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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Franks’

ACT. Auckland. Chooks. Roosting.

19 July 2012 8 comments

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This is Stephen Franks,

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Stephen Franks was an ACT MP from 1999 to 2005, and later stood (unsuccessfully) for the Wellington Central electorate in 2008.

See: Wikipedia Stephen Franks

Stephen Franks is also an occassional guest on Jim Mora’s Afternoon Panel on Radio NZ, where Franks occassionally espouses his neo-liberal, free market ideology.

This is John Banks,

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But he’s not important.

This is Rodney Hide. He is central to this story,

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Rodney Hide was an ACT MP from 1996 to 2011, and led the party from 2004 onward, until he was replaced in a bizarre coup d’état by Don Brash, in April last year.

See: Wikipedia Rodney Hide

See: Wikipedia Don Brash

During his role as Minister for Local Affairs, Rodney Hide oversaw the forced amalgamation of several city and district councils.  By 2010, several councils were merged into one, “supercity” – Auckland Council.

This amalgamation was enabled by Parliamentary legislation  (Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009), and which was passed under urgency.

See: Auckland super city bill passed by parliament

Though quite why it was considered “urgent” has never been satisfactorily explained by National or ACT. Were they expecting Auckland to be beamed aboard a flying saucer and carried away into outer space?!

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In fact, when Rodney Hide first presented the amalgamation Bill to Parliament on 15 December 2009, he was quite enthusiastic about it,

The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively.

The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.

The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.

See: Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill — First Reading

When the Bill was passed on it’s third and final Reading in the House,  on 2 June 2010, it passed 64 votes to 57. Those voting for it were,

  • 58  National MPs
  • 5 ACT MPs
  • 1 United Future MP (Peter Dunne)

Thus was born the Auckland  supercity, a creature of the ACT Party.

So it is a bit rich now, that the same Stephen Franks, ex-ACT MP, is gnashing his teeth and making great wailing noises about how the Auckland Council – now two years old, in law – is operating,

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Full story

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Contrast Stephen Franks’ complaints, with that of his one-time Party Leader, Rodney Hide,

Stephen Franks: ” The law setting up the Super City deliberately created a presidential mayoralty and gave councillors no clear rights to information.

It certainly does not protect council officers who want to provide unbiased information to councillors against the wishes of their bosses, the chief executive and the mayor.

The law may have been drafted out of frustration with years of indecision fuelled by endless reporting and consultation as excuses for inaction. Perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead.

Amazingly till now there has been little publicised protest at the constitutional barbarity of this structure. Without clear rights to the same information available to the executive they must monitor, councillors become spare wheels.

“Carping critics” who are also unavoidably ignorant are in no position to maintain the safeguards of democratic control.

Some have called the Auckland governance structure the corporate model. If so it is a poor copy. The company model is robust about directors’ rights to oversee management. Directors have an almost unrestricted right to information from anywhere in the company. Even conflicts of interest create only a partial exception. ”

Rodney Hide:  ” The importance of local government to the growth and prosperity of Auckland should not be underestimated. Good governance enables civic leaders to think regionally, plan strategically, and act decisively. Governance arrangements affect the ability to solve the larger and longer-term challenges effectively.

The Auckland region needs decisive leadership, robust infrastructure, and facilities and services to cater for its people.

The provisions of the two previous Acts and the proposals in this bill will deliver a united Auckland governance structure, strong regional governance, integrated decision-making, greater community engagement, and improved value for money.

Just what is  Stephen Franks complaining about?

His Party voted for “decisive leadership” and “strong regional governance” – and he got it.

Why on Earth is he complaining bitterly that “perhaps the law’s designers chose to give elected dictatorship a go instead” – when it was the ACT Party,  his party, that drafted and sponsored the Bill in Parliament in 2009 and 2010?

If ever there was a case of chickens coming home to roost, then this is it.

And irony of ironies – Franks complimented Cr Cathy Casey for her outstanding attempts to instill some measure of democracy and transparency into the Auckland Council culture,

Councillor Casey has done what oppressed councillors do across the land, and asked the Auditor-General for help…

… Let’s hope Councillor Casey does not just wait for the Auditor-General fairy to give her x-ray vision. She could get alongside Councillors Fletcher, Wood and Cameron Brewer, who have been warning of this constitutional problem for some time, to get the upgrade under way. “

Ms Casey is a left-wing Councillor, having had close affiliation with the now-defunct Alliance Party.

In which case,  suggesting that Cr Casey  “get alongside ”  Councillors Fletcher and Cameron Brewer, simply beggars belief. Either  Mr Franks is woefully amnesiac like the current leader of ACT – or he is willfully mischievous.

Why, you ask?

Because Councillors Fletcher and Cameron Brewer are both members the National Party.  (Cr Wood is a member of the Citizens & Ratepayers group, which is linked to the National Party through it’s membership.)

See:   Blogpost – Right Way the Wrong Way

And the National Party supported ACT’s legislation to draft; table; and pass the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 – the law which created the supercity and it’s current governance model.

It is unclear why Franks believes that right wing city councillors ( Christine Fletcher, George Wood and Cameron Brewer) might work with left wing Cr Casey, when Fletcher, Wood, and Brewer support the Party that enabled the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 in the first place?!?!

If  Stephen Franks has a gripe about the legislation, he should take it up with the ACT Party – which presently consists of one man, John Banks.

But he better be quick about it. ACT is living on borrowed time, and  is soon to follow the dinosaur, mammoth, and moa, into extinction.

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Of mice and men (and much, much, money)

30 March 2012 2 comments

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Lombard Finance was one of fortynine finance companies that’ve collapsed since 2006. An estimated $8.5 billion of investor’s funds was affected.  Many of the directors of companies such as Lombard, Hanover, Dominion Finance Group, Bridgecorp, etc,  have appeared in Courts on various charges – usually centering around making untrue statements in their respective investment prospectuses.

Of those who lost money, many were the real “mum & dad” investors whom John Key invokes when his Party talks of privatisation of state owned assets.

Many of these “mum & dad” and “grandma & grandpa” investors have lost their life savings due to the actions of finance companies.

Those who are ultimately responsible are the directors. There is no one “above” them in terms of accountability.

As a certain US president once stated,

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Quite simply, if Directors are not responsible – then who is? And why – if Directors are not responsible – are they signing prospectus and being paid generous directors’ fees?

According to Stephen Franks – ex ACT  Member of Parliament  and unsuccessful National Party candidate – the Directors of Lombard and other companies should not have been prosecuted under the Crimes Act. In an interview on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report,  with Geoff Robinson today, Franks said,

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RNZ:  “… so was it appropriate to have a criminal case?”

Franks:  “No, I think it’s very wrong that the criminal law gets in here because it leads even someone as experienced as you   [Robinson] to say something that’s false. They weren’t convicted  of making false statements, they were convicted of making untrue statements. But quite reasonably you’re treating it as false. Untrue because the thing didn’t require any conscious intention or even knowledge. If it wasn’t true it was untrue, but we usually use the term false meaning someone’s, you know,  deliberately -“

RNZ: (interuption)]

Franks: “… knowingly made an untrue statement. But because this has become a criminal law matter, people feel, not unfairly, that they should be able to use the more extravagant language of wrong-doing, wickedness, thief, theft.

If you look at the blogs you’ll see people are foaming and I don’t blame them. I think the criminal law should deal with bad people. But the problem is it’s got involved in an area  where as the judge clearly said, this was just a mis-judgement…”

[abridged]

“… I’m not condoning poor judgement,  I think the law should be easier to enforce as a civil action, but I don’t like seeing the criminal law misused against people who aren’t dishonest.”

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There are several aspects to Stephen Franks’ comments which require a response.

Whilst I am not a lawyer, criminal law takes into account negligence as well as dis-honesty.

  • A driver who causes a crash, with injury or loss of life, can be charged and tried under the Crimes Act. The driver was not dis-honest in any manner – but their negligence was seen as criminal because of consequences that affected others.
  • Negligence can have severe consequences, as much as a deliberate act such as selling drugs or robbing a bank.
  • The investors in failed finance companies can indeed take civil action against former Directors of failed finance companies. But to what end? Often the assets of Directors is buried away in family trusts – as were some of the Lombard Four.  So no compensation is possible.
  • Civil action is a costly process, with the legal bills being met by the plaintiff. Even legal aid is not the “blank cheque” that is commonly believed by the public. Legal Aid is a loan, not a grant, and the State may demand it be repaid, in full, or in part,  at the earliest opportunity.

Stephen Franks may be on solid ground when he splits legal hairs by defining the difference between “untrue” and “false”.

But I doubt if the “mums/dads” and “grandma/grandpas” will appreciate the finer points between the two terms.

It astounds me that Stephen Franks could suggest that company directors not be prosecuted under the Crimes Act, and that creditors be forced to resort to private civil prosecutions. Many of the creditors are no longer in any financial position or even fit mental state to pursue errant directors through the Courts.

An elderly person who has lost his/her life savings to the dodgy dealings of finance companies is most likely a broke person – both financially and emotionally. Franks wants the victims of these companies to take on more responsibilies to pursure justice?

In what possible manner is that even remotely fair???

I am reminded of Stephen Franks’ original political ‘home’, the ACT Party,

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Source

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ACT and other right wing parties and their adherents make a Big Thing about responsibility.

It appears that this concept of responsibility may  not apply to company directors, responsible for flushing  approximately $8 billion in other peoples’ money down the proverbial toilet? Responsibility for some, but not for others?

By comparison, if I robbed someone of $20, that would be Strike One against me, and time spent in jail . The Three Strikes law – courtesy of the ACT Party.

I have no wish to see the Lombard Four or other failed finance company directors end up in jail. Wasting $90,000 p.a. to throw middle aged or  elderly men behind bars, who are otherwise no threat to society, seems pointless.

But at the very least, the  “mums/dads” and “grandma/grandpas”  who lost their savings should know that those responsible are held to account.

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Additional

Radio NZ:  Securities lawyer analyses sentencing of lombard directors (interview)

Shark Patrol:  Failed or Collapsed Finance Companies

NZ Treasury:  Claims or Repayment Process Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme

NZ Herald: Finance Company Collapses (and court cases)

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