Toby Manhire

Toby Manhire on New Zealand

Toby Manhire: Sometimes it is best to leave things unread

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Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Getty Images
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Getty Images

In this time of austerity, of cutbacks, of needs over wants, it is little wonder that the Prime Minister's staff are pushed. Unlike those with too much time on their hands, buggerising around on Facebook, John Key and his people are busy, busy, busy. Lots to do on Planet Key.

They can't be expected to parse every doorstop-sized report that lands in the office. "It's not my job to do a forensic analysis," says the boss. And quite right, too. After all, Mr Key's favourite film is not Sherlock Holmes. It's Johnny English.

And, look, the Act leader has given his word on all that mayoral donation malarkey. He's a man of principle. Or principal importance, anyway. So the police report remains unread.

I've read it, though. Hardly John Grisham, but it has its moments. For the greater good, John and team, gather round. It will take less time to skim this summary than the eternities you've spent batting off questions on the subject.

Call it a citizen-initiated memorandum.

1. Your man Banksie signed off on the return of donations to his campaign to become Auckland Supermayor back in 2010 on the assurance from his Treasurer that it was all hunky dory - even though it included donations marked "anonymous" from internet entrepreneur and keen student of parliamentary politics Kim Dotcom (2 @ $25k - for 1 @ $50k could not be "anonymous") and casino colossus SkyCity ($15k).

It's clear John B actively solicited the Dotcom cheques - he was there, according to sworn statements, when the cheques were written. And he was at SkyCity when an envelope containing their cheque was placed directly into his tender hand.

Banksie's careful refusal to look properly at the final return, however - let alone to undergo any of that tedious, life-sapping forensic analysis stuff - left the police judging they'd be unlikely to prove he "knowingly signed" a false return.

2. Our friends at the constabulary do, however, resolve that the elements required to prosecute under another part of the electoral law, which obliges the candidate to show they'd taken all reasonable steps to ensure the return is correct, had indeed been met. But, here's the thing: you have to lay that kind of charge within six months. That cabbage boat has sailed. Still, it's hard to reconcile with your repeated insistence, JK, that JB "complied with the law".

3. One of the sworn statements comes from a lawyer for Kim Dotcom. When his man was locked up in Mt Eden after that wildly exciting Hollywood-style raid on the Megaupload Mansion back in January, said lawyer telephoned Banksie, at his client's instruction, and asked for assistance in persuading his jailers to take his back condition more seriously. Banks told him - and this might make you wince, sorry - that "much as [he] wished to publicly support Kim, that may backfire on Kim if it became known about the election support". Which is weird because Banks has repeatedly said he couldn't recall getting any election support from Dotcom.

4. Add that to the series of encounters between Dotcom and Banks detailed in statements by the German and his bodyguard, including a helicopter ride to Coatesville, firework parties, all that, and, you know, it's trickier still to square with Banskie's lack of recollection about any donation from Dotcom, or his insistence that he "hardly knew" him.

5. The report refers to Big Kim's wife as Moana Dotcom. Entirely trivial detail, but I thought it might amuse you.

6. One other thing. Remember all the nonsense after that nice cup of tea with John B (him again!) in Newmarket last November? There was the pouch, and the recording, and all that "News of the World tactics" palaver, and you asked the police to use their plentiful spare time to investigate the cameraman? Well, when police eventually decided not to proceed, you didn't say: look, he's not been prosecuted, ergo he's complied with the law. You said that it was nevertheless clear to the police that "his actions were unlawful".

7. I can't tell you about Banksie's statement. That's because he hasn't cleared it to be released. Read into that what you will.

Actually, don't read anything into anything. Don't read anything at all. Not this piece, and certainly not that wretched Medusa of a police report. Because, frankly, even Johnny English would be hauling John Banks into his office if he read this stuff. Read nothing. Read nothing ever again.

- NZ Herald

Toby Manhire is also a columnist for APN's Listener magazine.

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