Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is it a crime?

Is Rodney Hide's corrupt abuse of office to line the pockets of his party a crime? Section 102 of the Crimes Act 1961 outlaws "Corruption and bribery of Minister of the Crown". The relevant subsection reads:

Every Minister of the Crown or member of the Executive Council is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who corruptly accepts or obtains, or agrees or offers to accept or attempts to obtain, any bribe for himself or any other person in respect of any act done or omitted, or to be done or omitted, by him in his capacity as a Minister or member of the Executive Council.
(Emphasis added).

Is Rodney a Minister of the Crown? Check.

Has he asked for money for himself or any other person? Check.

Is the act he has asked for money to perform - the promotion of policy - one done in his capacity as a Minister? Check.

Is the money a "bribe"? Arguable. Hide calls it a "donation". Whether political donations are bribes or not tends to depend on whether you are a politician or a member of the public.

The latter almost certainly rules our prosecution. But its an awfully thin thread to hang a defence on, particularly when we are talking about public faith in the political system. Regardless of whether you think political donations are bribes or not, this doesn't pass the smell test. Ministers must be seen to uphold the highest ethical standards in the exercise of their office, and they must properly distinguish between their Ministerial and party-political capacities. Hide has failed to make that distinction, and in a way which undermines public faith in our political system. He is simply not fit for Ministerial office.