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Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

22 February 2016 2 comments

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the-jc

 

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In June last year, as news of the cancellation of Campbell Live rocked the nation, I reported on possible conflicts of interest between Mediaworks’ programming decisions, and one of it’s board members, Julie Christie;

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Just when you thought Mediaworks couldn’t possibly dumb-down their television service any further;

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Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

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When I first heard this, my initial reaction was someone on Facebook, with a wry sense of humour, was playing ‘silly buggers’ at Mediaworks’ expense.

Then I was pointed to the media report on Fairfax’s website.

Honestly – how does one react to a decision like this? Deep sobbing tears and face-palming – or maniacal laughter that might do The Joker proud?!

If this is Mediaworks’ idea of a joke – exacted against Campbell Live supporters as revenge for daring to question executive decisions – then someone has a rather cruel, demented sense of humour.

If this is what passes for sound business decision-making in Mediaworks’ boardrooms these days – then their next round of bankruptcy will not be far away. I’m picking three months.

Whoever was responsible for this awful programming decision would be wise to never, ever admit  their part in this insanity. Their career would be in tatters if word got out. To quote a Mediaworks press release describing ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

“Week one features Monika, a Slovakian child carer, who’s all about silly with a side of spice; Tony, an eccentric real estate agent with some cutting critiques and a few ‘endearing quirks’; Hinemoa, a part-time tattooist and full-time eyebrow enthusiast; motor-bike riding, insurance broker Kyle; and stylish yoga enthusiast Sarah.”

Perhaps an answer to this incomprehensible decision to replace a highly successful, well-respected current affair show like ‘Campbell Live‘ with another (and somewhat gormless-sounding) “reality” programme lies with Mediaworks’ board member, Julie Christie.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mediaworks - minister - national government - TV3

“Politicians have also had a strong affection for her over the years. Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee have been photographed out and about at her bar in the Viaduct.” John Drinnan, 15 February 2013

Image acknowledgement: Postman Productions

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In 1991 Christie founded television production-company, Touchdown Productions.The company was responsible for “reality” (aka “unscripted television“) programmes such as ‘My House My Castle’, ‘Whose House Is It Anyway’, ‘DIY Rescue’, ‘Trading Places’, ‘Treasure Island’,Game of Two Halves’,  ‘Pioneer House’,  ‘Dragons’ Den’, and others.

Julie Christie quickly acquired a reputation for being New Zealand’s own television “Reality Queen“, as TV3 itself described her, two years ago;

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Reality TV queen quits production firm - Julie Christie - Mediaworks - Eyeworks - Campbell Live - John Campbell

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More on Christie’s involvement with reality-TV and TV3 in a moment.

In February 2006, Touchdown was sold to Dutch media group, Eyeworks. She remained as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until 31 October 2012, when she resigned. Eight months later, in June the following year as Mediaworks was put into receivership, Julie Christie was appointed to the board of directors.

There is no telling how much earlier  Christie’s June appointment had been planned by parties involved, though this had been tipped by NZ Herald media columnist, John Drinnan four months earlier.

Julie Christie remained closely involved with the company, as confirmed by Eyeworks on their website;

Former CEO Julie Christie will no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group (15 territories, HQ Amsterdam) working in an international creative role.

There is indeed a strong, formal link between Christie and Eyeworks.

The directors of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd are;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

The parent company of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd is Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd. It’s directors are the same four individuals;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

Christie has a separate company, JGM Investments Ltd, whose directors happen to be;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (Director)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

And JGM Investments No2 Ltd, whose directors are also;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

Christie’s JGM Investments No2 Ltd company is described as;

JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd. is a public hotels and motel founded in 2010. With 11 employees, the company is larger than the average hotels and motel.

By “coincidence”, the New Zealand version of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ – which has taken ‘Campbell Live’s‘ “plum” 7pm time-slot – is produced by none other than – Eyeworks NZ.

Eyeworks was not wrong when it stated that Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”.

Not exactly conspiracy theory stuff – but a possible conflict of interest?

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For full story, see related blogpost: Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

Written questions put to Eyeworks and Mediaworks on this issue went unanswered. Instead, Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, responded with a thinly-veiled threat of legal-action for defamation.

My investigations failed to uncover a further salient fact about Christie’s on-going “close relationship” with Eyeworks – Michael David Joseph Molloy is Julie Christie’s brother. Molloy happens to sit on Eyeworks’ board (now known as Warner Bros NZ), as well as Christie’s own  JGM Investments Ltd.

On 14 February, this story appeared in Fairfax’s Sunday Star Times;

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TV row erupts over $5m funding of soap that reflects modern NZ as a bit 'mongrel' - Mark Weldon - Julie Christie

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Journalist Amy Maas reported that NZ on Air has rejected an application for a Mediawork’s soap opera;

The funding pitch proposed the drama would run five nights a week at 5.30pm. The concept pitched to NZ on Air said Trinity Point was a fictional mid-sized beach town, 90 minutes north of Auckland “and one of the last bastions of the Kiwi dream”. It would feature a white-sand beach and an estuary, the main road of the town would host a Santa parade, Dawn Parade and feature a large Four Square supermarket.

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Confidential emails sent six months before funding was declined, and obtained under the Official Information Act, revealed Christie accused NZ on Air board members of questioning her integrity because she used to own Eyeworks/Warner Bros NZ – the production company awarded the proposal to make the drama, despite 50 other applications.

Christie was not impressed, and was scathing in her response to NZ on Air;

After a meeting between MediaWorks and NZ on Air board members, Christie emailed chair Miriam Dean saying: “Your management continues to use this as one of the reasons to decline the necessary level of funding for MediaWorks’ serial drama to proceed”.

“I am assured by leading drama producers in our industry that the only people perpetrating this rumour are your own management and, as a result, TVNZ who are now gleeful that they have been successful,” Christie wrote.
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Christie pointed out that not only did she not have any conflict with the potential producers of the show, she had not worked there for nearly three years and had sold the company seven years ago. She said she had not even met with the current Warner Bros NZ owners.

However, Dean said it was necessary to question her because she previously owned the production company, and her brother, Michael Molloy, was a director of Warner Bros NZ. But “after appropriate probing”, Dean said NZ on Air found there was no conflict, but she could not provide any evidence that the other production companies had expressed concern.

Evidently, charges of conflict of interest had come from several sources;

But in the June 2015 exchanges between Christie and Dean, the NZ on Air chair explained that some of those whose proposals had been rejected had raised the issue of a potential conflict of interest with it being awarded to Warner Bros NZ.

“The complainants expressed their concerns in confidence by telephone, with no records taken. Several production companies conveyed a sense of disquiet regarding the selection process to the effect that, despite the [request for proposals], the outcome was predetermined.”

Christie then referred to her close connections to various government bodies;

In her emails, Christie made a point of mentioning that she currently sat on three government boards, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, New Zealand Story Board and the Flag Consideration Panel, and had a “deep knowledge of responsible public funding”. 

“It is clear that the Government considers me to be a board member of the upmost integrity. I was awarded ONZM for services to film and television. Yet, NZOA continues to suggest I would behave inappropriately.”

And then, to drive home the point of her and Mark Weldon’s “connections” to the National government, threatened NZ on Air;

Christie said she would like to bring the matter “to the attention of the minister”.

Christie’s and Weldon’s close relationship with National is a matter of record, as pointed out in this story by Rex Widerstrom, in the Daily Blog; Thirteen things you (probably) didn’t know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mark weldon - john key

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Mark Weldon also lashed out at NZ On Air;

During the mud-slinging, MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon also waded in to the debate with a terse email to NZ on Air’s chief executive Jane Wrightson, accusing them of prioritising funding for TVNZ programmes.

In the email he wrote that he “had someone do some work” on the discrepancy between funding received by both TVNZ and MediaWorks. He pointed out that TVNZ had been awarded $27m in the last funding round, compared to MediaWorks’ $4m.

“Looking at the documentation, it does not appear to be the case that you have budget constraints … It is clear that you do have budget choices.”

For Amy Maas’ full story, click here.

As I wrote last year;

I seem to have “touched a nerve”. When thinly-veiled threats of defamation lawsuits start flying, it suggests that someone finds the tenor of questioning to be uncomfortable.

To make it crystal clear for Mr McGeoch and his 40 year old lawyering career, I am asking questions, not making assertions. It would be a fairly simple matter to refute the questions with simple answers.

Thus far, no refutations or clarifications have been forthcoming.

However, an apparent conflict-of-interest still remains to be addressed by Mediaworks. Especially when the programme that replaced ‘Campbell Live‘ was created by a company – Eyeworks – with which Julie Christie is still associated, and whose Board members also sit on two companies with which Christie is involved with.

The perception of murkiness in all this cannot easily be overlooked.

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There is no telling how Christie has benefitted from Eyeworks acquiring the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But what we do know – from Eyeworks’ own admission – is that Christie continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role”.

Whilst Christie is no longer a Director of Eyeworks, she is still closely associated with two  Eyeworks Directors via two other companies.

We do not know how Eyeworks acquired the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But we do know that Christie is on Mediaworks’ Board of Directors.

We do not know what role Christie played in the production of ‘Come Dine with Me‘, except;

  • her involvement in the reality TV industry is well known
  • Eyeworks admits that she continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role“

The 7pm-7.30pm time slot is prime time, and a lucrative slot for advertising within programmes, as  Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, stated candidly on 11 April 2015;

“We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what this is all about.”

For Eyeworks to produce a product and schedule it at prime time would have meant a profitable exercise for the company. That required, first of all, to get rid of ‘Campbell Live‘, thereby leaving the slot open.

It has taken nearly eight months, but after my initial findings, this story has finally been reported by the msm.

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References

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

TV3 “News”: Come Dine with Me launches on Monday

Mediaworks: Management

NZ on Air: Julie Christie

Wikipedia: Eyeworks Touchdown

TV3 News: Reality TV queen quits production firm

Scoop media: Sale of Touchdown Television to Eyeworks Group

NZ Herald: Julie Christie quits Eyeworks

NBR:  MediaWorks in receivership

NZ Herald: Media – MediaWorks eyes TV queen Julie Christie

NZ Herald: Anger over Campbell Live’s replacement Come Dine With Me

Fairfax media: TV row erupts over $5m funding of soap that reflects modern NZ as a bit ‘mongrel’

The Daily Blog: Thirteen things you (probably) didn’t know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks)

Additional

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

Previous related blogposts

Campbell still Live, not gone

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Campbell Live, No More

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

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Campbell - TV3 - cartoon - walking the plank

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on  17 February 2016.

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Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

25 June 2015 4 comments

The following story elicited a thinly veiled defamation threat by a senior Mediaworks boardmember.

Just when you thought Mediaworks couldn’t possibly dumb-down their television service any further;

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Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

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When I first heard this, my initial reaction was someone on Facebook, with a wry sense of humour, was playing ‘silly buggers’ at Mediaworks’ expense.

Then I was pointed to the media report on Fairfax’s website.

Honestly – how does one react to a decision like this? Deep sobbing tears and face-palming – or maniacal laughter that might do The Joker proud?!

If this is Mediaworks’ idea of a joke – exacted against Campbell Live supporters as revenge for daring to question executive decisions – then someone has a rather cruel, demented sense of humour.

If this is what passes for sound business decision-making in Mediaworks’ boardrooms these days – then their next round of bankruptcy will not be far away. I’m picking three months.

Whoever was responsible for this awful programming decision would be wise to never, ever admit  their part in this insanity. Their career would be in tatters if word got out. To quote a Mediaworks press release describing ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

“Week one features Monika, a Slovakian child carer, who’s all about silly with a side of spice; Tony, an eccentric real estate agent with some cutting critiques and a few ‘endearing quirks’; Hinemoa, a part-time tattooist and full-time eyebrow enthusiast; motor-bike riding, insurance broker Kyle; and stylish yoga enthusiast Sarah.”

Perhaps an answer to this incomprehensible decision to replace a highly successful, well-respected current affair show like ‘Campbell Live‘ with another (and somewhat gormless-sounding) “reality” programme lies with Mediaworks’ board member, Julie Christie.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mediaworks - minister - national government - TV3

“Politicians have also had a strong affection for her over the years. Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee have been photographed out and about at her bar in the Viaduct.” John Drinnan, 15 February 2013

Image acknowledgement: Postman Productions

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In 1991 Christie founded television production-company, Touchdown Productions.The company was responsible for “reality” (aka “unscripted television“) programmes such as ‘My House My Castle’, ‘Whose House Is It Anyway’, ‘DIY Rescue’, ‘Trading Places’, ‘Treasure Island’,Game of Two Halves’,  ‘Pioneer House’,  ‘Dragons’ Den’, and others.

Julie Christie quickly acquired a reputation for being New Zealand’s own television “Reality Queen“, as TV3 itself described her, two years ago;

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Reality TV queen quits production firm  - Julie Christie - Mediaworks - Eyeworks - Campbell Live - John Campbell

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More on Christie’s involvement with reality-TV and TV3 in a moment.

In February 2006, Touchdown was sold to Dutch media group, Eyeworks. She remained as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until 31 October 2012, when she resigned. Eight months later, in June the following year as Mediaworks was put into receivership, Julie Christie was appointed to the board of directors.

There is no telling how much earlier  Christie’s June appointment had been planned by parties involved, though this had been tipped by NZ Herald media columnist, John Drinnan four months earlier.

Julie Christie remained closely involved with the company, as confirmed by Eyeworks on their website;

Former CEO Julie Christie will no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group (15 territories, HQ Amsterdam) working in an international creative role.

There is indeed a strong, formal link between Christie and Eyeworks.

The directors of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd are;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

The parent company of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd is Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd. It’s directors are the same four individuals;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

Christie has a separate company, JGM Investments Ltd, whose directors happen to be;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (Director)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

And JGM Investments No2 Ltd, whose directors are also;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

Christie’s JGM Investments No2 Ltd company is described as;

JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd. is a public hotels and motel founded in 2010. With 11 employees, the company is larger than the average hotels and motel.

By “coincidence”, the New Zealand version of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ – which has taken ‘Campbell Live’s‘ “plum” 7pm time-slot – is produced by none other than – Eyeworks NZ.

Eyeworks was not wrong when it stated that Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”.

Not exactly conspiracy theory stuff – but a possible conflict of interest?

I contacted Eyeworks and Mediaworks and put certain questions to them;

To Eyeworks I posed these questions;

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(1) Is Eyeworks currently involved in any projects intended for TV3 that might (or is intended) to be broadcast at that time?

(2) Is Julie Christie involved in any projects intended for TV3?

(3) Was Julie Christie involved in the production of ‘Come Dine with me’?

(4) Was Julie Christie involved in any way in production of ‘Come Dine with me’?

(5) Is Julie Christie involved in any production associated with your company, either currently, or planned for the future?

(6) Julie Christie resigned from Eyeworks on 31 October 2012. Your website states that she “no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group”. Can you provide details as to what capacity she ” remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”, and is she receiving any form of remuneration for her work?

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As at time of publication, Eyeworks has not replied to my enquiries.

Through a Mediaworks staffer, I asked Board member, Julie Christie;

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According to the Eyeworks website, you “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group”. This refers to your previous role as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until your resignation from that company, effective around 31 October 2012.

Can you shed some light on what your “connection to Eyeworks Group” consists/consisted of?

Did this “connection” remain in place after your appointment to Mediaworks’ Board, in June 2013?

Does the “connection to Eyeworks Group” involve two of the Board directors of Eyeworks?

Do you receive any form of remuneration from Eyeworks?

When did Mediaworks commission ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you connected with commissioning ‘Come Dine With Me’ for TV3?

Who initiated the project ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you connected in anyway with the production of ‘Come Dine With Me’, especially in the light of Eyeworks comment that you “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group” ?

What was your role in determining the programming schedule for ‘Come Dine With Me’?

What in-put, if any, did you have in deciding that ‘Come Dine With Me’ would fill the 7pm to 7.30pm timeslot, weekdays.

When was that decision made?

Do you perceive any possible conflict-of-interest between your membership of Mediaworks’ Board, and “remaining connected to the Eyeworks Group”?

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As at time of publication, Christie has not replied to my enquiries.

To Mark Weldon, CEO of Mediaworks since August last year, I put the following;

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According to the Eyeworks website, one of your Board members, Julie Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”. This refers to her previous role as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until her resignation from that company, effective around 31 October 2012.Can you shed some light on what your understanding of her “connection to Eyeworks Group” consists/consisted of?

To your knowledge, does this “connection” remain in place subsequent to her appointment to Mediaworks’ Board, in June 2013?

To your knowledge, has Julie Christie received any form of remuneration from Eyeworks?

Are you aware that two of the Board directors of Eyeworks are also Board directors of her own company, JGM Investments Ltd and JGM Investments No2 Ltd, namely;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

When did Mediaworks commission ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you or Julie Christie connected with commissioning ‘Come Dine With Me’ for TV3?

Was Julie Christie in any way involved with the production of ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Who initiated the project ‘Come Dine With Me’? Was it Mediaworks, or did Eyeworks “pitch” the project to Mediaworks?

What was your role in determining the programming schedule for ‘Come Dine With Me’?

What in-put, if any, did you have in deciding that ‘Come Dine With Me’ would fill the 7pm to 7.30pm timeslot, weekdays.

When was that decision made?

Does Mediaworks have a Conflicts of Interests Register for Board Members?

If so, has Julie Christie registered any conflicts of interest on such a Register?

Do you perceive any possible conflict-of-interest between Julie Christie’s membership of Mediaworks’ Board; Ms Christie “remaining connected to the Eyeworks Group”; whilst Mediaworks purchases productions from Eyeworks?

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Mark Weldon did not reply, but Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks sent this response the following day;

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Dear Mr Macskasy
I am the Chairman of Mediaworks. I have been a lawyer for more than 40 years and a director of many companies over the last 20 years.
Mediaworks is a private company with one shareholder. Short of breaking the law it is entitled to run its affairs as it wishes.
As it happens Julie Christie has made all the appropriate disclosures. The board and the owner value very much her experience and connections. My views as expressed here ,mean I believe, that the answers to your enquires are unnecessary.
Any suggestion that her behaviour or interests have in any way interfered with her duties would in my view be likely to be defamatory of her.
Yours faithfully
Rod McGeoch

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I seem to have “touched a nerve”. When thinly-veiled threats of defamation lawsuits start flying, it suggests that someone finds the tenor of questioning to be uncomfortable.

To make it crystal clear for Mr McGeoch and his 40 year old lawyering career, I am asking questions, not making assertions. It would be a fairly simple matter to refute the questions with simple answers.

Thus far, no refutations or clarifications have been forthcoming.

However, an apparent conflict-of-interest still remains to be addressed by Mediaworks. Especially when the programme that replaced ‘Campbell Live‘ was created by a company – Eyeworks – with which Julie Christie is still associated, and whose Board members also sit on two companies with which Christie is involved with.

The perception of murkiness in all this cannot easily be overlooked.

The Director’s Guide, from the Financial Market’s Authority, refers specifically to potential conflicts of interests;

• Be aware of possible conflicts of interest

Make sure any conflicts you personally have are officially recorded. All companies should have an Interests Register and a process for managing potential conflicts

Where you have an ‘interest’ in a transaction, you need to be able to show how your company (or your parent company if your constitution allows this) benefits and gets fair value from it.

• Check if your company constitution allows related party transactions (transactions between related companies). If so, do any special
conditions apply and are they in the best interests of your company?  Related party transactions are also likely to be material to investors and should be disclosed in any disclosure documents.

• Ensure you have a good understanding about what falls within the definition of a related party.

There is no telling how Christie has benefitted from Eyeworks acquiring the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But what we do know – from Eyeworks’ own admission – is that Christie continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role”.

Whilst Christie is no longer a Director of Eyeworks, she is still closely associated with two  Eyeworks Directors via two other companies.

We do not know how Eyeworks acquired the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But we do know that Christie is on Mediaworks’ Board of Directors.

We do not know what role Christie played in the production of ‘Come Dine with Me‘, except;

  • her involvement in the reality TV industry is well known
  • Eyeworks admits that she continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role

The 7pm-7.30pm time slot is prime time, and a lucrative slot for advertising within programmes, as  Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, stated candidly on 11 April 2015;

“We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what this is all about.”

For Eyeworks to produce a product and schedule it at prime time would have meant a profitable exercise for the company. That required, first of all, to get rid of ‘Campbell Live‘, thereby leaving the slot open.

As usual, it boils down to money.

Someone has made a lot of money out of this.

The final question; is Mediaworks new owners – Oaktree Finance – aware of all this? They should be.

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In a rare moment of sanity (hopefully) prevailing, this also appeared in  Fairfax stories (9 June);

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John Campbell talks to Radio New Zealand about possible role

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There is hope yet, that the corporate lunatics have not gained complete control of  Asylum Aotearoa. John Campbell and Mihingarangi Forbes is a Dream Team, second only to a full non-commercial, public-service television broadcaster being re-established in this neuron-deprived nation of ours.

This must be one of the top priorities (along with addressing child poverty, polluted waterways,  and housing problems) of any incoming Labour-Green(-NZ First?) government. Every New Zealander with a conscience and deep, abiding interest in the future of our country, must be on the back of a new progressive government to get this done.

I know I will.

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References

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

TV3 “News”: Come Dine with Me launches on Monday

Mediaworks: Management

NZ on Air: Julie Christie

Wikipedia: Eyeworks Touchdown

TV3 News: Reality TV queen quits production firm

Scoop media: Sale of Touchdown Television to Eyeworks Group

NZ Herald: Julie Christie quits Eyeworks

NBR:  MediaWorks in receivership

NZ Herald: Media – MediaWorks eyes TV queen Julie Christie

NZ Herald: Anger over Campbell Live’s replacement Come Dine With Me

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: JGM Investments Ltd

Business Profiles: Greg Anthony Heathcote

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: JGM Investments No2 Ltd

Find the Company: JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd.

Financial Markets Authority: A Director’s Guide

NZ Herald: New majority owner for Mediaworks

NZ Herald: John Campbell enlists lawyer as replacement rumours swirl

Fairfax media: John Campbell talks to Radio New Zealand about possible role

Additional

NZ Herald: Prime News outrates TV3 as audience numbers halve

Previous related blogposts

Campbell still Live, not gone

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

This is news?!

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Other bloggers

Postman Productions: Media ‘crack whores’ & dirty deals

The Daily Blog: Dirty Politics – Coming To A TV Station Near You

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Sam Caughey - @peachysam - twitter - John Campbell - TV3 - Come Dance with me

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 June 2015.

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Campbell still Live, not gone

16 April 2015 11 comments

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campbell live header

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I don’t always get an opportunity to write about something positive. Whether political or in the media, there are so many dodgy, unpleasant, or downright despicable things happening that our attention is usually taken up by matters that are, in the main, negative.

Case in point, regarding the media, was Paul Henry’s outrageous and offensive remark to a female guest on his programme, when he enquired if she had had sex with Virgin Airlines owner, Richard Branson. The fact that the woman in question was internationally respected and renowned  scientist, Dr Michelle Dickinson, who had been one of a number of people invited by Branson to attend his event,  made Henry’s remarks even more repugnant.

But as some TV3 producers of Henry’s show indicated rather hysterically and defensively, it seems that Henry’s obnoxious behaviour was perfectly acceptable to them (see: Addendum 1).

Thankfully, good  taste prevailed and Henry’s late night programme was dumped only after one year. Perhaps viewers were simply too tired at the end of a long working day to put up with an over-grown schoolboy revelling in his crude, moronic, “sense of humour”.

On the other end of the media spectrum, we have current affairs shows like ‘Campbell Live’. In a vast ocean of dross, John Campbell’s prime time programme of social and political stories stands out like a beacon.

Campbell and his team of professionals hold politicians to account; bring us stories of events happening in our communities; focus on the worst of human behaviour – but also highlight the very best that people are capable off. There is simply none of the jaded cynicism or political sycophancy of Mike Hosking, Campbell’s so-called “competition” on TV1. There is certainly none of the juvenile, smutty, sexist “humour” that the cretinous Paul Henry indulges in.

Campbell reflected what was happening in our own country, good and bad; noble and anti-social; and asked awkward questions of those in authority.

Hardly surprising that “Campbell Live” has won a whole slew of awards, according to this Wikipedia article;

  • Campbell Live won two awards at the 2006 Qantas Television Awards including Best Current Affairs Series. The second award was for the Best News or Current Affairs Presenter for John Campbell.
  • At the 2010 Qantas Television Awards, Campbell Live received three awards, one for Best Current Affairs Editing, one for Best Current Affairs Reporting and John Campbell again won for Best News or Current Affairs Presenter.
  • At the 2011 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards, Campbell Live received an award for investigation of the year for their work tracking the Samoan Tsunami relief funds – presented to host John Campbell, Executive Producer Pip Keane and Producer Claudine MacLean.
  • Campbell Live has also won The TV Guide Best on the Box People’s Choice Award for Best Current Affairs Show from 2011 to 2014 and Best Presenter from 2010 to 2014.

The growth of media “personalities/entertainers”, replacing professional journalists and broadcasters, is becoming more depressing with each passing year.

Media personalities like Hosking no longer even bother hiding their political allegiances. Political neutrality, it seems, is a quaint concept left behind in the 20th Century.

When so-called “broadcasters” like Mike Hosking treats a Government Minister with unquestioning  reverance, whilst badgering, demeaning, and dismissing a critic of the government, we have indeed arrived at a state of affairs little better than a satrap of Putin’s Russia.

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Seven Sharp - 14 august 2014 - nicky hager - steven joyce - dirty politics

Seven Sharp‘ – 14 August 2014 – Mike  Hosking chats with Steven Joyce whilst excoriating Nicky Hager over revelations in ‘Dirty Politics‘.

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Luckily for Hosking, he has his supporters from the National Party parliamentary wing, as Todd Barclay revealed with his injudicious comments on Twitter.

Ironically, right-wing broadcasters such as Bill Ralston – who himself has links to the National Government – has berated TV3’s moves to “review” ‘Campbell Live‘;

“I think they’re dealing with a product that they do not understand. There is a market for news and current affairs in New Zealand and there is a market for what John is doing.

The most senior management of TV3 have been gunning for John Campbell for a long while. He has been under enormous pressure and it has been lawyers, I understand, at 40 paces as they fight this one through.”

On Twitter, Ralston lamented;

For the record: TV3 top management are intellectual pygmies (excepting Jennings) who never understand good current affairs

Has realisation finally dawned on Ralston that a free media can be undermined by capitalism as well as authoritarian governments? Better late than never.

Bit by bit, the so-called “free” media in this country is being neutered – not by State power – but by the unrelenting, voracious hunger of commercial imperatives for profit and shareholder returns, as well as conservative, National-aligned broadcasters.

Commercial threats to the media cannot be under-estimated. Note this intriguing (and over-looked) comment on a ‘Stuff‘ website reporting on the ‘Campbell Live‘ story;

Avocado on Toast

Okay, I’m going to shed some light on this. I use to work for Mediaworks which – ten years ago up until three years ago – was an amazing place to work. Sadly a lot of managerial/decision making positions have been given to accountants or sales representatives as of late. Neither of which have any experience in how TV nor Radio actually works; all they care about is the bottom line. Redundancies/cost cuttings have been occurring across the company in all the wrong places and all the work funneled into hubs last year and this year. This saves money but puts pressure on those hub staff as they’re not re-compensated for the extra work nor given extra resources to help with the work. The only departments getting extra resources, pay increases and extra staff are sale representatives. Questioning these decisions results in “hush meetings”. They’ll be looking at Campbell Live not asking: “How can we make this better for the staff and the business?”, instead they’ll be asking: “How can we make this cheaper yet more profitable without any regard for the staff?”. They’ll cut key staff and resources then blame the staff members whom they don’t make redundant when it falls over. And I can assure you that this paragraph is EXACTLY what Mediaworks’ business model is. Mediaworks is going to implode within the next two years, I feel pretty confident in saying this as everything that I’ve said would happen three years ago up until this very story HAS happened. Thus why I happily resigned.

The reason I give credence to that comment is because precisely the same corporate policy of staff cutbacks and drop in quality has occurred at Fairfax media. Sources within Fairfax have described  very similar events taking place within our newspapers – which I scrutinised in June 2013  – and which was recently covered on Radio NZ’s “Media Watch” on 5 April.

The gutting and dumbing-down of our media has been occurring at a creeping, snail’s pace.

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frog-in-pot

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Recent “milestones” – of a pessimistic variety – have been the amalgamation of Wellington’s ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘, in  July 2002; on-going redundancies of journalists and sub-editors at Fairfax NZ;  axing of non-commercial TVNZ7 on 30 June 2012; replacing TVNZ’s ‘Close Up‘ with ‘Seven Sharp‘ on 4 February 2013, and many others. The scheduling of TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on Saturday and Sunday mornings  is an undisguised ghettoisation of political current affairs programming in this country.

Aside from ‘Campbell Live‘, only Radio New Zealand’s ‘Check Point‘ offers a serious prime-time, professional, broadcast-programme. But even Radio NZ  has been the victim of a sustained, covert attack by this National government, with a freeze on funding since 2008.

Make no mistake – ‘Campbell Live‘ is the last serious current affairs programme, scheduled for prime time viewing, on our free-to-air television screens.

The threat to a free media comes not from jack-booted secret police, acting on orders from a repressive government. The threat is more subtle, and comes in the form of commercial imperatives – which demands “more from less”.

The irony here is that our newspaper, radio, and television media are quick to point to “press freedom”, when they perceive their ability to publish/broadcast as they wish, is under some form of constraint by legislation; privacy demands; national “security”; police investigations, etc.

But the real attack on freedom of the press is coming not from externalities – but from within.

The next time TV3 complains of an attack on press freedom – someone should be asking them how they reconcile the so-called free press with TV3 executives axing the last serious current affairs programme on prime-time TV.

If an authoritarian government banned ‘Campbell Live‘ from the air, TV3 would be up in arms. There would be fierce resistance; government diktats resisted; offices raided by police; arrests made; people detained.

But when their own management does it, for commercial reasons, that is evidently acceptable.

The media demand press freedom. As longer as it’s profitable.

Perhaps, as Brian Edwards pointed out in his insightful blogpost on 10 April, it is simply that public service television and commercial television are as incompatible as mixing oil and water.

In which case, the sooner we return to a dedicated, non-commercial, public-service broadcaster – the better. And commercial broadcasters like TV1, Tv2, TV3, et al, can do what they do best; broadcast crap.

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Addendum1

Petitions to save ‘Campbell Live’. Add your voice to this campaign;

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save campbell live petition

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save campbell live petition - (2)

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Addendum 2

On-line poll at NZ Herald (not scientific) as at mid-day, 10 April;

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should campbell live be saved - nz herald

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Addendum 3

From MediaWork’s Mark Jennings;

“Viewer expectations in 2015 are quite different from those of 2005 – and we need to constantly review our programming to ensure we are meeting those expectations.”

Mr Jennings – I suggest pornography;

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NZ media - new styles of news reading

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Nothing quite like some bare flesh to push up ratings, eh?

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References

TV1: Seven Sharp – Hager and Joyce: Head to head

Fairfax media: National MP Todd Barclay blasts Campbell Live supporters

NZ Herald: Media – Hosking plugs car and Key

Wikipedia: Campbell Live – Awards

NZ Herald: Decline in Campbell Live audience not ‘sustainable’

Dominion Post: Rise in consultant costs ‘gob-smacking’

Twitter: Bill Ralston

Fairfax media: Campbell Live to be reviewed

Frankly Speaking: Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model? (blogpost)

Radio NZ:  Mediawatch for 5 April 2015 (alternative link)

Scoop media: Redundancies at Radio NZ? The funding freeze in action

NZ Herald: Campbell Live to be axed? TV bosses place show under review

Fairfax media: Behind every TV stripper

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

Message to TV3 execs – Is this really acceptable?

When the mainstream media go feral: A tale of two holidays

The Media will respond to Kim Dotcom’s up-coming revelations professionally, impartially, and with all due diligence

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

The trivialisation of the News and consequences

Seven Sharp turns into Serious Shite?

NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?

Additional

Facebook: Campbell Live

Facebook: Save Campbell Live!

NZ Herald: John Campbell: Mr Conscience

Petition: TV3 – Save Campbell Live

Petition: Save Campbell Live

Other blogs

Brian Edwards: The Campbell Live Debate – A Considered View

Insight NZ: Some of the best #SaveCampbellLive tweets and statuses (so far)

No Right Turn: Save Campbell Live

Polity: John Campbell

Public Address: About Campbell Live

The Civilian: No telling how large Mike Hosking’s erection is right now

The Standard: Save Campbell Live!

The Standard: Campbell live and politicisation of media

The Political Scientist: Seven Sharp, Campbell Live and TV Ratings – The ‘Nudge’ Factor

Lefthandpalm: Campbell … live?

 

 

 


 

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media-sensationalism-and-laziness-jon-stewart

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 April 2015.

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= fs =

National-ACT supporters – not the brightest lights in the night sky, eh?

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The-Republican-Revolt

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Reading some comments on the Campbell Live Facebook page, soon after the investigative story on the  GCSB was aired on 20 May, I was struck by the sheer lack of informed comment by some right-wing Facebook users. Take for example, this statement was a user identifying himself as “Jack Peters“;

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Facebook user - Jack Peters

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(Note: the profile appears to be fictitious and nothing more than a right-wing troll. According to his Profile, “Jack Peters” has ‘Liked” the Green Party, a somewhat clumsy attempt to smear the Greens by association with his blatant trolling.)

“Jack Peters” made a reference to the GCSB was created under Helen’s [Clark’s] watch“.

This reminded me immediately of a story back in 2012, which linked right-wing/conservative/racist beliefs with low intelligence;

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Right-wingers are less intelligent than left wingers, says study

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Following up on this story last year, Goal Auzeen Saedi (Ph.D), wrote in Psychology Today,

Hodson and Busseri (2012) found in a correlational study that lower intelligence in childhood is predictive of greater racism in adulthood, with this effect being mediated (partially explained) through conservative ideology. They also found poor abstract reasoning skills were related to homophobic attitudes which was mediated through authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact.

What this study and those before it suggest is not necessarily that all liberals are geniuses and all conservatives are ignorant. Rather, it makes conclusions based off of averages of groups. The idea is that for those who lack a cognitive ability to grasp complexities of our world, strict-right wing ideologies may be more appealing. Dr. Brian Nosek explained it for the Huffington Post as follows, “ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simple solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.”

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Why do I raise this point?

Because right-wing troll “Jack Peters” slammed critics of the Key government by stating that the GCSB was created under Helen’s [Clark’s] watch.

In fact, the GCSB was created by then-National Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, in 1977, as the GCSB itself pointed out on it’s own website,

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history of the GCSB Government communications security bureau

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Created by a National government.

Powers increased by a National government.

Misinformed beliefs from National supporters.

Who then vote in the next National Government.

That, people, is what is commonly known as a vicious circle.

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***

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To view the Campbell Live story on the GCSB and the murky goings-on behind the scenes, I present a link here (click on the image to take you to the TV3 website);

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Campbell Live - GCSB - John Key

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It is, quite simply, one of the best bits of investigative journalism this blogger has witnessed for some time. Campbell Live and Maori TV’s  Native Affairs are simply Must Watch tv.

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***

 

 

References

Facebook: Campbell Live – Jack Peters

TV3: Key’s meeting with GCSB boss revealed

Facebook: “Jack Peters”

Daily Mail Online: Right-wingers are less intelligent than left wingers, says study

Psychology Today:  Do Racism, Conservatism, and Low I.Q. Go Hand in Hand?

Government Communications Security Bureau: History of the GCSB

TV3: Campbell Live – Key’s meeting with GCSB boss revealed

Previous related blogposts

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

 

 


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1496189_1409071792672271_1235209203_o

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 May 2014.

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= fs =

Parata preparing for another backdown? (Part Rua)

3 October 2012 15 comments

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After Education Minister, Hekia Patata’s dreadful performance on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ on 30 September, it appears that her ‘minders’ have realised that she is not ‘selling’ the issues of  National Standards and Christchurch School closures, to the public.

In fact, her slip to Shane Taurima that National Standards data  was unreliable must have raised the eyebrows of every viewer in the country,

“ SHANE What’s the point of the information, though, if the Prime Minister, for example, he calls it ropey; the head of your own ministry, she has described it as unreliable.

HEKIA Well, what I have said all along is that it is variable. For the purposes of comparing schools, it is not reliable…”

As was her admission that school closures in Christchurch would add to the trauma already suffered by Cantabrians after two major earthquakes and 185 deaths,

 Well, look. School closures around the country under any administration around the country are always difficult. Here in Christchurch is a community that’s been under intolerable stress for a very long time

Parata didn’t just shoot herself in the foot in that interview – she kneecapped herself.

The consequence was that Parata appears no longer willing to be interviewed by the media.

She refused to accept John Campbell’s invitation to appear on his show on TV3 on 2 October – instead sending a bureacrat to front up, Ministry of Education chief executive, Lesley Longstone.

Longstone put on a brave face attempting to explain why so much of the Ministry’s information was completely wacko – as if they referred to schools in some other country (or maybe Planet Key) – but failed miserably,

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Source

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Little wonder that Parata refused to front. She would have been skewered and hung out to dry.

Again, this morning (3 October), Hekia Parata was invited to be interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘. Again, she refused point blank.

See: Radio NZ – Warning from Australia on National Standards

Ok, it’s possible that she had another engagement that prevented her from appearing on ‘Campbell Live‘ last night. But what was so pressing that she could not be on the phone to Radio NZ’s Geoff Robinson at 8.09am?

The answer is; nothing.

National’s policies on school closures and National Standards is an absolute mess. Parata is up to her neck in policies that are hard to defend; based on shonky data; and offer no real benefit to the education of our children.

Let’s be quite clear here; if National’s  so-called “reforms” were such a great idea, Parata should be willing and eager to front at every opportunity to defend  her policies and explain why they will help our children; communities; and country as  whole.

Her new-found ‘shyness’ is indicative of only one thing; her policies are indefensible and deeply resented by New Zealanders. Furthermore, judging by the response she has received from parents and teaching professionals, she has lost the trust of those people who rely on her judgement.

Hekia Parata is the Minister of Education. Her education policies are her responsibilty.

If she is unable or unwilling to front up to the public, then she has no business earning her $257,800 ministerial salary (plus perks, plus gold-plated superannuation) .

When it comes to education, where does the buck stop?

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*

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Sources

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (video)

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (transcript)

Radio NZ: 13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

Previous related blogpost

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools)

Parata preparing for another backdown?

Additional

School standards report card ‘ropey’

Schools claim merger data incorrect

Ministry admits some errors in data

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= fs =

John Banks – escaping justice (Part Rua)

14 September 2012 19 comments

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking John Banks

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Continued from: John Banks – escaping justice

Following on from the police decision on 26 July not to prosecute John Banks for submitting an allegedly fraudulent Electoral Return, containing incorrect details of donors, this blogger emailed the Prime Minister on this issue,

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From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
To: John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    Chris Hipkins <chris.hipkins@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>,
    Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    David Shearer <david.shearer@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Metiria Turei <metiria.turei@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Russel Norman <Russel.Norman@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>,
    TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
    The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
    Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
    Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>,
    Winston Peters <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>
Subject: Corrupt practices under the Local Electoral Act (2001)
Date: Saturday, 28 July 2012 6:57 PM

Rt Hon. John Key
Prime Minister
Parliament House
Wellington

28 July 2012
 

Sir,

With regards to matters raised by TV3′s John Campbell, Trevor Mallard, and others, surrounding John Banks; his 2010 Electoral Return; and subsequent Police investigation, I invite you to read and consider questions and comments made on my blogpost, “John Banks – escaping justice“.

You will note that I have raised several questions regarding this matter, and have written to  Police Asst Commissioner,  Malcolm Burgess, for clarification and answers to issues that I regard as important.

I have also contacted Transparency International, a global NGO that rates countries according to levels of corruption within their society. Last year, New Zealand ranked #1 on a  Corruption Transparency Index 2011. Following the John Banks Donations Affair, I have invited Transparency Internation to review our top ranking, in terms of least corrupt nation on Earth.

Far from being a “closed matter”, I believe this issue is of vital importance – especially since it appears that many of Kim Dotcom’s allegations against John Banks have been substantiated.

The question that I am asking; will you remove John Banks from his Ministerial roles?

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger,
Frankly Speaking

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No reply (or even acknowledgement) received as yet, by14 September.

An acknowledgement was, however, received from Winston Peters’ office.

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Update

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Since the Police decision, the files on this case have been released to the public and the revelations are shocking to put it mildly.

What the police have uncovered is corrupt behaviour, lying, manipulation of the law, and a Crown Minister who has escaped prosecution on the flimsiest of technicalities.

What the Police files reveal:

  • Banks received three additional “anonymous” $25,ooo donations for his mayoral campaigns. (See: Police file: How Banks’ team targeted rich-list  ) 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?
  • The Police state that  although Banks had filed a false election return, “he hadn’t done so deliberately, because he had signed it without reading it“. Really?! Is that the new standard set in New Zealand where people can sign documents and escape liability by simply claiming “I didn’t read it”?! (Can I use that with my bank manager to stop paying my mortgage, because “I didn’t read my  mortgage agreement with my bank?”. Won’t she be pleased!)
  • Skycity received a receipt from Bank’s Campaign Treasurer for their $15,000 donation. That donation was later listed as ‘anonymous’.  (By contrast, Len Brown – who also received a $15,000 donation from Skycity – openly and correctly recorded the source of that donation on his Electoral return.) How could Banks’ Treasurer then knowingly record that Skycity donation as “anonymous”?!
  • Banks twice phoned Dotcom to thank him for the donation – the same donation he could not remember when first challenged by the media.
  • John 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.” (See: John Banks told lawyer of support by Dotcom )
  • Banks is now trying to hide his statement to the Police, despite his oft-repeatred mantra, “Nothing to fear, nothing to hide”. Banks is most certainly doing his utmost to hide his statement he made to the police. See: “Banks camp’s stories differ“. What is Banks trying to hide from the Public? What more is there that would damn John Banks in the eyes of the public? What indeed.

Further  playing the role of the scoundrel and rogue, Banks then has the temerity to blame others for his mendacity. Through a spokeswoman (because Banks hasn’t the intestinal fortitude to front directly to the media), he released this statement,

A spokeswoman for the minister said he had always stated he signed the electoral return in good faith believing it to be true and correct. “He has always believed he acted within the law.”

She said the law – passed by Labour 11 years ago and tightened yesterday – was “unclear, unfair and unworkable”.

“Mr Banks believes that no candidate for public office should have to go through what he has been through.”

Unbelievable!!

Banks says “He has always believed he acted within the law” ?!?!

By advising a political donor to hide his donation by splitting it in two?

Banks then attempts to blame the Labour Party by suggesting that the law was “unclear, unfair and unworkable” ?!?!

The law is actually quite clear and specific:

”  109 Return of electoral expenses

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

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

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

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

    • (i) the amount of that donation; and

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

(2) Every return under subsection (1) must be in the form prescribed in Schedule 2 or to similar effect.

(3) If the candidate is outside New Zealand on the day on which the successful candidates are declared to be elected, the return must be transmitted by the candidate to the electoral officer within 21 days after the date of the candidate’s return to New Zealand.

(4) It is the duty of every electoral officer to ensure that this section is complied with. “

Source: Local Electoral Act 2001

The law is actually quite clear and specific: donations and donors are to be truthfully recorded:  “the name and address of each person who made an electoral donation to the candidate and the amount of each electoral donation; and…

It was not the law at fault – it was the person who conspired to defeat that law who is at fault here. If a person like John Banks is not preprared to follow the law – both in letter and spirit – then no amount of “tightening” legislation will work. People like Banks will simply find new ways to circumvent the intent of legislation.

It is therefore a bit rich for Banks to say,

As Charles Dickens said in 1838 the law is an ass – and it’s important that the Government cleans it up. No candidate for public office should go through what I had to go through.”

See: Banks welcomes changes to ‘unfair’ donations law

The law is not an “ass”. The real  ass is a certain MP for Epsom who treats the law like a minor irrirant, to be brushed aside at will.

Banks would not have gone  “through what [he] had to go through” had he simply followed  the law. It wasn’t “rocket science”.

Banks is also blaming Police for not releasing the record of  his three-hour interview with the Police, saying that it was their decision. This is another lie from the Member for Epsom.

As with all lies, they eventually collapse under their complexity, as happened when Banks’ press secretary let slip that he had indeed “gone over” his Electoral Return with his Campaign Treasurer, before signing it,

Mr Banks is likely to face further questions after his press secretary removed his line of defence against the accusations.

Police said they could not prove that he knew the content of the form was false because it was filled out by the campaign treasurer, who assured Mr Banks it was “true and correct”. Mr Banks then signed it.

Ms Mackey yesterday challenged descriptions of this as saying Mr Banks signed the form without reading it. In an email, she said: “But John Banks did read the document.”

Police had already established Mr Banks knew who some anonymous donors were. Ms Mackey’s statement meant he would have known the donation form did not include donors of whom he was personally aware.

She then back-pedalled, saying the treasurer had “gone over” the form with Mr Banks.

See: Banks camp’s stories differ

This  is not the first time that the  Banks/ACT camp has slipped up and  issued a conflicting statement,

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On the following day, another ACT member dropped an even bigger ‘clanger‘.

On 2 May,  ACT Party President, Chris Simmons, was interviewed on Radio New Zealand’s “Checkpoint” programme by Mary Wilson. (Note: This blogger personally heard this interview.)

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ACT Party President Chris Simmons

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Simmons stated that the suggestion, by John Banks,  to split 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.”

With that extraordinary slip-of-the-tongue, Simmons had publicly admitted what Kim Dotcom had been alleging, and what John Banks had been consistently andf strenuously denying.

Simons retracted within the hour, according to the “NZ Herald“.

See: Act Party president flip flops on money

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So it appears that Simmons was right the first time; John Banks had indeed suggested to Dotcom to split the $50,000 donation. When Simmons retracted that statement less than an hour later, that is when he lied when he said,

I can’t say that because I don’t know that and John hasn’t told me that. I haven’t asked John that. What John has told me is he spoke to a lot of people asking for donations. He has told me [he] spoke to Dotcom but I haven’t gone into the details of it. All I’m interested in [is] was that donation report above board. He’s been very clear he has nothing to fear and nothing to hide.”

See: Act Party president flip flops on money

How many people have been drawn into Banks’ web of lies? How many more will  lie for him?

It should be abundantly clear to any but the most partisan National/ACT supporter that John Banks has the moral compass of a Nigerian scammer. It is therefore unacceptable that, when challenged, Dear Leader John Key reaffirms his support for Banks,

 “Nothing has changed when it comes to (our earlier) position. I haven’t read the full (police) report, I’ve seen what’s in the media … Look, this is a politically motivated attack from Labour and really where they should have put their political energy is changing the law. It is very, very broad, unworkable law and that’s why the Government is changing it now.”

John Key was then asked if he still maintained confidence in Banks, and replied,

Yes absolutely.”

See: PM stands by John Banks

Two points;

1. The law currently states that ” if an electoral donation of money or of the equivalent of money is made to the candidate anonymously and the amount of that donation exceeds $1,000…

National is planning to change the Act by raising the limit to $1,500. How that would have prevented Banks from rorting the Electoral Act is unclear to this blogger.

2. When NZ First Leader, Winston Peters was embroiled in the Owen Glenn donations scandal, John Key was very adamant what he expected from then-Prime Minister, Helen Clark,

”  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

Indeed.

Your call, Mr Key.

Addendum

A link to this blogpost has been emailed to media, political parties, as well as John Key and John Banks. Why not? Nothing to fear, nothing to hide…

Continued at:

John Banks – escaping justice (Part Toru)

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Related blogpost

Key on Banks; Staunch, stupid, or stuck?

Additional

Local Electoral Act 2001

Summary Proceedings Act 1957, Section 14

Police statement: Outcome of Police investigation into electoral returns of Hon John Banks

Police Complaint File No: 120427/9334

Listen to Mary Wilson’s interview with Malcolm Burgess (26 July 2012)

Call to sack Banks after more donations details released (13 September 2012)

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= fs =

John Banks – escaping justice

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John Banks

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Once upon a time, the people of a tiny little nation at the bottom of the world believed that their country lived by laws that applied to everyone. The system was simple; irrespective of who you were and how wealthy or poor you were; regardless of whether you were powerful or powerless, the law applied to all equally.

How naive we were.

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1. Background

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(Blogger’s note: This section deal with bachground events leading up to the recent Police investigation and decision regarding John Bank’s donations scandal. For those who are aware of the facts, you may wish to “cut to the chase” and scroll down to Section 2,  Police Decision. )

The donations saga began in April of this year, when revelations surfaced that John Banks, MP for Epsom, and a Minister in  John Key’s National-led government, was accused of hiding the names of donors in his Electoral Donations return. Instead of listing each donor by name, they were referred to as “anonymous”.

The donations were made toward his unsuccessful bid  for the 2010 Mayoral election.

In all, Banks recieved donations of,

All were listed as “anonymous”, despite John Banks being fully aware of the donor’s identity.

The saga began on 5 April with this revelation,

ACT MP John Banks failed to declare a $15,000 donation from SkyCity in his return for Auckland’s mayoral election, it has been claimed in Parliament.

Labour’s deputy leader, Grant Robertson, said SkyCity had publicly stated it gave $15,000 donations to Len Brown, who is now the city’s mayor, and Mr Banks, who was the main challenger.

“John Banks failed to declare a $15,000 donation from SkyCity in his electoral return,” Mr Robertson said, speaking under parliamentary privilege.

“SkyCity publicly stated they had given $15,000 to both the main candidates and that they have a policy of asking those who get donations to declare it.

“That donation does not appear in his return”. “

Whilst Banks did not declare the $15,000 donation from Skycity, his political rival, Len Brown did,

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

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

See: Banks did not reveal SkyCity as big donor

On 15 April, Kim Dotcom held a birthday party at his Coatsville mansion in Auckland. John Banks and his wife were invited to attend,

” … Mr Banks said he hardly knew the internet tycoon.

He said his contact with Dotcom was limited to a total of 20 minutes conversation and he had been to Dotcom’s mansion in Coatesville only once for dinner.

But film of the event – Dotcom’s birthday party – showed Mr Banks making a toast to the tycoon.

Footage showed Mr Banks raising a glass and saying, “I’m going to propose a toast to Kim Dotcom. Please fill your glasses and stand. Happy birthday and best wishes to Kim Dotcom, Mona and his family.”

Staff at the mansion said it was one of three visits. The pair also met at Princes Wharf on New Year’s Eve 2010 when Dotcom put on a $600,000 fireworks display.

The pair first met in April 2010 when Dotcom sent his helicopter to collect Mr Banks from Mechanics Bay in downtown Auckland.

Dotcom said the pair met in the mansion, sitting at a large square table, and chatted.

Bodyguard Wayne Tempero was present, as was one of Dotcom’s butlers. His company chief financial officer also attended briefly.

“He mentioned the elections were coming up [and] he was raising money for his campaign,” Dotcom said. “He said it was hard to raise money in New Zealand, the mayoral campaign was coming up and he’s trying to raise funds for that.

“I kind of liked the guy. I said, ‘I’m happy to help.’ I told Wayne to write a cheque for $50,000.

“His [Mr Banks’] eyes got a little bit bigger at that moment.”

Mr Tempero asked the chief financial officer to come into the room to write the cheque.

“John said, ‘Wait a minute’,” Dotcom recalled last night. “‘It would be good if you could split it up into two payments of 25 [thousand dollars], then I don’t declare publicly who made it’.”

Dotcom said one cheque was made out in his own name, or the name of his company Megastuff Ltd, and the other in Mr Tempero’s name.

“He [Mr Banks] called me a few days after the cheques entered his bank account and he thanked me personally.”

Last night, Mr Banks said there would be nothing wrong with his telling people how to give anonymously.

“If someone says to me, ‘How can I put money into your campaign?’ what would be wrong with telling them that – if that was that case?

“I could say, ‘Firstly, you should talk to people who are raising money for me. But if you want to put money into my campaign, you can put it in two ways. You can put it in anonymously or you can put it in and have it declared.’ It’s quite legitimate.

See: Dotcom’s secret donation to Banks

Note that John Banks claimed “he hardly knew the internet tycoon“. As events progressed, it became abundantly clear that Banks had lied, and his relationship with Dorcom was more than  ” limited to a total of 20 minutes conversation”.

Then on 27 April, TV3’s John Campbell discovered another donor to Banks’ election campaign who had been listed as “anonymous” in their electoral donations return;  Kim Dotcom,

Kim Dotcom is the latest person to have been found to have allegedly donated money anonymously to John Banks.

It is already known that in the race to be super city mayor, Sky City donated $15,000 each to the two front runners.

Len Brown listed Sky City as a donor but Mr Banks did not.

Campbell Live was interested in that because we had heard Kim Dotcom had made a donation three times that size to the John Banks mayoralty campaign.

Campbell Live has even been told Mr Banks was so grateful that he called Dotcom to thank him for it.

An investigation found that like the Sky City donation, the Dotcom donation appears to be listed as anonymous.

The question is why? 

When Campbell pressed Banks as to whether he had received donations from Dotcom or how well he knew the German entrepreneur, or having flown to his mansion in a helicopter, John Banks mental condition appears to have suddenly deteriorated with a sudden onset of Alzheimers,

Kim Dotcom says the birthday party was not the only occasion Mr Banks visited, saying he once sent his helicopter into Auckland to collect Mr Banks from the central city landing strip at Mechanic’s Bay, and fly him out to the Dotcom Mansion.

But Mr Banks does not remember whether that happened or not.

“I don’t remember that,” Mr Banks says.

When pressed on whether or not he had ever taken a helicopter to the Dotcom mansion, Mr Banks remained vague.

“I can’t recall whether I did or not,” he says.

Dotcom says Mr Banks gratefully accepted his offer, but Dotcom also says Mr Banks asked for the donation to be split into two payments of $25,000 each.

Mr Banks says he does not remember who gave him money.

“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,” says Mr Banks.

He also says he could not remember discussing money with Dotcom and his team.

“Well I met with them, I know them, but I can’t recall discussing money with them”. “

Banks added his by-now famous line,

I welcome this enquiry by the electoral officer, no problems, nothing to hide, nothing to fear.”

See:   Banks knew about ‘anonymous’ Dotcom donation – reports

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According to John Campbell, there were no donations from Kim Dotcom listed on Banks’ Electoral returns – but there were five anonmymous donations of $25,000.

See: Banks questioned over Dotcom donation

Why was Kim Dotcom’s $50,000 donation not listed on Banks’ Return? Here’s why,

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

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

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

See: Dotcom’s secret donation to Banks

Because two $25,000 donations could be listed as “anonymous” under the Electoral Act?

On the same day, the matter of Skycity’s donation was reported to the police for investigation, via the Electoral Commission. The complaint was raised by Labour MP, Trevor Mallard,

Electoral officer Bruce Thomas in responding to Mr Mallard today noted that under section 138 of the Local Electoral Act 2001, he was required to report to the police any written complaint alleging an offence had been committed.

“Accordingly, I advise that I am referring this matter onto the police for their attention”. “

See: Banks’ SkyCity donation complaint referred to police

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On the 29th of April, Banks was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A current affairs programme.

PAUL  HOLMES           
Mr Parker, I would ask you to sit there for a little while, because, Mr Banks, other matters have reared their head over the last couple of days, and David Shearer, the Labour leader, is demanding of the Prime Minister that he stand you down over the Kim Dotcom donation affair. Should he, or shouldn’t you stand yourself down?

JOHN  BANKS        
This is the problem – it’s a sideshow; it’s mostly a media beat-up, and much of it is humbug.

PAUL            
No, dammit, it’s about the law, Mr Banks.

JOHN            
Yes, well, have a look at the 2001 act and you’ll see what a professor of law said this morning in the Sunday Herald. Yesterday the media had me going to jail. Today they’re saying I’m likely to be in the clear. That is the problem. Last week I was the sideshow. Next week Mr Shearer will be the sideshow because Mr Shearer’s going to be rolled in the next couple of weeks. That’s the problem.

PAUL            
Can I just have a look at some of what’s emerged? You were up at Kim Dotcom’s, and did you know he was giving you the money? Did you know he was writing out a cheque or getting his man to write a cheque?

JOHN            
Look, we’re here to talk about investment, growth and jobs…

PAUL            
Well, I’m sorry, Mr Banks, this has taken precedence.

JOHN            
Let me answer your question. All this has been narrated mainly on the front page of the local newspaper here and across the media…

PAUL            
Well, I’m giving you the chance to debate it with us here, so answer the question. Were you there when the cheques came out? Did you know he was giving you the money?

JOHN            
I don’t…

PAUL            
Did he mention $50,000?

JOHN            
Why don’t you…

PAUL            
Were you there when they started writing a cheque?

JOHN            
(LAUGHS)

PAUL            
Did you ask for it to be two cheques because you could make it anonymous? And if you were there and you declared that donation anonymous, you’re dead meat, aren’t you, because that was illegal.

JOHN            
I think you think I came up the river on a cabbage boat. I can tell you that when I signed my declaration for the mayoralty I signed it in good faith in the knowledge as a Justice of the Peace as true and correct. I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide and I welcome the inquiry and everything will come out in the wash, Mr Holmes. I’m more invested in the real issues of investment growth and jobs and providing working opportunities for 80,000 of our kids that are out of school and out of luck.

PAUL            
But are you saying – because it is illegal, you know, don’t you, that if you know where a donation came from, to claim it was anonymous. So is what Mr Dotcom is saying about – your eyes perked up, your eyes went big at the mention of 50 grand. And so the fella gets the chequebook out and you’re sitting there and he writes a cheque. I mean, are you saying that he’s lying? Because that’s what he’s saying.

JOHN            
I don’t know why you’re going on about this. I have nothing to hide.

PAUL            
Is he lying?

JOHN            
It’s a media beat-up. Yesterday I was going to jail. Today I’m going to be cleared. I mean, that’s what the media get up to, and you’re beating it up again. Look, we’ve got an inquiry…

PAUL            
Mr Banks.

JOHN            
I’m very happy to have the inquiry. (CHUCKLES)

PAUL            
Did you know Kim Dotcom had written you two cheques for 50 grand, and did you therefore put them in your return as two lots of 25, anonymous? Yes or no?

JOHN            
I signed my return honestly. I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear and it will all come…

PAUL            
Did you know Mr Dotcom was throwing 50 grand at you?

JOHN            
…out in the wash. And I want to talk this morning about our competition with Australia for investment and jobs and getting the government off our backs and out of our pockets and providing an economic environment where we can create wealth for our country. “

Paul Holmes’ closing comment in that interview,

Thank you. We have to leave it there. And I can’t believe you can’t remember whether you went in a helicopter or not.”

See: Q+A: Transcript of David Parker and John Banks interview

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On the same day (29th), Prime Minister John Key issued a public statement supporting John Banks,

I’ve sought an assurance from Mr Banks that he complied with local government law. He’s given me that assurance. I accept him at his word. If people don’t believe that they are free to test that with the police. “

Whether or not Key’s statement is factually correct is open to interpretation, as the Prime Minister later acknowledged that he had not spoken directly with Banks.

Key rejected calls to stand Banks  down, even whilst Police were investigating the Minister.

See: PM standing by under fire Banks

On the following day, 30 April, the media reported more information backing up Kim Dotcom’s claims,

Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom’s records will show ACT MP John Banks made a phone call to say thanks for two $25,000 donations, it’s been reported…

… Mr Banks says he’s done nothing wrong, didn’t know Dotcom made the donations and didn’t phone him to thank him for them.

3News reports Mr Banks met Dotcom in June 2010 and a few days later two $25,000 cheques were banked in Queenstown into Mr Banks’ mayoral fund.

They were made out to Team Banks.

“Our source says Banks rang Dotcom two days later. The source says `Kim’s records will show this’,” 3News reports…

…Mr Banks won’t answer questions other than to say he didn’t call Dotcom about the donations. “

See:  Dotcom says Banks thanked him for cheques

Labour MP Trevor Mallard stated he was prepared to lay a Police complaint John Banks’ failure to properly disclose  Kim Dotcom’s donation, adding to his previous complaint regarding Skycity’s $15,000 donation to Banks, and which also had not been properly disclosed on his Electoral Donation Returns.

Dotcom gave further details how the $50,000 donation to Banks had been made,

Dotcom has said one of the two cheques paid to Mr Banks was made out in his own name, or the name of his company, Megastuff. The other was in the name of his bodyguard, Wayne Tempero.

The Herald last night spoke to a former Dotcom employee, who said they had personally deposited the cheques into Mr Banks’ campaign account.

The former employee said, “They were deposited just through a normal bank process. It would have just come up as a $25,000 deposit.”

… Dotcom says Mr Banks rang him to thank him for the money after it was paid. “

See: Banks’ funds: Dotcom checks books

John Banks, in turn, denied that he had phoned Kim Dotcom to thank him for any donations,

John Banks says he never called German billionaire Kim Dotcom to thank him for a $50,000 donation to his 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign…

… Banks has previously said he did not recall whether he made the phone call, but now says he never did. However he did have contact with Dotcom about “other matters“. “

See: Banks denies calling Dotcom over donation

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By 1 May, the pressure and mounting evidence had forced John Banks into a corner. Every allegation made by Kim Dotcom had been documented with evidence,  witnesses, and even a video of his relationship with Banks.

Meanwhile, Banks had nothing but constant protests of  “I can’t remember”.

“… Mr Banks denied misleading the public about the donations and events around them, including a helicopter ride to Dotcom’s mansion which he has said he cannot remember.

“I didn’t lie. There’s no reason to believe that I lied. I simply couldn’t recall“. “

See: Banks: I didn’t lie, I simply forgot

Who forgets a helicopter ride? Especially a flight to one of the largest mansions in Auckland?!

Which, of course, begs the question as to why a person with such “deteriorating memory” holds a Ministerial Warrant and position of authority  in  government. Most people with such a poor  mental condition would be on extended sick leave. Or in a medical facility receiving appropriate care.

Banks finally admitted that he had not been upfront with the public,

”  He specifically referred to an interview which aired Monday on Campbell Live, in which he repeatedly said he “couldn’t remember” his communications with Kim Dotcom.

But Mr Banks says the answers he gave on the programme were wrong and admits he was not telling the truth.

“I could have quite easily answered all of those questions up front, contrary to the legal advice.

“I have never had any problem answering questions in a very straight manner…that is why the public will be surprised I took the legal advice literally, not to jeopardise any inquiry,” he says.

Mr Banks still backs his legal standing over the declaration of donations, repeating he has “nothing to fear and nothing to hide”.

“There could be a public perception that I have been obfuscating around some of these things. I shouldn’t have taken that legal advice and I should have answered questions much more straight”.

See: Banks ‘regrets’ legal advice to stay silent

See: What the documents say about Dotcom’s donation (video)

Which is interesting, as one wonders how John Banks could have had the time to contact his lawyer prior to his interview with John Campbell, to seek legal advice?

And why would “his lawyer tell him to keep his lips sealed on the matter”?

Generally, lawyers only give such advice only if a person is being interviewed by Police or have been charged  with an offence.

It seems bizarre to understand why a lawyer would offer such advice. After all, Banks was not a  suspect in any criminal case. And any suggestion that a lawyer would give such advice so as ” not to jeopardise any inquiry ” seems unlikely. Remember that the Skycity issue had not been in the public domain until John Campbells first interviewed Banks  for the TV3 story; Banks accused of failing to declare donation.

So Banks was forced to admit that he had been – in his own words – “obfuscating “. But then offered  a weak excuse that he had “advised by his lawyer” not to answer questions.

Does this seem even vaguely plausible?

Even Wellington’s daily newspaper, ‘The Dominion Post‘ found Banks’ explanation unconvincing. On 2 May, their front page demanded answers to five, specific  questions,

1. Have you actually read the Local Electoral Act?

2. Did you tell Kim Dotcom to split a $50,000 donation into two cheques?

3. What did Kim Dotcom want in return for his donation?

4. You admit advocating for him – when, to who, and on what subjects?

5. Did you give the prime minister the same untrue explanations you’ve given the media?

The same article went on to state,

Mr Key has insisted that he would sack Mr Banks if it turned out the MP had not told him the truth – but apparently that test applies only to questions the prime minister and his office put to Mr Banks directly, not the answers he gave to the media and the public.

And, as it turns out, Mr Key’s office has never actually asked Mr Banks the questions that might put the prime minister in the awkward position of knowing whether the former Auckland mayor broke the spirit, if not the letter, of the law over anonymous donations to his mayoral campaign fund in 2010 – questions such as do you know what “anonymous” means, did you tell Dotcom to divide a $50,000 donation into two cheques, what did Dotcom want from you in return, and why was it so important for you to have these donations treated anonymously, even when the donors clearly weren’t fussed?

Two further revelations were made public;

Firstly, it transpired that John Key hadn’t spoken directly to Banks. Instead the ACT leader had given ”an absolute and categorical assurance to my office”  (to Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson?) that he acted within the Local Electoral Act 2001.

It seems inexplicable that since the story first broke on 5 April, the Prime Minister had not pulled Banks into his office and spoken directly with him to gain a “categorical assurance”  that he had complied with the law.

Instead, the Prime Minister had left this extremely serious matter to a staffer.

Which, in itself, is incredible, as John Key’s Coalition rests on a precarious one-seat majority. If Banks were to mis-calculate and be forced to resign, Key’s government would fall and be forced to hold an early election.

The only conclusion one can draw from Key’s decision not to confront Banks directly is that he wanted to keep his Minister at “arms length” from himself.  In the world of Political Theatre, this is known as “plausible deniability“.

Or, more realistically, Key  lied and he had met, secretly, with Banks.

A second matter arose on this day, and Banks admitted that he had lobbied another Minister on behalf of Kim Dotcom,

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson this morning confirmed Banks had called him in mid 2011 on behalf of Dotcom, who was applying through the Overseas Investment Office to buy his Coatesville mansion.

Bank said this afternoon he spoke to Williamson about two times, largely about procedural matters because Dotcom’s application was taking a long time to process.

“I rang Maurice Williamson about it, I wasn’t the Mayor of Auckland, I wasn’t a Member of Parliament, I was a private citizen and I made the phone call and I’d do it again.”

“I said to Mr Dotcom I would give him advice on that and I did“.”

See: Five questions Banks must answer

Williamson’s involvement on this issue became murkier, as  claims and denials began to swirl around those involved,

Documents released under the Official Information Act show Dotcom wanted to buy the $30 million mansion he was renting in in Coatesville, its $5 million neighbouring “cottage” and a $10 million beach house at Doubtless Bay in Northland.

The application to buy the properties went to Mr Williamson, who gave formal approval on April 7 last year.

Dotcom’s bodyguard, Wayne Tempero, said he took a call from Mr Banks about the application. The call was to let Dotcom know the application was going ahead as expected and that Mr Williamson had signed it.

Dotcom said Mr Tempero briefed him on the conversation.

Last night, Mr Banks confirmed he had updated Dotcom’s staff about the application to buy the land.

A spokesman said: “Mr Banks communicated with Mr Tempero that the OIO application was continuing to progress through the approval process.”

But a spokeswoman for Mr Williamson said he had given no information to anyone outside his office over giving approval to allow Dotcom to buy the land.  “

See: John Banks: I briefed Dotcom

At this point, Prime Minister John Key must have been dreading that another of his Ministers (Maurice Williamson) was being slowly dragged into this mess.

But Key did himself no favours when he attempted to justify John Banks’ constantly-changing story, by suggesting,

Well, there’s quite a wide definition of ethics.”

When even the National Business Review –  the most business-friendly; National-friendly; and ACT-friendly newspaper states,

It was hardly the most ringing of endorsements.

– then you know you’re in trouble.

See: Prime minister defends embattled John Banks

In the same article, Banks was reported to have stated,

I was not aware that Mr Dotcom had made this donation to my campaign. I did not call him to thank him as the donation was made anonymously.

I can confirm that I had contact with Mr Dotcom on other matters, including thanking him for the generous $500,000 donation that he made to the ratepayers of Auckland for the 2010 New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

However, I never called and thanked him for any donation to my mayoral campaign.”

See: Prime minister defends embattled John Banks

Which is “an interesting proposition” (to borrow one of the Prime Minister’s phrases), considering the dates involved;

  1. Kim Dotcom states that Banks’  request for a donation was made on  15 April 2010, when Mr Banks was preparing to campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.  (See: Banks sought split donation – Dotcom)
  2. The 2010 Local Body elections were held, via postal ballot from 17 September to  Saturday 9 October 2010. (See: Frequently asked questions – 2010 local elections)
  3. Kim Dotcom wrote out two cheques, for $25,000 each, on 9 June 2010, and both were deposited into “Team Banksie’s” account. (See: What the documents say about Dotcom’s donation )
  4. Kim Dotcom says that John Banks phoned him two days later ( 11 June)  to thank him for the donation(s). (See: Dotcom says Banks thanked him for cheques)
  5. John Banks states that he ” had contact with Mr Dotcom on other matters, including thanking him for the generous $500,000 donation that he made to the ratepayers of Auckland for the 2010 New Year’s Eve fireworks display “.
  6. So John Banks is saying that he phoned Kim Dotcom, on 11 June, to thank him for a fireworks display, that was six months away? What part of that sounds even remotely plausible?  One would  think that Banks had more on his mind – his mayoralty campaign for example – than a fireworks display that was half a year away.

John Banks’ assertion that he phoned Kim Dotcom to thank for for an event that was six months away is not credible and obviously Banks lied regarding his reason for phoning Dotcom.

On the following day, another ACT member dropped an even bigger ‘clanger‘.

On 2 May,  ACT Party President, Chris Simmons, was interviewed on Radio New Zealand’as “Checkpoint” programme by Mary Wilson. (Note: This blogger personally heard this interview.)

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Act Party president Chris Simmons

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Simmons stated that the suggestion, by John Banks,  to split 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.”

With that extraordinary slip-of-the-tongue, Simmons had publicly admitted what Kim Dotcom had been alleging, and what John Banks had been consistently andf strenuously denying.

Simons retracted within the hour, according to the “NZ Herald“.

See: Act Party president flip flops on money

A  day later, on 3 May, a third allegation of a supposedly “anonymous” donation surfaced,

”  Questions were raised yesterday about a $15,000 gift of “radio advertising” to his 2010 mayoralty campaign. Police are investigating other donations to his failed campaign.

Mr Banks admitted yesterday he got a discounted deal at internet mogul Kim Dotcom’s favourite Hong Kong hotel, after initially denying he got cheap rates for the Christmas holiday.

Prime Minister John Key continued to back Mr Banks, but still has not talked to his embattled minister outside Cabinet.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard said it would be “absolutely weird” that $15,690 worth of radio advertisements could be donated anonymously, especially as they must be approved by a candidate, or his or her nominee.

“If it pretends to be anonymous and it’s not, then that is a breach of a law”. 

See: Campaign advertising gift in spotlight

Not only was this allegation of yet another “anonymous donation” further indication that Banks was not complying with the Local Electoral Act – but Prime Minister John Key had still not spoken directly with his Minister.

One wonders what was preventing Key with meeting with Banks?

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Or if he had met, why was it being kept secret?

On 16 May, further revelations appeared in the media, suggesting that there had been a greater degree of familiarity between John Banks and Kim Dotcom than Banks had previously admitted,

ACT leader John Banks has admitted he received a $1000 gift basket from internet tycoon Kim Dotcom, which should have been declared under parliamentary rules.

Banks, the lone ACT MP in government, received the basket during a stay at the Grant Hyatt hotel in Hong Kong during 2011, according to a New Zealand Herald story today.

In reply, he sent Dotcom a note thanking him for his hospitality, saying he enjoyed his stay.

Cabinet rules require members of Parliament to disclose to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests any gift accepted worth more than $500. This declaration includes hospitality and donations in cash or kind.

See:  Banks admits receiving gift from Kim Dotcom

Remember that on 15 April, Banks said “he hardly knew the internet tycoon”.

By 5 July, Police had completed their investigation,

See: Police investigation into Banks’ mayoral campaign completed

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2. Police Decision

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On 26 July, nearly four months after the story broke on ‘Campbell Live’ on 5 April, the police arrived at a decision: they would not be prosecuting,

Police investigated complaints in respect to donations from Sky City and the internet millionaire Kim Dotcom and the donation of radio advertising from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

They say they have established that he solicited the donations that a campaign volunteer subsequently recorded in his electoral return as anonymous, but that he sought and received confirmation the returns were accurate before he signed them off.

In a letter to Mr Mallard, police say there is insufficient evidence on any of the three complaints to prosecute on the basis that the return was submitted knowing it was false.

Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess told Checkpoint the volunteer who compiled the return followed an appropriate procedure. He says the volunteer told Mr Banks the return was recorded correctly, and Mr Banks acted within the law in signing it off.

Listen to Mary Wilson’s interview with Police Asst Commissioner Malcolm Burgess

See: Labour says Banks should still be stood down

Prime Minister John Key was quick to leap to John Banks defence as Labour leader David Shearer and Greens co-Leader Metiria Turei called for Banks to be stood down.  In an extraordinary attempt to trivialise the scandal, Key  described  the complaints laid against Banks as “politically motivated”, and said,

The issue is whether the minister complied with the law. The police have effectively confirmed today that he has.”

See: Opposition calls for Key to dump Banks

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Once again, John Key has mis-represented the actual Police decision to the point where it is now the Prime Minister who could be accused of not telling the truth.

In fact, far from confirming that John Banks “complied with the law“, the Police report was damning,

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See: Police Complaint File No: 120427/9334

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3. Questions & Conclusions & Questions

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Note the following for each donor;

Skycity

Skycity handed a cheque ($15,000 in cash would be difficult to fit into an envelope) to John Banks. Any such cheque would have had “Skycity” or it’s holding company’s name stamped on it.

Why was it still recorded as “anonymous”?

Was the “Treasurer” for “Team Banksie” given instructions to list the Skycity donation as anonymous? Or did s/he make their own decision to do so?

When cheques are deposited in banks, relevant details are usually recorded on a  Banking Supplementary Deposit form, which lists,

  • name of cheque issuer
  • issuing bank
  • issuing Bank branch
  • amount to be paid

A carbon-copy of this Banking Supplementary Deposit form is usually retained within the Deposit book.

Why were the details in the Banking Supplementary Deposit book not used to record who deposited which cheque?

Did the Police ask these relevant questions and did they sight “Team Banksies” Banking Supplementary Deposit book?

John Banks’ mayoral opponant, Len Brown, was able to correctly list “Skycity” as the donor of a similar $15,000 cheque to Brown’s campaign Team. Why was John Banks unable to follow suit?

Anonymous Radio Ads

$15,690 worth of radio advertising was recorded as “Anonymous”  in the Electoral Return, by “Team Banksie’s” Treasurer.

How is it feasible that the Treasurer was unaware of who provided funding for radio advertisements?

Was the Treasurer not part of “Team Banksie’s” Campaign Committee?

Were  publicity and advertising strategies not discussed at “Team Banksie’s” Campaign Committee meetings?

How could publicity and advertising strategies be discussed at “Team Banksie’s” Campaign Committee meetings – without setting a budget for advertising, and to which the Campaign’s Treasurer would have had in-put into relevant discussions?

Did the Police ask these questions from John Banks; his Campaign Manager; and the Treasurer?

Kim Dotcom

Police confirmed Kim Dotcom’s allegations,

  1. Banks solicited a donation from Kim Dotcom
  2. A $50,000 donation was made, split in two lots of $25,000 each
  3. The donation(s) were recorded as anonymous

The questions that Police do not address in their letter to Trevor Mallard  are,

A. Why was the $50,000 donation split in two?

B. Did they not think this was odd?

C. Did “Team Banksie’s” Treasurer at any time enquire from John Banks where those three donations had originated from?

D. Did Police ask John Banks if he phoned Kim Dotcom to thank him for the donation(s)?

E. Did Police take sworn statements from Dotcom’s witnesses?

F. Did Police ask John Banks if he (Banks) enquired from “Team Banksie’s” Treasurer why Kim Dotcom’s donation was not listed on the Electoral Returns statement? (Considering that John Banks was expecting a donation from Kim Dotcom, surely he – Banks – would have noticed the absence of Dotcom’s name?)

G. Did Police ask John Banks if he advised Kim Dotcom to split the donation in two? If not, why not?

H. Why were some donations listed as “anonymous” whilst others provided identifying details of donors? What process was used to differentiate between “anonymous” and identified donors?

None of these questions appear to have been addressed in any manner whatsoever.

See also: Listen to Mary Wilson’s interview with Malcolm Burgess

If it is true that John Banks did advise Kim Dotcom to split the $50,000 donation in two parts so as to avoid naming the donor, then, it seems inescapable that  he (Banks) has committed a prima facie offence under both parts of Section 134, namely that,

Every candidate commits an offence who transmits a return of electoral expenses knowing that it is false in any material particular, and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment  for a term not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000 and… “

Banks knew that Kim Dotcom had donated $50,000.

Banks knew that the amount was split in two lots of $25,000.

Banks knew it was done to enable the donation(s) to be listed as “anonymous”.

Banks signed the Electoral Return knowing that it was false in a material particular.

Lastly, all three donations were investigated by Police, and yet they concluded that,

Any charges for offences persuant to Section 134(2) must be laid within six months of the electoral return being supplied. Police first received this complaint for investigation on 1 May 2012, approximately 10 months after the expiry of six month operiod.  Police are therefore unable to consider charges persuant to this section.”

The relevant Act states,

134 False return
  • (1) Every candidate commits an offence who transmits a return of electoral expenses knowing that it is false in any material particular, and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000.

    (2) Every candidate commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 who transmits a return of electoral expenses that is false in any material particular unless the candidate proves—

    • (a) that he or she had no intention to mis-state or conceal the facts; and

    • (b) that he or she took all reasonable steps to ensure that the information was accurate.

See: Local Electoral Act 2001, 134, False Return

As an astute reader will notice, there is no reference to any “statute of limitations” in this section.

Therefore, this blogger can only surmise at the true reason why John Banks was not prosecuted for breaching section 134  of the Local  Electoral Act 2001.

As for John Banks stating that he was “unaware” of the contents of his Electoral Act, which he signed, the Crimes Act states quite clearly,

25 Ignorance of law
  • The fact that an offender is ignorant of the law is not an excuse for any offence committed by him.

    Compare: 1908 No 32 s 45

See: Crimes Act, Section 25

Other sections of the Crimes Act that might apply in this instance,

228 Dishonestly taking or using document

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,—

  • (a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or
  • (b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

See: Crimes Act, Section 228

242 False statement by promoter, etc

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, in respect of any body, whether incorporated or unincorporated and whether formed or intended to be formed, makes or concurs in making or publishes any false statement, whether in any prospectus, account, or otherwise, with intent—

  • (a) to induce any person, whether ascertained or not, to subscribe to any security within the meaning of the Securities Act 1978; or
  • (b) to deceive or cause loss to any person, whether ascertained or not; or
  • (c) to induce any person, whether ascertained or not, to entrust or advance any property to any other person.

(2) In this section, false statement means any statement in respect of which the person making or publishing the statement—

  • (a) knows the statement is false in a material particular; or
  • (b) is reckless as to the whether the statement is false in a material particular.

See: Crimes Act,  Section 242

The John Banks electoral donations saga illustrates the old maxim that “justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done“.

In this case, not only has justice not been done, but it has been seen that a politician has escaped prosecution on the flimsiest of technicalities. (A  “technicality” which does not even appear to exist.)

Compare John Banks with that of  ex-Labour Minister Taito Phillip Field, who was charged with 35 counts of  bribery and corruption crimes.

See: Taito Phillip Field case: Timeline

Field was subsequently convicted on eleven bribery and corruption charges and fifteen  counts of wilfully perverting the course of justice. He was  sentenced to six years’ jail.

See: Ex-minister’s trial a spectacular fall from grace

John Banks has escaped justice and will not face his accusers in Court.  However, the matter is far from “closed”.

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4. What is Past is Prologue

.

This issue demands three responses;

1. This blogger has written to Police Asst Commissioner, Malcolm Burgess, seeking answers to several questions,

.

    From:  Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
    To:  Malcolm Burgess <malcolm.burgess@police.govt.nz>
    Date:  Saturday, 28 July 2012 10:59 AM
    Subject:  File no: 120427/9334 (Complaint by Trevor Mallard, re, John Banks)

    Malcolm Burgess
    Police Asst Commissioner
    NZ Police

    28 July 2012

    Sir,

    With regards to the outcome of police investigation into Trevor  Mallard’s complaint regarding John Bank’s Electoral Return for his 2010 mayoral candidacy, could you please provide some details on this issue.

    Namely, I would appreciate your response and answers to the following questions;

    A. Why was the $50,000 donation split in two?

    B. Did Police not think this was odd?

    C. Did “Team Banksie’s” Treasurer at any time enquire from John Banks where those three donations (Skycity, radio advertising, and Kim Dotcom) had originated from?

    D. Did Police ask John Banks if he phoned Kim Dotcom to thank him for the donation(s)?

    E. Did Police take sworn statements from Dotcom’s witnesses?

    F. Did Police ask John Banks if he (Banks) enquired from “Team Banksie’s” Treasurer why Kim Dotcom’s donation was not listed on the Electoral Returns statement? (Considering that John Banks was expecting a donation from Kim Dotcom, surely he – Banks – would have noticed the absence of Dotcom’s name?)

    G. Did Police ask John Banks if he advised Kim Dotcom to split the donation in two? If not, why not?

    H. Why were some donations listed as “anonymous” whilst others provided identifying details of donors? What process was used to differentiate between “anonymous” and identified donors?

    I.   In a letter to Trevor Mallard dated 26 July 2012, and signed by Detective Superindent Peter Read, Mr Read states “Any charges for offences persuant to Section 134(2) must be laid within six months of the electoral return being supplied. Police first received this complaint for investigation on 1 May 2012, approximately 10 months after the expiry of six month operiod.  Police are therefore unable to consider charges persuant to this section.”. Can you please refer me to the section of the Local Electoral Act 2001 that refers to a six month “statute of limitations?

    For full disclosure and fairness to you, this information will be used as part of a blogpost I am currently working on, and which will be made public.

    Thank you for your time, and any light you can shed on the matters I have raised.

    Regards,
    -Frank Macskasy
    Blogger
   “Frankly Speaking

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2. This blogger then contacted Transparency.Org, an international organisation that ranks countries according to the degree of corruption within a particular society.

Last year  New Zealand ranked #1, from a list of 183 nations. North Korea and Somalia tied-equal at #182.

The question is; do we deserve to maintain our top spot?  This blogger invited Transparency International to reconsider our #1 ranking, in the light of recent events surrounding John Banks,

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From:      Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
To:            Murray Petrie <executive@transparency.org.nz>
Date:        Saturday, 28 July 2012 5:50 PM
Subject:  John Banks

Murray Petrie
NZ Chapter
Transparency International

28 July 2012

Sir,

In your organisation’s  Corruption Transparency Index 2011, New Zealand rates #1 from a list of 183 countries.

I wish to refer you to a recent matter surrounding John Banks, a Minister in New Zealand’s current government, who earlier this year was accused of   filing a fraudulent Election Donations return to the NZ Electoral Commission.

The full details are covered here, in a report which I have published on my blog: https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/john-banks-escaping-justice/. I invite you to consider the contents of my report; to pass it further through your organisation; and to reconsider whether or not New Zealand still deserves it’s #1 ranking on your Corruption Transparency Index.

It is my contention that New Zealand has fallen well short of full transparency on this issue, and that the Police complaint laid against John Banks produced a result that is highly questionable and the decision not to prosecute the person in question lacks probity.

I look forward to your response, and willingly offer any further assistance you may require in this matter.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger,
Frankly Speaking

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3. Lastly, this blogger contacted the Prime Minister, John Key, inviting his response to comments and questions raised in this blogpost,

.

From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
To: John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    Chris Hipkins <chris.hipkins@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>,
    Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    David Shearer <david.shearer@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Metiria Turei <metiria.turei@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Russel Norman <Russel.Norman@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>,
    TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
    The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
    Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
    Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>,
    Winston Peters <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>
Subject: Corrupt practices under the Local Electoral Act (2001)
Date: Saturday, 28 July 2012 6:57 PM

Rt Hon. John Key
Prime Minister
Parliament House
Wellington

28 July 2012
 

Sir,

With regards to matters raised by TV3’s John Campbell, Trevor Mallard, and others, surrounding John Banks; his 2010 Electoral Return; and subsequent Police investigation, I invite you to read and consider questions and comments made on my blogpost, “John Banks – escaping justice“.

You will note that I have raised several questions regarding this matter, and have written to  Police Asst Commissioner,  Malcolm Burgess, for clarification and answers to issues that I regard as important.

I have also contacted Transparency International, a global NGO that rates countries according to levels of corruption within their society. Last year, New Zealand ranked #1 on a  Corruption Transparency Index 2011. Following the John Banks Donations Affair, I have invited Transparency Internation to review our top ranking, in terms of least corrupt nation on Earth.

Far from being a “closed matter”, I believe this issue is of vital importance – especially since it appears that many of Kim Dotcom’s allegations against John Banks have been substantiated.

The question that I am asking; will you remove John Banks from his Ministerial roles?

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger,
Frankly Speaking

.

This issue is far from closed.

It is just the beginning.

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*

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Additional

Local Electoral Act 2001

Schedule 2 Return of electoral expenses and electoral donations (As at 2010)

Beehive: John Banks

Police statement: Outcome of Police investigation into electoral returns of Hon John Banks

Banks’ donations: No charges laid

Banks won’t be charged, police say

Transparency International Corruption Perception Index

NZ Herald: Parliament’s loose cannon

National: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government (2008)

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= fs =

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

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A contributor to The Standard blog, ‘Jenny’, made a very simple – but insightful post, detailing National’s track record in the last three and a half years,

This is a government determined to gift everything they could possibly wish to the rich and powerful, and on behalf of this greedy sector force onto the rest of New Zealanders.

More Pokies

More drilling

More fracking

More booze

More junk food

A fire sale of public assets

More pollution

More corruption

More scandal

Less sovereignity

Less civil liberty

More toadying to foreign powers

More toadying to foreign corporates

More spying snooping and videoing of New Zealand citizens

More bail-outs

More tax cuts

More job cuts

More benefit cuts

Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

See:  Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

Jenny posits the question, “Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

Try as one might, despite inane rhetoric and vague promises, no National Party MP, functionary, or groupie could possibly point to any success achieved by John Key and his colleagues.

Not . One.

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1.Economic Growth

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National’s “Master Plan” for economic growth and job creation seems to revolve around four events – none of which have been particularly successful,

  1. The rebuild of Christchurch. Despite being an opportunity to upskill 160,000 unemployed and a major boost to the economy – nothing much is happening. Instead, National is content to allow tradespeople from overseas to come into the country and carry out  the work. With few apprenticeships, we are woefully unprepared for the looming demand for tradespeople – a damning lack of planning by National and it’s naive reliance on the “free market” to provide skilled workers.
  2. The Rugby World Cup – far from being a major boost, seems to have contributed very little to our economy. In the last three months of 2011, GDP grew  just 0.3% – half  that  predicted by economists. It seems that Dr Sam Richardson’s prediction, that $700  million was a hopelessly unrealistic expectation proved to be unerringly correct.  Who is ultimately responsible for National throwing $200-plus million of our tax dollars at this exercise in outrageous extravagance? Murray McCully? Steven Joyce? John Key?
  3. The Sky City/Convention Centre deal. Our illustrious Dear Leader promised 1,800 jobs from this planned project, in return for re-writing gambling legislation and permitting Sky City to increase pokie machine and gaming tables by up to 500. Potential social fall-out surrounding increased problem gambling was casually dismissed by both John Key and Sky City’s CEO Nigel Morrison.    Unfortunately, as with most of John Key’s figures and promises, the expectation of 1,800 jobs was as fictitious as much of what he says.
  4. Asset sales. With weak growth; a stagnant economyhigh unemployment; and New Zealanders continuing to escape to Australia, National’s one (and only) trump card appears to be the partial-privatisation of five state owned corporations. As has been pointed out, ad infinitum, floating shares in these SOEs will not contribute to economic growth; nor create new jobs (in fact,  it is likely to result in redunancies, if past privatisations are any guide); nor create real wealth. It simply shuffles bits of paper (shares) around from investor-to-investor-to-investor. And if investors need to borrow to buy these shares, we are using overseas funds for speculative purposes. Which sounds suspiciously like our love-affair with speculative housing-“investments”.

As Business NZ has stated, our economic growth has been ‘unspectacular’. And that’s coming from one of National’s own business allies. (Just as Business NZ seemed somewhat unimpressed as National’s lack of planning and direction last year, just prior to the election.)

Otherwise, National’s Grand Plan can be summed up as a reliance on a “two pronged” approach to growing the economy; a hands-off “free market” approach, and tax cuts. Not only have neither worked terribly well, but these measures have been counter-productive.

Tax-cuts  gave massive increases in income to the richest 10% of New Zealanders – whilst the GST increase has made life harder for the poorest and lowest-paid in this country.

Right wing cheer-leaders who bleat on about their rich masters “working hard and deserving  increased wealth” may be aspirationists who one day hope to become one of the Master Class – but I hope they’re not holding their breath. That day will be a long time coming.

Tax cuts have also resulted in a government budget blow-out. Borrowing $380 million a week, whilst claiming that National is “not borrowing for tax cuts is credible only to National; their salivating sycophants; and low-information voters (for whom “The GC” is the height of documentary-making).

Tax cuts have also not delivered the promised boost to the economy by increasing spending and consumption. This is not surprising, as the tax cuts were given to the wrong sector of society.

High income, wealthy, asset-rich families tend to use their tax-cuts to reduce debt or spend on investments (shares, kiwisaver,  etc) that do not directly help small businesses.

Low income, poor, families spend everything. These are the the people who will buy more food to put on their tables; clothes; shoes; medication; and other consumables. These are the people that small businesses rely on on for their custom. And the retail supermarket sector is suffering a massive drop accordingly.

.

.

Middle income families continue to stuggle not to fall behind. Any tax increase they may have gained has been swallowed up by increased gst, government charges, increased user-pays, etc.

I think most people have since ‘twigged’ that National has indeed borrowed for tax cuts. And we’re having to pay back those massive borrowings by  cutting services; slashing the state sector; and selling our state assets.

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2. Asset Sales

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National’s asset sales programme has been an unmitigated disaster from Day One.

Since National first announced their decision to partially privatise Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, this issue has been opposed by the public.

National has used it’s so-called “mandate” from last year’s election to proceed with their policy, and passed enabling legislation only last Tuesday (26 June).

Any notion of a “mandate” is shaky and open to interpretation.

Whilst the National-ACT-Peter Dunne Coalition has 61 seats, and Labour, NZ First, Greens, Mana, and Maori Party have 60 seats – the number of Party votes cast tells a different story.

National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

The irony of the Conservative Party gaining more Party Votes than ACT and United Future combined – yet winning no  seats in Parliament  – will not escape most fair-minded people. Adding the Conservative’s 59,237 party votes to the anti-asset sale bloc, yields a majority of voters opposed to National’s programme.

It is only the current rules of MMP (now under review) that allows this quirk to take place.

Add to that, opinion poll after opinion poll showing  60% to 80% of respondents  opposed to asset sales, and National’s mantra that “We have a Mandate” becomes patently untenable.

A recent  NZ Herald poll, where respondents were asked to leave a comment, as well as a “Yay” or “Nay” vote yielded results that were thoroughly predictable,

For: 151

Against: 552

The National Party understands this only too well. Hence their desperate, ad hoc  schemes to bribe the public with all manner of ‘sweeteners’,

  • giving first option to buy shares  to “mum and dad” investors
  • a bribe of “loyalty” shares
  • promise of “affordable” shares  for investors

There is a considerable degree of arrogance in National’s pursuing of their asset sales, despite considerable public anger.

On 26 October last year,  Dear Leader  said,

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question. “

On 3 May, as a 5,000 person march wound it’s way through Wellington, John Key grinned to reporters and cheekily said,

How many people did they have?  Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it. So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind. “

And on 26 June, Key tried to dismiss TV3 journalist John Campbell with this demeaning insult,

No, um, and with the greatest respect to your financial literacy, you’ve proven that you don’t actually have any. “

Key said pretty much the same about Greens co-leader, Russel Norman,

With the greatest respect to [Green Party co-leader Russel Norman], I’m sure he’s a great bloke, he doesn’t know much about economics. “

It is fairly obvious that Key has very little time for anyone who opposes his views. In fact, he gets downright belligerent and  derisive.

Who does he remind me of? Someone else who used to belittle and deride anyone who dared disagree with him – especially in economic matters. Who else was famous for his arrogance? Another Prime Minister,

.

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Despite public opposition and several valid commercial reasons made clear that these sales will be financially disadvantageous to our economy, National carries on, oblivious to all but it’s own ideological fanaticism.

.

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This is a Party totally out of touch with the rest of the country.

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3. Welfare

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.

In 2008, the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit the world with a social and economic recession not seen since the 1920s/30s. Coporations like Lehmann Bros collapsed. General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. Others had to be bailed out with billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Millions lost their jobs and homes, and unemployment skyrocketed. Europe is tottering on the brink of a domino-like collapse of their currency.

Here in New Zealand, unemployment doubled from 3.4% by the end of 2007, to 7.3% by the end of 2009.

When criticism is levelled at National’s inability to address our stagnating economy, John Key and Bill English point to the GFC, stating it’s not their fault,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis.” – Source

This is a global debt crisis and you certainly wouldn’t want to add more debt at that time unnecessarily.” – Source

The economic downturn that may occur on a pronounced basis in Europe is factored into our books.” – Source

But when it comes to those who are the casualties of the economic downturn; the unemployed, National suddenly sings a different tune when it comes to Cause-and-Effect,

The Government is considering requiring beneficiaries to immunise their children.” – Source

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said contraception would eventually be fully funded for female beneficiaries and their 16 to 19-year-old daughters. ” – Source

Prime Minister John Key says beneficiaries who resort to food banks do so out of their own “poor choices” rather than because they cannot afford food.” – Source

Under the Government’s new youth welfare policy, announced by Prime Minister John Key at the weekend, 16- and 17-year-old beneficiaries would receive a payment card for food and clothes from approved stores.” – Source

And perhaps – worst of all – was  this piece of vileness from Finance Minister, Bill English,

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[click on image to go to TV3 website]

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English’s smirking disdain, for all those New Zealanders who have lost their jobs due to the global financial crisis, was plain to see.  Shame on him; his revolting attitude; and shame on every person in his electorate who voted for this arrogant little man.

The National Creed

1. The  Global Financial Crisis – a handy excuse for poor economic policies and mismanagement.

2. The Unemployed – a handy scapegoat for National’s inability to grow the economy and create new jobs.

3. If in doubt, never take responsibilty; refer to #1 and #2.

Latest redundancies;

Will drug testing be used to  “sort this lot out smartly”, Mr English?

And more bizarre is Paula Bennet’s admission that National “has ruled out universal drug testing of all beneficiaries, with drug and alcohol addicts being exempted from sanctions for refusing or failing a drug test when applying for a job“.

See:  Addicts escape beneficiary drug testing

Which means that if addicts and alcoholics are not tested – that leaves only those  workers who’ve been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs through New Zealand’s ongoing stagnating economy.

Adding insult to injury doesn’t begin to cover the humiliation which National intends to thrust upon workers who’ve lost their jobs.

And all because National has no job creation policies.

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4. Sky City/Convention Centre

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This is perhaps one of John Key’s shonkiest deals. It is no wonder that the Auditor General is investigating the Sky City “arrangement” – so I have little faith that the investigation will yield much that is incriminating of Dear Leader.

As Key stated with utter confidence, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on 17 June,

KEY: The involvement I had, as Minister of Tourism was to go and talk to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre. Did that with Sky City. I did that with people out at ASB Centre The Edge. I did that with Ngati Whatua. That’s not unusual.  I mean, and to argue that that would be unusual would be to say, well, look I have discussions with people in Whangarei about building a museum there. And I have discussions  with people in Auckland about building  a cycleway.

So now what we’re  talking about about is, ok, was there undue influence or was the process correctly handled, that’s what the auditor general  will say.

So let me tell you this, for a start off, ok, in terms of the expression of interest process, my office had absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, [ interuption by Rachel Smalley] no phone calls, absolutely nothing. So when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero. “ – Source (@ 6.37)

That statement does not instill confidence in me. Dear Leader has just stated, on record, that no evidence exists of his meeting(s) with Sky City management. Key admitted meeting with Sky City’s Board in late 2009,

I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003“. – Source

But what was said or agreed on, we don’t know. As Key has stated, “when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero”.

This is not a very good  example of transparency. It is certainly not the “transparency in government”  that Key has promised this country on several occassions.

In fact, it’s dodgy as hell.

See:  Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

In the same  blogpost ( Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How )  dated 23 April, this blogger outlined John Key’s somewhat dubious tactics for pushing through dubious policies,

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Promise Big Numbers.  It doesn’t matter if the numbers never eventuate because they were fictitious to start with. By the time the media and public realise the true facts, the issue will be all but forgotten. A week may be a long time in politics – but a year positively guarantees  collective amnesia for 99% of the public.

From December, 2010,

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Cycleway jobs fall short

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6:00 AM Wednesday Dec 8, 2010

The national cycleway has so far generated just 215 jobs – well short of Prime Minister John Key’s expectation of 4000.

In May, Mr Key said he expected the $50 million project, which involves building 18 cycleways throughout the country, to generate 4000 jobs.”Source

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Who can remember the initial cycleway project and the promise of 4,000 new jobs?

Precisely.

From March, this year,

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Key defends casino pokie machine deal

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08:23 Mon Mar 5 2012 – AAP

Opposition parties are accusing the government of selling legislation through an agreement that will see Auckland’s Sky City build a $350 million convention centre in return for more pokie machines…

…  But Mr Key says it’s a good deal for New Zealand.

“It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it… ” Source

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In a year’s time, who will recall the promise of 900 new Convention centre jobs?

Who will care that only a hundred-plus eventuate?

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Well, it didn’t take one year. It took only a matter of  months. On 5 March, John Key asserted,

 “It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it, and overall the number of pokie machines will be falling although at a slightly lower rate.”

See:  Key defends casino pokie machine deal

But then, on 5 June,  the NZ Herald reported,

Job numbers touted by Prime Minister John Key for a proposed international convention centre at SkyCity are much higher than official estimates.

Mr Key has said a deal allowing SkyCity more gambling facilities in exchange for funding the convention centre would provide 900 construction jobs and work for 800 people at the centre.

But the figures are much higher than those in a feasibility study done for the Government by hospitality and travel specialist analyst Horwath Ltd.

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479. “

See:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Sprung! Another of Dear Leader’s “little white lies” uncovered.

Next ‘cast iron guarantee’ from Dear Leader, who said on his website,

SkyCity has agreed to pay the full construction costs of the centre – estimated at $350 million. The company has asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation.”

See:  John Key -Convention centre development moves ahead

Yeah, I’ll bet that Sky City has “asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation“…

In business, it’s called a ‘contra-deal‘.

But it’s seems that even this deal is not as “free” for tax-payers as Key has made out. In fact, it has been uncovered that  taxpayers are definitely ‘stumping up’ some of their hard-earned cash,

Budget documents reveal that if the plan goes ahead, taxpayers will contribute up to $2.1 million to ensure its design and facilities meet Government expectations...  The Prime Minister, however, is defending the budget allocation of millions of dollars towards a potential Sky City convention centre.

John Key says he has always said his preferred position is that no taxpayer money would be spent – and that if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs. “

See:  Govt misleading public over Sky City: Labour

So… Key has (once again) mis-led the public, and his stock-standard explanation is that “if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs .”

John Key  claims that “a new convention centre would bring 144,000 additional nights of Auckland stays for business tourists, who generally spent twice as much as other tourists“.

See:  Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

But as Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ, said somewhat more convincingly,

Tourists come to see the country and the culture – not the casinos. If tourists were really focused on gambling, they would be going to Las Vegas – not the Sky City casino venue in Auckland.

See:  Tourists Come to See Country & Culture – Not Casinos

What’s the bet that the forecast for “economic spinoffs” will be as accurate as National’s predictions for spin-offs from the Rugby World Cup or national cycleway?!

See:  Weather and World Cup fail to lift GDP

See:  Current account deficit widens to $2.7 billion

See:  Growth slows – GDP up just 0.3pc

How many times have we heard Prime Minister John Key make all sorts of promises that this or that will deliver jobs and economic growth – only to see the promise fail. Which is then  usually followed by an excuse relating to the global economic slowdown?

It’s getting rather predictable and tedious.

What Dear Leader has tried to gloss over and  dismiss is the inevitable consequence of increasing pokie machines: more problem gambling. Both John Key and Sky City CEO, Nigel Morrison,  have tried to trivialise this growing social problem,

The incidence of harm cited from Lotto is greater than that from pokie machines in casinos. Getting those facts across is difficult.  We’re not just on about growing our gaming machines.  We would like to grow our table games product and expand our operations to meet the growth of Auckland. “

See:  Casino boss: Lotto does more harm

Gambling addiction in many way is as pernicious – if not worse – than alcohol and drug additions. A compulsive gambler can damage not only his/her own life – but those around them. Houses have been lost; businesses crippled or closed down; families torn apart,  as problem gamblers suck others down into a whirlpool of uncontrollable gambling.

See:  Barred gambler coaxed back to casino

See:  Mum steals $330k from marae to feed pokies

From a Ministry of Health  report,

Overall, the prevalence of problem gambling in New Zealand adults was 0.4% (about 13,100 adults). Additionally, the prevalence of moderate-risk gambling was 1.3% (representing a further 40,900 people). In total, 1 in 58 adults (1.7%, or 54,000 adults) were experiencing either problem or moderate-risk gambling.

Other key findings of this study include:

  1. Maori and Pacific people experience more gambling-related harm than other people
  2. people living in more socioeconomically deprived areas are more affected by gambling-related harm.
  3. this study may help to inform the provision of problem gambling intervention services and public health activity, as the study showed that:
    • problem gamblers can be found in both urban and rural areas
    • Maori and Pacific people appear to be under-represented in intervention services
    • people experiencing gambling problems are more likely than other people to be current smokers, have hazardous drinking patterns, have worse self-rated health, and have a high or very high probability of a mood or anxiety disorder. “

See:  A Focus on Problem Gambling: Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey

Interestingly, the above report, using 2006/07 data, and posted online in 2009, is the most recent Ministry of Health report available. Nothing more recent – and perhaps more damning of current gambling policies – is apparent on the Ministry of Health website.

Why is that?

On a more personal level, this blogger is aware of an elderly couple who were both addicted to pokie machines. Badly in debt, they were forced to down-size their family home and buy a smaller, more modest,  property. One of the couple died soon after, leaving the other who continued her gambling habit.

Not only has this elderly woman lost her surplus cash from the house-sale, but has gambled using equity in her current home.  She often ‘borrows’ money from her grown up children.

Her  modest house is deteriorating through lack of maintenance.

Not only has this woman lost all equity in her home, she is now more reliant on  both the State and her family.

Meanwhile, this article on Sky City’s most recent posted profits should be cause for concern,

”  Sky City Entertainment, one of the biggest gambling operators in the country, has seen a significant rise in profits over the course of the last year. The company attributes this growth to the earnings generated by the Sky City Casino in Auckland.

Over the course of 2011, profits for Sky City rose by over $10 million to $78 for the year. The company believes that the changes made to Sky City Auckland are to thank for this impressive profit increase over the course of the past year.

$50 million was spent on renovating the gambling facilities available the casino, but the company still managed to offset the costs with improved profits. In addition to building a new VIP lounge, Sky City also renovated other areas of the casino to make them more attractive to players.

Slots [pokies]  brought in the amount of increased revenue, seeing a rise by 17%. Non-gaming elements also helped to boost profits. Auckland’s recently-revamped hotels and restaurants garnered a great deal of attention from patrons.

It seems that the adage “you have to spend money to make money” is true for Sky City.  “

See:  Sky City Sees Huge Revenue Jump

If the convention centre is National’s only scheme to grow the economy and to create 170,000 new jobs – we are in deep trouble.

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5. TVNZ7

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Nothing best illustrates  National’s narrow vision of the role of government than the demise of TVNZ7. Nothing.

Whether the previous Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman, or the current Minister, Craig Foss – their attitude has been the same; market forces shall prevail – and public-interest programming shall be the responsibity of NZ On Air, who shall contract such programmes to current commercial broadcasters.

Except that this is a cop-out.

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The beauty of TVNZ7 is that public broadcasting was, in the main, focused on a single broadcasting platform. The public knew where to go to watch certain types of programming.

Just as the public now go to supermarkets to buy their meat, fish, veg & fruit, and bread – instead of going to a butchers; a fish shop; a  fruit & veg produce store; and a bakery. Imagine the uproar if John Key told us we must go to five different food retailers to buy five different sorts of foodstuffs?! Dear Leader would have a size 9 boot imprinted on his backside.

TVNZ7 fulfilled the same public demand; niche programming on a niche broadcaster.

Just as, currently we have racing on the TAB channel; Chinese programming on CTV; parliament on Parliament TV, etc.

Ironic that politicians have no problem broadcasting their “debates” (inverted commas used deliberately), deeming their squabbles and shrill screams a must have – but not public, non-commercial TV.

Or, that we can have non-stop horse racing on a free-to-air TV channel.

But we are not entitled to have access to non-commercial public TV.

Whatever concept National has of public television, it is clear that Broadcasting Minister, Craig Foss’s vision is different to the rest of New Zealand,

“…  the government was ‘committed’ to supporting local content through NZ on Air, instead of directly funding single broadcasters. “

See:  No help for titanically pointless bill

Having public TV through NZ On Air is akin to selling vegetarian/vegan food products in butcher shops. You have to go looking for it. It’s not easy to find. And it’s buried amongst ‘crap’ you’d rather not have to put up with.

And what makes NZ On Air funding of  ‘Media7/Media3‘  “public television” – when it will have advertisements peppered throughout?

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Take out the advertising of underarm deodorants; cat/dog food; toilet ducks; panty shields;  the latest 4WD monstrosity from Korea; promos for the latest US crime/cop shows; reality TV shows; home improvement shows; US sitcoms; and voyeuristic, soft-core porn like “The GC”,  and a 30 minute current affairs programme from TVNZ7 becomes a 20 minute show on TV3.

There goes our chance to focus on critical social issues, as commercial advertisers compete for our attention.

What next? Advertising in Tolstoy’s  “War and Peace”? Shakepeare’s “Macbeth”? Anne Frank’s Diary?

We are being ripped off in more ways than one. We deserve better than this.

But not, it seems, according to National; there is more than an element of vindictiveness in their decision to can TVNZ7. As if it was their opportunity to “stick it to us” after their embarrassing backdowns on mining in conservation schedule four estates; their attempt to cut teacher numbers and increase classroom sizes; and ongoing resistance to state asset sales.

The closure of TVNZ7 is a clue what National thinks of us. And it ain’t very pleasant.

See: Pundit – TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

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6. Education

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Current cutbacks to state and social services is a re-run of the 1990s. National’s cuts now, mirror those of last century.

Bolger, Richardson, Shipley, and Bill English  ran amok – slashing health, education, police, military, and anything else they could lay their cold, clammy, neo-liberal hands on.

At one stage, in the late 1990s, the health system was so badly run down that   patients requiring critical surgery were not receiving it – and were dying on waiting lists.

See: Died waiting for by pass

See:  Funding cut puts centre in jeopardy

See:  Myers warns few jobs, more poor, ahead for NZ

This year, as part of National’s on-going agenda to cut government services; reduce the size of the State; and to pass on savings  as tax cuts to the rich, National has cut staffing levels; departmental budgets; and services.

The New Zealand middle class tolerates this – until it affects them, personally.

Enter: 24 June – Minister Parata and her plans to slash teacher numbers and increase class sizes.  That was a step too far, and a teacher-parent-principal-Boards alliance fought back. Hard.

Bill English – a bloodied veteran of the Bolger-cum-Shipley administration of the late 1990s –  recognised the signs that a revolt of the middle classes was in the offing.   National’s merciless cuts to social and government services in the ’90s had resulted in an electoral thrashing in the November 1999 elections.

Upshot: 7 July – Government u-turn on cost-cutting policy.

This is now the second major policy u-turn by National. Their previous bloodied-nose, in July 2010, when Gerry Brownlee was forced to announce a back-down on National’s proposals to mine schedule 4 conservation land, was a stunning exercise in people-power.

In my previous blogpost (Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked), I argued that Educational Minister, Hekia Parata should not be forced to step down from her ministerial role. As I pointed out, “sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged”.

However, recent revelations from OIA-released  document have revealed,

The papers for the education budget reveal class size funding ratio changes went even further than what was announced.

Education Minister Hekia Parata originally urged changes that would seen 1300 fewer teachers hired over the next four years than would have happened under the existing funding formula.

That plan to curb growth in teacher numbers would have seen a “a minimal net reduction” in staffing of about 260 after four years.

The Government eventually decided on a less aggressive plan to cap teacher numbers, with almost the same number proposed to be employed in 2016 as now.

That plan to save $174m over four years was agreed and written in to the Budget but Parata was forced in to an embarrassing backdown earlier this month, which cancelled the plan and returned to the status quo.

However Parata’s original plan was to cut $217m. “

See:  Deeper teacher funding cuts ditched

It appears that Ms Parata’s inclination was for even deeper cuts to Education services  than, (a) the public was initially aware of and (b) that her National ministerial colleagues could stomach.

This explains, in part, why Key torpedoed  Parata’s plans to cut education services; he was thoroughly exasperated with an an incompetant  Minister who badly overestimated her abilities and could not “sell” even a watered down version of her plans. He must have been spitting tacks that, had Parata’s initial plans to cut $217 million (instead of $174 million) gone ahead,  she would have found herself in a much deeper hole, and the fallout to National would have been much worse.

This blogger has come to the conclusion that Hekia Parata is way over her head, and should step down as Education Minister forthwith.

At any rate, she will be gone at the next cabinet re-shuffle.

Tea-lady might be a good, safe role for her?

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7. ETS – Another of Key’s broken promises

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John Key is adamant that National will not consider slowly raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, because it is a committment he has promised to keep,

I’ve made it quite clear it would be my intention to resign from parliament if I broke that promise to New Zealanders.”

See:  Govt against raising retirement age

This blogger finds it hard to understand Key’s reticence to “breaking” an election promise. After all, he’s broken promises not to raise GST; to retrieve the bodies of the Pike River miners;  to address growing youth unemployment; stem the flow of migration to Australia; grow the economy; and now, to implement an ETS.

In May 2008, Key stated,

Key outlined a series of principles an ETS should have, including…

… It should be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS.

It should not discriminate against small and medium businesses in allocating emissions credits and purposes. “

See: Nats call for a delay to emission trading scheme law

At the time, Key also stated,

This not about National walking away from an ETS, we support that. . . we just simply want to get it right and we now have the time to get it right.  “

That was four years ago.

Since then Australia has implemented it’s own carbon tax that will lead in to a full ETS by 2015,

The A$23-a-tonne price on carbon emissions started yesterday [1 July 2012] , directly affecting 294 electricity generators and other companies.

The federal Government is aiming to cut carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, with the carbon tax shifting to an emissions trading scheme in 2015. “

See: Protests greet day one of Aussie carbon tax

By contrast, National has been delaying implementing New Zealand’s own version of an ETS, and has now “postponed” it until 2015.

And yet, four years ago, Key stated that New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme should ” be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS  “.

Our Aussie cuzzies have already started their carbon tax/ETS.

With National postponing the ETS for farmers, industrial and commercial polluters, until 2015 – that means that Dear Leader’s “postponement” will have lasted seven years – over two Parliamentary terms.  How long does Key need to ‘get it right’ ?

Ten years?

Two decades?

Perhaps the turn of the 22nd century?

Let’s cut through the BS here. John Key is not “postponing” the ETS – he is postponing it indefinitely. National has no intention of ever implementing it. So much for Key’s statement,

Ours is not a political agenda here, we want a good ETS that works.”

That deserves to be immortalised,

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See also: Tumeke – Blue ignores Red to pretend to be Green while turning to Brown to subsidize big polluters

See also: Tumeke – The Emissions Trading Scam and the audacity of Farmers

The sooner the Nats admit this deception, the better for the entire country. Until then, the only sector paying the ETS is… us, the public.

Which leads on to…

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8. Tax Cuts & Government charges

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In 2009 and 2010, National cut taxes.  The rationale, as National explained in their 2008 document,

In the short term, National’s tax package will give households confidence and some cash in their back pockets to keep the economy going and to pay down debt.

In the longer term, our tax package encourages people to invest in their own skills and make best use of their abilities, because they get to keep more of any higher wages they earn. It encourages them to look for and to take up better and higher-paying jobs that make more use of their skills.

See: National Party  Tax policy

However, what National giveth with one hand; National taketh with the other.

Any benefits from the ’09 and ’10 taxcuts have been more than swallowed up (for low and middle income earners) by increases in a myriad of government and SOE charges.

The most recent have been Family Courts fees, which have risen astronomically.

From July 1 2012, services which used to be free to couples in dispute, now incur considerable court fees,

  • Child custody disputes: $220
  • Property disputes: $700
  • Hearing of any application for each half-day, or part half-day: $906

Of all National’s user-pays regimes, charging couples who are separating; highly stressed; and where violence may be involved, is mind-boggling. We thought it was miserly when National decided to tax children in the last budget – but these user-pays Family Court fees hit people who are vulnerable in the extreme,

But Family Law Specialists director Catriona Doyle says most families try to avoid handing custody and property decisions to a judge and only use the Family Court as a last resort in irresolvable conflicts.

The few people who waste the court’s time by filing repeatedly or unnecessarily won’t be put off by the fees because they’ll either be wealthy enough to afford it or earning little enough to have the fees waived, she says.

“It’s going to hit the middle class and lower income families where $220 is a lot of money.”

Women especially will be hit hard, as they are often financially disadvantaged when a relationship breaks up, Ms Doyle says.

Rather than trying to keep children out of court, the ministry should be aiming to resolve conflicts before children are affected by them, she says.

“Leaving children in a conflict situation where the parents are at war is neglect and abuse. The kids who live in that situation are damaged.”

A judge should be the person to decide if a case is genuine or flippant, especially when children are involved, she says.

“It’s not something that should be addressed by Parliament or a court registrar”.

See:  Family court fees will hurt women – lawyer

Minister of Courts, Chester Borrows, stated plainly,

What we are trying to do here is have a disincentive for people to be able to bring these matters before the court. “

See:   Family Court fees tipped to hit low earners, children

(Note: As a matter of interest, Chester Borrows is the very same Minister who stated he would be buying shares in SOEs, when they were partially-privatised. See:  Conflicts of Interest? )

National complains that  court costs have risen  from $84 million in 2004/2005 to $142m in 2010/2011 – hence Family Court fees must be imposed.

This is faulty logic, and is penalising people who are attempting to sort out damaging relationship breakdowns.  Using Family Courts is preferable to taking the law into one’s own hands. Disincentiving people from using the law – which Parliament put in place to protect us all – is like disincentivising people from calling the Police if you’ve been burgled.

Instead, if we are being “encouraged to resolve issues ourselves”, find the burglar; beat the crap out of him; and retrieve our stolen property ourselves.  That is what Borrows is advocating.

Further using Borrows’ “logic”, National should implement high user-pays charges in public hospitals, as  ” a disincentive for people ” to use hospitals.

It sounds ridiculous? It is ridiculous.

It is also dangerous. Borrows and his idiotic fellow ministers are playing with peoples’ lives. Putting expensive, punitive barriers up at a time when families most need society’s help defies logic, common sense, and most of all, compassion.

But then – when did anyone ever accuse the National Party of being compassionate?

And will the Dear Leader, John Key,  take responsibility if something goes horribly wrong, and an emotionally-stressed family explodes into violence because they had no way out through the Family Court? Like hell he will.

This is a death waiting to happen.

On your miserable head be it, Mr Borrows.

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9. More on those tax cuts

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As an aside, National’s 2008 Tax document makes this derisable claim,

” This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.

Jeez. No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

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10. Alcohol law reforms

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The latest offerings of irrationality from John Key’s Universe; evidently Dear Leader does not believe that minimum pricing for alcohol would work. He suggests (with a straight face, no doubt) that minimum pricing for booze would not work because it could drive people to drink lower quality liquor instead of reducing consumption,

What typically happens is people move down the quality curve and still get access to alcohol.”

See:   PM sceptical dearer booze will cut consumption

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Mr Key, how do I mock thee? Let me count the ways… (with apologies to Elizabeth Browning)

 How do I mock thee? Let me count the ways.
I ridicule thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when laughing at you hard
For the ends of Banality and Idiotic Government.
I mock thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and ecobulb-light.
I deride thee freely, as men strive for human rights.
I caricature thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I jeer at thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my voter’s faith.
I scorn thee with a scorn I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I sneer at thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if  The People choose,
I shall but take the piss better after you are voted out.

Why so contemptuous, you ask?

Because raising the price of  tobacco has been the number one tool of both Labour and National governments.

As recently as 12 June, John Key stated on a Fairfax online interview,

The Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking through price, particularly young people who are very sensitive to rising tobacco prices. I know this is difficult for those that have smoked for quite some time, but for your long term health I can only encourage you to try and give up. “

See: Blogpost –  Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader (@ 12.57)

So high-pricing for tobacco is useful for ” the Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking ” – but not for alcohol?

Raising prices to deter smoking works. But raising prices to deter binge-drinking doesn’t?

It boggles the mind how Dear Leader can hold two conflicting viewpoints, simultaneously, without suffering a brain explosion.

Or is it simply that the liquor industry is a generous donor of funds for National’s election campaigns?

In the meantime, life goes on,

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See:   Ambulance base for Wellington party central

See:   ‘Pressure valve’ medics patch up night’s drunks

See:   BERL Report – Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Drunk kids flooding our hospitals

See previous blogpost: A kronically inept government

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11. Government Cost cutting = Economic suicide

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On 12 May, this blogger posted a piece on National’s slashing of our MAF biosecurity.

In part, I posted this dire warning,

Now, we have the prospect of  having entire suburbs in Auckland being contained in some kind of loose “quarantine”, after a Queensland fruit fly was caught in a pest surveillance trap,

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Considering that the Queensland fruit fly costs the Australian economy approximately  $160 million a year, this is a very real threat  to New Zealand’s own $5 billion annual horticultural industry.

Five billion dollars, per year, every year. All under threat because this government wanted to save a few million bucks by employing fewer biosecurity staff.

As if the discovery of a  painted apple moth in 1999; the varroa mite infestation of our honey hives in 2000; and other isolated instances of pests found in this country did not serve as a warning to us – National  proceeded to cut back on biosecurity staffing.

This blogger wonders sometimes (actually, all the time) what goes through the minds of our esteemed Honourable Ministers of Her Majesty’s Government. These are supposedly well-educated men and women, with support from thousands of University-educated advisors – and yet they still manage to accomplish the most incredibly moronic decisions conceivable.

National has put at risk this country’s  $5 billion industry – simply to save a few million dollars.

They have risked horticulturalist’s businesses; workers their jobs; and all the down-stream economic activity – to save a small percentage of billions.

This blogger has three pieces of advice for all concerned,

  1. John Key must  accept the resignation of  David Carter, Minister for Bio-security immediatly.
  2. National must reinstate biosecurity services to pre-2009 levels.
  3. Horticulturalists (and others who own farms and other agricultural businesses) should carefully consider whether National is working on their behalf – or for the sake of implementing false economies. What is the point of an orchardist voting for National – if National is going to screw his/her business by cutting back on essential government services such as biosecurity?!?!

Hopefully, this  fruit fly is a lone bug; perhaps a stowaway in someone’s bag or in a container offloaded at Ports of Auckland.

If so, once again we’ve been lucky.

But how long will our  luck hold out?

See previous blogpost: Bugs and balls-ups!

It seems our luck ran out some years ago,

The kiwifruit growers’ association is considering legal action over the outbreak of the vine disease PSA and says it can’t rule out seeking compensation.

An independent review released on Wednesday into how the bacterium came into New Zealand has found there were shortcomings with biosecurity systems, but it does not say that caused the entry.

The disease was first confirmed near Te Puke in 2010 and has infected 40% of the country’s kiwifruit orchards. It is expected to cost the industry $410 million dollars in the next five years.

Ministry for Primary Industries director general Wayne McNee asid the review did not determine how PSA came into the country but does show where improvements can be made.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco says he can’t rule out that compensation will be sought by growers.

See:   Kiwifruit growers take legal advice over PSA

A damning report into the outbreak of kiwifruit virus PSA is another in a series of warnings over the biosecurity system that the Government has failed to act on, Labour’s biosecurity spokesman Damien O’Connor says.

The independent report was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) following the devastation caused by the virus in the Bay of Plenty orchards with an estimated cost of $400 million.

The report, released yesterday, found “shortcomings” in New Zealand’s biosecurity system although it could not say how the incursion had occurred.

It said MPI could improve protections and must work more closely with industry groups.

The report also suggested resources be moved from low-risk industries to high-risk ones such as the kiwifruit sector.

O’Connor said there needed to be a complete overhaul of the biosecurity system.

The National Government cut biosecurity funding in 2009 and had accepted the growing risk caused by faults in the system, he said.   “

See:  Labour: Govt ignored biosecurity warning

Anyone with two inter-connecting neurons would’ve figured out very quickly that if a government cuts biosecurity then we put ourselves at dire risk of pests entering our country. Like the varroa mite. Or PSA bacterium.

With approximately  550,000 shipping containers and 4.5 million people entering New Zealand each year, it stands to reason that we are at extreme risk of unwanted organisms being brought into the country.

National was warned as far back as 2009, when 60 Biosecurity jobs were “dis-established”.  It therefore defies understanding as to why National believed that cuts could be made to frontline MAF Biosecurity without serious consequences.

Spelling out those consequences,

  1. Millions – even hundreds of millions of dollars of valuable export dollars lost,
  2. Jobs lost,
  3. Businesses ruined,
  4. And not one single government minister taking responsibility.

The only question now remaining to be asked: how many farmers and horticulturalists will vote for National at the next election?

Remember:  you get the government you deserve.

This time, it is farmers and horticulturalists who have been warned.

See:   Risks involved in cutting MAF Biosecurity jobs

See:   Farming at risk if biosecurity jobs cut, PSA warns

See:  Minister warned about biosecurity concerns

See:  Fruit restrictions in place

See:  Biosecurity savings ‘false economy’

See:  Biosecurity NZ webpage

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12. The Terminally Ill

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During the 2008 general election, Prime Minister  John Key adopted the Herceptin campaign.

Pharmac was funding herceptin treatment for women suffering from breast cancer only up to a nine week period.  Breast cancer patients wanted treatment extended to twelve months. Pharmac refused, stating there was no evidence that an extended treatment period would prove beneficial,

Pharmac CEO,  Matthew Brougham, said,

A fresh review of the science and other information has failed to convince us that 12-month treatments offer any additional benefits over the concurrent nine week treatment.”

See:  Nats pledge funding for 12-month Herceptin course

Enter,  John Key. As the 2008 election campaign swung into full force, Key leapt upon the issue,

National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access.

“We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand.

“These initiatives will be funded within the indicative health spending allocations in the Prefu [Pre-election Fiscal and economic Update].

“They are also further examples of our determination to shift spending into frontline services for patients, rather than backroom costs.”

See:  Key says Nats would fund 12-month Herceptin treatment

The election promise was one of many that Key made (along with tax cuts and the perennial “getting tough on crime), and on 10 December 2008, the Prime Minister-elect announced,

I am proud to lead a government that has honoured such a commitment to the women of New Zealand.

“The commitment was part of National’s first 100-days action plan.  I am pleased that the Herceptin funding policy effectively applies from the swearing in of the Government on 19 November.”

See:  Government honours Herceptin promise

Unfortunately, John Key’s belief that ” National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access. We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand   seems only to apply during election campaigns.

At other times, Key  does not seem to want to know.

Allyson Lock is one of five New Zealanders who suffers from Pompe Disease. It is a terminal condition.

There is medication available (called Myozyme ), but it currently receives no funding from Pharmac agency Pharmac.  It is an expensive drug, but without that medication, Allyson and her fellow sufferers will not survive.

See: Mum not prepared to wait and die

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog Pompe

IN SEARCH OF CURE: Allyson Lock will travel to Brisbane every fortnight for five years to receive treatment for the rare incurable disease Pompe.

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Allyson and her group have appealed to John Key for funding for their medication – without success. In fact, Key wants nothing to do with Allyson and other Pompe sufferers.

At a recent “on-line  chat” with John Key, hosted by Fairfax Media, several people including this blogger attempted to put a question to the Prime Minister; why was National not prepared to fund medicine for Pompe as they had for breast cancer sufferers?

See previous blogpost:   Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader

After all, Pharmac had expressed the same reservations regarding the efficacy of  Myozyme as they did with long-term  herceptin treatment. Yet, that did not stop Key from ensuring breast cancer sufferers had full access to a year-long course of herceptin.

John Key and Health Minister Tony Ryall have wiped their hands of Allyson.

It is not election year.

So there are no political points to be scored in saving the lives of five fellow New Zealanders.

I look forward to John Key proving me wrong; a link to this blogpost will be sent to media as will as the Prime Minister’s office. The rest is in his hands.

To Prime Minister, John Key;

Fund treatment for Allyson and others, Mr Key. They deserve no less than breast cancer sufferers. You can either oversee funding for their treatment – or attend their funerals.

Your call, Mr Prime Minister.

See previous blogpost:   Priorities?

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Related blogpost

The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

A John, a Tony, and a Winston

Additional

David Cunliffe:  Speech – The Dolphin and the Dole Queue

Gordon Campbell:  Efficiency Is Not Your Friend

Acknowledgement

Thanks to ‘S’  for proof-reading.

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= fs =

The loneliness of Phil Goff

Gem

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As a Labour party member, the sadness I feel today is tinged with a sense of resignation. John Key is the coolest, untouchable kid in the unforgiving social strata of high school. Anyone who remembers such cliques will understand feeling hopeless and powerless to change playground politics, let alone our country’s politics at a time when brand Key is pervasively popular. In the interest of gracious defeat, let me congratulate Key and National on their conquest.

Last night wasn’t entirely gloomy. New Zealand First’s gallop to 6.8% was like the class nerd scoring with the hottest girl in school.  That Winston Peters and his crew triumphed in spite of concerted media efforts by Duncan Garner, Guyon Espiner, John Campbell, Paul Holmes et al to sideline them makes the victory stunning and sweet.

Another highlight of last night was seeing the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreter working at the Green party’s celebration. It is progressive and heartening to see a political party actively promoting the validity and importance of NZSL, an official language of this country.

Phil Goff – I implore you not to resign, yet I sense the inevitability of you doing so.

In a hostile, biased media environment, populated by media personnel who are reduced to slobbering stupidity in Key’s presence, you never stood a chance. You knew this, so you presumably thought, “What the hell” and you campaigned hard. You’re not a firebrand. What you are is steady, methodical and quietly determined. You have integrity.

Even while your treacherous colleagues sharpened their knives, you persisted.

While the media fawned over Key’s confident, solo fronting of National’s campaign, yet double standardly cast you in the desolate role of man alone, you trundled along.

Last night, your concession speech was gracious and moving. The journalists who lambasted you with cruel, needling questions as soon as you were off the stage should be ashamed. They wouldn’t let you have even a few minutes of dignity. Someone’s concession speech, like yours this time, Helen Clark’s in 2008, or Bill English’s back in 2002, is not a moment for gloating. It is a time to put political allegiances aside and to respect a fellow human’s intrinsic humanity and dignity, to recognise how hard it is to admit that efforts, based on someone’s strongest convictions, have simply not been enough.

Shame on our hectoring, salivating, unseemly media. Shame on your grasping, backstabbing colleagues.

If you resign, I fear that the Labour will scrabble around for another three years with a new leader who the media will maltreat in the same way that they have abused you, out of dribbling sycophancy to Key. No one else could withstand this abuse. That you have come this far speaks volumes about your durability and tenacity. If you leave, Labour will try to reconfigure but will end up in a confused, unpopular scramble of egos and treachery.

Please stay. You did experience a victory of sorts last night, despite being defeated – you came into your own and shook off the ghosts of the past.

If you resign, I will resign my membership of Labour. Suddenly, New Zealand First is looking good.

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Acknowledgement

http://writical.blogspot.com

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