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Posts Tagged ‘Pansy Wong’

The slow disintegration of a government; 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…

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The Nationalmobile

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Where does one start…?

¶  Growing numbers of injuries and fatalities in various industries, caused by health and safety de-regulation in the early 1990s, by a previous National government?

¶  National passing legislation last year, increasing the powers of the surveillance state by enabling legislation for the GCSB to spy on all New Zealanders?

¶  Permitting dangerous drilling practices in our deep coastal waters?

¶ Hekia Parata on education?

¶ The gutting and collapse of Solid Energy?

¶ John Banks/Kim Dotcom/SkyCity/dodgy donations?

¶  Peter Dunne’s  unmitigated mess over “legal highs”?

¶  Maurice Williamson’s attempt to influence/query a police investigation surrounding a wealthy immigrant?

¶  National’s unhealthy relationship with immigrants; big business; and corporate donors-for-favours?

¶  Corporate cronyism for aluminium smelters, film companies, et al?

¶  Judith Collins’ lies over her dinner at Oravida and a mysterious, un-named Chinese official?

 

Let’s start with the last, and most recent; Judith Collins.

It appears that there are three serious grounds for which John Key  has no choice but to dismiss Collins from her ministerial rolls;

1.

Collins lied

On 5 March, Collins stated that she went to the Oravida offices;

To actually have a cup of tea on the way to the airport“.

On  18 March, Collins repeated this statement in Parliament;

“I was being driven around and I was assured by the ambassador that we could pop into Oravida on the way to the airport, or else I could have gone to the airport and I could have sat in the lounge for an extra long time.”

But this excuse was shown to be demonstrably false when then Labour’s Grant Robertson revealed in Parliament;

“Is she aware that Oravida’s headquarters are 30km in the opposite direction from where her hotel and business meetings were held and not on the way to Pudong airport at all?”

On 2 May, documents released to the media under an Official Information Act (OIA) request revealed this email from Minister Collins’ office;
“On Sunday, October 20 [2013], the minister will be having a dinner that will include (redacted name). He has agreed to meet with the minister arranged by Mr Stone Shi, Oravida. The minister would like ambassador Carl Worker and his wife to attend this dinner. A briefing from Mfat will be required.”

The meeting with her husband’s company (Oravida) was pre-planned as far back as 15 October 2013 – the date of the above email.

In fact,  as Vernon Small reported on 2 May, for Fairfax media, there is no way that Collins could have made an unplanned stopover at Oravida, nor anywhere else;

Mfat’s China unit policy officer, Nicholas Clutterbuck, advised that “while the dinner can be regarded as private, the minister cannot make unplanned/uncommunicated travel movements around Beijing during her stay”.
Therefore, Collins told a baldfaced lie when she said she had stopped off at Oravida on her way to the airport  “to actually have a cup of tea on the way to the airport“. (By the way, this is not the first time a “cup of tea” has landed a National politician in dire trouble.)

2.

Collins is avoiding responsibility/shifting blame

Whilst avoiding taking responsibility is by no means unique to Judith Collins, and is commonly practiced by other National ministers, attempting to shift blame on to her staff is nothing short of the desperate act of a politician whose career is on intensive life support.

How else to explain Collins’ eyebrow-raising comment on 4 May, when she said,
“My office is full of control freaks who want to have all the information they possibly can, and when I found out they’d asked for a briefing I said, ‘Don’t do that; it’s a private dinner. You’ll waste MFAT’s time”.”
Any Minister who is not in control of her own office must be questioned as whether they are fit to hold a ministerial warrant. Either her staff are out of control – or else Collins has lied again. (See #1 above)

3.

Collins visit to Oravida was a Business Meeting – grounds for dismissal

 

The meeting at Oravida – a company where Judith Collins’s husband is a Director – and the subsequent dinner with a Chinese official, was not a “business meeting” said Judith Collins.

However, subsequent to the non-business dinner, Oravida acquired a quarantine clearance from the Chinese government, and Oravida made a $30,000 donation to National, days later.

But more critical, as revealed on Polity, is an email dated 23 October 2013, which clearly refers to Collins’ meeting at Oravida;

Purpose / objective
To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China

The email is reproduced here in it’s entirety (courtesy from Polity);

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collins oravida email

 

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That email clinches Collins’ guilt. It is the “smoking gun” that proves Collins’ intent for visiting her husband’s business. The words are there in black and white; To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China.

This was  the same breach of Cabinet rules that caused  National Cabinet Minister, Pansy Wong, to resign,

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Judith Collins

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Mrs Wong resigned as a Cabinet minister last month after it was revealed her husband Sammy could have conducted private business while on a taxpayer-subsidised overseas trip.

Rules around the perk which pays up to 90 per cent of MPs’ and their spouses international travel, prohibit any private business activities during trips funded by it.

A Parliamentary Services inquiry ordered by Speaker Lockwood Smith cleared Mrs Wong and her husband of any serious misuse of taxpayer-funded travel perks.

The report by former public servant Hugh McPhail found the Wongs breached rules on use of the perk just once by conducting private business during a trip to China in 2008.

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The case against Judith Collins is clear-cut;

1. She lied.

2. She refuses to take responsibility.

3. It is clear that her trip to Oravida’s offices and factory were indeed business-related.

Her position as Minister is no longer tenable. She must go.

 

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Postscript #1

This is the woman who recently took joy at exhibiting an “Iron Lady” affectation by making personal attacks on a fellow Parliamentarian;

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Ministers accused of bullying Turei

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Dear Leader John Key has given Collins “time out”,  lamely explaining,

“She’ll be back by the Budget but I think she should take four or five days.  We work in a stressful environment. There’s no question that Judith made some inappropriate comments and over-reached…”

To which, I reply quoting Ms Collins herself, when she attacked  Metiria Turei;

“…Oh my goodness isn’t she a sensitive little sausage.”

Karma.  In spades.

 

Postscript #2

Judith Collin’s vindictive attack on journalist Katie Bradford (for which Collins has since apologised) is not the first instance of  critics of this government coming under attack by either politicians, or those connected with the government;

July, 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

May, 2011

Jon Stephenson, journalist
John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

September, 2011

Nicky Hager, writer, researcher
John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

October, 2011

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger
Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

November, 2011

Robyn Malcolm, actor
Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspiring-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

November, 2011

Bradley Ambrose, journalist/photographer
Investigated by police after complaint laid by the Prime Minister, over the “Teapot Tape” affair. Ambrose investigated and interviewed by Police. Media office raided. Property seized. Eventually, no charges laid. Government considered seeking costs of $13,669.45 from Ambrose – but eventually decided not to.

March 2012

ACC Claimant, Bronwyn’s Pullar’s personal details are leaked to the media and to a right wing blogger, who has been given her full files, emails, etc. ACC Minister, Judith Collins, and her office are implicated.

November 2012

Dr Mike Joy, environmentalist, scientist, academic. Attacked by both John Key and right wing “media relations/publicist”, Mark Unsworth, for daring to tell the public the truth about New Zealand’s polluted waterways.  On 21 November, Unsworth sent a vicious email to Dr Joy that showed the state of mind of Unsworth to be bordering on unhinged.

March, 2013

Annette Sykes, lawyer, activist, President of Mana Party

When Annette Sykes criticised the appointment of sportswoman Susan Devoy to the role of Race Relations Commissioner, Minister Judith Collins responded with “Annette Sykes is a stupid person”. That’s how National views critics.

May, 2014

Katie Bradford, Parliamentary Press Gallery, and TV1 journalist.  Judith Collins makes allegations to a TV3 journalist, that  Ms Bradford asked the Minister to intervene on behalf of her (Bradford’s) husband to join the police force. This is refuted by Ms Bradford as untrue. Collins later apologises.

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References

TV3: Collins says Oravida visit not conflict of interest

Parliament: Justice, Minister—Statements

Fairfax media: MFAT briefing requested before Oravida dinner

Otago Daily Times: Peters reveals details of tea tape

TV3: Judith Collins takes swing at Press Gallery journalist

TVNZ: Judith Collins to take time off amid Oravida storm

NZ Herald: Oravida gave another $30,000 to National

Polity:  Even more new, damning evidence on Collins

NZ Herald:  Pansy Wong resigns as MP

Radio NZ: Ministers accused of bullying Turei

RadioNZ: Judith Collins to take ‘refresher’ break

Additional

TV3:  Timeline – Judith Collins and Oravida

Cabinet Manual:  Interests of family, whānau, and close associates

Previous related blogposts

Taking responsibility, National-style

 


 

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Judith Collins

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 May 2014.

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Money in the Banks (Part #Rua)

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John Banks has dug himself further into a hole by stating yesterday,

If I had have quite specifically and quite easily answered all of those questions upfront, contrary to the legal advice, then I wouldn’t find myself in this situation where people think I’m obfuscating. I shouldn’t have taken that legal advice, I should have answered questions much more straightly.”

See: Banks’ Dotcom call: ‘I’d do it again‘ (1 May 2012)

Banks is using the excuse that he received “legal advice” which advised him not to say anything to the media (1 May),

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.”

See: Banks ‘regrets’ legal advice to stay silent (1 May 2012)

To understand why that excuse is about as flimsy as wet toilet paper in a sewarage pond, one has to look back at the timelime of this scandal.

TV3 broke the story of Banks failing to declare  the source of Sky City’s donation on 5  April.

See:  Banks accused of failing to declare donation (5 April 2012)

At that point there was no knowledge or mention of any other dodgy donations.

Twentytwo days later, TV3 again broke the story that Banks had received donations from web entrepreneur, Kim Dotcom, and had listed them as “anonymous”,

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?”

See: Banks knew about ‘anonymous’ Dotcom donation – reports (27 April 2012)

That TV3 report is time-stamped on the TV3 news website at 7pm. In a phone call, the following exchange takes place,

Campbell: Did you ever helicopter out there?

Banks: I… don’t remember that. I mean, I had my own helicopter or course – I was flying, myself.

Campbell: Did you ever land it at his house or go out there in a helicopter?

Banks: I don’t recall…

Campbell: You’d remember that – you’d remember that surely if you helicoptered into the Coatsville mansion. You would surely remember that?

Banks: I can’t recall whether I did or not…

Campbell: What, you can’t recall if you flew a helicopter into the Coastville Mansion of Kim Dotcom?

Banks: No, no.

See: Ibid

Now the interesting thing here is that given that phone call, which was aired after 7pm on Friday 27 April – how could John Banks have had time to consult a lawyer for legal advice?

There was no mention of any police investigation until the following day, on Saturday 28 April, when told RadioLIVE,

If and when the police want to come and see me and talk to me, I’m very happy to do so.”

And if, as he claims, he had somehow managed to consult a lawyer prior to John Campbell speaking to him on the phone on Friday 27 April, why did Banks continually state “he could not remember” instead of  “the matter is currently under Police invesigation and I have been advised by legal counsel not to make any public statements at this point”. Or even a simple “no comment”?

Because the reference to so-called “legal advice not to talk publicly” doesn’t surface until Tuesday 1 May – some  four days later. In those four days, Banks keeps insisting that “he can’t remember”, “he can’t recall”.  He makes no reference to this mysterious “legal advice” until four days later.

It is the opinion of this blogger that Banks’  did not have any legal advice when John Campbell first phoned Banks on 27 April.

It is the opinion of this blogger that Banks’ continuing claim that he “could not remember” was a weak attempt at obfuscation  and not based on any manner of  “legal advice”.

Furthermore, one has to question that if John Banks is being truthful and Kim Dotcom is lying – what would be the point of requiring “legal advice”? Legal advice for what?

It should be noted that thus far, not one claim made by Kim Dotcom has been proven to be incorrect or  lie.

On the other hand, despite Banks first claiming that he did not phone Dotcom to thank him for the $50,000 donation – he now admits to  phoning the entrepreneur to thank him for sponsoring  a  fireworks display  in 2010, estimated to cost about $500,000.

See: John Banks dined at mansion, gave advice on Dotcom residency

Interestingly, at first Banks couldn’t recall phoning Dotcom. Now he not only recalls that he did – but remembers the substance of that phone conversation?!

How does that work?

Banks himself admits to lying – on legal advice,

If I had have quite specifically and quite easily answered all of those questions upfront, contrary to the legal advice, then I wouldn’t find myself in this situation where people think I’m obfuscating.”

See: Banks’ Dotcom call: ‘I’d do it again

This blogger has never heard of  “legal advice” that advises a client to deliberately lie. Legal counsel usually advise a firm “no comment”, and say nothing further.

Furthermore,  Banks at first said “his contact with Dotcom was limited to 20 minutes conversation and he had been to Dotcom’s mansion in Coatesville only once for dinner“.

See: Banks sought split donation: Dotcom

Since then, Banks has admitted several visits to Dotcom’s Coatsville mansion; possibly two phone calls; and advocating on behalf of the entrepreneur by phoning Minister Maurice Williamson,

One, because he had been particularly generous to New Zealand; two, he was an entrepreneur who came to New Zealand to live in this home and do great things for New Zealand; three, he was a New Zealand resident; and four, I could see no reason a New Zealand resident … shouldn’t be able to buy property here.”

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

Again, Dotcom’s claims are confirmed – whilst Banks’ story changes almost daily.

I leave the final comment, to the Prime Minister,

If he’s complied with the law, some people might not like it but he’s complied with the law, and you wouldn’t sack a minister for complying with the law of New Zealand.”

See:  previous Blogpost on Pansy Wong, Richard Worth, and Phil Heatley

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References

Banks knew about ‘anonymous’ Dotcom donation – reports (27 April 2012)

Police expected to investigate Banks’ campaign donations (28 April 2012)

Banks regrets not being up-front over donations (1 May 2012)

Banks’ Dotcom call: ‘I’d do it again‘ (1 May 2012)

Banks ‘regrets’ legal advice to stay silent (1 May 2012)

John Banks: I briefed Dotcom (2 May 2012)

Banks: I didn’t lie, I simply forgot (2 May 2012)

Previous Blogposts

John Banks – Demented or Slippery as an eel?!

Key on Banks; Staunch, stupid, or stuck?

Money in the Banks

.Banks: I didn’t lie, I simply forgot

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Key on Banks; Staunch, stupid, or stuck?

30 April 2012 24 comments

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One of the Golden Rules of politics is: learn to count.  This refers to everything from passing legislation to votes of confidence. In short, it means if you don’t have the numbers in government, you might as well call it a day and hand power to the Opposition (or call a snap election).

Counting especially focuses the attention of parliamentary leaders such as Key and Gillard, who have (respectively) one and two seat majorities in their respective Parliaments.

It means, also, that if a government has a generous majority, it can afford the luxury of holding their own Ministers to account and make grand exhibitions of standing down those who have done something naughty.

Conversely, if a government has only the slimmest majority, that same government will hang on to, and defend to the bitter end, any errant Minister or MP.

Some recent history should illustrate how this works…

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That Was Then

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2008 – 2011 National-led government majority: 16

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Richard Worth

Richard Worth was  Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister for Land Information, Minister Responsible for Archives New Zealand, Minister Responsible for the National Library, and Associate Minister of Justice, in the Fifth National Government.

In March 2009,  reports emerged that Worth’s trips to India were a conflict of interest. It was alleged he spoke on behalf of the Government while engaging in  private business deals.

On 3 June 2009, Prime Minister John Key announced Worth’s resignation from his Ministerial portfolios, after several allegations of inappropriate behaviour toward woman.

John Key said,

Dr Worth tendered his resignation to me last night, and I have accepted it.  He advised me of some private matters in respect of which he felt it appropriate that he should resign as a Minister. I accepted his resignation and have advised the Governor-General accordingly.”

See: PM’s Statement on Richard Worth’s resignation

On 12 June 2009, Worth announced his resignation from Parliament.

See:  Embattled MP quits Parliament

In October 2010, Richard Worth was  appointed to a  diplomatic role, “to the surprise of the prime minister”, as  Monaco’s honorary consul to New Zealand.

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Pansy Wong

Former National Party politician. Ms Wong was New Zealand’s first Asian MP, serving as a member of parliament for the National Party from 1996 to 2011. She was also the first Asian Cabinet Minister, with portfolios;  Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Associate Minister for ACC, and Associate Minister of Energy and Resources in the 2008-11 National Government.

In November 2010, it was alleged that Ms Wong mis-used Parliamentary travel funds so that her husband could conduct private business in China.

See:  Pansy Wong’s political future in jeopardy

On 12 November 2010, as allegations surrounding her and her husband’s mis-use of Parliamentary funding were  investigated, Pansy Wong stepped down from her Ministerial portfolios.

John Key said,

At the end of the day she has to take responsibility for the fact her spouse was using her travel discount by virtue of her tenure in parliament, and on that basis she failed to exercise her responsibilities properly. She offered her resignation to me and I though it was appropriate that I accepted that resignation.”

See: Key: Wong ‘paying a very heavy price’

On 3 December 2010, an investigation by Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, found “no evidence of systemic abuse” of the Parliamentary allowance,

It found that one trip, a flight from Beijing to Lianyungang, China in December 2008, could have been in breach of the Speaker’s Directions,” Speaker Lockwood Smith said in a statement.

“While this trip was unplanned and inadvertent, it could be construed as having been for a private business purpose.”

The report recommended Mrs Wong and her husband repay the travel rebate for that trip of $237.06 each.”

See: ‘No evidence of systematic abuse’ of travel perk by Pansy Wong

Dissatisfied with the Speaker’s investigation, Labour MP, Pete Hodgson, called for the Auditor-General to carry out an inquiry into Mrs Wong and her husband’s use of the travel allowance.

Eleven days later, on 14 December, Ms Wong made her decision and resigned from Parliament.

See: Pansy Wong resigns as MP

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Phil Heatley

On 25 February 2010, Phil Heatley resigned from his portfolios of  Minister of Housing and Minister of Fisheries after announcing that he had wrongly charged two bottle of wine to his Ministerial credit card,

I charged two bottles of wine already highlighted this week to my account as food and beverages. There was no food included in this purchase, and I accept this could be viewed as an inaccurate representation of the expense.”

See: Phil Heatley’s resignation statement

John Key said,

I spent about an hour saying to him `look, I don’t think you should resign, I think you should stand aside.  I don’t think he’s a dishonest individual, I think he made some mistakes and they were silly, stupid and misguided.”

See:  Key says Heatley “a decent bloke”

However, Heatley did not resign from Parliament, and regained his Ministerial portfolios about a month later.

See:  Phil Heatley to be reinstated as a Minister

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This Is Now

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2011 – ? National-led government majority: 1

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John Banks

Allegations of not disclosing the sources of campaign donations have been made against John Banks. These donations were made by Sky City and web entrepreneur, Kim Dotcom.

In the case of Sky City, Mayor Len Brown received a similar amount of $15,000 from the Casino, and Brown later formerly declared it.

John Banks listed his $15,000 donation as “anonymous”.

In the case of Kim Dotcom, Banks has repeatedly stated, that he,

  • “could not remember” discussing donations with the businessman;
  • “could not recall”  flying in Dotcom’s helicopter;
  • “could not recall” suggesting that Dotcom split the $50,000 donation into two separate amounts of $25,000 each
  • “could not recall” phoning Dotcom to thank him for the donation
  • “barely knew Dotcom” and had met him for only 20 minutes – despite video later emerging of Banks and his wife partying with Dotcom and his wife, at the Dotcom mansion

John Key said,

At the end of the day, he either complied with the law or he didn’t – he said he did, I have absolutely no reason to doubt him. That’s not my responsibility. If somebody thinks that John Banks isn’t telling the truth, there’s a very simple remedy: they go to the police. That’s not my job to do a forensic investigation, my job is to assure myself I can retain confidence in a minister. If he tells me he followed the local government laws, then I accept him at his word.”

It appears  that John Key’s previous standard of accepting Ministerial resignations, whilst investigations are carried out, no longer applies.

What’s changed?

A difference in majority of 15, I would guess.

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Postscript:

PS 1; In yesterday’s NZ Herald, John Banks repeated his now well-known mantra,

I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear...”

The Herald noted that Mr Banks has not been returning their calls.

So much for not hiding or being fearful.

See: ‘I’ve nothing to fear’ – John Banks

PS 2; Police have confirmed they have received two complaints over “anonymous” donations made to John Banks during the 2010 mayoralty campaign.

See: Police confirm Banks complaints received

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Your call, Prime Minister.

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Additional

Banks accused of failing to declare donation

Dotcom’s secret donation to Banks

Banks did not reveal SkyCity as big donor

Banks questioned over Dotcom donation

Calls for John Banks to be stood down as minister

‘I’ve nothing to fear’ – John Banks

PM standing by under fire Banks

PM ‘turning blind eye’ to Banks – Shearer

Radio NZ Interview: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

Previous Blog Posts

Money in the Banks

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