Thursday, May 17, 2012

Will Parliament hold its own to account?

Parliament is less than six months old, and already we've had the first case of an MP falsifying their pecuniary interest declaration, with John Banks failing to declare a $1000 gift from Kim Dotcom. I guess people just give him thousand-dollar gift baskets all the time, so it just slipped his mind. Anyway, he will be adding it to his return of pecuniary interests. But in doing so, he will be admitting that his initial disclosure was false.

Which is a problem. Knowingly falsifying your pecuniary interest disclosure is a contempt of Parliament (Standing Order 407(h)). Which raises the question: will Banks be held to account for this breach of Standing Orders? Or will MPs look the other way as they have done in the past?

This is important. The credibility of Parliament is at stake. Either these rules mean something, or they don't. And if MPs fail to enforce them, then they will confirm the public's perception of a culture of corruption and a conspiracy of silence around it.