Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Corruption wears a fine mask

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Odds are on the casino getting far more from a deal than it gives. Photo / Thinkstock
Odds are on the casino getting far more from a deal than it gives. Photo / Thinkstock

Imagine you live in a small town and one day a rather flashy individual turns up. This guy is loaded. He's also charming, friendly and very, very helpful.

First thing he does is ask to build a new house. It's huge. Just about the biggest building in your town, it can be seen from just about anywhere. Lots of people complain that it's too big, but somehow he manages to convince the powers that be to let him build it.

But once the place is built, strange things start happening. It's open house night and day there. Everyone's always welcome to hang out and play games. Of course, the games cost money but people are happy to pay for them. Very occasionally they may even get a refund.

He wants to spread his money around and offers to help out in the community by giving lots of money to charity.

After he's been in town for a while you start to notice he has some dodgy friends coming and going. Some are rumoured to be drug dealers, who can effectively hide their money at his place to use later.

Others just like to party - but it's hard to find babysitters so they leave their kids outside in their cars while they enjoy themselves inside. The parents feel bad, but they're just having so much fun they forget themselves. He hates it when this happens because it makes him look really bad. And that's just unfair when he gives so much to charity.

Normally, people who come to your town have to complete some paperwork, but he's persuaded those in charge that his visitors shouldn't have to bother with that. When they arrive they can start playing games straight away. Seems fair when he gives so much to charity.

Then you notice a lot of your old friends are going to visit the new guy a lot. You think he must be all right if they're mates with him. So you're disappointed when you find out he was paying them to be his friend. You thought he was giving most of his spare money to charity.

His home business is doing so well he wants to make it bigger, but that would be against the rules in your town. So he puts his mind to it and comes up with an offer to the people who run the town: he'll build them a big community hall if they'll let him expand. Of course, other people would like to build a hall, so they can't just hand that over to him. Somehow he manages to get the permission because he knows a bit more about what the town bosses want than the other people do who would like to build a hall. Obviously, this is no charity.

Looking at the big picture, now, do you think that, after all that's happened, you should continue to welcome this stranger's presence in your town? Or do you think there should be a commission of inquiry into the running of SkyCity Casino and the contempt it has shown Auckland under a veneer of sophistication and benevolence, which is becoming ever harder to maintain?


Speaking of the casino, the decision in the case of Shane Jones that there was "no evidence" of corruption is not a million miles from that of the inquiry which found "no evidence" of corruption behind the SkyCity convention centre deal.

No evidence of corruption is not an exoneration; it is a statement that the investigating body couldn't find any evidence.

- Herald on Sunday

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