Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Tide turns against Banks

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It seems Key is only worried about whether Banks has misled him personally with no concerns about whether he has misled the public. Photo / NZ Herald
It seems Key is only worried about whether Banks has misled him personally with no concerns about whether he has misled the public. Photo / NZ Herald

'Obfuscation' is a word that is being widely used about John Banks at the moment. Political journalists, newspaper editorials and bloggers are roundly condemning the Act Party leader for his alleged deviousness in both his political fundraising and his response to the latest allegations about the Dotcom scandal.

The problem for the Government is that John Key has been forced to partake in the obfuscation as well. So much so, that Andrea Vance is calling the Prime Minister the Master of Keyvasive action. Vance sums up Key's orientation to the Banks saga: 'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. And in John Key's case, read no evil'. And Key's inclination to obfuscate on the issue meant that the Prime Minister's press conference, according to Vance, 'was torturous and frustrating'. She also goes through the various measures that Key is currently employing in his attempt to keep Banks on as a minister. These include 'resolutely refusing to take a look at the 126-page dossier from the police investigation' so he can't comment on it, and he has left it to his staff to talk to Banks, so he can't comment on what Banks has told him.

Vance also sees the Government's announcement of proposed law changes as a cynical attempt to deflect: 'This allows Mr Key to answer any uncomfortable questions about Mr Banks' behaviour by criticising the law'. But perhaps Vance's most cutting observation is that John Key seems only worried about whether Banks has misled him personally - and seemingly has no concerns about whether he has misled the public.

More obfuscation is coming from the Act Party, with the president also conveniently refusing to read the Police report into their leader - see Claire Trevett's Act sticks by Banks - for now. Apparently the president regards the issue as a mere 'political sideshow'. Trevett's article also draws parallels between Key's defence of Banks and Helen Clark's 2008 defence of Winston Peters during the so-called Glenngate political financing scandal. An inconsistency - or perhaps hypocrisy - is suggested because Key used that occasion to campaign hard against the then Prime Minister's obfuscation and protection of Peters, but now simply regards that as a different situation.

That the tide seems to have well and truly turned against John Banks is evidenced by criticial newspaper editorials. The Press editorial today is particularly strong, suggesting that Key and National will soon start to suffer from their protection of a politician that the public has overwhelmingly recongised as dodgy. There is a clear message to John Key: Cut him loose. The editorial also condemns the 'hair-splitting justification' going on. Similarly, a recent Dominion Post editorial concludes, 'Banks has now lost all credibility and Mr Key's will be steadily eroded the longer he stands by him' - see: Obfuscation makes Banks a liability.

The focus on Banks' Auckland mayoral campaign fundraising highlighted the bigger issue of the electoral system used in the supercity. Brian Rudman has written a very thoughtful column taking the incumbent to task for the suggestion that his challengers should have a reduced campaign spending limit - see: Mayoralty race a rich man's sport. Rudman also makes some very interesting arguments in favour of an Auckland Parliament instead of an elected mayor and council.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Tristram Clayton's Campbell Live item on school lunches is a must view. The images comparing the food available to decile 10 school students and those from a decile 1 school are both compelling and disturbing, no matter what your politics or views on poverty and welfare. The contrast also goes some way to explaining why many middle class New Zealanders have difficulty seeing the problem that professionals on the frontline have identified - see: Lunchbox differences in decile 1 and decile 10 schools.

* Gordon Campbell has produced a refutation of John Armstrong's weekend column labelling him (and myself) as a 'blogging parasite' - see: On journalism, and John Armstrong. Russell Brown has weighed in with a similarly thoughtful and critical piece - see: Tired and emotional, for reals. The bloggers versus the mainstream media element of John Armstrong's weekend critique is taken up by TVNZ's Damian Christie in Bloggers: Pr*cks, Ars*holes, B*st*rds and C*nts. He puts forward some good reasons why journalists might want to throw some nasty names around about bloggers, but ultimately concludes: 'Having a bitch about bloggers criticising your work is like a dinosaur sitting in a swamp whinging about the oncoming meteorite. Much as you might want to, you can't stop it. It ain't going away. Time to adapt'.

* It might seem strange to hear it, but a government of the right is talking about nationalisation - see Danya Levy's Government could nationalise water - Key. Meanwhile the Maori Party is repeating claims that it got an assurance from John Key that he would not do any such thing - see Tracy Watkins' Maori Party backs king's water claim.

* Joshua Hitchcock at Maori Law and Poltiics has a legal warning for both the Government and iwi over the consultation process: "Shares-Plus" Consultation Pro-forma and Tainui boycott recent case law.

* A recent trial and an ongoing Serious Fraud Ofiice investigation into the Wellington Tenths Trust has led the Dominion Post to reveal some eye-watering-sized consultancy fees being proposed for the sale of the Wellington Railway station - see Hamish Rutherford and Tim Donoghue's Plan to sell railway station for casino. David Farrar comments 'I see Barry Hart got struck off for over-charging his clients by a few thousand. He obviously did not think big enough.

* It is roughly twice as dangerous to work in New Zealand as in Australia and almost four times as dangerous as working in Britain - see Rob Stock's Shocking work death toll revealed in report.

* The solutions being suggested to counter the loss of jobs and encourage exporters have been tried and have failed before writes Richard Long in There's no going back to the 70s.

* Hone Harawira's "house nigger" comment has undone much of his good work since being re-elected last November says Willie Jackson - see: Hone Harawira's mistake.

* Allowing local democracy to flourish and make the big decisions about Christchurch's re-build would have built support rather than the opposition we are currently seeing argues Chris Trotter in Christchurch rebuild needed a local solution.

* Every year the Bruce Jesson Foundation, in conjunction with the University of Auckland, hosts a lecture by a prominent leftwing intellectual. This year, it's investigative journalist Nicky Hager - speaking at the University on 31 October - see: Nicky Hager to deliver 2012 Bruce Jesson Lecture.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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