-Lee Ross tape of Simon Bridges

Mediaworks: As it happened – Jami-Lee Ross vs Simon Bridges saga reaches new heights

Mediaworks: Read Jami-Lee Ross’ texts to Greg Hamilton about $100,000 donation

Radio NZ: National’s hollow political scandal entertaining but insignificant

Radio NZ: Morning Report – National Party inquiry to ensure staff ‘feeling safe’ – Bridges (alt-link)

Legislation: Electoral Act 1993

Radio NZ: Morning Report for Tuesday 23 October 2018

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross: – Four women speak out

Radio NZ: Jami-Lee Ross identified as National Party leaker

New York Times: The Women Who Have Accused Brett Kavanaugh

NPR: Kavanaugh And Christine Blasey Ford Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Radio NZ: Bridges did talk to businessman at centre of donation claim – Bennett

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges continues to stonewall questions about donations and sexual harassment claims

Fairfax media: National party candidate allegedly harassed by Jami-Lee Ross speaks out

NZ Herald: National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

Auckland Council: Contact Howick Local Board

Scoop media: C&R Howick Announce Local Board Team

Talking Southern Auckland: Honesty and Integrity Part Two

Newsroom: Nats have a long Jami-Lee agenda

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross’ behaviour allegations might not be accurate – National MP Tim Macindoe

Interest.co.nz: Jami-Lee Ross to remain in Parliament as an independent MP for Botany

Scoop media: TV3 The Nation – Chris Simpson and David Collings

Fairfax media: Vision and Voice dominate Howick Local Board

Radio NZ: National defends handling of woman’s complaint against Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: National aware of Jami-Lee Ross grievances for years

Fairfax media: Toxic relationships with Jami-Lee Ross reported

The Spinoff: ‘I am just motivated to cut throats’: meet Jami Lee-Ross’s political mastermind

NZ Herald: Jami-Lee Ross saga – Identity of ‘Cathedral Club’ donor revealed

TVNZ: After horror week, Simon Bridges takes a hit in latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Radio NZ: Tau Henare – ‘NZ has never seen anything like this’

NZ Herald: MP Jami-Lee Ross admitted to mental health care

Mediaworks: Jami-Lee Ross has been ‘sectioned’ – but what does that actually mean?

ODT: Jami-Lee Ross out of hospital, ‘not focusing on politics’

NZ Herald: National’s leader Simon Bridges rings Dirty Politics blogger to talk Jami-Lee Ross

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 23 October 2018

Radio NZ: Morning Report – 24 October 2018

NZ Herald: Special report – Simon Bridges v Jami-Lee Ross – the National Party Botany Bagman and his plan for political survival

Additional

Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross and the shadow of Dirty Politics

Twitter: Jami-Lee Ross – 15 August 2018

Sharechat: Bridges denies Ross allegations, welcomes police inquiry

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel (alt-link)

Other Blogs

Whaleoil: Despicable text sent to Jami-Lee Ross by female MP

Kiwiblog: The terrible personal cost

Chris Trotter:  Questions, Questions, Questions

Martyn Bradbury:  Could the Spinoff be possibly wrong about JLR? Maybe?

The Standard:  Bridges loses connection with reality

The Standard:  Nothing to worry about

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 October 2018.

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National – Party 4 Sale?

27 April 2016 1 comment

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Men in Dark Shadows 2

 

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Niue

Recent revelations that the National Party may have benefitted from a deal involving a resort hotel in Niue, by receiving a $101,000 donation has been in the headlines since 18 April, when Radio NZ’s political reporter, Benedict Collins, broke the story;

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Call for inquiry into Niue resort contract

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In October 2014, New Zealand’s Scenic Hotel Group announced it had “secured” the Matavai Resort in Niue.

The Niue Tourism Property Trust, whose trustees are appointed by Mr McCully, carried out what the minister said was a fully commercial process to find a company to run the resort.

The month before, Mr Hagaman, Scenic Hotel Group’s founder, had donated $101,000 to the National Party, making him National’s biggest living financial donor in 2014. Only a man who had died and left his estate to National gave more.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully Photo: RNZ

But Mr McCully said there was no link between the contract and the donation.

Radio NZ further reported;

Scenic Hotel managing director Brendan Taylor said Mr Hagaman didn’t know the company was in the running for the Matavai Resort contract.

“Earl wasn’t actually even aware that we were negotiating in Niue, because basically that was me and I had it all in-house until such time that we knew we had been awarded the contract.

I did get [Earl’s wife] Lani Hagaman to sign the contract because I wasn’t actually available to do it, but apart from that Earl really had no involvement in Niue whatsoever.

His donation is something he did purely from a personal situation, and basically the hotel company and what Earl does from a personal point of view we kind of keep separate.”

It simply defies credulity that the two events are not somehow connected – especially when, as Radio NZ discovered that “RNZ News could find no record of Mr Hagaman having ever made a large donation to the National Party before“.

It also beggars belief that Scenic Hotel managing director, Brendan Taylor, is asserting that “Earl wasn’t actually even aware that we were negotiating in Niue” when Brendan Taylor got “Lani Hagaman [Earl’s wife] to sign the contract”?!

As the story began to gain traction elsewhere in the msm, National Party president, Peter Goodfellow, said he  “ would be making no further comment about the donation“.

Three days later, on 21 April, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, attempted to close down the growing scandal;

Mr Key, speaking in China, said today that, while he hasn’t followed the issue closely, he’s not at all concerned.

“People make political donations and that’s well and truly disclosed.

“But actually Scenic Hotels have been operators for a very long period of time, that’s a management contract from what I can see in Niue – there’s nothing untoward there.”

It is intriguing that even though Key says “he hasn’t followed the issue closely, he’s not at all concerned“.

How can he be “not at all concerned” if “he hasn’t followed the issue closely“?

This is not the first time that National has been revealed to have benefitted from donations made by businessmen  who have been closely involved in commercial activites with this  government.

BMWs

In early 2011, National was roundly criticised for spending millions on thirtyfour new BMW limousines at a time when the country was experiencing recession after the Global Financial Crisis.

At first, Key denied all knowledge of the purchase, claiming he had been “kept in the dark” over the multi-million dollar upgrade;

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Ministers knew of BMW buy-up last year

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But our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key,  did know, as was revealed four days later in late February, 2011;

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pm-signed-papers-relating-to-bmws

 

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However, the BMW scandal becomes more serious than Key merely ducking responsibility and patently lying when he denied all prior knowledge of the limousine upgrade.

In May 2011, it was revealed that the suppliers of the BMWs had made a $50,000 donation to National prior to the vehicle-purchase. As reported in the NZ Herald at the time;

A private BMW dealer has rubbished the suggestion that a $50,000 donation from his company to the National Party had anything to do with the Government’s new fleet of BMW cars.

[…]

Labour’s internal affairs spokesman, Chris Hipkins, revealed that the BMW dealer’s donation came two days after a July 2010 meeting between Mr Key’s chief-of-staff, Wayne Eagleson, and the Department of Internal Affairs, which approved the BMW upgrade.

It was a month after a function that Mr Key attended at Auckland BMW dealership Team McMillan.

Radio NZ reported;

Prime Minister John Key says he has no responsibility for a $50,000 donation made to the National Party by a BMW dealership the day after the Government renewed its VIP transport contract.

[…]

Bob McMillan, the owner of BMW Team McMillan, says the claim he donated money to National the day after the party agreed to a contract for ministerial cars is ridiculous.

As senior Labour MP, Trevor Mallard said at the time;

“They sat down with Ministerial Services and agreed to a renewal of [the BMW] contract, and two days later $50,000 went to the National Party. If that was overseas, we would say it was corruption…”

Mr McMillan’s denial of any link between his donation of $50,000 to National, in return for the contract for the limousine up-grade sounds remarkably similar to Scenic Hotels managing director, Brendan Taylor, denying any link between Earl Hagaman’s  $101,000 donation  to the National Party and his company securing the contract with Matavai Resort.

To compound matters, the BMW dealership at the center of the donations scandal then expressed an interest in acquiring the soon-to-be-replaced government limousines (to re-sell, at a profit);

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dealer-who-gave-nats-50k-eyes-govt-bmws

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Whether or not the purchase went ahead is unclear.

Farms

In 2010 and late 2011, another apparent conflict of interest was reported when Shanghai Pengxin put in a bid for the Crafar dairy farms.  Shanghai Pengxin, under various guises, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Party;

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china-link-to-nats-200000

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chinese-cash-flows-to-nats

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A full analysis of the links between Oravida, Crafar Farm purchase, and the National Party was reported in a previous blogpost here; Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua).

Conclusion

Whilst details are hard to confirm by the very nature of these highly secretive deals – many made informally – the questions arising from these (and other) murky ‘arrangements’ is sufficient to underscore a recent downgrading of our Transparency International Corruption Perception Index;

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corruption free - NZ drops again - transparency international

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We have had sufficient number of glimpses into dubious activities that hint at corrupt practices. Even fourth place on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index may be wildly optimistic.

As the Saudi farm-bribe and use of GCSB to spy on behalf of Tim Groser has shown, National is not averse to employing dodgy practices and dirty deals to enrich itself or what it perceives may “benefit” the country (and consequently it’s re-election chances).

There are simply too many coincidences to ignore the inescapable conclusion: it is my considered opinion that National has benefitted financially from several commercial/government transactions.

Our political system has been tainted with corruption.

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Addendum1

As at 21  April, the so-called “Taxpayers Union” – a self-appointed group of “watchdogs” to protect public interest from political corruption and waste of taxpayers’ money, had made no comment on the Niue Scandal;

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taxpayers union home page

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The “Taxpayers Union” had condemned the Universal Basic Income; had a ‘go’ at Maori Iwi; lambasted Labour; criticised MoBIE; and several other attacks on perceived “wrong-doing”.

But not a peep on the Niue scandal.

But considering that the “Taxpayers Union” is made up of National Party apparatchiks and supporters, that is hardly surprising.

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References

Radio NZ: Call for inquiry into Niue resort contract

Radio NZ:  Contract not linked to donation – Scenic Hotel

NZ Herald: Labour questions $101,000 National donation and Niue resort management contract links

Radio NZ: PM not worried about Niue resort deal

Fairfax media: Ministers knew of BMW buy-up last year

Fairfax media: PM signed papers relating to BMWs

NZ Herald: Dealer denies donation link

Radio NZ: PM rejects claim donation linked to BMW upgrade

Transparency International (NZ): Corruption Free? NZ drops again

Fairfax media: Auditor-General had doubts Saudi sheep deal was legal

NZ Herald: GCSB spies monitored diplomats in line for World Trade Organisation job

Additional

Scoop media: BSA decision – One News on Sale of BMWs

Newzealandinc: McMillan family sells half stake in Team McMillan to Tim Cook’s Collins Asset

Previous related blogposts

Know your Tory fellow travellers and ideologues: John Bishop, Taxpayers Union, and the NZ Herald

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Farms, politicians, and emails

A Query to the Taxpayers Union – ***UP DATE ***

User Pays: the eventual conclusion

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guy body editorial cartoon april 11 2016 panama papers tax haven

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 April 2016.

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The Boundless Arrogance of the Right

21 June 2014 4 comments

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John Key - That's all folks

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As at 5pm on Friday, 13 June, John Banks resigned from Parliament.

In retrospect… As per usual, those on the Right appear unable to accept that they too must uphold the laws of the land.

Michelle Boag (Fmr National Party president)

The verdict in the John Banks trial will send a “chill up the spine” of every political candidate, says former National Party president Michelle Boag.

Boag, who was an adviser to Banks during the failed 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign, said although Banks had been found guilty, he had done just the same as “every political candidate who has put in a donation form”.

Don Brash (Fmr Reserve Bank Governor; Fmr National Party leader; Fmr ACT Party leader)

“So the court has found John Banks guilty. Three observations. First, I have known John Banks for 30 years and have not found him to be anything other than an honest man. Second, it is a huge tragedy for a man who has overcome great personal difficulties; served with distinction as a Member of Parliament, as a Minister, and as the mayor of Auckland; and helped to raise three Russian orphans.

But third, when I contrast what John Banks was found by the court to have done with what Helen Clark’s Labour Party did in 2005 – without the slightest attempt by the Police to call her to account – the offence of which he has been found guilty is utterly trivial.

In 2005, the Labour Party spent Parliamentary funding to the extent of more than three-quarters of a million dollars on explicit electioneering, despite having been warned against doing so by both the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer just weeks before the election. Yes, they eventually repaid that money, but only under strong protest. And of course by that the time the election was won.

And what they could not undo, and were never held to account for, was grossly overspending the legal limit on spending in that election. The Police, in a disgracefully biased decision, decided not to prosecute, despite the Labour Party’s own auditors finding that the Party had unambiguously breached the legal spending limit if spending on their infamous “pledge card” was election spending. And did anybody who saw that “pledge card” think it was NOT part of Labour’s election campaign?

Whatever John Banks did in trying to raise money to finance his mayoral campaign in 2010 did not affect the outcome of that election. By contrast, Labour’s illegal behaviour almost certainly did affect the result of the 2005 election.”

Gerry Brownlee (Leader of the House, National Minister)

 “As I understand it he is not convicted and therefore can stay in parliament and exercise his vote.”

Found guilty – but “not convicted”. Ethics 101, according to Gerry Brownlee.

Ironically, Kim Dotcom has not been found guilty of any crime in New Zealand and yet the Nats wants him extradited to the United States. As in, potentially goneburger to a US jail.

David Farrar (Blogger, National Party apparatchik)

“…Banks was wrong to break the law, but Labour’s law breaches in 2005 were much more significant and did have an impact on the election result.”

Based on Farrar’s bizarro-world “logic”, burglars should not be prosecuted because home invasion robberies “were much more significant and did have an impact” on home-owners?!

John Key (Fmr money trader, current Prime Minister)

“It’s not for me to critique the ruling by Justice Wylie it would be quite inappropriate of me to do that…but if you ask me at a personal level whether my experience of John Banks is an honest person then the answer is yes.”

John Key (again)

“In the end, Mr Banks may appeal, I don’t know the details of that but in my experience of dealing with him over the period of time that he’s been both the leader of the Act Party and in Parliament and in my previous dealings with him, I’ve always found him to be very honest.”

So honest that he (a) was tried in a Court of law, (b) was found guilty, and (c) has resigned.

Is this what Key meant when he said on 17 November 2008;

“I expect high standards from my ministers. If they don’t meet the standards I set, then obviously I will take action if necessary.”

John Key (and again)

First Key said he was not in a position to offer any advice to Banks;

“It’s not for me to offer a view on that. In the end he is the leader of another political party.  I can’t offer him advice any more than I could offer David Cunliffe advice on whether he should resign.”

Then he decided to give advice – to David Cunliffe;

Asked about Cunliffe’s claims that the Government was being propped up by a “corrupt” politician, Key said Cunliffe should rule out working with the Internet Party.

“I’m not going to be lectured by David Cunliffe. If he was the man of principle he says he is, he’d be ruling out the Internet Party and Kim Dotcom who’s before the court and is a convicted fraudster, but he’s not going to do that. Most people will see it for what it is, which is politics.”

Point of interest; John Key appears to be out-of-the-loop and several months behind-the times. John Banks was not the  “leader of another political party“. The current leader of ACT is Jamie Whyte.

Kerre McIvor (Right-wing NZ Herald columnist)

“…Graham McCready, the convicted tax fraudster and the man who brought the private prosecution against Banks after the police declined to lay charges, is an odd creature.

The charms of Kim Dotcom have never been apparent to me and they didn’t become any more obvious in this case.”

Richard Prebble (Fmr Labour and ACT Party MP)

Act Party campaign director Richard Prebble, said the verdict was in conflict with the attitude towards campaign donations that he’d encountered during his years in parliament.

“I’ve looked at MPs’ declarations – which are only for $20,000 – and a third of MPs, under this ruling, should be out of parliament. I’ve seen declarations that are total fictions.”

Prebble said the loose approach to the rules revealed “the nonsense of the thing”. He said when he started his career in local body politics, he wasn’t required to fill in electoral donation forms, “and I’m not sure why you have to now.

“It’s just part of the political correctness of New Zealand, and all we do is catch people out with paperwork.”

Prebble said while the nominal reason for requiring electoral donation returns might be to prevent the impression of undue influence by political funders, “the real reason is to intimidate people to stop them giving money to your political opponents.

So Prebble has “seen declarations that are total fictions” – but done nothing about them?! Is this how a former ACT Leader and MP upholds the law? By turning a blind eye to it being broken? Very civic minded, I don’t think.

As for the electoral law on donation returns being “ just part of the political correctness of New Zealand, and all we do is catch people out with paperwork” – so some laws exist  merely to  inconvenience us? Perhaps quite a few others who are currently “guests of Her Majesty” thought along the same lines.

John Thompson (ACT Party president )

“We believe that he can carry on in doing his constituency work … It would be more pleasant if there was a different verdict, yes.”

Well… yes. I’m sure it would be more pleasant. So would world peace and an end to hunger, disease, pollution…

However, let’s work with what we’ve got, eh, John?

My thoughts (as a Left wing blogger)

Those on the Right of the political spectrum probably believe that Banks’ actions were minor. They  point the finger at alleged wrongdoing by Labour or other parties on the Left. They may even believe that the trial and guilty verdict was unnecessary.

Meanwhile, on the Left, the belief (unsurprisingly) is diametrically opposite;  the crime of electoral fraud is not minor; pointing to alleged wrongdoing by Left-wing parties  is a vain attempt at deflection to distract public attention; and the guilty verdict was necessary.

Everyone has missed the point.

The trial was very much necessary. (The verdict was, I submit, secondary.)

Either the law on Electoral Returns is a law to be enforced, or it should be repealed and left up to individual parties and candidates to make voluntary disclosures.  But it cannot be left to stand and be observed in a half-hearted, cavalier fashion.

Otherwise, every member of Parliament runs the risk of being prosecuted by the Police or a well-motivated member of the public, sometime in the future. In other words, this was a “wake up call” to every elected representative, whether in a local body or Parliament.

It will be a very, very foolish politician – whether from the Left or Right – who takes a punt at fudging their Electoral Return from now on.

Because, in the final analysis, no Right or Left wing party activist, supporter, voter, or blogger, wants one of their own to be dragged through the Courts, embarrassing themselves and their Party. Whether Left or Right, we want our own people to be ‘squeaky clean’.

The wake-up call has been sounded for both sides of the political spectrum.

Let’s hope it was heard..

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References

Fairfax media: F*** off, says under-pressure Banks

Facebook: Don Brash

TVNZ News: John Banks could be thrown political lifeline

Kiwiblog: Brash on Banks

ODT: Banks gets to stay in Parliament

NZ Herald: Top ministers in Key’s Cabinet focused on economy

NZ Herald: Shame sticks to both sides of this episode

Fairfax media: PM ducks Banks questions

NZ Herald:  Bryce Edwards – The John Banks guilty verdict

Other blogs

Gordon Campbell on the John Banks verdict


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 June 2014.

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John Banks, ACT, and miscellaneous laws

15 December 2012 9 comments

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mad ACT tea party

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ACT is very, very BIG on law and order.

In fact, they often refer themselves as the “law and order” Party.

Their website is unequivocal about ACT’s hard-line, no-compromise, approach to Law and Order,

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ACT - law and order

Source

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ACT even refers to the  “broken windows” concept; attacking crime at the beginning when “criminal activity is significantly less likely to escalate when caught and punished early “.

ACT even has a “One Law for All” policy,

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ACT -  one law for all

Source

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Their “One Law for All” refers to Maori – but one assumes that ACT intends this policy to apply equally, to all people living in this country.

Right?

Well… maybe not,

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Banks seeks Dotcom court excuse

Full story

 

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One law for all, huh? That apparently demands a Tui.

However, Banks’ lawyer, QC David Jones stated that,

‘‘Mr Banks will comply with any lawful direction of the court to attend the court as required.’’

Well, that’s jolly big of him.

This case will be a test; are our elected representatives – especially those in positions of ministerial power – bound by the same laws that the rest of us mere mortals are?

After all, “criminal activity is significantly less likely to escalate when caught and punished early “.

Let’s wait, watch, and find out…

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Is this what National voters had in mind?

19 September 2012 3 comments

… when they voted for National last year?

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Note, especially, Key’s response to Metirea Turei’s questions, and Key’s  flippant response. Not exactly “Prime Ministerial”, one would think?

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to have this guy as our Prime Minister instead,

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He’d be considerably cheaper than the $411,510 currently paid to Dear Leader Key.

And considerably less threatening to Christchurch schools; the unemployed; our conservation lands;  workers’ rights and conditions; and other issues currently facing our country.

Who knows? Mr Clown above (the one with the bright yellow flower – not the one in the suit) might actually have a few decent ideas how to create jobs for the 162,000+ unemployed in New Zealand.

He sure couldn’t do worse than the clown (the one in the suit, not the yellow flower) we already have.

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Additional

Banks of loud rhubarb on Planet Key

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= fs =

John Banks – escaping justice (Part Toru)

17 September 2012 11 comments

Continued from: John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua)

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A link to the blogpost, John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua) was emailed to John Banks earlier today (14 September).

Unexpectedly, this blogger has received a response from John Banks’ office,

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Date: Friday, 14 September 2012 3:12 PM
From: Christopher Diack <Christopher.Diack@parliament.govt.nz>
To: “‘fmacskasy@yahoo.com'” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: RE: John Banks.

Dear Frank

On behalf of the Hon John Banks Leader of ACT and MP for Epsom thank you for your email of 14 September 2012 regarding the recent release of Official Information relating to the investigation into Mr Banks’ 2010  return of donations and expenses for the election of the mayor of Auckland.

Mr Banks has asked me to respond as follows.

In our system of government the Police independently decide if there is a case to answer and if charges are laid under the law.

Mr Banks filed his return in good faith believing it to be correct and true.

There was an extensive three month investigation by the Police which weighed all the evidence and concluded that the intent to file a return that was materially false was not established.   Therefore no charges were laid.  The conclusion is that Mr Banks has complied with the law.

As far as Mr Banks is concerned the matter is closed. 

Regards

Chris

Christopher J. W. Diack

Chief of Staff & Legal Advisor

Office of Hon. John Banks, CNZM, QSO

Minister for Regulatory Reform | Minister for Small Business | Associate Minister of Commerce

Associate Minister of Education | MP for Epsom | Leader ACT New Zealand.

11.21 Bowen House

Parliament Buildings

Wellington

DDI +64 4 817 6970 | FAX +64 4 817 6523 | Mobile +64 21 800 901

christopher.diack@parliament.govt.nz

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Astounding.

Actually receiving a response…

We must be living in an Age of Miracles…

Reply emailed to Mr Diack this evening (15 September),

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Date:  Saturday, 15 September 2012 8:43 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: John Banks.
To: Christopher Diack <Christopher.Diack@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia ora, Chris,Thank you for responding to me letter, and with promptness. Your courtesy in this area is to your credit considering that most National ministers no longer bother to reply to correspondence from the public.In response to your email dated 14 September, I would like to pose several questions that you and Minister Banks may be able to assist with, and clarify.1. Can you confirm that Minister Banks has declined to give permission for his Statement to the Police, to be released to the public?2. Can you or Minister Banks explain why he refuses to make public his Statement when he has consistantly adopted a personal position that he had “nothing to fear, nothing to hide”?3. You stated that “Mr Banks filed his return in good faith believing it to be correct and true”. How do you reconcile that assertion when Minister Banks requested  that Kim Dotcom split his  $50,000 donation in two equal parts of $25,000 each, so as to be recorded as anonymous donations? 4. You stated that “Mr Banks filed his return in good faith believing it to be correct and true”. How can that be true when,  Minister  Banks’ own lawyer,  Gregory Towers, stated to Police investigators that Minister Banks instructed  him on 8 February,  “… that as much as [he, John Banks] wished to publicly support Kim that may backfire on Kim if it became known about the election support” – and yet on 27 April, nearly three months later, Minister Banks told TV3 News, “Well, I don’t know. I mean I haven’t seen the forms now for a couple of years, so I don’t know who gave me money, I can’t remember now”.5. Are you or Minister Banks aware that, on 2 May,  ACT Party President, Chris Simmons, was interviewed on Radio New Zealand’s “Checkpoint” programme by Mary Wilson, where he stated that splitting  the $50,000 donation was, “…one of the suggestions made to Dotcom.… He has given me an indication why he made that suggestion and that was that he initially was going to put in $25,000 of his own money and he figured that other people should be putting in the same sort of numbers”. Was Mr Simmons correct in that initial statement?

6. Mr Banks’ mayoral campaign  received three additional “anonymous” $25,000 donations for his mayoral campaigns.  Who were those donations from? Were they one $75,000 donation from one individual/organisation? Were receipts issued for those donations? Did the Police investigate the source of those donations? What, if anything, was the outcome of scrutiny into those three $25,000 donations?

7. You stated in your email to me that  ” The conclusion is that Mr Banks has complied with the law.  ”  How do you reconcile that proposition with Police statements that they are unable to prosecute because the matter falls outside a statute of limitations on laying prosecutions? Do you accept that rather than ” the conclusion is that Mr Banks has complied with the law”, that Minister Banks escaped prosecution only because of a legal technicality?

8. You further stated in your email to me that “There was an extensive three month investigation by the Police which weighed all the evidence and concluded that the intent to file a return that was materially false was not established. ” How do you reconcile that statement with a claim by Ms Mackey, who challenged claims that  Mr Banks signed the Electoral Form without reading it and insisted,  “But John Banks did read the document.” And do you accept that rather than ” the conclusion is that Mr Banks has complied with the law”, that Minister Banks escaped prosecution only because of a legal technicality?

9. Is Minister Banks in a habit of signing documents he has not read?

10. Is it correct that Minister  Banks incited Kim Dotcom to break the Electoral law on reporting donations by advising him to hide the $50,000 donation: “I want to help you Kim and I can help you more effectively if no-one knows about this donation.”?

11. Are you or Minister Banks aware that Skycity received a receipt from Bank’s Campaign Treasurer for their $15,000 donation and that donation was later listed as ‘anonymous’? How can a donation that was acknowledged by way of a written  receipt be considered as “anonymous”? What is the definition of “anonymous” when the identity of the donor is known?

12. Why did Minister Banks continue to insist to media and public alike, that  he had no memory of any of these matters – and yet evidence and statements by others proved that he had full knowledge of donations made; the identity of donors; that he advised donors how to ensure that donations were recorded as “anonymous”; and that Minister Banks had sought prior  legal advice how to evade provisions of the Local Electoral Act 2001?

13. Will Minister Banks offer his resignation to the Prime Minister and step down from all ministerial roles? 

 
I look forward to answers to these questions and matters raised therein.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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Mr Diack’s response, received this morning (17 September),

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Date: Sunday, 16 September 2012 6:26 PM
From: Christopher Diack <Christopher.Diack@parliament.govt.nz>
To: ‘Frank Macskasy’ <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: RE: John Banks.

Dear Frank

 

Please refer to my earlier email.

 

Regards

Chris

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Unfortunately, Chris Diack’s previous email does not answer any of the thirteen questions put to John Banks. (In fact, this blogger is aware that Mr Diack’s response  has been sent to other citizens, who have emailed his office expressing concerns on this issue.)

This is unacceptable and I wonder how Messrs Diack and Banks can reconcile their evasiveness with the latters constant mantra, “nothing to fear, nothing to hide”.

John Banks seems to be hiding a great deal and his continuing warrant to serve as a Minister of the Crown is based solely on the desperation of his patron, John Key, to preserve his one seat majority in Parliament.  This is the sordid, shabby, self-serving situation that John Key lambasted Prime Minister Helen Clark, over the Winston Peters-Owen Glenn donations affair,

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“  Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

Wednesday, 27 August 2008, 4:24 pm
Press Release: New Zealand National Party

John Key MP
National Party Leader

27 August 2008

Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

National Party Leader John Key says Winston Peters would be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by him unless Mr Peters can provide a credible explanation on the Owen Glenn saga.

“Labour Party donor Owen Glenn’s letter to the Privileges Committee completely contradicts Winston Peters’ version of events about the substantial $100,000 donation made by Mr Glenn to Mr Peters’ legal costs.

“Mr Glenn’s letter represents a direct challenge to Mr Peters’ credibility, from the only other person in the world in a position to know the facts.

“From Parliament’s point of view, the Privileges Committee provides an appropriate vehicle to resolve the points of conflict and to hold individuals to account. But from the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s point of view, that is not enough.

“Governments and Ministers must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament and, ultimately, the public. Faced with today’s revelations, it is no longer acceptable for Mr Peters to offer bluster and insults where simple, courteous, honest answers are required.

“It is no longer acceptable or credible for Helen Clark to assert a facade of confidence in her Foreign Affairs Minister and to fail to ask the plain questions of him that she has a duty to the public to ask.

“Faced with today’s revelations, Helen Clark must stand Mr Peters down as a Minister. That is what I would do if I were Prime Minister. Helen Clark has stood Ministers from Labour down for much less.

“Unless he can provide a credible explanation about this serious issue, he should be unacceptable to Helen Clark as a Minister in her Labour-led Government.

“Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation”.

Source: Scoop.co.nz – Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

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Same situation.

Same desperation to to hang on.

Same standards.

It is even more laughable that John Key states that he has not read the Police file on this case; is not going to read the Police report; and is satisfied that he has taken John Banks at his word,

Shane: This isn’t about the issue being you. All I want to know is having read the police report, whether you believe Mr Banks when he said –

John: I haven’t read that police report, and I’m not going to because I don’t need to. I rely, as any prime minister would, that I enjoy the confidence –

Shane: Why wouldn’t you read the police report?

John: Because it’s not my job to do a forensic analysis. What I can tell you is the law doesn’t work. What I can tell you is this is a politically motivated attempt by the Labour Party to get at the government. Fair enough. That’s called politics.

Shane: So you believe him even though others say he was lying?

John: No, what I’m saying to you is accept his word. I accept that the law is very ambiguous, and I accept that the Labour Party are using this as a politically motivated attempt to get to the government. Because they’re not going after – This is a guy that lost the mayoral election. They didn’t try and test this out after he lost. They didn’t test it out for every other candidate. They’re not testing it out around the country. And, by the way, when they changed the central government law around donations, they didn’t bother to do it for local government. But today they care about it, and that’s because it’s politically motivated.

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

His “word”?

What “word”?!

Throughout this shameful affair, the public has seen John Banks obfuscating; forgetting; lying; and blaming everyone else for his own actions.

For John Key to buy into the “blame-everyone-else-game” (Labour, the law, etc) shows how bankrupt National’s Standards really are.

National and ACT demand a high standard of personal responsibility from everyone else. They are the Parties built on the mantra of  Taking Personal Responsibility. It is the height of hypocrisy that neither Banks nor his handler  are prepared to Take Personal Responsibility they expect from everyone else,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Whilst the poor are beaten about their heads  with messages of  Taking Personal Responsibility, dishonest politicians who escape prosecution on technicalities and the patronage of the Prime Minister, laugh and thumb their noses at the law.

No wonder that John Key has stated that if National loses at an election that he would step down as Party leader,

He also said he had made it reasonably clear that he did not want to revert to being Opposition leader.

“I don’t think it suits me as a person. I’m not a negative person and a lot of Opposition is negative“.”

See: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

I would add that Key’s credibility is shot to hell and he could never again launch a critical attack on a Labour government minister who has been shown to be engaged in lies and wrongdoing.  The word “hypocrite” would echo through the Debating Chamber every time Key stood to criticise someone.

If, reading this, you feel a sense of frustration and outrage that our elected representatives can behave in such a reprehensible manner – rest assured, you are quite normal and your “moral compass” is set as it should be.

If, however, you are an ACT or National supporter, and  you see nothing wrong with  Banks’ and Key’s behaviour – rest assured, this new standard of political cronyism will be used by future  governments when it suits their purposes.

No doubt then we’ll hear some serious braying and moral chest-thumping from National/ACT supporters?

Oh, how I’ll look forward to that day.

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Relared blogpost

Key on Banks; Staunch, stupid, or stuck?

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Q+A – 5 August 2012

5 August 2012 12 comments

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Q+A,  Charter schools

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See video

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The highly contentious issue of Charter Schools was canvassed on Q+A this morning (5 August). Corin Dann interviewed  NZEI President Ian Leckie and Former ACT president Catherine Isaac.

The Associate Minister for Education and ACT Party MP, John Banks, was nowhere to be seen. Curiously, it was left up to Catherine Isaac – not an elected member of Parliament – to front on the issue of Charter schools.

As Corin Dann said to Ms Isaacs,

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CORIN OK, Ian Leckie, thank you. Now, Catherine, just finally, is it disappointing-? Are you disappointed that John Banks couldn’t come on this morning and front this issue? I mean, he’s your minister, your person in Parliament. We were pretty disappointed that he couldn’t come on.

ISAAC I couldn’t comment on that. I’m not sure why he couldn’t come on. I haven’t discussed that with him.

CORIN Well, it seems to be… Our feeling is that he’s reluctant, because he may be asked questions about the saga, of course, that’s been running over donations. And why I’m asking you this question is because does that make him an ineffectual minister to be fronting this flagship policy of your party’s?

ISAAC I’m sure you’ll find he’ll be fronting it.

CORIN So he won’t-? Does that mean he’d be-?

ISAAC Well, I can’t speak for him, of course, but he’s very positive about this policy. He’s extremely excited about it, and I’m sure you’ll see him appearing as often as he can.

CORIN But as a high-ranking party member, can you speak for the party? It must be disappointing.

ISAAC I can’t speak for the party. I’m not an official of the party, so I can’t speak for the party. But I think that you will find that John Banks will be a powerful advocate for this policy.

CORIN Do you think he’s been unfairly treated by the media and others?

ISAAC I don’t have a view on that.

CORIN You don’t have a view at all?

ISAAC I don’t

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See: Q+A: Transcript of Catherine Issac and Ian Leckie interview

Corin Dann has summed it up perfectly; John Banks has become  an ineffectual Minister when he is no longer able to front to explain radical new policies that National/ACT are implementing. It’s fairly obvious Banks is too frightened to appear where journalists are in a position to ask him hard questions over the Undeclared Donations saga.

It is also astounding that Catherine Isaacs appeared for National/ACT, when, as she herself stated,

“I can’t speak for the party. I’m not an official of the party, so I can’t speak for the party.”

If she can’t speak for the ACT Party – what was she doing, fronting on Q+A, to promote Charter Schools, which is ACT policy?

Maybe John Banks just ‘forgot’ to turn up for the interview?

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Q+A, Fred Pearce

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Of particular interest to us should be journalist and author of  ‘The Landgrabbers: The new fight over who owns the Earth‘, Fred Pearce,

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See video

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Pearce was interviewed over the critical issue of foreign buy-ups of arable farmland threoughout the world. Pearce revealed that buy-ups of land wasn’t just occurring here in New Zealand – but was taking place in Africa, South America, and elsewhere.

He was adamant in stating that the “land grabs” were part of a process of certain nations securing food sources at a time in our history when this will become a critical issue. He stated, in part,

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JESSICA Are we right to be jumpy here in New Zealand?

PEARCE I think you are, actually, because you’re a relatively small country. Your land is valuable. Clearly there’s a lot of interest internationally in your dairy farming. There’s a tradition of German interest in New Zealand. And it could easily get out of hand, but it’s still relatively small-scale in New Zealand. Now, the figures I’ve seen suggest 1% or perhaps 2% of New Zealand farmland is in foreign hands, and while that could increase, that’s a heck of a lot less than, say, Liberia in West Africa, where two-thirds of all their land is now under some kind of concession to foreign investors, or South Sudan, the new state that was just set up a year ago in Africa, where 10% of all the land had been given away in some kind of lease deal to foreigners even before the state was created, before they’d raised the flag. So, you know, on the scale of things, New Zealand isn’t in a bad state. But you do have to watch out, because there is a huge kind of land rush round the world going on, and prospectors and national governments and big corporations in expanding nations like China and India are looking out for really quite large areas of land, and if they can get hold of them and at a good price, then they will.

JESSICA Why does it matter whether its foreigners or locals who own the land?

PEARCE Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. In good times, people will invest and it probably won’t matter too much. But in bad times, it can be a problem. And you have to say that land is a very fundamental asset for a country. There’s nothing much more fundamental than land to a nation. And if you sell or give long leases on that land to foreign entities, then you lose control of it. You have much more democratic control, if push comes to shove, with a nationally owned company than you do with a foreign-owned company. But it is also true that we’re all part of a global economy now. Even if the company that owns the land is based in New Zealand, it may well have bankers who are abroad. So we can’t, I think, sort of put up very high walls around our country. But we do need to have democratic accountability. We need make sensible democratic decisions about how much we’re prepared to give land to other countries or other countries. Now, they may bring in expertise, which we want; they may bring in finance that we want. But there again, they may be out for a quick hit. They may be wanting to make a quick profit and not really contribute to the national economy, and those are the kind of things that one has to look out for. As I say, I think New Zealand is a kind of grown-up nation. New Zealand can look after itself. But many – especially in Africa – small, new, poor nations really do have great difficulty in keeping control of their assets if rich foreigners want to come calling.

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See: Q+A: Transcript of Fred Pearce interview

It seems that we New Zealanders were right to be concerned with offshore investors buying up arable land and that we risk losing control of this valuable asset at our peril.

Whether foreign ownership emanates from Berlin, Beijing, or Boston – be concerned. Be very concerned.

As Pearce said about land,

You know, they’re not making land any more, so, you know, you’ve got to look after what you have. 

By the way, as a side-note; during the video interview with Pearce, an object appeared at the top right of the screen. It faded away momentarily, then came back brighter and more defined.

Anyone got any ideas what it was? (Cue: the X-Files  theme.)

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Q+A, Paul Holmes

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Also on TVNZ’s Q+A this morning; Paul Holmes.

But not the Paul Holmes we’ve known since 1989, when he first  beamed into our  homes.

This morning, Paul looked terrible;  gaunt, weak, with shaky voice – the result of recent open-heart surgery. At one point he had to reach and grasp an object to support himself on his feet. His appearance was so shocking that at any moment I expected him to collapse,

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Source

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What was TVNZ thinking, allowing him on-air?

It was irresponsible.

It was heart-wrenching, watching him struggle to stay on his feet.

Not good, TVNZ.

And for Paul,

Get well soon, mate.  You’ve got too much work to do, skivving of up on that farm of yours. TV is not the same without your impish grin on our TV screens.

Get better, please.

And we’ll see you back, when you’re 100% again!

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