Key, Banks, ethics and memory lapses

by Gordon Campbell
Disclosure rules exist in local body legislation for the public’s benefit, not the benefit of politicians. Yet the explicit message from yesterday’s press post-Cabinet conference was that Prime Minister John Key is willing to condone unethical behaviour, so long as it doesn’t reach the threshold of being provably illegal in a court of law.

Key faced repeated questioning about the standards he expected from his Ministers, and especially over what he felt about the grey area where behaviour is unethical, but does not breach the black and white letter of the law. turns out that unethical behaviour is fine by Key, and only illegal behaviour is not. That was made very clear in this exchange :

Campbell: Disclosure rules exist so that people will know where donations come from and how much they were. In this case, the law is lax enough to allow that to be shielded under anonymity…that’s why I’m raising the spirit of the law. If you found that a Minister had colluded to thwart the spirit of the law, would you feel that was perhaps, a hanging offence?

Key : No.

Surely, there is a point in the tawdry Banks saga where the weight of circumstantial evidence about the “ you scratch my back/I’ll scratch yours” nature of Banks’s relationship with Kim Dotcom is going to eliminate the wiggle room that has hitherto been available to Banks.

TV3’s evidence last night of helicopter flights, birthday toasts, cozy emails etc etc and today’s NZ Herald revelations about Banks’ intercession for Dotcom on a mooted land purchase heve been damning in that respect. The perception of ‘money for influence’ is now as important as the evidence – or lack of it – of actual wrongdoing, and it will increasingly be seen as tainting the Cabinet to which he belongs.

In the meantime, it doesn’t help that Banks is looking so remarkably shifty. His convenient lapses of memory are making him look like one of Tony Soprano’s crew under the FBI spotlight. Sure, his mayoral responsibilities did extend to waste management…but a somewhat better standard is expected of Cabinet. Or should be.

Public Address: John Banks in strife