Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the John Banks verdict

June 6th, 2014

So John Banks has been found guilty of knowingly signing off a fraudulent electoral return. It is an offence that carries a penalty – two years in jail or a $10,000 fine – that should indicate the will of Parliament that such offences be treated very seriously indeed. At the time, Parliament presumably wanted to deter this sort of dodgy behavior, which undermines the public’s faith in the integrity of local government elections. Since we’re about to enter the home stretch of an election campaign, you’d think the need to protect that faith should be paramount.

So far though, what have been the consequences of Banks being found guilty of this offence? Zilch. So far, his guilt has not been recorded and will not be until August, pending pre-sentencing reports and other matters. Thanks to this technicality, a by election may be avoided, subject to timing as to whether Parliament will, or won’t need to re-convene to deliver a 75% vote to avert the need for one.

More to the point, Banks will be able to sit in Parliament in the meantime, and vote on any legislation that comes before the House. Conceivably, this business could include the private members bill from Labour MP Ian Galloway-Lees that seeks to scrap the electoral coat-tail provisions of MMP, a bill that has been drawn from the ballot. Should a prime beneficiary of the “cup of tea” be allowed to vote on that matter – or any other business of Parliament – after being found guilty of a serious offence of a fraudulent nature? Is this likely to encourage public respect for Parliament?

For his part, Banks has shown no contrition whatsoever. His legal team has signalled its intention to apply for a discharge without conviction. Outside the court, Banks himself jauntily cited a 1930s song about how into each life some rain must fall – as if this verdict was the product of some entirely external force that had descended on him arbitrarily, as if Banks himself had not been the rainmaker. To that end, there has been a strong media narrative that has chosen to focus on the pathos of Banks’ condition. Both the NZ Herald and Fairfax have cited the criminal convictions of his parents and the alleged vow of a teenage John Banks to follow the path of hard work and righteousness, only to fall prey to…well, the Herald all but portrayed Banks as the hapless victim of some ancient family curse:

As someone who had experienced grinding poverty – unlike the great majority of MPs – he made a plea [in Parliament] for an end to government borrowing to fund ever more welfare….The speech moved other MPs in the House regardless of political allegiance. But it was also a reminder that as much as he might try to do so, he can never escape his past.

Right. No irony of course in the fact that this sentimentalism is being invoked in the context of a passionate plea by Banks for a crackdown on welfare spending, rather than compassion. Compassion is to be reserved for the rich and powerful,who have so much further to fall. The guilty verdict – and the criminal offending that triggered it – is also apparently regarded by the Herald as being just another of the curve-balls that public life will throw at you “out of nowhere” from time to time. The problem it seems, is that Banks has set himself such very, very high standards:

In time, however, he will regard the verdict as just another low point in a public life which has been punctuated constantly with noteworthy highs and similarly littered with hard-to-take lows. But not now. Banks is cursed with being a perfectionist. But the world of politics is imperfect. It has a habit of of throwing a curve-ball out of nowhere. And Banks – who would have thought he was off the hook after the police opted not to press charges – got one which he will argue to his dying day he never deserved.

But as much as he has been found guilty of rorting the handling of political donations, he is more guilty of foolishness. For that reason, it would be silly to send him to prison.

Amazing stuff. Yet before we switch off the John Banks soap opera, it’s worth recalling the backdrop to this sordid affair. Banks has been found guilty of deliberately falsifying a key aspect of the electoral system of local government for personal gain. The Police, who were so zealous in pursuing the cameraman who recorded the Banks/John Key “cup of tea” recording in Epsom, didn’t want a bar of pursuing Banks on this matter. It took a private prosecution to even begin to bring Banks to rights. While under the shadow of this prosecution, Banks was still able to sit in Parliament and cast a crucial vote that enabled the SkyCity convention deal to scrape through Parliament.

Yet no one, from Banks on downwards, has shown any sign of having done anything that deserves repentance. Or done anything that requires corrective action say, by the Police with respect to their politically weighted use of their prosecutorial powers. On RNZ this morning for instance, Jamie Whyte, the new leader of the Act Party, seemed too dim to grasp that there could be anything wrong with the Act Party’s sole MP continuing to sit in Parliament after being found guilty of a serious offence. If you can get away with it on a technicality, a mystified Whyte seemed to be saying, why wouldn’t you?

Sheesh. The wonder is not that so many people don’t think its worth bothering to vote. It is more surprising that so many of us still do.

Just One Of The Guys
Classic rock structures can still be revitalised. Jenny Lewis, the former lead singer of Rilo Kiley, has been making strong, completely individual classic rock music for years now, as a solo act. This new track from her about-to-be released album The Voyager, deals with a personal issue – the ticking of the biological clock for women, the not-so pressing issues of ageing for guys – with a nonchalance that only underlines the sense of gendered injustice. Plus, and for comparison, here’s her terrific version (from a few years ago) of the old Travelling Wilburys/Roy Orbison classic “Handle With Care”.


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    1. 24 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the John Banks verdict”

    2. By Maz on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      Thanks for that, Gordon.

      I too was dumbfounded by Jamie Whyte’s inability to see anything wrong. For goodness sake, he has been found GUILTY.

    3. By Andrew on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      Spot on re Banks. What mystifies me is the extent the media focus on personality, not morality. Always with the story-telling and entertaining personal anecdote, never with anything remotely objectively critical.
      Why has no-one questioned the implication of John Key’s statement that he’s always found John Banks to be honest, when it was blindingly obvious to most of us that he was simply a shameless liar. Is there a more concrete example of just how wildly miscalibrated JK’s moral compass is than this?

    4. By Delia Morris on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      If you want an example of why the kids do not vote. It is this and right wing media’s shallow attempts to defend it. I come from an extended family who experienced poverty through loss of a breadwinner. My grandmother was widowed with seven young children. All grew up to have jobs, all were honest. There is no excuse for John Keys behaviour. Our country is in a moral mess and it is the politicians and the mainstream media who are leading it.

    5. By Delia Morris on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      *Correction I am so used to writing John Key I should have typed John Banks. Apologies to the PM and the reader.

    6. By Delia Morris on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      John Key should read John Banks in my last comment. Apologies for the error.

    7. By Joe Wylie on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      The wooden leg waving on Banks’s behalf re. his blighted upbringing appears to be drawn mainly from Paul Goldsmith’s presumed hagiographty. That’s the same Goldsmith who concocted the pious fraud of Don Brash as a dashing twinkle-toed ballroom dancer.

    8. By Rob Taylor on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      There is one word missing from all of this: corruption.

      John Banks is a corrupt politician, who has been found guilty of fraudulently taking money from an alleged foreign criminal mastermind to assist said villain to stay in the country.

      Banks dutifully lobbied the then Minster of Immigration accordingly. Guess what? Said Minster (Maurice Williamson) has since been fired from Cabinet for interceding with the Police on behalf of yet another foreign criminal who was distributing largesse to the National Party.

      Just wondering – could there be a pattern here?

    9. By Kat on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      “Amazing stuff….”

      Oh look there goes a big black cloud…..

      Oh look its just rained on some people…..

      “Amazing stuff”

    10. By Jim on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      Wrt Banks – right on the nail!
      So much for the NACT mandate.

    11. By John on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      Settle down petals. There is a process to be followed. When a person is found guilty – any person – they have a right to apply for a s106 discharge. And a s106 discharge can take a little time. What is your reason for saying that John Banks is the one person in New Zealand who should be barred from this right? You have gone a little overboard in this. Do you actually want to hand to Banks, grounds for a successful appeal? Now that would be stupid. Stop being stupid.

    12. By John on Jun 6, 2014 | Reply

      You also want to debar Banks from any right of appeal, a right that is guaranteed by our NZ Bill of Rights Act. Settle down you lot. There is a procedure to be followed. I know you want Banks’ blood as well as his guts. But there is a procedure. And the wheels of justice take time.

    13. By clairbear on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      I see that you are being rather tricky here.
      I quote “Conceivably, this business could include the private members bill from Labour MP Ian Galloway-Lees that seeks to scrap the electoral coat-tail provisions of MMP, a bill that has been drawn from the ballot. Should a prime beneficiary of the “cup of tea” be allowed to vote on that matter ”

      you do know of course that no coat-tailing occurred following this cup of tea between Banks and Key and yet you link this to the potential vote on coat-tailing.

      Are you trying to deceive us.

    14. By clairbear on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      I also find it hard to get too excited over the illegality of this – Banks is just one that got caught, perhaps he is most guilty of not trying hard enough to hide it.

      Interesting that one of the key reasons the judge gave for his verdict was that it purposely too steps not to check who made donations. – kind of mirrors (al though for lessor amounts) exactly what Cunliffe has just done.

      Of course is this was labour and or the Greens and or NZ First and they got caught doing something illegal in government e.g. spending $800K illegally on a pledge card they would retrospectively change the law so it was no longer illegal.

    15. By Nyg on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      And this is related to john banks being honest how …?

    16. By Nyg on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      And lets not forget whom changed the law clairbear when jk gave skycity a 35 yr monopoly and more gambling aperartus via a law change via john banks support , then ther was ‘the hobbit law ‘ change , the law change to allow mining in national parks ( which dont belong to national b.t.w )

    17. By Kat on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      Clairbear, are you John Archibald Banks?

    18. By Mike on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      I do not understand how New Zealand law works. The judge said he found Mr Banks guilty, how is this not a conviction? Am I missing something here or has New Zealand criminal law been very recently rewritten to save Banks’s arse? Perhaps his legal team is going to ask for diversion, as if he is a naughty teenager. This man arrogantly flouted the law and still thinks he has done nothing wrong and the criminal justice system is bending over backwards to let him down easy. Disgusting.

    19. By anne on Jun 7, 2014 | Reply

      What i also find incredible is that Whyte who is going to be the new leader of Act has said
      in the media that he is ok with incest.
      Does having lots of cash ‘Fry your brain’? seems so.
      I honestly can’t remember a time when the state of politics in NZ has reached such a low,I am 60, even old Muldoon was more honest than what we have on the right now,even though,i didn’t like the little b—-r.
      sometimes he had a wicked sense of humour.

    20. By clairbear on Jun 8, 2014 | Reply

      No I am not Banks – I am an IT specialist and spend a lot of time working with logical analysis – and am therefore geared to identifying inconsistencies.

      Further I am not a John Banks supporter – don’t like him at all, just want to focus on getting fair representation, logical and correct analysis from the media rather than them forming an opinion and then selecting facts and or statements to suite that opinion, and discarding things that don’t suit.

    21. By Rob on Jun 8, 2014 | Reply

      I’m also an IT analyst and I find your “logic” to be pretty laughable.

      The reason Banks wasn’t involved in a coat-tailing scenario in Epsom during the last election was because the public did not give ACT enough party votes.

      Banks and Key tried to stitch it up but the NZ public rejected the deal, as you believe this to not be the case I’d be interested in hearing what your logical analysis makes of the reasons for the cuppatea?

      If other politicians are just as guilty as Banks maybe you should take a private prosecution against them? Since when was “they did it too!” a defence of illegal activity anyway?

      You may not be a John Banks supporter (anymore?), but its pretty obvious that your gear-ratio with regards to identifying inconsistencies is heavily biased to the right-hand gear.

    22. By RJL on Jun 9, 2014 | Reply

      clairbear: “…you do know of course that no coat-tailing occurred following this cup of tea between Banks and Key…”

      Only because of the happy accident that there were insufficient fools in NZ who voted for ACT. The clear intention behind Banks/Key/Tea was to drag one or more other MPs (i.e. Brash and friends) into Parliament with Banks.

    23. By Peter on Jun 9, 2014 | Reply

      clairbear:”…I am an IT specialist and spend a lot of time working with logical analysis – and am therefore geared to identifying inconsistencies.”

      Speaking of inconsistencies… The biggest consistency on RNZ this morning was John Key maintaining his belief that he found John Banks to be an “Honest Man”. Unfortunately this is inconsistent with the truth as the court has determined. To be consistent, John Key would now presumably view Kim Dotcom as a slightly more honest man than John Banks. We await John Key’s announcement.

    24. By reason on Jun 9, 2014 | Reply

      Clairbears linking of the greens with any ‘pledge card’ shows she has the logic of a right winger sticking up for a convicted corrupt right wing politician ………

      Banks on the whole is a nasty man with big streaks of greed and racism in his personality.

      Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    25. By TeKuou on Jun 10, 2014 | Reply

      Should ALL the legislation passed utilising Banks’vote in parliament be revisited? Could be argued Bills passed are ‘unsafe’ in that he was effectively operating in a reckless manner.

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