Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Banks to stand trial

John Banks will face trial for electoral fraud. According to the Judge, there is a question of whether he was wilfully blind to the declaration and whether he intended for donations from SkyCity and Kim Dotcom to be anonymous. If convicted, he will face up to two years imprisonment, and will automaticly lose his seat in the House, forcing a byelection and possibly a general election.

So, the stakes are high for Banks. Meanwhile, he will have the deciding vote on legislation enabling SkyCity's $400 million casino deal, despite SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison being a witness in the trial. There's an obvious potential for one hand to wash the other here, and yet remarkably John Key does not consider it to be a conflict of interest, and cannot recall whether Banks has formally notified him of one [video]. Strangely, the House's Standing Orders do not cover this possibility; Members are only required to declare financial interests before a vote; your entire political career being in the hands of someone whose crony legislation you will decide the fate of apparently is beyond the scope of the rules. So, Banks could vote to advantage a witness in his case, possibly securing favourable testimony, and it would all be within the rules (to use MPs' favourite phrase).

This is simply unacceptable. Our Parliament cannot be dragged into disrepute and tainted with corruption like this. At the least, the bill needs to be delayed until the outcome of the trial is clear and there is no possibility of the perception of corruption.

As for Banks, I think these charges are simply politicly unsustainable and taint him irrevocably. Electoral fraud has no place in our democracy, and those in our House must be above even its perception. He should resign.

Update: And splat, he's resigned as a Minister. But he'll still be there in the House, voting on things which directly affect his future. And as long as that's the case, there will be the suspicion of a quid pro quo.