Transcript from TVNZ’s Q&A
PAUL HOLMES 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?
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 Let me go to Mr Parker and see if he’s got an opinion on-
JOHN Ask him about the leadership of the Labour Party being rolled this week. That’ll be the sideshow. (LAUGHS)
PAUL (LAUGHS) I’m going to. On the Kim Dotcom, Shearer says stand down. What do you think?
DAVID PARKER Yeah, he should stand down. Look, this is serious. The police should look at it. It’s another sideshow from what the government should be focusing on. I do agree with John Banks on that, but unfortunately for him, he’s centre stage now and he should be standing aside so that he’s not the sideshow and the government can get on with managing the economy.
PAUL What about, though, I mean, you mention the leadership. His eminence Christopher Trotter saying he made the wrong decision when he backed David Shearer. (LAUGHS) Is there real faith – Can you speak honestly? Is there faith in David Shearer’s leadership?
DAVID Yes, there is. You know, David Shearer’s a courageous man. He’s a good leader. And I believe – and I actually think a lot of New Zealanders know that we’re lucky to have him in politics. There is no leadership coup. There has been no leadership coup rumours, other than in blogs, and it suits our political opponents to rark them up.
JOHN But Holmesy-
PAUL You must have heard the talk – there’s a feeling that the man’s got no mongrel.
DAVID I disagree. David Shearer comes from a background where he’s been dealing with mongrels all his life, and he puts them down when he has to. You know, you don’t have to be a pitbull terrier to be the prime minister. You do have to be strong and courageous.
PAUL And you don’t have to wear the guns on the outside.
JOHN What you didn’t say is that Mr Trotter, one of the great apologists for the left in this country, he said, quote, the David Shearer leadership is an – quote – unfortunate experiment. The sideshow won’t be me. The sideshow next week will be this joker and his mates rolling David Shearer.
PAUL Now, look, I’ll give you a quick word on the economy. That one-billion dollar hole is most uncomfortable. What can we do about it?
JOHN Start saving some money. Getting rid of middle class welfare. Look, Bill English is making a good fist of bringing the budget together at the crossroads. We’ve gotta take some tough decisions around spending. This outfit over here wants to spend more, want to borrow more, want to tax more and want to mortgage our grandchildren to the hock.
PAUL He’s dead right. I mean, interest-free student loans are a scandal.
DAVID I don’t take fiscal advice from John Banks-
PAUL You should because he gets money from – (LAUGHS)
DAVID (LAUGHS) Well, he might get money from Kim Dotcom, but when he was mayor, he tripled council debt in his last three years, so I don’t take- We need to grow the economy. The government’s focussed on asset sales. That doesn’t grow the economy. Changing who owns what already exists does not grow the output of economy. We need to invest in research and development, science and education. We need to get people going. And deeper savings.
PAUL 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.
DAVID I don’t believe that either.
PAUL That’s good. That’s my opinion.
JOHN You’ve been in a helicopter with me. I taught you to fly it.
PAUL Yes, you did.