Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up - Banks could hang on

John Banks. File photo / NZ Herald
John Banks. File photo / NZ Herald

If John Banks does go it will be to save John Key and National, not himself.

Being stood down as a Minister would certainly be the end of Banks' political career and, surely, the end of the Act Party. Given the looseness of the law on local body donations, the difficulty in proving that someone knew something, together with the extraordinary slowness of past police investigations, it's very likely that Banks could easily hang on as an MP until the next election. But does National really want a running sore for all that time?

Key's assertion that legality rather than ethics will determine how he acts won't enhance the Government's reputation at all. As John Armstrong points out, it means that Key's claim to be raising the bar when it comes to Ministerial standards sounds fairly hollow - see: Backing Banks each way could be a loser.

In an equally hard-hitting opinion piece Duncan Garner says that Key will have to sack Banks if phone records show he rang Kim Dotcom in the days after the donation - see: If Banks called Dotcom - he's gone.

He says the 2008 Winston Peters/Owen Glenn saga damaged Helen Clark when she defended Peters for too long and Key is in danger of suffering the same with Banks.

As with his 'tenants in our own land' comment regarding the Crafar Farms while he was Opposition leader, Key's previous rhetoric is now being used against him. While there are some differences, the scandal around Owen Glenn's secret donation to New Zealand First had Key thundering in 2008 that if he was Prime Minister he would have stood Winston Peters down. Metiria Turei has a blog post comparing Helen Clark's responses in 2008 to John Key's now - see: John Key double standard over John Banks. Pot meet kettle.

Peters will be seen to lack credibility when he attacks Banks directly. But then again, no one is more brazen than Peters - see: Winston Peters calls for SFO to investigate donation allegations. Similarly, Labour could be charged with double standards. David Farrar has quickly pounced upon the parallels between the banks.com scandal and those that occurred under the last Labour Government - see his detailed blog post, More on Banks, which suggests that Labour may be more motivated by gotcha politics than a real concern for electoral justice. So in the end National could try to defend itself by pointing to Labour's support for Peters during the Owen Glenn affair, but shouting 'your behaviour is as dodgy as ours' cannot be a winning strategy for a government.

Revelations that Banks lobbied (with initial success) his good friend Maurice Williamson to allow Kim Dotcom to purchase his mansion (see: David Fisher and Adam Bennett's Banks lobbied minister on Dotcom) will reinforce suspicions about the nature of the donations. Keith Ng asks Why are we still talking? (http://bit.ly/IFbSvy), making a strong case that, legalities aside, simple common sense is enough to figure out what happened, what the motivations were and whether it is acceptable for a Minister of the Crown to be involved.

Key's other tactic appears to be a diversionary one, as Vernon Small notes, releasing 'urgent' legislation to protect New Zealand from the hordes of boat people threatening our shores. Small is scathing: 'In a move purloined from the Australian conservative parties' playbook, he went straight for the illegal immigrants. "Tough new measures" would "stop queue jumping" by masses of boat people. Law would be rushed into the House this week and passed ... oh, before the end of the year' - see: Key not one to get stuck in mire. Small says this is a 'blatant' attempt to divert attention. If so it is one of the more repulsive political tactics used in politics. Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish has a good analysis of the threat these refugees pose - see: Government Moves To End Boat People Crisis.

While John Banks may be able to use his lawyers to stay as an MP, politically he and Act are dead in the water. Today's Herald editorial is very clear: Banks must resign over gift scandal. Act member Cathy Odgers is so over John Banks that she has even published the list of Act Board members to encourage other members to lobby for Banks' removal - see: Banks Denies Sex With Kim Dot Com. As the title of her blogpost suggests, the final straw for her appears to have been Banks' bizarre interview on RadioLive - which you can listen to here.

Other good items on the banks.com scandal include: Karl du Fresne's What's that about supping with the devil?, Campbell Live's additional information about the saga - watch the video, Toby Manhire's Pressure mounts on John Key over Banks-Dotcom donations scandal, and iPredict's page of stock options about the banks.com scandal which suggest an increasingly likelihood that Banks will lose his ministerial position and be charged by police.

Other important or interesting political items today include:
* Audrey Young reports that the latest Herald poll finally has some good news for Labour - see: Labour makes big leap in poll. As Russell Brown points out this will obviously be welcome relief for Shearer but he agrees with David Farrar's analysis of David Cunliffe's speech, saying that 'If the party stalwarts have fallen as far out of love with Shearer as everyone says, then Cunliffe was coming a-courting' - see: The Base. See also Vernon Small's report on Cunliffe's speech: Labour was too close to National: Cunliffe.

* Rob Salmond argues that polling since the election hasn't been that bad for Shearer and Labour (see: Poll of Polls: Sanity Check) and gets a response form Danyl Mclauchlan - see: Why the Shearer backlash.

* TVNZ's Simon Bradwell says it's time for ACC to admit they were wrong and call off the dogs - see: ACC shot down again.

* The rebuild of Christchurch is essentially a choice between a beautiful heritage rebuild or the cheap option of 'tilt-slab buildings' and carparks, according to Ian Maxwell writing in the Press (Chch rebuild going pear-shaped).

* With the issue of lobbying - and it's regulation - becoming a hot topic, the Parliamentary Library has produced an excellent research paper on the issue, concentrating on international comparisons - see: Lobbying regimes: an outline.

* Chris Trotter traces the start of the decline in voter participation to a cold July day in 1984 - see: Why such a low voter turnout in 2011?, and on the same topic, Radio New Zealand's Insight investigation into 'why people don't vote and what can be done to turn the trend around' - can be listened to here.

- NZ Herald

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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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