Fran O'Sullivan: Two men with their backs against wall

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Len Brown (left) beat John Banks to become the first mayor of the Super City. Photo / Greg Bowker
Len Brown (left) beat John Banks to become the first mayor of the Super City. Photo / Greg Bowker

Confession: I didn't vote for naughty Len Brown to be Auckland's mayor this year. Nor did I vote for John Palino.

I just didn't vote.

But if Auckland's mayor does the decent thing, resigns and calls a new election to test his mandate, one thing is for sure: I will vote this time.

The reality is if Len Brown's affair with Bevan Chuang had become public knowledge during the election campaign, I'm sure I would have got my act together and voted.

But the fact is that even though I had owned the same apartment in the Auckland CBD for more than a decade, the voting papers hadn't turned up.

And in spite of good intentions, I didn't get around to sorting it out before the election closed.

I thought the Auckland mayoral election seemed like a done deal - so why bother? A far more distracting sport was watching Dean Barker getting thrashed in the America's Cup.

At least that's how I rationalised my failure to perform my civic duty this year.

But who leads New Zealand's largest city does matter.

It's true to say I am not really a Brown fan. I can't stand his mad face-palming. Or the karaoke singing.

All the happy clappy stuff puts me in mind more of an evangelical, hymn-singing minister than the kind of person I really believe the mayor of New Zealand's largest city should be. I do like his "world's most liveable city" mantra.

But frankly, I don't believe Brown is doing anything near enough to ensure this city's economic growth steps up.

There have been too many stand-offs with central Government that have got in the way of Auckland's progress.

But the problem is the centre-right has yet to muster anyone credible to go up against Brown.

And - this clearly is a post-fact justification - I'm damned if I would have given my vote to a former reality show host who only became the defacto centre-right candidate because anyone with real reputational clout thought Brown would be too hard to dislodge.

I'm also sure I wouldn't have wanted to see the election handed to Palino simply because Brown's all too obvious human frailties had been exposed in all their lurid details.

But the scandal wasn't out in public then.

This is now.

Brown's instinct is to hunker down and try to ride out the media storm.

He is being helped by the drip-feed of revelations about the role his former lover's buddies in the Palino camp played in his outing.

These revelations have made Brown a figure of fun. But there is also a sinister element to them. Particularly the pressure which Bevan Chuang claims was put on her by Palino's PR man (one of her other lovers) to try and get her to entrap Brown in making "dirty talk" on the phone.

There should be a proper wide-ranging council inquiry into whether Brown abused rules by creating favours for Chuang.

Not simply an inquiry put in place by the chief executive.

Once the inquiry reports, Brown should stand down and call for another election where voters can either accept him or reject him in the knowledge they have all facts on the table.

As for John Banks, the former Auckland mayor says he intends to stand again for Act at the 2014 election.

That's despite being committed for trial this week over the lack of disclosure of major donations to his campaign by Kim Dotcom at the 2010 Auckland mayoral election which he lost to Brown.

It is obvious if Banks loses the court case and is convicted he is out of Parliament.

Banks has used the old "didn't read what I signed" argument to try to step around the legal declaration he made of his election donations.

Fundamentally this doesn't wash.

The case to be made against him may not stick.

But Banks has form.

He also used the didn't-know excuse when Huljich Wealth Management founder Peter Huljich was caught dipping into his own pocket to secretly compensate for a bad investment. Banks was a director of the fund.

Back then he said, "No one has questioned my business credentials ever before and I can understand people looking closely at me now regarding this. I accept my share of responsibility as a director."

Banks is not a credible leader for Act. The party deserves better.

He should also resign at the next election.

But unlike Brown, Banks should not stand again.

- NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan has written a weekly column for the Business Herald since its inception in April 1997. In her early journalistic career she was a political journalist in Wellington and subsequently an investigative journalist who broke many major business stories including the first articles that led to the Winebox Inquiry in both NBR and the Sydney Morning Herald. She has specific expertise in relation to China where she has been a frequent visitor since the late 1990s. She is a former Editor of the National Business Review; has twice been awarded Qantas Journalist of the Year and is a multiple winner of the Westpac Financial Journalism Supreme Award.

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