With his leadership a matter of media speculation, Labour’s David Shearer must have relished an opportunity to go on the front foot and lash out at a bloke whose position as ACT leader is impeccably secure: John Banks.
Banksie – we can be sure – sleeps soundly at nights, confident in the knowledge his caucus is 100 per cent with him and no other ACT MP is likely to stab him in the back, wallop him on the head with a bound volume of Hansard, or do any of the other things that results in a leader’s replacement.
Not so with Shearer. who seems to have difficulties managing his office, let alone a caucus or – God forbid – the country.
So it’s a bit rich for Shearer to be calling for Banksie to be stood down from the Cabinet over the trivial matter of a bit of some unexplained money.
It’s good to see The Boss treating Shearer with a bit of well-deserved contempt.
Prime Minister John Key is dismissing calls to stand down ACT leader John Banks from the Cabinet over questions about a $50,000 donation from German billionaire Kim Dotcom.
Mr Key said it was “solely a matter for the police” and he had received an assurance from Mr Banks that he acted within the law.
This fuss has arisen because the Dotcom camp has alleged Banksie knew about the $50,000 donation to his 2010 campaign for the Auckland mayoralty and phoned to thank Dotcom personally.
But (so the story goes) the money is listed on Banks’ 2010 mayoral return as two anonymous donations of $25,000 each.
Shearer has become unduly excited about these dubious disclosures.
Labour leader David Shearer said that, until Mr Banks was prepared to give an assurance that he did not knowingly conceal the donation, Mr Key had no choice but to stand him down from the Cabinet.
But Banksie is getting on a bit and – as Alf is discovering – the memory isn’t ticking on all cylinders when you are getting on a bit.
So it’s fair to say he can’t remember.
This happened a year or so ago, after all, and when you are running for Mayor all sorts of things are going on.
And so, sure enough –
Mr Banks says he cannot remember whether he discussed the donation with Dotcom, who is on bail and facing extradition proceedings over piracy claims lodged by United States authorities.
But Mr Key said he asked Mr Banks if he had acted within the law and received an assurance that he had.
“I accept him at his word [and] if people don’t believe that, they’re free to test that with the police.”
This is thoroughly understandable, because Banskie used to be our Minister of Police, and furthermore he has been conditioned by his upbringing to behave in a law-abiding way.
When you behave in a law-abiding you don’t have to remember whether you did everything within the law two years ago.
You will be absolutely confident you did everything within it.
But Labour MPs are apt to see law-breaking where there is none.
And so we learn that –
Police are already investigating a complaint from Labour MP Trevor Mallard that Mr Banks knew about a $15,000 SkyCity donation to his mayoral campaign, also listed as anonymous.
But Banksie will come out of this okay.
Mr Banks told TVNZ’s Q+A yesterday: “I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide and I welcome the inquiry and everything will come out in the wash.”
He labelled the story a “sideshow”, a “media beatup” and “humbug”.
But he repeatedly refused to answer questions about what he knew about the Dotcom donation.
“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.”
When asked if he was suggesting that the Dotcom camp was lying, he responded: “I don’t know why you’re going on about this. I have nothing to hide. I’m very happy to have the inquiry.”
So where are these claims of money mischief coming from?
TV3, for starters.
TV3’s Campbell Live said on Friday it had been told by Dotcom that, when Mr Banks was running for the mayoralty, he had raised the subject of campaign donations with the German billionaire.
Dotcom told the programme he immediately offered Mr Banks $50,000 and Mr Banks gratefully accepted his offer. But he asked for the donation to be split into two payments of $25,000 each.
There was no donation from Dotcom listed on Mr Banks’ returns but there were five anonymous donations of $25,000, TV3 said.
Mallard is in his element of course, getting the media attention Alf should be getting for the speech he delivered yesterday on the subject of horse meat and how it is best cooked.
He has confirmed the cops have been in touch with him to confirm an investigation into this, that and the other, including a SkyCity donation.
He said (quite rightly) that if Dotcom was right and that Banks phoned him to thank him for the donation, they would be able to check that through phone records.
Former National Party president Michelle Boag gets into the act, too.
How very Auckland this is, eh?
She was among supporters who had worked on Mr Banks’ campaign, but she said yesterday she knew nothing about donations from Dotcom or SkyCity.
According to Stuff –
The affair has revived calls for a cleanup of the act governing local body elections, which are not governed by the same rules as general elections.
That no doubt is a good idea.
The important thing is that Banksie doesn’t suddenly get his memory back, or suddenly feel an urge to start answering media questions, or some such.
That’s when things like this can become messy.