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Posts Tagged ‘Skycity’

Gerry Brownlee, David Farrar, and Brett Hudson win Hypocrisy Awards

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Minister Clare Curran’s recent demotion was announced in a surprise press conference at Prime Minister Ardern’s electorate office, just before 4pm on a Friday afternoon. A government statement outlined her sin-of-omission;

In February this year Minister Curran met with Mr Derek Handley at her Beehive office in her capacity as Minister of Government Digital Services to discuss Mr Handley’s interest in the vacant Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role. This meeting took place after the first unsuccessful recruitment round for the CTO. As with approaches from other interested parties, the Minister directed Mr Handley to register his interest with MBIE officials. Applications reopened for the CTO role in May.

The meeting was not recorded in the Minister’s diary and neither the Minister’s staff nor officials were made aware of it.

The demotion and removal from Cabinet comes on top of Ms Curran’s unrecorded “secret” meeting at Astoria Cafe with former Radio NZ executive, Carol Hirschfeld, which hit the headlines in March this year.

Ms Curran’s gaffs have sparked the usual and tedious pious pontification from the National Opposition benches. Former Christchurch Re-build Minister, and airline security hazard, Gerry Brownlee, climbed the rarified heights of Mount Moral Highground to demand Ms Curran’s sacking;

But not everyone agrees. National Party MP and shadow House leader Gerry Brownlee said it was the “most limp-wristed, wet bus ticket thing” Ms Ardern could do.

He wants her stripped of the broadcasting portfolio as well.

“It’s undergoing a huge amount of change at the moment, and you need a minister that’s pretty active and onto it to make sure that broadcasting legislation is going to be the best for the sort of information and entertainment services that New Zealanders expect.”

Relatively unknown National Party List MP, Brett Hudson, devoted an entire press release excoriating the hapless Minister*;

“The decision to allow Clare Curran to retain any of her Ministerial portfolios after being dumped from Cabinet is a sign of weakness in the Government…

It’s almost comical that Ms Curran, who until today held the Associate State Services (Open Government) portfolio has failed not once but twice to answer Written Parliamentary Questions accurately.

Her punishment is a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. She keeps her Ministerial salary and the all the perks that come with that despite demonstrating that she’s not capable of being a Minister.

It’s not good enough that it took Ms Curran five and a half months to correct her answer to a written question and to finally acknowledge she met with Derek Handley, who had expressed interest in the Chief Technology Officer role created by the Minister.”

Rightwing blogger and National Party activist, David Farrar, was equally scathing;

So covering up secret meetings is okay for a Minister outside Cabinet, just not inside Cabinet. That’s mighty low standards. A meaningful sanction would be removal from the Ministry.

The undisclosed meeting was just as improper as the Hirschfeld one, namely:

  • It was a conflict of interest as Derek Handley was an applicant for the CTO job that the Minister appoints
  • The meeting was not in the Minister’s diary
  • The meeting was kept a secret from the Minister’s own staff and officials
  • The meeting was not disclosed to a written parliamentary question

If that is not enough to be removed from the ministry, what is?

Good question, Mr Farrar: “If that is not enough to be removed from the ministry, what is?

Let’s try to answer that question. What would merit removal from office for unofficial, unrecorded meetings?

Here are three possible answers;

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But in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of Mediaworks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

Was Key’s “social event” where he “ran into” Brent Impey held at Astoria Cafe by any chance?

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Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Key’s diary showed no scheduled meetings with Sky City representatives since July last year.

“Having said that, the Prime Minister attends numerous functions and is quite likely to have come across Sky City representatives at some stage.”

Mr Key was asked last July in a question for written answer from Green MP Sue Kedgley whether he or any of his ministers had met representatives from the casino to discuss changes to the Gambling Act.

He replied: “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”.

So the former PM’s “diary showed no scheduled meetings with Sky City representatives” – but he did have dinner with the entire “Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003“.

Also held at Astoria Cafe, by any chance?

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Prime Minister John Key had breakfast with Ian Fletcher just days after he selected a panel to interview candidates for the country’s top spy job.

The pair ate together at Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel on June 17, 2011. Mr Key says the vacancy, as head of the Government Communications Security Bureau, was not discussed.

Three days earlier, Mr Key had signed off on an interview panel for the job, which included then Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Maarten Wevers. Mr Fletcher was the only person to be interviewed for the post, after a shortlist of four other candidates was rejected.

Not held at the Astoria Cafe.

But Mr Fletcher did get the job.

As for Mr Farrar’s question – would the former Prime Minister’s unofficial and unrecorded meetings with Brent Impey, Ian Fletcher, and the entire Board of Skycity Casino quality to be “enough to be removed from the ministry”?

Herein lies a lesson for Ms Curran and other government ministers. If you’re going to have “secret” meetings, follow the National Party’s handbook. They do it much more effectively.

And they get away with it.

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*  Note

National Party pages are removed regularly from their website. Brett Hudson’s page/statement has been saved for future reference.

References

NZ Herald: Clare Curran sacked from Cabinet, PM Jacinda Ardern announces

Scoop media: Clare Curran removed from Cabinet

ODT: Carol Hirschfeld resigns over Clare Curran meeting

Mediaworks/TV3: Why wasn’t Clare Curran stripped of all her portfolios?

Fairfax media: Gerry Brownlee fined for airport security breach

National Party: Curran token demotion a sign of weakness

Kiwiblog: Disclosure State

Kiwiblog: Curran demoted after a further secret meeting

TVNZ:  Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Fairfax Media:  Key met spy candidate for breakfast

Other Blogs

The Standard: Clare Curran demoted

Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

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

National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

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

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

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Disclosure: This blogger had a date with his current partner at the Astoria Cafe. It was very nice.
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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 August 2018.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

20 February 2015 3 comments

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key and skycity

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We all know the story by now; how Key admitted to discussing a convention-centre deal over  dinner with Skycity executives on 4 November 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”.

The lack of transparency in the deal-making process was subsequently criticised by the Auditor-General in February 2013. Toby Manhire from The Listener listed ten quotes outlining the AG’s dissatisfaction with Key and his officials’  behaviour;

1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”

2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a firm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”

4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”

5. “SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.”

6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”

7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”

8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”

9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”

10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”

Key’s response, in Parliament was an outright denial;

“Absolutely, and the reason for that, as the member will be aware, is that the Auditor-General’s report was divided into three parts. The first part of it was focused on my involvement, and I was totally and utterly cleared and vindicated in that. That was my only involvement.”

The Auditor General, Phillipa Smith, was less than impressed by Key’s attempts at mis-representing her Office’s report as a ‘vindication’;

”That fact that [the report] took 50 or 60 pages suggests that nothing was entirely clear cut. We have said that we found problems with the process that was adopted and so I think the report speaks for itself.”

Right-wing NZ Herald columnist and National sympathiser, John Armstrong, was trenchant in his condemnation of Key’s comments. On 20 February, 2013, he wrote;

Verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas – that is the only conclusion to draw from the deeply disturbing report into the shonkiness surrounding the Government’s selection of SkyCity as the preferred builder and operator of a national convention centre.

The Prime Minister’s attempt to downplay Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith’s findings in advance of their release yesterday by saying he had not lost any sleep from reading draft copies may turn out to be a costly political miscalculation.

John Key may have escaped personal blame for the serious flaws in the old Ministry of Economic Development’s handling of the convention centre project but the report is far worse than he had been leading people to believe.

He is taking refuge in the report’s assurances that no evidence could be found to suggest “inappropriate considerations”, such as connections between political and business leaders, were behind the final decision for the Government to negotiate with SkyCity as the preferred bidder.

In other words, no corruption. Or at least none that could be found.

Right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, was more scathing and pulled no punches;

The procurement process for the Auckland centre was a farce and as close to corruption as we ever see in New Zealand.

As reported by the Deputy Auditor-General, Mr Eagleson – whose best friend and Las Vegas gambling buddy is Mark Unsworth, SkyCity’s Wellington lobbyist – had been conducting private talks with SkyCity through 2009 and early 2010, including about what regulatory relief SkyCity wanted.

Mr Eagleson argued a procurement process was unnecessary and that the government should just go with SkyCity on the grounds no one else could realistically compete.

(Hat-tip: No Right Turn.)

Read Hooton’s full column. It is far more critical and insightful than any left-wing commentator (including myself) has been on this issue.

Even before the AG’s investigation and damning report, Key’s figures of extra jobs resulting from the proposed convention centre were in doubt.

On 3 April 2012, Key stated in Parliament;

“I might add, when we were out announcing that we were doing a deal with Len Brown in Auckland, he was quite a little lamb chops before the election, because Len Brown knew as well that it will create 1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing, hundreds of thousands of visitor nights for a convention centre, and tourists who will be spending twice as much in New Zealand.”

By June, Key’s claims for “1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing” were questioned by hospitality and travel specialist analyst, Horwath Ltd. Horwath director, Stephen Hamilton, was blunt;

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.

“That’s not the number of employees at the convention centre. That’s the number in the whole economy. Some will be at the convention centre, some will be in the hotels and some will be additional taxi drivers.”

[…]

He also questioned the construction job figures, saying: “I’m not quite sure what the source of that 1000 was.”

The original Horwath report said 150 jobs could be created over a five-year construction period for a total of 750.

But the most well-known promise from Key was that the convention centre would not cost tax-payers a cent. In May 2013, Key justified his deal-making with SkyCity by stating;

“The construction of the new convention centre will not cost taxpayers or ratepayers a cent, with SkyCity meeting the full project costs in return for some concessions from the Government.”

Nearly two years later, inflation appears to have  turned “not a cent” into an estimated “$70m to $130m shortfall”, with SkyCity hustling National for a tax-payer bail-out.

On 10 February, Key appeared to have caved to SkyCity pressure to pay a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy to the casino operator;

“I’m keen to see the best convention centre I can for Auckland, because this is a very long-term asset, so I would hate to see some sort of eyesore constructed down town.

There are issues around the construction of it. Obviously you can spend more and get something that looks a lot better, or spend a bit less and get something that looks worse.

In a nutshell, the Government has an agreement with them [SkyCity]. It could make them meet that agreement but the escalation in prices to build the convention centre, which is bigger than was proposed and flasher than was proposed, means there is a hole.

So there are a couple of options. Option one would be to say to Sky City, ‘Build the convention centre exactly at the price that we all agreed, on the conditions of the deal that we agreed’, but it would be smaller I think than we had hoped and less attractive.

Or the second option is to see if there’s any way of filling that hole and to identify how big that hole is, and that’s the process we’re going through.”

By the following day, as a public and media furore exploded in Key’s face, and even his own Finance Minister was cool on the proposed bail-out,  he was forced to do a sudden 180-degree u-turn;

“We agreed a deal at $402 million…our strong preference is that the SkyCity convention centre is built and paid for by SkyCity.”

It seems that the public and media have become weary of Key’s continual back-tracking; broken promises; and often outright lies.

This was not the first time that Key had promised the public one thing – and then delivered something else. In October 2010, as an industrial dispute erupted between SPADA and Actor’s Equity, there were threats that Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit”  movie project would be moved off-shore (an empty threat as Jackson later revealed).

On 26 October, Key was telling the public that his government would not be paying extra incentives to Warner Bros and that there would be no “bidding war” with other countries to provide greater incentives to the U.S. movie industry;

“If we could make the deal sweeter for them that would help; that’s something we would consider… but we can’t bridge the gap that is potentially on offer from other locations around the world. We’re not prepared to do that and… I don’t think the New Zealand taxpayer would want us to do that.”

When asked about any possible taxpayer subsidies, to match other countries incentives, he added;

“It’s not in the tens of millions, put it that way. There’s a lot of noughts.”

Key was  adamant; Warner Bros would not screw another cent out of the New Zealand tax-payer. There were already generous tax breaks in place. So said Dear Leader at 11.45am, on the morning of 27 October;

“They’ve got movies to make and in the end, money talks in Hollywood. That’s just the way it works. We can’t stop other countries around the world putting up much better and more financially-lucrative deals. If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.”

By 7.38pm – barely eight hours later – Key had pulled out the taxpayer chequebook,

Tax rebates will also be changed for Warner Bros, which will mean up to an extra $NZ20.4 million per movie for Warner Bros, subject to the success of the movies…

… The Government will offset $NZ13.6 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership.”

As Key lamely explained,

 “It was commercial reality. We did the business.”

The subsidy that was supposedly “ not in the tens of millionsbecame a $34 million tax-payer funded gift to Warner Bros  – on top of a 15% tax-break given to the movie industry – a tax-break not available to any other industry in this country.

Key had caved to the movie moguls from Hollywood, and the tax-payer would foot the bill.

Three years later, the next corporation to hold a “gun” to Key’s head and extort millions in tax-dollars was Rio Tinto.

As State Owned powerco’s were being partially privatised, the multi-national corporation demanded their electricity-supply contract be “re-negotiated” and tax-payer “assistance” to keep the smelter at Tiwai Point  afloat during low aluminium prices – or else the facility would be closed. The threat was the loss of 800 jobs (some claimed indirect jobs up to 3,000) and economic activity that was claimed to be 10% of Southland’s GDP.

With the possible closure of the smelter – which uses 15% of the country’s electricity – the price of power would collapse, making shares in Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power worth only a fraction of their float price.

Key bravely asserted  on 3 April 2013  that government and the New Zealand tax-payer would not  be “held hostage” to Rio Tinto’s threats of closure;

“It’s quite possible that that power could be used either by new ventures that come to New Zealand or, alternatively, it would allow some less productive assets to be closed down or it would allow New Zealand not to build as much generation as might be required.”

Five months later, on 8 August 2013, Key had surrendered to Rio Tinto’s demands and as well as a deal for increased  electricity subsidies, National handed over a cheque for $30 million to the corporation.

Key justified the tax-payer bail-out and increased subsidies by pointing to saving jobs;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

However, the loss of thousands of jobs from the economy seems not to have taxed Key’s concerns when it came to thousands of State sector workers being made redundant;

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State-sector job cuts 'will make life tough'

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By February the following year, Rio Tinto  posted a US$3.7 billion profit, and issued a 15% increase in dividends to it’s shareholders. Part of the dividends pocketed by shareholders was no doubt made up of $30 million gifted  from the pockets of hard working New Zealand tax-payers.

Soon after the tax-payer funded bail-out of Rio Tinto, Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes made this remarkably prescient comment;

“Treasury told National right from the start ‘don’t give them any money’ – it just means every corporation will have its hand out for public money whenever they have any leverage over the Government.

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Is that how you want your government to govern? Do you want your government playing fast and loose with public money; using your cash as a bargaining chip to cut deals over the phone with multi-nationals every time it finds itself backed into a corner?”

I can answer Gareth’s question: the next corporation with it’s hand out is SkyCity.

John Key plays fast and loose  with tax-payers’ money – not to save jobs – but to present an appearance to the public that National is “saving” jobs. It is a matter of the public’s perception he is focused on.

If that involves handing out cheques to Warner Bros, Rio Tinto, and now possibly SkyCity – he will do it.

This is the party that prides itself on being a “sound, prudent, fiscal manager” of the government’s books. Except that New Zealand governments have not engaged in this kind of  tax-payer funded largesse since Supplementary Minimum Prices were paid to farmers in the 1960s and 1970s.

That, to, was initiated by the supposedly pro-free market National Party.

Which leads on to an interesting situation regarding this government; it’s lip-service to the “free market” and supposed hands-off by the State. Committed right wing National/ACT supporters should be asking themselves three very pertinent questions:

  1. Is it ok if future Labour governments intervene and gives subsidies to various businesses as National has done?
  2. Does on-going State intervention by this National government signal the end of the neo-liberal experiment?
  3. Has National’s intervention in the “marketplace” illustrated the failure of neo-liberalism?

One thing, though, should now be clear to all; Key will say one thing, and then renege and do completely the opposite if it suits him politically.

One would think that any self-respecting journo from the media (no, not you, Mike Hosking) these days would be asking Key a very simple question;

“Mr Prime Minister, you have issued statements in the past and then flip-flopped months down the track. Why should we take anything you say at face value value, when you have back-tracked so many times previously?”

Put another way;

“Mr Prime Minister, you’ve said what you intend to do. How long before you change your mind when it becomes convenient to do so? You do have ‘form’, you realise?”

Or, even more bluntly;

“Mr Prime Minister, how long will this decision last? Days? Weeks? Six months?

I’ll leave it to esteemed members of the Fourth Estate to frame their questions in a suitable manner.

Just don’t be expecting an honest answer.

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Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Image acknowledgement: “The A List

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Postscript 1

As I wrote on 6 February;

In terms of past events; past scandals; and past instances where the PM has been caught out – it is by no means the worst.

This time, however, matters have reached a critical flash-point. The media has awoken to a smell of a government on the defensive and where Dear Leader has pushed the envelope once too often. Journalists and media commentators are no longer as tolerant;  no longer awed; and no longer willing to be mollified by a popular prime minister.

The Shipley Factor has kicked in.

At this point, nothing that National does will counter the  same style of growing clamour of criticism it’s predecessor faced in the late ’90s.

Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to resile from my earlier expressed belief that Key’s current administration is terminal.

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Postscript 2

‘Natwatch’ from The Standard wrote on 12 February;

“The focus group results are in and John Key is backing off from the Government injecting further money into the SkyCity convention centre.”

Which probably makes more sense than anything else this shabby government has done since 2008.

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References

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Office of Auditor General: Skycity

NZ Listener: The SkyCity convention centre deal: 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – June 4 2013

Fairfax Media: Auditor-general backs Sky City report

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’

NBR: Close to corruption

Parliament: Prime Minister—Statements and Statements Made on His Behalf

NZ Herald:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Fairfax Media: Govt at odds over SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: John Key warns of SkyCity ‘eyesore’ if more money is not found

NZ Herald: John Key backtracks on taxpayer cash for SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: Sir Peter – Actors no threat to Hobbit

Fairfax Media: Key – No Hobbit bidding war

NZ Herald: PM – I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford

NZ Herald: Hobbit to stay in NZ

NBR: Key on Hobbit deal: ‘It was commercial reality. We did the business.’

NBR: Key comes through: $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ

TVNZ News: Relief in Southland over Tiwai Point deal

Radio NZ: Tiwai Point closing could have some advantages – PM

Otago Daily Times: PM defends Tiwai payout

Fairfax Media: State-sector job cuts ‘will make life tough’

RadioLive: Why John Key handed $30 million of your money to Rio Tinto

Te Ara:  Government and agriculture – Subsidies and changing markets, 1946–1983

Additional

Fairfax media: SkyCity’s ‘fair deal for all’ questioned (hat-tip Mike Smith, The Standard)

Previous related blogposts

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

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

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

The Maori Party, the I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party, the Gambling-My-Money-Away Party, and John Key’s Party

ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

Skycity: National prostitutes New Zealand yet again

Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

Other blogs & blogposts

Imperator Fish: It’s about friends helping friends

Insight NZ: National splits in two over Sky City bailout

Liberation: NZ Politics Daily – 13 February 2015: SkyCity

Local Bodies: SkyCity’s Glorious Deal

No Right Turn: More money down the drain

No Right Turn: “Close to corruption”

Polity: Fleeced

Polity: Mo’ money

Polity: Small on “free” convention centre

Polity: I agree with DPF, Jordan Williams, and (mostly) with Matthew Hooton, too

Polity: Why all governments are bad at commercial deals

The Civilian: Disappointment as meteor misses Sky Tower

The Daily Blog: Key’s SkyCity Scam is a dirty deed done relatively expensively

The Daily Blog: Brenda McQuillan – A Problem Gamblers View of the Deal

The Dim Post: On Hooton on Sky City

The Dim Post: Win by not playing

The Standard: The SkyCity Deal

The Standard: Sky City’s playing us for suckers

The Standard: Key is in reverse gear about Sky City

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 February 2015.

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Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

As I blogged five months ago, when National is attacked with bad publicity, it’s Party strategists retaliate;

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National under attack – defaults to Deflection 2 - chester borrows - welfare reforms - beneficiary bashing

See previous blogpost:  National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

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As I wrote in the above blogpost, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three deflections;

  1. Blame previous the Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

In February of this year,  the Auditor-General released a report into Key’s dealings with Skycity. The resulting  publicity became positively toxic for the Nats.

Toby Manhire, in a Listener  article dated 19 February, listed  ten quotes from the AG”s report, which were highly  damning of National. It was by no means the “vindication” that Key claimed (knowing full well that 99% of the public would never read the AG’s report).

On cue, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, issued media releases on National’s latest “crack down” on “welfare abuse”;

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Government cracking down on benefit fraud

Source

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National is once again being hit by a slew of bad headlines;

Smith gives nod for open-cast coal mine on conservation land

NZ unprepared for a deep water oil spill,  Greens say

Consumers hard hit by hefty electricity price rises

National’s fix over GCSB draws a storm of protest

Loans door shutting on first-home buyers

High petrol prices hit struggling families

Job ad stall hints at unemployment rise

SkyCity deal doesn’t add up: Treasury

Housing plan ‘a weak compromise’

And again,  on cue, Chester Borrows has done his bit, by defaulting to Option #2,

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beneficiary bashing - chester borrows - paula bennett - social welfare - welfare abuse - bene bashing

Source: Radio NZ – Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Checkpoint: Listen to Chester Borrows on Checkpoint

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However, Borrows is mis-leading the public in one respect. On 18 July, the Minister released a media statement where he said,

“Enhanced information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, says Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows…

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… The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.”

Source: Beehive – Information sharing stops more welfare fraud

This is simply untrue.

WINZ announced this in May last year – over a year ago,

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IRD and MSD improve information sharing

Source: WINZ – IRD and MSD improve information sharing

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But even earlier than last year, MSD/WINZ were leeping track of their “clients”. The following two letters are from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The first is from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

“We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the Immigration Dept were comparing information.

Accordingly, I have emailed Chester Borrows, seeking clarification of  his claim that information sharing is a “recent development”. I have also sought details of the alleged 3,139 cases of benefit “fraud” that Borrows has asserted;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Chester.Borrows@parliament.govt.nz
date:     Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM
subject:     OIA Request Please

Kia Ora Mr Borrows,

I am lodging  an OIA request with your office.

According to recent media releases from your office, 3,139 cases of alleged benefit fraud has been identified, including 1,948 people who were wrongly getting the unemployment benefit and 559 illegitimately on the sickness benefit. These cases all supposedly invloved working whilst receiving a WINZ Benefit.

My questions are;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigrqation also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?

6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

[and in a follow-up email shortly thereafter.]

7. Of the 3139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

– 1 week

– 2 weeks

– 3 weeks

– 4 weeks

– 2 months

– 3 months

– 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

– Over one year

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?
9. How many have been convicted?

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

I look forward to your response within the legislated time period.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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If the rest of Minister Borrows’ claims are as dubious as his assertion that information sharing between government department “started earlier this year” – then all claims and comments from National ministers demand checking and confirmation.

Otherwise, claims of mass benefit fraud appear to be little more than a propaganda exercise designed to deceive the public and deflect criticism  from economic and social problems that National appears stymied to address.

At the very least, Borrows is taking credit for a policy – inter-departmental information sharing – that has been in place since 2001, at least. How many times can politicians take credit for policies they had little or no part in implementing?!

Wouldn’t that  be fraudulent on the part of the Minister?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2013.

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= fs =

Our growing housing problem…

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Muldoon and Key

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“Ministers have signalled that changes could include widening access to KiwiSaver contributions and subsidies, as well as boosting the government-guaranteed Welcome Home Loan scheme that is exempt from LVR calculations. “

Source: Fairfax Media – Few first home buyer details in PM speech

Well, so much for saving for our retirement instead of investing in property and thus fuelling an unsustainable, speculative housing bubble. The whole point of Kiwisaver was twofold,

  1. To create a local investment fund from which business could borrow, so we were not so desperately reliant on foreign capital. Our Aussie cuzzies currently have A$1.3 trillion-dollars invested in their  compulsory savings funds.
  2. To give New Zealanders – especially baby-boomers – a better standard of living upon their retirement.

In July 2008, Key promised not to interfere with Kiwisaver –  “there won’t be radical changes…there will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver”   – and like most of his promises, they are blown in the wind.

Source: NBR – Key signals ‘modest changes’ to KiwiSaver
All because Key and his cronies are unable to address the housing crisis directly;

  1. Introduce a capital gains tax (my preference is that it matches the company tax, and not GST)
  2. Restrict ownership to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents
  3. Begin a programme of home construction – including 10,000 state houses per year
  4. Pay the Unemployment Benefit as an incentive to employers to employ more apprentices
  5. Reduce/eliminate all fees for trades training course
  6. And long term: promote regional development to take pressure of Auckland and other highly urbanised areas.

But the Nats won’t do any of this. That would involve systematic State planning on a level that Key and his cronies would never countenance. It would fly in the face of their right wing ideology for minimal State involvement in housing and other economic activities.

(Unless you are Warner Bros or Skycity, in which case the Nats have an open chequebook to throw taxpayers’ money at corporate welfare.)

The only thing National is capable of is short term, self-serving policy-changes. Never mind that such changes create long term harm to our economy and social fabric.

Gutting Kiwisaver is economic sabotage – much like Muldoon did in 1975 (see:  Brian Gaynor: How Muldoon threw away NZ’s wealth).

Meanwhile, people desperate to get into their own homes are raiding their Kiwisaver accounts – effectively “stealing” from their own future;

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Hot property Home-buyers rush to cash in KiwiSaver

Source: Dominion Post – Hot property: Home-buyers rush to cash in KiwiSaver

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Never let it be said that the Nats learn from history…

*pfffft!*

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Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

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= fs =

The Maori Party, the I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party, the Gambling-My-Money-Away Party, and John Key’s Party

18 July 2013 2 comments

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The Maori Party

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It needs the nuclear option

“Time for the nuclear option, cuz!”

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TV3’s Patrick Gower had this to say about the Maori Party, on 12 July,

“It needs the nuclear option.

It needs to kick National in the guts and walk away.

[…]

It’s time for Flavell to change the narrative.

He needs to start distancing the Maori Party from National. He needs to start extricating it from the cosy relationship.

He needs to position the Maori party differently – much differently. “Positioning” isn’t enough any more – he needs to make a break.

Source: TV3 – Opinion: Maori Party must kick National in guts

Yeah, right. After five years of coalition with the Tories, all that the Maori Party has to do is walk away and all is forgiven?!

Never mind the damage they’ve done in the meantime?!

Never mind National’s Key’s rejection of the Waitangi Tribunal claim on water rights, in the light of SOE sales and the privatisation of water.

Never mind the support for National’s right wing policies that have “kicked Maori and the poor and dispossessed” in the guts?

No. That is simply not good enough. A political party doesn’t simply walk away from it’s responsibilities and track record and expect all to be forgiven at the following election.

The only “gut kicking” and “walking away” will be voters from the Maori Party. As it should be.

God knows that is the only sanction that voters have against  political parties that betray their interests.

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The I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party (1)

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Pakeha Party founder discusses future

Source: TV3 – Pakeha Party founder discusses future

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As of 1pm, 14 July, the so-called “Pakeha Party” had  55,495 “likes” on it’s Facebook page. By contrast, the Conservative Party received 59,237 Party Votes in the 2011 election. That wasn’t enough to win seats in Parliament.

So a vote for any prospective Pakeha Party will be a wasted vote.

Nice one, David; marginalising the racist vote in New Zealand. You’ve done the country a service.

Medal’s in the post.

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The I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party (2)

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The Pakeha Party has a website up and running. I haven’t read the whole thing, as I have more important things to do (paint is drying and needs to be studiously watched).

But this bit on their policy page caught my attention. Much of  it is badly written gibberish,  and is all over the place.  But note this bit,

In this modern age to the best of our ability we will abolish all racism and/or separatism within New Zealand setting an example for the rest of the world. We will ensure all races in New Zealand (particularly Maori) who have been a part of forming & establishing New Zealand and it’s history are well preserved, very cherished and heavily promoted wherever & whenever possible. This is a democratic society – the past is the past – no one should be handed anything for free these days based on their ethnicity. No guaranteed seats. No Maori only anything. We all have an equal opportunity in our geographic locations this day in age. To solve our issues we need to give a firm but motivational hand to the poverty stricken in the poverty stricken areas with low trade.

Maori will be “very cherished”…

Awwww, that’s nice.

Just what Maori need. Not a sound economic base upon which to create jobs and build their independence – but to be “cherished”.

Will that involve Mr Ruck and his  supporters giving them each a hug and a cuddle?!

And what does “the past is the past – no one should be handed anything for free these days based on their ethnicity” – mean?!?!

What are Maori being “ handed …  for free these days based on their ethnicity?!

Is Mr Ruck (or whoever wrote this childish garbage) referring to Treaty settlements? Is he referring to land that was illegally confiscated by the Crown or settlers in the 1800s, and even the early 1900s?

Is he referring to scholarships awarded to Maori youth, to attend University. Scholarships that are paid by IWI and not the taxpayer?

It’s hard to know. He doesn’t tell us. (I guess it can be all things to all people.)

Though if Mr Ruck  refers toThe Treaty as “the past is the past“, I wonder if he’d dare say the same thing to our American cuzzies about their Constitution, which was enacted 51 years earlier than the Treaty of Waitangi?

Or would he suggest that the Magna Carta – signed 625 years prior to the Treaty – the basis upon which our judicial and civil  freedoms are based on – is also “the past is the past“?

If  Mr Ruck and his followers maintain that the Treaty is out-dated – I look forward to them pointing to the document’s expiry date.

It’s fairly obvious that Mr Ruck and his supporters all hold one thing in common – a shocking and tragic   lack of understanding of history and only a cursory knowledge the Treaty settlements process. They hold to the erroneous belief that Maori are being handed [land and money] for free.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,  said Albert Einstein. For good reason;  55,495 do not know our own history and the acts of violence that stripped Maori of their lands and possesson – and benefitted  white colonials in the process.

One Law For All is the Pakeha Party’s slogan.

Excellent.

We can start with returning that which was stolen from Maori.

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Gambling-My-Money-Away Party (1)

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SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison has been having a bit of a whinge about community and political opposition to an agreement which which see a deal between National and the casino;

Key features of the SkyCity convention centre deal and what KordaMentha estimates they’re worth over 35 years:

* Extension of SkyCity’s casino licence, due to expire in 2021: $65m-$115m

* Additional 230 pokie machines: $95m-$115m*

* Additional 40 gaming tables: $72m-$101m

* More gaming tables that can be substituted for automated table game player stations: $77m-$109m

* Ticket-in, ticket-out and card-based cashless gaming technology on all pokie machines and automatic table games: $84m-$88m

* *Includes allowing up to 17 per cent of pokie machines and automatic table games (in restricted areas only) being able to accept banknotes of denominations greater than $20.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – PM defends 35-year SkyCity deal

Morrison’s recent “oh-woe-is-me” whining diatribe rested on his assertion that other gambling creates worse social problems than Skycity,

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison says his casino’s pokies are only to blame for a minuscule amount of gambling harm, instead placing the blame on Lotto and the TAB.

Yesterday a bill allowing SkyCity to install hundreds more pokies and gaming tables and operate until 2048, in exchange for building a $400 million convention centre, passed its first reading 61-59.

It was supposed to be a conscience vote, but MPs voted along party lines, as expected.

Gambling support groups and the Opposition say the move will create more problem gamblers, but the Government has always maintained the economic benefits outweigh any potential harm – and Mr Morrison agrees.

Appearing on Firstline this morning, Mr Morrison said SkyCity’s contribution to gambling harm has been blown “way out of context”.

“We’ve only got 1650 machines, right – there are nearly 20,000 machines in New Zealand.

“If you want to do something about problem gambling, do something about the rest of the machines, do something about Lotto, do something about the TAB – all of which have higher incidences of harm than casino pokies in SkyCity Auckland.”

The Dept of Internal Affairs pointed out, when reporting on problem gambling,

At any given time, between 0.3% and 1.8% of adults living in the community
in New Zealand are likely to score as problem gamblers on standard
questionnaires. This is between about 10,000 and 60,000 people.

Source: Dept of Internal Affairs – Problem Gambling in New Zealand – A Brief Summary

Yet, when it comes to problem gambling for outlets such as Lotto,

Around 20% of adults in New Zealand do not gamble. Most of those who do
gamble play Lotto, which is relatively low risk for problem gambling. It is
likely that fewer than 2% of those who only play Lotto will score as problem
gamblers, even if they play it every week.

Source: IBID

It’s the old “my evil is less than other evils, so that makes me ok” argument. Taking this circular logic to it’s mad conclusion, no one could do anything to address a problem, because someone else will point further down the “food-chain” as being “worse”.

As Morrison himself said,

“The Ministry of Health does a report, and it shows the incidence of harm and problem gambling as a proportion of New Zealand adults is about 0.4 percent – that compares to drinking of 18 percent. The whole perspective of this debate has just been taken way out of context.”

It is so insane that one wonders how the human race could have evolved from their lemur-like ancestors because nothing would ever be achieved.

However, I think Morrison has little to complain about. Since 1995, the gross amount gambled at casinos is estimated to have risen 13.5 times since 1995;

  • 1995:  $313m
  • 1996:  $914m
  • 1997:  $1,883m
  • 1998:  $1,914m
  • 1999:  $2,297m
  • 2000: $2,858m
  • 2001: $3,075m
  • 2002: $3,417m
  • 2003: $3,805m
  • 2004: $4,033m
  • 2005: $3,936m
  • 2006: $4,104m
  • 2007: $3,912m
  • 2008: $3,974m
  • 2009: $3,879m
  • 2010: $3,783m
  • 2011: $3,929m
  • 2012: $4,244.

Source: Dept of Internal Affairs – Casinos

Gaming machines alone rose from$632 million in  1991 to$7,921 million (nearly $8 billion!) in 2007!

Source: Dept of Internal Affairs – Gaming machine

Morrison points to the TAB and Lotto  as being “my evil is less than other evils, so that makes me ok”;

“If you want to do something about problem gambling, do something about the rest of the machines, do something about Lotto, do something about the TAB – all of which have higher incidences of harm than casino pokies in SkyCity Auckland.”

Source:  TV3 – Gambling harm blown ‘way out of context’

Yet, Internal Affairs data shows Morrison  to be less than honest on this matter,

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DIA - Reported Gambling Expenditure 2008 to 2012

Source:  Dept of Internal Affairs –  Record gambling expenditure in 2011-12

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So business is pretty damned good for an industry that is basically parasitic; non-productive; and causes considerable family disruption and social harm. In terms of destructiveness, it is right up there with alcohol abuse and hard drug addiction.

Morrison is a lucky man. He is getting a good deal from Key and his ministerial cronies.

It is no secret that National is so desperate to generate economic growth and job creation that they are willing to tolerate problem gambling mushroom as a result of more gaming machines and tables. This is a shabby government that is willing to turn a blind eye to social harm and shattered families.

Morrison says  it is not for his  company to interfere in the democratic process,

It’s going to be what it’s going to be. It’s not for us to interfere in it – we’re just a corporate citizen trying to go forward in New Zealand.”

Source: NZ Herald – PM defends 35-year SkyCity deal

Those who know the full story of secret dealings between Key and Skycity will laugh with derision at Morrison’s comments. All along this has been a corrupt, shabby arrangement between National and Skycity – made even worse as Key tries to bind future governments to this deal.

Now he’s pissed off that more and more New Zealanders are becoming concious of this shonkey deal and questioning it?

Well,  more and more people are  not liking what they’re seeing.

You can bet on it, Mr Morrison.

See also: Marae Investigates (14 July 2013)

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Gambling-My-Money-Away Party (2)

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If the National-sponsored  New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill is passed in law,  the convention centre is expected to be completed in 2017.

Contrast that to the Auckland rail loop which Key wants to start in 2020.

This is symbolic of the National government’s priorities.

There is unholy urgency to implement a law to  build a convention centre,  with attendent increased gambling,  and predicted increase in gambling harm.

But no great hurry or sense of urgency to build public transport to free up Auckland’s roads from gridlock.

Gambling: high priority.

Public transport and improved traffic flows: low priority.

This, to me, illustrates why New Zealand will always continue to lag behind Australia and other developed nations – because a segment of the population will always continue make bad choices and vote, unthinkingly, for political parties that have short-term views for our country.

It will be interesting to see what priority Aucklands voters have in 2014 (if not earlier). What will they vote for?

Improved Rail and  road usage?

Or more gambling.

For Aucklanders,  all I’ll say is,

Your city; your choice; your consequences.

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John Key’s party

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John Key, Prime Minister, and Minister of Tourism is busy working on his portfolio.

He is promoting tourism.

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PM resting in Singapore, but with a close eye Mandela's health

Source: NZ Herald – PM resting in Singapore, but with a close eye Mandela’s health

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In Singapore, where he is on holiday.

Nice one, John. Good to see you have such faith in our own tourism sector.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 July 2013.

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Is Labour snatching defeat from the jaws of Victorysaurus?

15 June 2013 5 comments

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184mupp

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Electors unimpressed with Finance Minister Bill English’s Fifth Budget as National Party 41% (down 3%) now well behind Labour/ Greens 47% (up 3%)

This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone, with a NZ wide cross-section of 1,057 electors from May 13-26, 2013. Of all electors surveyed 5% (unchanged) didn’t name a party.

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a big fall in support for Prime Minister John Key’s National Party to 41% (down 3% since April 29-May 12, 2013). Support for Key’s Coalition partners is slightly down overall with the Maori Party 2% (unchanged), ACT NZ 0.5% (down 1%) and United Future 0.5% (unchanged).

Support for Labour is 35% (up 3%); Greens are 12% (unchanged), New Zealand First 4.5% (down 0.5%), Mana Party 0.5% (down 0.5%), Conservative Party of NZ 2.5% (up 1%) and Others 1.5% (up 1%).

If a National Election were held now the latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows an Opposition Labour/ Greens Coalition would win.

Acknowledgment: Roy Morgan

That was the poll result for Roy Morgan, at the end of May this year.  Only two weeks ago. As polls go, Roy Morgan is one of the more accurate ones.  It is also the only one known to phone respondants on both landlines and cellphones – making it more representative of the electorate at large.

So things are looking up for a new, progressive government, post-2014 (if not earlier).

But only if Labour doesn’t keep f*****g things up like this incident last week,

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Key slams Labour for SkyCity hospitality

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Key slams Labour for SkyCity hospitality

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After slamming the dodgy nature of  Key’s dealings with Skycity Casino, which will see an upward spike  in numbers of  dangerous, addictive   “pokies”, Labour had set itself on a moral high-ground. This is a community problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) and Labour was firmly on the side of communities around the country

It was a position that most New Zealanders probably felt a considerable degree of  sympathy with.

Unfortunately, in a brainfart of Jupiter-sized proportions, four senior, long-term Labour MPs then accepted hospitality from Skycity to attend a rugby match at Mt Eden – at Skycity’s corporate box.

The staggering hypocritical nature of Labour’s presence at Skycity’s corporate box cannot be under-stated. In this respect, criticism from Key; newspaper editorials; columnists, right-wing bloggers, et al, is absolutely warranted.

This was a major mis-step by expereienced MPs who should have known better.

What on Earth were they thinking?

Did they think that no one would notice?

Did they think that no one would tip-off media or right-wing bloggers?

Is there no one at the Labour Parliamentary Office who paused; pondered; and presaged that this was not a terribly flash  idea?

This has more than the a whiff of hypocrisy; this reinforces public perceptions that politicians are “all the same”. Incidents like this put people off from participating in the democratic process. After all, why should people be bothered to get out and  vote if, really, there’s bugger-all difference between government and opposition parties?!

In case any Labour MPs are reading this, I leave him/her with these three points to ponder,

  1. This election is yours to lose. And if you’re that dead-keen to lose it, feel free to keep behaving like this.
  2. Unlike National voters, centre-left voters have alternatives to choose from. Note that the Greens and Mana are options clearly printed on the Ballot paper. Capicé?
  3. In this instance, right wing blogs are fully justified in their criticism of such stupid  decisions. More power to their arms, on this issue, because by the gods, those Labour MPs thouroughly deserve a bollicking over this.

I think I speak for many other progressive bloggers when I say to Labour; lift your game, dammit!

Muppets.

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Skycity: National prostitutes New Zealand yet again

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smoking-and-gambling and prostitution

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Not only does an extension (to 2048)  of Skycity’s licence unconstitutionally bind future governments, but this deal adds to the growing problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) of gambling addiction in this country.

What on Earth is National thinking?!  Is this the best they can do to grow the economy and create jobs???

Because it certainly seems that gambling is indeed one of the country’s “growth” industries,

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Acknowledgment: Statistics New Zealand – Gaming: an economically significant industry

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It is worth comparing the above graph with the timelime on the increase of different forms of gambling in this country;

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Graph, Timeline for Introduction of Gaming Activities.

Acknowledgment: IBID

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Note the increase in gambling turnover sharply increasing from 1996, when Auckland’s Skycity casino opens.

The full National Government/Skycity deal is;

Key features of the SkyCity convention centre deal and what KordaMentha estimates they’re worth over 35 years:

* Extension of SkyCity’s casino licence, due to expire in 2021: $65m-$115m

* Additional 230 pokie machines: $95m-$115m*

* Additional 40 gaming tables: $72m-$101m

* More gaming tables that can be substituted for automated table game player stations: $77m-$109m

* Ticket-in, ticket-out and card-based cashless gaming technology on all pokie machines and automatic table games: $84m-$88m

* *Includes allowing up to 17 per cent of pokie machines and automatic table games (in restricted areas only) being able to accept banknotes of denominations greater than $20.

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – PM defends 35-year SkyCity deal

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider the boost that this deal will give to Skycity’s turnover.

Key’s claim that this will create 1,800 jobs is dubious, to put it mildly, as his June 2012 NZ Herald report revealed;

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Puzzle of Key's extra casino jobs

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – “Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs”

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Once again, Key shows that our laws are for sale, if you happen to have the cash to buy a “good deal”. (I must remember that next time I get a speeding ticket…)

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Bribing A Cop

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What is the difference between a citizen bribing a policeman to evade the law – and a corporation paying a government   to changing the law in return for building a convention centre?

And note that this is not the first time National has changed our laws in return for corporate favours;

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Warner Bros sought job law change to film The Hobbit in NZ

Acknowledgment: NBR – Warner Bros sought job law change to film The Hobbit in NZ

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A government that has a plan for economic growth and job creation would not need to stoop to advancing the profitability of what is inarguably a vice – and a particularly dangerous vice, which can destroy families and bring down companies, as addicts steal from employers (or their own business) to fund their habit.

One has to ask; what next? Deals with the Chow Brothers to expand their brothel-business? Deals with tobacco corporations to expand their operations and/or weaken our anti-smoking legislation?

What else is for sale to the highest bidder?

And is this really how New Zealanders see themselves – available for sale?

Is this the best we can do for ourselves, to become  a nation of economic prostititutes? (No offence intended to sex-workers.)

Addendum

Some years ago, my partner and I were passing through Auckland on our way to Whangarei to meet up with friends. We stopped in to see Skycity – out first opportunity to visit the tower.

As well as going up the skytower and standing on the glass foot-block, seemingly suspended hundreds of metres over empty air, we had a ‘nosy’ into the casino itself.

I was expecting the casinos of James Bond novels and movies, with patrons dressed in smart, formal evening-wear; jet-black tuxedos and outrageously expensive and outrageously sexy gowns…

What I found were, for the most part, were local Kiwis dressed so far ‘down’, as to appear they had just come from working on their gardens. It was unnaturally quiet, with figures bent over table and pokie machines. There was no “atmosphere” of excitement… more one of fixated desperation.

James Bond would have sniffed his nose with disdain and walked out.

Which is what we did.

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Related blogpost

ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

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

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

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlooks

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

John Key has another un-named source???

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The unmitigated audacity of John Key and John Banks

19 March 2013 13 comments

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This is how a politician  owns up to a mistake,

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Shearer makes no excuse for forgetting bank account

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Then there are politicians who continually blames others or claim to “forget”, when it’s obvious they are lying.

John Key’s talent for blaming others for his own stuff-ups is fast becoming becoming legendary,

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https://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/national-and-john-key-blames.png

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Key’s habitual finger-pointing currently extends to blaming Solid Energy’s debt crisis on it’s  Board; management; coal prices; global financial crisis, and uncle Tom Cobbly. He takes  no responsibility for his own Ministers demanding higher debt gearing levels  and dividend payouts which helped plunge Solid Energy into a financial hole,

He’s [John Key]  blaming the previous Labour Government, including former state owned enterprises minister Trevor Mallard who encouraged the company to expand in 2007, and citing a Cabinet paper supporting that stance.

“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” Mr Key said.

Acknowledgement: TV3

It was put to the PM that Solid Energy seemed to have been working with a “pretty high-risk” strategy. He responded by saying that all of these things were operational matters — he added that “if National’s to blame, then so’s Labour”. He said that the management and the board are responsible for the balance-sheet.

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz

Board at fault for Solid Energy debt, not Govt – Key

Mr Key denied the Government was responsible for the company’s woes, despite encouraging the board to take on debt in 2009 and expecting it to pay a dividend.

Acknowledgement: TV3

They made some investments in core assets and those didn’t work out either, and the coal price collapsed.

Acknowledgement: MSN News

So everyone was to blame for Solid Energy’s collapse – except National which has been in power for four years and bled the company dry with demands for high dividends.

Then there are times in politics that politicians make utterances that are breath-taking in unmitigated audacity,

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Shearer makes no excuse for forgetting bank account Banks comments

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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This is one such instance – John Banks,  whose memory was so “bad” that he forgot his close relationship with a rather large German multi-millionaire; a helicopter flight to one of the biggest mansions in New Zealand; and who forgot $50,000  cheques for  donations for his electoral campaign.

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John Banks says he never lied about internet billionaire Kim Dotcom’s $50,000 donation to his 2010 mayoral campaign but says he erred in not answering questions about the affair more openly.

But 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.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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For someone with “nothing to hide” ACT leader and former Auckland mayor John Banks is doing an awfully good job of creating the impression there are some things he would rather keep to himself.

He has refused to confirm he solicited a donation from internet billionaire Kim Dotcom for his 2010 mayoral campaign and refused to confirm he asked that the $50,000 donation be split into two $25,000 payments.

He has also said he does not remember who donated money to his mayoral campaign, does not remember discussing money with Dotcom and his staff and, till yesterday, could not remember flying to Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion in Dotcom’s helicopter.

Either Mr Banks is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s or he thinks honest answers to the questions raised by the revelation that Dotcom was an undisclosed donor to his campaign will reflect poorly on him.

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – Editorial: Bad memory or poor judgment?

John Key and John Banks are now attempting to compare David Shearer’s omission for declaring his New York-based bank account.

Key said,

“People make mistakes. I make mistakes and when I do, I try and tell people I’ve made them. It’s just that you don’t get cut any slack from the Labour Party when you say you’ve made a mistake, but when they make one they don’t want anyone to have a look at it.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Key weighs in on Shearer’s $50,000 ‘oversight’

And John “I-can’t-recall” Banks added his own 2 cents worth,

“Shearer is on record as saying those who suffer from a memory lapse aren’t fit to hold office.  Shearer’s hypocrisy is staggering.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

Except for one thing – and here’s the rub:

David Shearer himself disclosed and admitted his own mistake,

“Frankly I was horrified that I’d overlooked it and I moved straight away to correct it. When I myself found that (bank account) error I made the move to correct it, I didn’t wait for anybody else to find it.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is one thing to stuff up; come clean; apologise; and not try to blame others.

It is entirely another matter when one continually blames others for his mistakes or has such problems recalling events that they become a laughing stock.

Perhaps Mr Key and Mr Banks should take a lesson from David Shearer’s book;  own your mistakes; don’t blame others; and don’t make facile excuses.

It’s not politicians who make mistakes, that the public loathes. It’s when they try to avoid responsibility for their errors.

Especially when Key and Banks demand responsibility from the rest of us,

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Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

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= fs =

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

22 February 2013 10 comments

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key's credibility takes a hit

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Continued from: Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?!

From comments he made in Parliament, two day ago (20 February 2013),

20 February

John Key said:

It is pretty straightforward. Skycity, after it decided it would be prepared to enter an expression of interest process to have a larger convention centre, went off to its architects. Its architects designed such a thing, realised they needed more land, worked out who owned the land, and approached Television New Zealand…

[…]

I cannot speak for the Television New Zealand board, but I am finding it reasonably hard to believe that Television New Zealand entered a commercial agreement with Skycity to sell land that it owned, and it did so without its board knowing. If that happened, then maybe its board process needs to be improved, and maybe the mixed-ownership model would work for it…

Source*

Caught out fabricating facts over the Skycity and TVNZ non-land-deal, Dear Leader Key is backing away faster than an Aston Marton at top speed. The NZ Herald reports,

A spokesman for Mr Key said: The Prime Minister is happy to accept the assurances from TVNZ this morning that no approach has been made”.

Source

A “spokesman”?

Key tells a fib in the House.

Then get a Party functionary to front when he is caught out?

Not a good look for Mr Key.

At least now the media – both msm and bloggers – will be  scrutinising Key’s comments, even closer than before,  for the slightest hint of distortion or outright lie.

Such as Key claiming that he had been “vindicated” by the Auditor-General’s report. That was a distortion of  the Auditor-General’s findings.

As Toby Manhire, writing for ‘the Listener‘ said, the Auditor-General’s report on  Key’s Skycity dealings was anything but a ‘vindication’,

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1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”

2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a firm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”

4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”

5. “SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.”

6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”

7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”

8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”

9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”

10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”

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Source

Sprung, again.

He is on notice; keep telling porkies and he’ll be sprung each time. A few more incidents like this, and the wide-spread public perception of Dear Leader will be one of someone not to be trusted.

This is something the public already suspected in November 2011, just prior to the election,

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John Key - Safe hands, forked tongue

Source

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*

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* Note

Hansards can be “corrected” by MPs and Ministers. The comments quoted above were taken from Hansards at 5.20pm on 21 February, prior to any “amendments” being made. (see previous blogpost:  Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?!)

Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Sources

Fairfax media: John Key: Safe hands, forked tongue? (10 Nov 2011)

NZ Listener: The SkyCity convention centre deal: 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report (19 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’ (20 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: SkyCity: Key retreats from TVNZ land deal statements (21 Feb 2013)

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= fs =

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?!

21 February 2013 6 comments

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lying-politician-copyright3

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Oh dear, it seems that Dear Leader has been caught out (again) being creative with facts. According to Hansards, on 20 February, Key told the House,

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Hansard debates - john key - skycity 20 feb 2013

Source*

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Slight problem though… None of it was true.

TVNZ has come out, effectively  rubbishing Key’s comments on any supposed land sale to Skycity,

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PM forced to back down over TVNZ claim

Source

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To put this into a time-linear context,

20 February

John Key said:

“It is pretty straightforward. Skycity, after it decided it would be prepared to enter an expression of interest process to have a larger convention centre, went off to its architects. Its architects designed such a thing, realised they needed more land, worked out who owned the land, and approached Television New Zealand…

[…]

I cannot speak for the Television New Zealand board, but I am finding it reasonably hard to believe that Television New Zealand entered a commercial agreement with Skycity to sell land that it owned, and it did so without its board knowing. If that happened, then maybe its board process needs to be improved, and maybe the mixed-ownership model would work for it…”

21 February

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kendrick said:

“I’ve only been involved since May of last year, but we’ve seen the speculation in the media same as everybody else and so we’ve acknowledged that is a topic that’s live. We’ve yet to have any approaches from SkyCity about the land.”

Which means that Dear Leader either made it up; or one of his Advisors has mis-led him; or he’s talking about some Skycity-TVNZ deal from a Parallel Universe Earth.

At any rate, it kind of reminds me of this incident,  from October 2011,

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S&P contradicts Key downgrade claim

Source

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That’s quite a dodgy rep that Dear Leader is developing…

Continued at: Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

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*

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* Note

Hansards can be “corrected” by MPs and Ministers. The screen capture above was taken at 5.20pm on 21 February, prior to any “amendments” being made.

Additional

NZ Herald: Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’ (20 Feb 2013)

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= fs =

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

20 February 2013 23 comments

Twentyfour hours ago, the Auditor general released her report into questionable (some might say, dodgy) dealings between SkyCity and Dear Leader John Key.

Whilst the report supposedly “vindicates” National and especially Key, there are questions as to the preferential treatment afforded SkyCity.

The MSM is especially hot on this issue;

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Report sparks fresh debate over more SkyCity pokies

Source

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SkyCity report slates Government ministers

Source

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SkyCity 'treated very differently' in tender

Source

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The SkyCity convention centre deal 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report

Source

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Toby Manhire’s Listener report gives ten quotes from the report, which are damning in themselves,

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1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”

2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a firm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”

4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”

5. “SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.”

6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”

7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”

8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”

9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”

10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”

Source: IBID

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When National’s dirty dealings; dodgy Ministers; or somesuch other scandal is about to go thermonuclear, they will automatically deflect to one of three default positions;

  1. Blame previous Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

And on-cue, 24 hours later, National’s spin-doctors have spun a deflection story,

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Government cracking down on benefit fraud

Source

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As always, predictable.

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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 =

What’s up with the Nats and ACT? (Part toru)

20 August 2012 2 comments

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Continued from: What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua)

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If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

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Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

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Full story

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This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3’s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

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Full story

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Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers (and coalition partners) have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

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John Banks

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It would be fair to say that John Banks’ parliamentary career has been a disaster since before he even won the seat of Epsom. The Tea Pot fiasco was but a prologue to the man’s uncanny, magnetic ability to attract scandal, pratfalls, and sheer incompetance.

The donations scandal involving Sky City and Kim Dotcom was another insight into his ‘shifting sands of morality‘.

See previous blogpost: John Banks – escaping justice

See previous blogpost:  “He will be a very good friend for you when he is in Parliament”

See previous blogpost: Money in the Banks (Part #Wha)

See previous blogpost: Key on Banks; Staunch, stupid, or stuck?

It seems that the police decision not to prosecute has emboldened Banks, and he is “fighting back – hard“,

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Full Story

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First, Banks adopts a macho,  Tough Man role,

It’s called fight back. It’s called fight back – hard“.

Banks then takes on the wounded victim role,

I found it deeply offensive, much of what was said, written and broadcast during that time because, for all my faults, anyone who knows me would never believe I would go out deliberately and falsify a return.

I told everyone who would listen on day one that I had nothing to fear or hide from the inquiry.”

He may’ve had “nothing to fear or hide from the inquiry ” – but he sure seemed to have a heckuva lot of amnesia?

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

Then Banks launched into a spiteful attack on  his 2010 mayoral rival, Len Brown,

From where I come from it is hurtful when wild, reckless and untruthful allegations are made about you … There wasn’t a squeak about how Len Brown raised and [filtered] money through a trust. Not a squeak. Not a police investigation. No wild and reckless allegations.”

Banks is correct.

There was no police investigation into SkyCity’s donation to Len Brown’s mayoral campaign.

Do we know why?

Yes, we do: because Len Brown openly and honestly declared his donation,

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

No matter how often Banks tries to reinvent himself;  re-write recent history;  to shift blame on to others;  and refuses to take responsibility for his actions (yet again), the Court of Public Opinion has passed judgement.

John Banks will never again be elected to any public office in this country.

Try not to forget that, Mr Banks.

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Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part wha)

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= fs =

Investing in someone elses’ future

5 August 2012 54 comments

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Mandates

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Firstly, let’s cut to the chase and address John Key’s assumption that he has a ‘mandate’ from the country to pursue many of his Party’s unpopular policies, including state asset sales.

No, he does not.

As Bryce Edwards said on Radio NZ last year,

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Full Story

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As reported in the NZ Herald,

Moreover, only an estimated 93.2 per cent of the 3,276,000 people who were eligible to vote were enrolled, so the 2,254,581 people who did cast their votes (including special votes) leaves just over 1 million who stayed at home. “

See: 1 million didn’t bother to vote

So doing a bit of simple arithmetic,

  1. 2,254,581 people voted
  2. 1,058,636 voted National
  3. The population of New Zealand is approximated 4,430,000
  4. 1,058,636 is about 24.5% of the entire population.
  5. John Key’s “mandate” is roughly one quarter of  the country’s population.

The Nats can dress that  up any which way they like, but that’s not a mandate. That is  a minority in drag, masquerading as a “majority”.

But still a minority.

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National Conference

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Let’s cut to the next ‘chase’.

The recent National Party Conference in Skycity had nothing to do with conferencing or  the Party’s internal workings. It was purely and simply a public relations exercise  to raise “troop” morale and present National in a positive light to the public.

It was about appearing decisive and on-message. It was about strong leadership and confidence, reminiscent of Rob Muldoon, and Dear Leader played his part perfectly as he gave the rallying cry to his fellow MPs and Ministers.

Key thundered,

Our policy of partial share sales is a win-win and I stand totally behind it.”

See: Labour, Greens hit out at asset share plans

After months of various scandals, resignations, disastrous flip-flops, and gaffes, the Party pulled out it’s “ace-in-the-hole” – John Key. “The Boss” laid down the law, and as Tracey Watkins from Fairfax said,

No more tip-toeing around. That is the clear message from National’s annual conference, where the Government’s economic programme has been invested with a new sense of urgency.”

See: Damp protest shows heat gone from asset sales fire

Ms Watkins tends to present political issues  from a position favourable to National  and her piece on 23 July was no exception. But she also had a valid point – National was fighting back. They were on a counter-offensive on several fronts.

But as the dust settled, and the “whizz-bang-gosh!” factor faded, the public’s  momentary distraction returned to the issues and problems currently confronting us as a nation.

As much as Dear Leader might wish it, those issues and problems will not go away.

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State Asset Sales

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National is desperate to sell this lemon to the public as a going concern. Indeed, the issue was presented as one of several issues on a leaflet/questionnaire that the Parliamentary wing of the Party mailed out,

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The Nats are sensitive to recent public protests and an ‘insider’ advises this blogger that Ministers are tracking correspondence; internal polling; and letters-to-editors on the subject.

In an effort to “sweeten” the deal and to assuage public opposition, National is offering,

  • preference to “mum and dad” investors
  • a three year loyalty share-bonus scheme
  • a minimum of $1,000 dollar share parcels
  • a guarantee of shares to New Zealand investors wanting parcels of up to $2,000
  • Treasury setting up a retail syndicate of share brokers and banks to help first time share investors potential investors.

See: Kiwis encouraged to take up SOE shares

National’s “carrot” is matched by it’s “stick”.  As Bill English threatened in June last year,

We are saying that New Zealanders are at the front of the queue, but if not enough of them show up, it won’t be 49 per cent. I wouldn’t want to exactly guarantee every share but we have got to look at how to make that happen.”

See: ‘Buy state-asset shares or foreigners will’

So the message is crystal-clear; ‘If  we don’t buy these assets (which we already  own),  John Key and Bill English will sell our companies to overseas interests’. It’s like watching a rather bad, cheaply-made, B-grade gangster movie from the 1940s.

But the ‘rort’ doesn’t end there.  Treasury estimates that any loyalty scheme will end up costing taxpayers up to half a billion dollars. That’s because giving away free shares as a “loyalty bonus” still incurs a cost – nothing is for free,

A “loyalty” scheme to sweeten state assets sales for investors could cost the taxpayer $500 million – more than $100 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand – according to Treasury numbers.

[abridged]

In a report to the Cabinet last year, the Treasury said incentives to encourage local investors to buy shares “typically range from 5 to 10 per cent of total value ($250 million to $500 million based on a $5 billion programme)”.

The Government says it expects to raise $5 billion to $7 billion via the sales programme.

Based on the Treasury’s $500 million upper estimate of the cost of a loyalty scheme, the forgone revenue works out to just under $113 for every man, woman and child here.

See: $112 a head for asset loyalty

Labour Leader, David Shearer summed it up thusly,

Effectively, the taxpayer will be paying for a loyalty scheme that a small number of New Zealanders who can afford to buy shares will be able to enjoy. It’s clear there’s some real winners here, and the losers are most New Zealanders. “

Based on the Queensland experience where Queensland Rail was privatised in 2010;  where  a share-bonus loyalty scheme of 1:15 shares was used; the cost to Queensland taxpayers would be $360 million, according to our  Parliamentary Finance & Expenditure committee. To which Key was reported as saying, that the figure was,

“… a possible number. I haven’t seen their workings so I wouldn’t want to agree with that at this point.”

Key’s comments were reported on the NZ Herald website at 5:30am, Tuesday 24 July, 2012.

By mid-day, on the 24th, he had changed his views from ” a possible number  “, to,

These numbers that the Labour Party are coming up with and the Greens are farcical.”

See: PM: Asset loyalty won’t cost hundreds of millions

First point: that report on the Herald’s website was posted at 12:18pm on the same day;  Tuesday 24 July, 2012.  Not quite seven hours had passed before National’s spin-doctors had noticed Key’s blunder, and Dear Leader changed his stance.

Second point: the figures were not from the Labour Party, nor The Greens. They were Treasury’s figures.

Was this a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility of those figures by shifting it’s provenance from Treasury to opposition parties?

Key then made this extraordinary comment,

If you think about the entire float that could be in the order of $5 billion to $7 billion. Let’s argue that it’s $5 billion for a moment if you then turned around and said about 20 per cent of that could be for mum and dad, it could be more it could be less – but just for the purposes of maths that’s a billion. If you apply the Australian Queensland model that’s one in fifteen shares – that’s 6 per cent. Six per cent of a billion is $60 million for the entire programme.”

20 per cent “?!?!

What happened to the 49% that Key and English have allocated to “mum and dad” investors,

Counting the Government’s controlling shareholding, we’re confident 85-90 per cent of these companies will be owned by New Zealanders, who will be at the front of the queue for shares.”

See: Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

Was this an unintended slip from Key that National is counting on only 20% of shares going to New Zealanders?

And did he think that no one would notice?

Acknowledgement:  Cheer up Mr Key – Fairfax still love you

This is disengenuous of Dear Leader. On the one hand, National is claiming that 49% of shares will be allocated to local “mum and dad” investors – and on the other, they are calculating a bonus-share loyalty scheme on a figure of 20%. Key is shuffling figures around and quoting them to suit daily events.

This is not the first time Key and English have done this.

In January last year, when John Key announced National’s policy to part-privatise five state assets, he stated,

If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.”

See: John Key reveals plan for asset sales

The figure of $7 billion to $10 billion proceeds from a partial asset-sale then shrank,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.”

See: Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

And finally, English confessed all,

If we did get $6 billion, that would be a gain of sale [of $800 million] which is just a product of the accounting. I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes...”

See: English admits his SOE figures just a guess

Key did precisely the same thing over the Skycity-convention centre-pokie machine contra-deal.

He advised the country that building a new convention centre (in return for changing the law to allow up to 500 additional pokie machines for Skycity), would result in up to 1,900 new jobs in Auckland,

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

Key’s figures turned out to be rubbish.  The true numbers were disclosed last month by Horwath Ltd director,  Stephen Hamilton,

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

Key  had either made them them up out of thin air, or else he has some very poor advisors.

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Frustrated – Where to from here?

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And lastly, the sheer economics of the partial asset-sales cannot be  commercially sustained, as  BERL reported in May of this year,

The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped.

”Subsequently, the option of asset sales can only significantly improve the Government’s accounts if a set of assumptions are adopted that are at the extreme ends of plausibility.”

‘While the initial offering may be directed towards domestic purchasers, future private share transactions could increase the portion of shares [and earnings] in overseas investors hands.

”Such an outcome would lead to a further deterioration in the external deficit and external debt position.”

See: Asset sales will leave Govt worse off

Unbelievable.

Unbelievable that a number of New Zealanders still believe that National is a sound manager of the economy. These muppets couldn’t run a corner Dairy – they simply wouldn’t have a clue how much to charge for a packet of chippies.

No wonder Labour Leader David Shearer expressed his frustration at Dodgy John’s slippery numbers, when he said,

We absolutely have no idea how much this loyalty scheme is going to cost New Zealanders. He was happy to go out and announce the loyalty scheme at the National Party conference but he’s not prepared to come out with the numbers now.”

See: PM: Asset loyalty won’t cost hundreds of millions

Either way, National is keeping information on asset sales secret – or they have no idea what’s going on. Conspiracy or cock-up – neither option is particularly reassuring.

The ground keeps shifting, and this blogger believes it is a deliberate ploy to deny information to sales-critics and the public. Without solid information, it becomes harder to mount a sound critique of National’s plans – though BERL has done a fairly reasonable job of it.

Accordingly,  this blogger invites “mum and dad” investors to exercise caution as shares are made available to the public,

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Full story

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A Possible Solution?

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As BERL stated in their report, selling state assets will eventually impact on the government’s balance sheet. Quite simply, any short-term gain through sales proceeds will  eventually be whittled away by reduced dividends from half of these state assets sold into private ownership,

The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped. “

Plain english: we will  lose money on the deal.

Selling any of these State assets defies understanding.

As Treasury stated last year, the revenue stream is quite significant according to their own SOE Economic Analysis  that, “…on average, the SOEs have performed favourably when compared to the averages for the quartiles computed for the benchmark companies“.

See: Treasury SOE Economic Profit Analysis 25 November 2011

On average, Treasury show a 14.5% average shareholder (Government) return. Compare that to other investments, and it’s a fairly remarkable achievement for state enterprises which – according to free marketeers – are not supposed to operate more effectively than private enterprise.

See: Assets returning record dividends – Greens

In a further,  surprising turn of events, in February 2001, Finance Minister Bill English agreed, stating,

Generally the SOE model has been quite successful in that respect.”

And even  went so far as to complain that they were making excessive profits! (There’s no satisfying the National Party!? They sell under-performing state assets, explaining that the “market will improve their performance” – and then complain when state assets are making too much money! Then the Nats will flog them off to reduce returns and make them more “competitive”.)

See: State-owned power returns excessive, says English

By contrast, Contact Energy – an electricity corporation privatised in 1999, and now mostly Australian-owned – retails it’s electricity at a higher price than it’s competing, state-owned rivals.

See: 226,000 shop for power savings

National has stated several reason for wanting to sell 49% of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and further down-sell Air New Zealand – but their   main, carefully-worded, rationale has been to “reduce debt/invest in new assets/infrastructure”,  according to Bill English,

We are firmly focused on keeping the Government’s overall debt as low as possible and that is the most important consideration over the next few years.”

See: Govt says asset sales will cut debt

If  National is planning on extracting $6 to $7 billion from most New Zealanders’ pockets, then they are dreaming. A small minority (the 1%, as usual) might have the resources – but even they, I suspect would have to off-load their own assets to buy into the five offered SOEs.

It is more than likely that, like Contact Energy, the majority of new shareholders will be corporate and/or offshore  investors.  New Zealanders simply don’t have the savings to buy their own energy comnpanies and airline.

If National wants to realise $6 to $7 billion  from partial-privatisation and is serious in not wanting major foreign ownership, then it has only one other option: the NZ Superannuation Fund.

Selling half of five state assets to the NZ Super Fund would achieve several desired goals,

  1. Keep state assets in New Zealand ownership
  2. Prevent an outflow of profits to offshore investors, which would worsen our current account deficit
  3. Satisfy Maori that water resources were not about to be privatised, and therefore any claims before the Waitangi Tribunal could be set aside
  4. Fulfill a government-ordered directive that the NZ Super Fund invest more heavily in New Zealand

In May 2009, Finance Minister Bill English wrote to the NZ Super Fund, instructing that,

The Government believes that is is in the national interest for the Fund to have significant interests in New Zealand. Consequently, persuant to section 64 of the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2004 (the Act), I direct the Guardians to note that it is  the Government’s expectation, in relation to the Fund’s performance, that opportunities  that would enable the Guardians to increase  the allocation of New Zealand assets in the Fund should be appropriately identified and considered by the Guardians. “

See: Letter from Minister of Finance Regarding NZ Directive and Funding May 14 2009

How much does the NZ Super Fund have invested in overseas businesses?

Answer: NZ$6,459,938,145 – Nearly $6.5 billion. Possibly more  by now.

See: NZ Superannuation Fund: Full Final Equity List – 30 June 2011

How much was National expecting to gain from it’s privatisation programme? Between $6 and $7 billion dollars.

$6.5 billion happens to lie smack in-between $6 and $7 billion!

Considering that the NZ Super Fund is actually a state owned entity, selling five SOEs, whether partially or the whole damned lot, would not matter one iota. They would still be state-owned.

National has an opportunity here; they literally can have their SOE Cake, and eat it.

  • The state assets would remain state assets.
  • National would gain a guaranteed NZ$6.5 billion – no mucking around with messy share floats.
  • The revenue from the state assets would remain in New Zealand.
  • The Super Fund would have even more profitable investments in their portfolio.
  • The Super Fund will be investing in our future – not someone elses’, in another country.
  • Maori may well be satisfied that their taonga, water, was not being privatised.
  • Our current account would not be blown further into the red.
  • New Zealanders would be happy chappies, as the great majority oppose losing ownership of state assets.
  • Opposition from the Left would most likely evaporate – heck, we might even vote for you in 2014, Mr Key!!

Where is the down-side in this compromise?! Damned if I can see any.

And the strangest part in all this proposal? I may just  have saved John Key’s arse from being thrown out at the next election.

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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

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This issue demands three responses;

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

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    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,

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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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This issue is far from closed.

It is just the beginning.

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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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Guest Author: I came home from a protest today…

Linda Miller

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Source: NZ students protest outside PM’s conference

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I came home from a protest today. It was a small one, at SkyCity, about 200 students. The police poured it on, as if they were all-out to impress the elites who will soon be privatising them with how on-the-job they really are. The street was blocked off far enough away that the delegates were at no risk of being exposed to any political reality. However I could see some of them watching surreptitiously from the skywalk above. I’m beginning to believe that vicarious police violence is the only form of gratification available to some Angry White Men after a certain age. They were disappointed today. The students were peaceful as always – they had their say and left.

When I got home though, I was a little bit sad. Having the flu always makes me sad. But I was also sad that we even had to argue about the value of universal education at all.

I checked my messages, then I saw this video link and realised today was the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

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It seems like a dream now, but yes, it really happened, and these days, amazingly, you can actually see their leftover gear on the Moon.

I watched the video. It reminded me of the days and nights I spent watching it all live in 1969. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface, I sat in our tiny house in California with my mother and my brothers glued to the TV. I can still see their faces, lit by the flickering grey images as if it only happened last night. It was a glorious time.

But when I watched the video, I was suddenly overcome with grief. Seeing those bright, shiny Kodachrome faces, I recalled how no one had any idea that July 20, 1969 would be the high-water mark of American Civilisation. We took everything for granted. We should have fought to keep what we had. We should have kept the Promise of the American Century – the promise to extend the American Dream of freedom, peace, prosperity and civil rights to everyone.

Naive? Less so than you might imagine. We had just landed a man on the Moon after all. We could do anything. And what we wanted to do was help the world. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. We lost our way. Or rather, our way was subverted.

As I recall the faces of the students I saw today, they can’t know how keenly I feel that my generation has betrayed them. Today, we fight just to hold onto what we have. The promise of the American Century, real as it was, and close as we were to achieving it, is as dead as the tragic Kennedy brothers who first conceived it.

Today, I am an expat, and an activist, living in New Zealand. I campaign for New Zealanders because I love them, and because this fight is winnable, far more so than the struggle going on now in the United States. New Zealand is small enough, and her people are still brave enough that it can be won. We can have our democracy and our sense of community back. The government has not yet managed to frighten and terrorise New Zealand into submission. Victory is still possible.

Of course, nobody is going to just hand it to us. If we are to stop our slide into the Global Slum the Neo-Liberals are preparing for us all, we have to dig in hard. We have to lose our fear. Non-violent struggle is not pacifism. It is not for cowards. It takes courage to stand up for your rights, to keep coming out, in the rain, even when you are sick, and you don’t exactly feel like it. You have to take risks. You have to harden up. You have to resist.

Had we done that when Reagan and Thatcher first began undermining the Great Society, after I left university, I admit, we would not be in this mess today. Had the first generation of students hit with fees fought as hard as they fight in Quebec now, education would still be free. Had Kiwis resisted to the bitter end the first time a public utility was put on the block, we would not be fighting Asset Sales today.

I hope that a future generation will not say of us, “Had our parents really fought all out when they wanted to sell the last of our assets, we would still be able to afford electricity now.” That would break my heart.

We fight, because we must. Because what you are not prepared to fight for can and will be taken away from you by those who are prepared to steal. Nothing ever turns out fine by itself.

We should remember that when we commit irrevocably to seeing something through, in spite of the risks and uncertainties, as we did on Apollo, miracles are indeed possible. Nothing is ever really beyond us.

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Related Link

Facebook Page: Kiwi Expats Against Asset Sales

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Guest Author: This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Occupy NZ Media #BTB #ShowAndTell Coverage

Occupy Savvy

21 July 2012

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(This post is now complete. Please share far and wide. Thank you so much for supporting citizen journalism. All credit to Occupy New Zealand Media team. Redstar’s livestream footage of this event is available here.)

Saturday 21st July 2012 was another awesome day for NZ students; who used the opportunity of the ruling National Party Conference hosted at SkyCity Casino (yes, THAT Sky City…) to push their message that education cuts, privatisation and forced austerity measures were NOT going to be taken lying down.

They did a brilliant job of organising this public event, which had many new features including NLG-style Legal Observers, free ‘Red Square’ pins for everyone and a welcoming crew that approached & chatted with members of the public throughout the day. The level of thought that had gone into the event really impressed us.

Below is a People’s Media mash-up of photos, tweets & our experiences on the ground. Non-commercial organisations (ie. other Occupy pages, citizen journalists, charities, organisations who openly endorse/support Occupy) are welcome to reprint/reblog/download/share any of the images below but we ask that you please credit Occupy New Zealand Media Team/Occupy Savvy. As usual the “big crowd” photos are about halfway down the post.

Kia ora koutou. It is a privilege to present this to you Aotearoa.

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These guys were the first thing I saw heading into Britomart. The mat was roll-up & they would jump into the intersection when the pedestrian crossing turned green – roll out the mat – drop a freestyle to some old school b-boy blaring from their beatbox and then roll it back up & jump back out when the lights turned green. So cool.

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These girls came straight up to me with big smiles and a free red square pin before I could even get to where the march was assembling.

Having such a friendly welcoming/outreach crew definitely made the difference, as I saw more and more members of the public enticed off the sidewalks and into the march proper.

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The sound truck from last Saturday’s Aotearoa Is Not For Sale march made a reappearance, except instead of King Kapisi on the back, it was bearing a coffin!

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Initially the police presence appeared minimal – probably a dozen cops. We found out later why so few were at Britomart… when we got to Sky City Convention Centre.

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Looking towards the port, where the beleaguered MUNZ workers spent much of the last year fighting for basic work conditions and respect from their well-heeled employers.

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They had this road truck follow them around dropping road cones opening & closing roads.

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The march begins to form – with the familiar BLOCKADE THE BUDGET banner from the last Blockade The Budget student protest, which suffered mass arrests and police assaults on peacefully protesting students and faculty at Auckland University.

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Our Occu-Mama & Occupy Media member Lyn repping Socialist Aotearoa. She is an inspirational wahine toa who is one of the 8 arbitrarily-selected members of Occupy Auckland to be personally persecuted and mercilessly prosecuted (at ridiculous ratepayer expense) by Auckland Council. (Who we prefer to refer to as Auckland Corporatouncil!)

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^^^ Take a good look at the above photo. It was one of the most telling & hilarious parts of the event. We slipped in behind the Socialist Aotearoa banner with Lyn (despite the fact I’m actually not a socialist, S.A. have done a lot to support Occupy in NZ) and was immediately descended upon by the above reporter & cameraman for TV1 News. “Can we interview you?” They asked. “Sure” we said. “But we’re just going to grab a quick pic of you first.” Camera already out, within a microsecond the shot was taken. The reporter surprised & amused – the cameraman not even slightly amused. They asked us a few questions and we answered eloquently and fluidly enough that the reporter was surprised and exclaimed, “thanks, that was great!” while the cameraman scowled bitterly at us. They disappeared off for a quick huddle and then reappeared. The dinosaur cameraman demanded that we re-shoot the piece due to having had sunglasses on (it was 1pm). We politely refused and got told that the footage “wouldn’t be used then”. Why is this significant? Wait and see what happens with these two further down this post.

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People begin to move onto the street as the march begins to fill up.

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It soon becomes apparent that there are vastly more people in the middle of the street than there are on the pavement.

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A lone motorbike cop in front of the march assembly.

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People turn to face a small stage where speakers address the crowd and the street theatre commences.

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School children hold up signs representing different types of employees and students effected by austerity measures and education cuts, then a man with a huge pair of fake scissors jumps out and literally cuts their signs in half. Pre-planned, they all laugh.

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Naomi – performed a passionate piece of spoken word poetry, beautifully.

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Jai Bentley-Payne spoke on behalf of the students, warning us “Austerity is a SCAM!!!”. We quoted him on livetweet on #BTB and #Showandtell hashtags as well as the Canadian student movement hashtags #ggi #casseroles #manifecours and within minutes, his quote was retweeted around the world by students in solidarity globally.

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And finally – we were off. The march up from the bottom of Queen Street begins.

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There was all different kinds of New Zealanders marching; of every colour, shape and background.

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“They Take Our Education – We Take The Streets!”

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The giant red solidarity square was out again – which the kids loved playing under.

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John Key….. is a duck? LOL.

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One of the greatest things about today was the brand spanking new student-provided legal observers. This is something sorely lacking at previous protests mainly due to the lack of NLG-type organisation in New Zealand to support democratic peaceful protesters. Looks like thanks to the students, this is changing. Kia ora students!

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This iconic Auckland intersection (Victoria & Queen) once again occupied by the public – for the second time in eight days.

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5000 post-grad students are estimated to be unable to continue study due to changes made by the ruling National Party and the austerity measures they are imposing upon education (and other public sectors).

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The “Fuck The Rich” guy was back and very pleased when we told him our photo of his sign at last Saturday’s Aotearoa Is Not For Sale march was picked up by a Spanish-language online newspaper with 94,000 likes on their page. Pretty impressive.

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I guess this is what they call civil disobedience! Though really, its exercise. The exercising of our democratic rights!

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The mood quickly turns from jubilant to appropriately solemn as students bear the coffin all the way up Victoria Street from Queen Street as a funeral march plays.

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Protesters observe a minute of silence but their signs speak on regardless.

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We finally make it to Sky City Conference Centre….. and arrive at a shocking sight. Police officers wall the inside of the entrance two deep. People stand around with literally mouths hanging open at the wanton display of force. Yet still it is only a fraction of what will later greet us outside the casino itself.

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Despite the police presence, protesters put signs and stickers up on the glass and the coffin is carried up to the entrance.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Occupy Savvy 21 July 2012 Auckland  National Party Conference 2012 Skycity

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Occupy Savvy 21 July 2012 Auckland  National Party Conference 2012 Skycity

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The crowd begin to chant enthusiastically. Most of the chants are recorded on the livetweet which can be found on Twitter

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At first we thought they might be there to enforce the No Smoking policy…

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Until we saw these guys.

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As we clearly were not going to be able to enter the convention centre, off we went around the block, the long way to Sky City Casino. Completely unawares of what awaited us.

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As we hit Federal Street, we realised the bottom over-street Skywalk was filled with Casino executives and the top Skywalk was filled with cops. Being towards the back, it took a few minutes to realise what was blocking the march at the front line…

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It was awesome to see random members of the public out walking their dogs join the march… wonder what he thought of what was in front of him…

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Tried to get closer to the front to find out why no one was able to move any further…

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Passing ASB bank on Federal Street the cops were shoulder to shoulder but we still had no idea what lay ahead of the march…

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As we reached this point the jackets in front of the march gave us some indication of what was ahead..

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The police were walling off the road in Federal Street which explained why the march had ceased moving – however – we were not at all prepared for the sight of what was behind that first wall of police… take note of the far right cop in the above picture for a reference point…

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The woman pictured to the bottom right wasn’t a cop or a protester. She was actually a member of the public who found herself stuck and couldn’t get through. We politely asked the police if they could please let her through as she wasn’t with us and was genuinely being prevented from accessing public space. They initially refused outright but after we insisted they should have an officer escort her through they relented and did so. Then – to our shock – remember Mr. grumpy dinosaur mainstream media cameraman? Well he showed up to our immediate left and says to the cops “let me through for a shot.” To our utter astonishment the police immediately stand aside and allow him through the line.

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We were flabbergasted and immediately request to also be allowed through to take some shots to which we were told “that is for media only”. When we identified ourselves as media, the police supervisor told us “STAY WHERE YOU ARE” in an extremely rude and abrupt manner. We were puzzled – wondering why mainstream media could access the blocked area but not citizen journalists? Then we realise what the mainstream media camera was seeing from back there. Or more importantly – what it wasn’t.

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From where they filmed – they couldn’t see the cops above them. They couldn’t see the cops behind them. They couldn’t see the barricaded forcibly closed street nor that all of the aforementioned collectively stopped the march from proceeding, ending and dissipating as quickly as planned by organisers. It soon became clear that they were tailoring their vantagepoint.

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Apparently it wasn’t only MSM that got free access to behind police lines. There were also Sky City staff – assumedly supervisors – taking holiday snaps behind the front line. Not sure why they have more rights than the citizen journalists who were prevented from entering – would love to put in an official letter to the NZ Police to find out why corporate staff have greater access and rights when in the middle of a public street photographing a democratic protest, than our public independent media do? Ridiculous.

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Perhaps blinded by the sight of so many flourescent vests, after some spirited chanting of “Army of the rich, enemy of the poor!” at the hundreds of police present, the march turns around and heads back to the Convention Centre; where there had seemed so many cops; but now seemed few by comparison!!

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Even though by that point we were all using the sidewalk… the police preferred the road and trailed us all the way back to the convention centre…

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…helpfully again lining the streets all the way around…

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…and again blocking the entrance. Awesome.

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The protest was officially called and we were really happy to meet this cheery lady and get this great pic of her Aotearoa Is Not For Sale t-shirt. Shout out to everyone who attended and supported today. Good on you for braving the intimidation tactics and having your say.

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Leaving the site of the protest we had one last bizarre experience – we noticed a huge blacked out SUV parked across the pavement with two Sky City employees guarding it. As it is an unusual sight to see a vehicle parked on the pavement, with not a single police officer ticketing it, we stopped and took a photo. At which point the supervisor on the right hand side started to have a complete fit at us, demanding “NO PHOTOS, NO PHOTOS”. Before we could even begin to respond several members of the public interjected, with one screaming at him that he had no right to prevent the public taking photographs on public streets and essentially, who did he think he was for attempting to interfere with us. We asked him whose car it was and he snapped “it’s MY car”… because quite obviously Sky City supervisors park blacked out SUV’s across the pavement then guard them personally, with staff security guards also present? We don’t think so, buddy :)

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We spotted some pretty awesome signs throughout the day. Below is a collection of them. Thank you to everyone for being so friendly and happily having your signs photographed.

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Auckland Action Against Poverty are hosting tomorrow’s protest at the same location – click here for the Facebook event details.

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Unite Union have been a big supporter of Occupy, Aotearoa Is Not For Sale, and the student movement.

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Socialist Aotearoa, another huge supporter of Occupy and other protest movements in NZ.

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Taking the piss out of the National slogan: “Shit policies = Shit edacation. National 4 a Brighta Futur”

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Students have scrawled micro-messages to John Key all over their main “Blockade The Budget” banner.

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Some of the language is pretty colourful and spirited but the message is clear. Invest in the future of New Zealand. Not finance companies and privatisation of public assets.

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A pissed-off parent has their say.

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A serious question…

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Are you listening, “Mr” Key? No doubt your lackeys are…

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Students are often under-appreciated by our government, who like to depict them as lazy.

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This entry was posted in Occupy Auckland, Occupy Citizen Journalists, Occupy Events, Occupy Facebook, Occupy Journalism, Occupy Legal, Occupy Media, Occupy MSM Propoganda, Occupy New Zealand, Occupy Pics, Occupy Police, Occupy Social Media, Occupy Solidarity, Occupy Testimony, Occupy Twitter.

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Copyright

All images on this page are used by permission from Occupy Savvy. For permission, please contact   Occupy Savvy at content@mediasavvy.co.nz.

Acknowledgement

Reprinted with kind permission from  Occupy Savvy

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As clear as mud

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= That Was Then =

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Enter “John Key transparency” as  parameters in a Search Engine field, and you get about 820,000 results from ‘Google’ and 2,360 from ‘Bing’. (Does the latter seems to know something we don’t?)

Transparency was one of Key’s major “buzz words” for his election campaign in 2008 and last year. He mentions it often, as in a speech he gave Local Government NZ on 26 July 2010, where the word was used six times,

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"It’s worth noting here also that the world has changed in terms of the appetite for transparency around the way we spend money...
... Of course, transparency is as important as ever in election year – be it local body elections or central government elections."

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Indeed, Dear Leader, indeed. Transparency is very important.

We’re glad you’re so supportive of transparency in government. Now, let’s check ‘your score-card’…

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= This is Now =

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Regrettably,  National appears to have abandoned all notions of transparency, and has closed down several issues from public scrutiny.

Two issues, in particular have all but been shut down by National. A veil of secrecy has been draped over the Judith Collins/ACC scandal  and National’s negotiations with Skycity to amend legislation so that the casino can expand by increasing it’s pokie machines by an estimated 350 to 500.

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Full Story

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As Economic Development Minister David Carter revealed, on 20 January, National was in negotiation with SkyCity to extend  its licence beyond its current 2021 expiry, and  to increase the number of gaming tables and pokie machines at SkyCity’s Auckland casino.

The deal would go like this; in return for building a $350 million convention centre, National would relax or amend bits of legislation that would allow Skycity to expand it’s gambling operations. Some estimate an extra 350 to 500 pokie machines would be added to the casino.

Skycity chief executive, Nigel Morrison, was quite clear that without government concessions  to their gaming license, the proposed convention centre would be only a “breakeven proposition for Skycity”.

Marcus Curley, equity analyst for Goldman Sachs was somewhat more candid when he told Interest.co.nz,

More recently, media reports (NZ Herald, February 2, 2012) have pointed to a potential increase in machine numbers at Auckland Casino between 350 and 500. Any proposed changes to gambling legislation would be subject to a full public submission process under the usual select committee process. We believe the incremental revenue from additional machines and tables will be critical in achieving an acceptable financial return on the convention centre project. “

Meanwhile, community groups, anti-gambling organisations, Opposition Parties, and even conservative-moral organisations such as Family First have condemned any suggestion for Skycity to expand it’s gambling operations. The results would be obvious except to (a) the most naive (b) the most blind, that more gambling tables and pokie machines would lead to more problem gambling.

(By coincidence, the small minority  who support Skycity’s plans are National MPs and some vociferous right wing/free market extremists/nutcases. As I said, naive and blind.)

Quite rightly, on 12 June 2011, John Key stated categorically,

Any changes to gambling regulations will be subject to a full public submission process. ” – Source

Unfortunately, as we all know by know, what John Key says – and what he eventually ends up doing – are not always the same thing.

All negotiations between National and Skycity are now being conducted in strictest secrecy. Neither John Key nor Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce are publicly disclosing what concessions National is prepared to make to Skycity.

Outgoing Internal Affairs Minister, Amy Adams, has refused to release any information or reports on government negotiations, citing “commercial sensitivity”. This is a common feature of the gambling industry, as Statistics NZ  reports,

The social and economic costs and benefits of gaming are difficult to measure as official statistical information on the industry is limited. Detailed financial information is often hard to access for reasons of commercial sensitivity…” – Source

In December 1997, as public opposition to casinos grew, a moratorium was passed on new casinos opening in New Zealand.

End of story: no more casinos.  (Oh, yeah, right… )

What Skycity is intending – with National’s secret complicity – is to by-pass that moratorium by expanding their existing  casino. No new casino – just 500 more tables and pokie machines. Because gambling is now a multi-billion dollar industry, as this data from Statics NZ sadly shows,

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Source

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This is grossly dishonest. It shows that National is willing to assist a corporation to circumvent the law and public opinion. And John Key is more than willing to allow all this to happen in secrecy, without public scrutiny.

The most absurd aspect of National’s refusal to disclose to the public what is taking place, is their constant buck-passing and referral to “commercial sensitivity”.

What “commercial sensitivity”? Skycity is the only casino in Auckland. It has very little competition as there are no other casinos competing for their clientele.

So why is it “sensitive” for National to disclose it’s negotiations with Skycity?

How can  “any changes to gambling regulations be subject to a full public submission process” if we, the public, don’t know what’s going on?

Why this paranoid need for such secrecy?

What is John Key and National hiding?

In an almost prophetic article written by Gordon Campbell in November 2008, he said,

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The Key government has made it clear that public –private partnerships (PPPs) will be a major part of the country’s planning over the next decade. These projects entail a major commitment of taxpayer funds and public liabilities.

Before we begin down that track, what kind of commitments will the new government provide that ‘commercial sensitivity” will NOT be invoked to conceal from the public the details of these contracts ? Upfront, there needs to be a commitment to utter transparency in the structure and ongoing outcomes of PPP contracts – and the firms bidding for the work need to be told beforehand that their acceptance of such transparency will be a condition of them getting the work. In Canada and in Australia, it has proved extremely difficult for the public to find out just how PPP contracts involving hundreds of millions of dollars of their money are structured, and how the patterns of risk and profit will actually play out, over time.

Why, without a commitment to forego commercial sensitivity on PPPs, we may never know how well or badly the Key government is performing in one of its pet areas. Key has promised “outcomes, results and accountability” from the new Cabinet that is being sworn in today. The media is currently celebrating that kind of talk – without bothering its pretty little head unduly about how, and whether, they will be able to measure the walk. ” – Source

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Full Story

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In a move reminiscent of John Key’s use of the Police as National’s private para-military security force, in the Teapot Tape fiasco, ACC Minister Judith Collins  has laid a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner. She has also, allegedly, issued a defamation lawsuit against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard, Andrew Little, and Radio NZ. It is unclear, at this stage if she has actually carried out her threat of legal action.

It is this blogger’s belief that Collins has little interest in any actual investigation by the Privacy Commissioner, nor lawsuit against the two MPs and Radio NZ.

What we are witnessing is a cunning plan by the Minister. It is a plan so cunning that… she has all but succeeded in closing down one aspect of the ACC/Pullar/Collins/Smith/Boag/Slater/??? scandal.  She has successfully extricated herself from the issue by claiming some sort of “sub judice” principle,

Order Paper and questions

Questions for oral answer

3. Accident Compensation Corporation—Release of Personal Information

[Advance Copy – Subject to minor change before inclusion in Bound Volume.]

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: When was the email she received between 12 March 2012 and 18 March 2012 from Michelle Boag concerning Bronwyn Pullar and the involvement of both in a meeting over a mass privacy breach first printed by her or a staff member in her office?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC) : Since this matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that.

Andrew Little: Does she stand by her statement in an interview on Radio Live this morning, commencing at 8.22 a.m., that “I know exactly what has happened in terms of my office and myself.”?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I stand by all my statements.

Andrew Little: In whose custody and control was the copy or copies of the email that was made in her office placed?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, and it is not in the public interest for me to answer that.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Andrew Little’s question.

Andrew Little: What instructions did she give to any staff in her office, or any ACC staff member, in relation to the Michelle Boag email or any copy of it?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Since that matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that. ” – Source

Collins has been repeating, by rote, “that matter is before the Privacy Commissioner, it is not in the public interest for me to answer that“.

It means every time the media, an Opposition MP,  or anyone else asks Collins to respond to an embarressing question regarding her involvement in the ACC/Pullar/[Collins]/Smith/Boag/Slater/??? scandal – she has a convenient excuse to avoid answering.

In which case, one can only wonder what it is that Collins does not wish to  comment on?

Ignoring an inconvenient question by responding with “No Comment” used to be the stock response of politicians caught in the public spotlight and media glare. It often signified that they were keeping their mouth firmly shut to avoid further implicating themselves in whatever scandal was the order of the day.

But “no comment” became synonymous with “I’m guilty as sin”.

Hence why the spin doctors, media advisors, political strategists, and other sundry Party apparatchiks now have a new means to protect their wage-paying  Parliamentary masters: sub judice.

The process is  ridiculously simple;

  1. Lay a complaint with Police/Courts/Commissioners – or alternatively initiate  an Inquiry
  2. Deflect any questions thereafter by saying “That matter is before the – – – – “
  3. Then shut up.

Easy-peasy.

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So much for Key’s committment to “tranparency”. His government is as transparent as a muddy river.

When a government resorts to this sort of subterfuge, it’s fairly obvious that transparency has given way to furtiveness and secrecy. It indicates a government that is badly on the back-foot; vulnerable to criticism; and in a defensive mode.

It took Labour three terms to achieve such a state of hyper-sensitivity to criticism.

National has achieved it after only one term. Not exactly a position of strength and confidence in which to begin their second term.

It is the first subtle indication of a government on it’s way out.  God knows how they will end this term, if this is how they are starting out.

Not very well, I suspect. In fact, prepare for an early election or change of government.

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Previous Blogposts

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

John Key has another un-named source???

Other Blog’s posts

Citizen A online NOW – ACC fratricide, Ports of Auckland legal failure and convention center bribes

Fearfactsexposed: Government’s control of media sends a shiver down democracy’s spine

Additional

Listen to more on Radio NZ’s  Morning Report

Gordon Campbell: 90s Cabinet Gets Key Coat of Varnish

Statistics NZ: Gaming: an economically significant industry

Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

SkyCity would need at least 350 extra gambling machines for NZ$350 mln convention centre investment to be worth it, Goldman Sachs analyst says

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