The Hon J A Banks v the Crown

Flipper at Kiwiblog posts

CA428/2014. The Hon J A Banks v the Crown.

Has the Crown capitulated?

That question will be answered today just after 10 am when the Court of Appeal sits in the Wellington HC’s courtroom #6.

He asks that because Paul Dacre QC, who has run the Crown’s case, has been replaced by Mike Heron, the Solicitor Genera – details here. We might find out this morning.

Flipper also recaps the case.

To recap, the Crown sent solicitor Rowan Butler to interview Dotcom over the new evidence (from two US businessmen) that Banks would present to the CoA. Banks’ counsel had observed the rules and disclosed that to the Crown.

The interview with Dotcom (in the presence of his then counsel, P Davison) took place on September 29, 2014, and Butler reported to Crown Counsel Dacre in a memorandum, also on September 29. The “Butler Memorandum” introduces a new Dotcom claim – that there were two meetings with Mr and Mrs Banks, one of June 5, 2010 and the other on June 9, 2010. He had earlier asserted that there was only one meeting on June 9. Wylie J, however, found that the lunch was on June 5, as later also attested by the US businessmen.

The crux of the date issue is that both Mr and Mrs Banks were proven to have been elsewhere on June 9, and could not have been at a “second” meeting/luncheon with Dotcom on that date.

Now, understand this: This information was known to the Crown on September 29, 2014. It was not disclosed to Jones/Banks, nor to the Court of Appeal when it heard the case on October 29, 2014 – one month later. In fact the
existence of the Butler memorandum was kept secret by the Crown until finally it was released (received by) to David Jones (Banks) on February 27, 2015.

On March 2, 2015 (the weekend intervened) David Jones filed a memorandum with the High Court requesting a section 347 (discharge) hearing. David Jones then went back to the Court of Appeal because it appears, on the face of evidence now belatedly disclosed by the Crown, that the Court was deliberately misled.

It has been reported that ‘the Court’ was very unhappy.

The Crown seem to be in a very awkward position on this.

It would be ironic if a Graham McCready instigated prosecution is thrown out after an appeal the day before he files for another prosecution, this time against John Key.

Using the courts for political hit jobs seems to be McCready’s aim these days.

Case aimed at bringing down the Government crashes

A private prosecution resulted in John Banks being convicted, and that forced his resignation from Parliament. There seemed significant intent to bring down the Government.

Mixed in with that was Kim Dotcom whose testimony was deemed reliable by the judge and contributed to the guilty verdict.

The case went to the Court of Appeal who overturned the verdict and ordered a re-trial.

The case has now crashed, and the Crown prosecution could get burned – there are claims they deliberately withheld evidence from the Court of Appeal. And there’s also claims there are some very unhappy judges.

NZ Herald reports John Banks retrial: Urgent hearing ordered.

The Court of Appeal has ordered an urgent hearing about whether John Banks should face a retrial on his false electoral return charge following the discovery of evidence which the Crown failed to disclose.

The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction after the “obsessed” detective work of Mr Banks’ wife, Amanda, who was stung by the trial judge’s opinion of her credibility when he preferred Dotcom’s wife Mona’s evidence about a lunch which was crucial to the case.

The Court of Appeal has now ordered a new hearing after Mr Banks’ lawyer David Jones, QC, filed an application to recall its ruling in October after he received fresh material from the Crown about the contentious lunch at the Dotcom mansion.

“If this material had been before the Court of Appeal, which it should have been, it is submitted it would have been a critical factor not only on the substantive appeal but also in the decision whether to order a retrial or not,” Mr Jones wrote in a separate application to the High Court.

In finding Mr Banks guilty, Justice Edwin Wylie said Dotcom was a good witness but was wrong about the date of the lunch and ruled it must have happened on June 5.

But when interviewed by Mr Butler about the new affidavits before the Court of Appeal hearing, Dotcom accepted the evidence of the US businessmen – including that donations were not discussed at the June 5 lunch. Instead, he said there was a second lunch – again on June 9 – at which the donations were discussed.

The interview with Dotcom was never disclosed to Banks’ legal team before the Court of Appeal hearing. The newly disclosed material contradicts all the evidence given at trial by the Dotcom witnesses, wrote Mr Jones.

And more, from ‘Flipper’ at Kiwiblog.

It is seems that Tuesday’s Chambers telephone conference with Justice Fogarty was about procedural matters over the section 347 application – matters that have now been overtaken by the CoA formally advising that it has recalled its earlier decision ordering a retrial.

This follows a request by Banks’ counsel David Jones, and in turn follows the belated disclosure of Dotcom’s invention of yet another luncheon date – a clumsy attempt to circumvent the US evidence that the luncheon took place on June 5, 2010 not June 9 as the Crown/Dotcom had claimed.

In mid-March Flipper posted:
”Flipper hears that there are some very upset people (seriously p****d off is the way one source describes them) at the Court of Appeal, particularly Justices E France, J Wild and F Miller.
Now, understand this: This information was known to the Crown on September 29, 2014. It was not disclosed to Jones/Banks, nor to the Court of Appeal when it heard the case on October 29, 2014 – one month later. In fact the existence of the Butler memorandum was kept secret by the Crown until finally it was released (received by) to David Jones (Banks) on February 27, 2015.
On March 2, 2015 (the weekend intervened) David Jones filed a memorandum with the High Court requesting a section 347 (discharge) hearing. Flipper hears that the Crown has now agreed to this hearing. But that is not all the bad news for the Crown. It is also said that David Jones has gone back to the Court of Appeal because it appears, on the face of evidence now disclosed by the Crown, that the Court was deliberately misled.”

Flipper awaits further whispers and will report ASAP. But the Crowns case and standing in the eyes of the CoA seem to have turned into custard – another major embarrassment for Crown Law.

It sounds very poor from Crown Law – they must be able to be trusted to act correctly and honourably and their credibility here has crashed.

Dotcom may not come out of this looking very good either. Is he just an inaccurate unreliable witness? Or has he deliberately lied to inflict his vindictiveness on Banks?

Some more lawyerly opinions.

Alex Masterly:

Mike Heron might have blown his chance for appointment to the High Court!

Complaints in these matters will be sent to the National Standards Committee in Wellington, chaired by Nigel Hampton QC rather than a branch standards committee.

If the conduct is considered by the National Standards committee to be misconduct, and concealing (as seems to be the case here) material information could be considered to be such especially in the case of appellate litigation.

If a complaint is made then because of the confidentiality provisions in the LCA regarding the conduct of standards committee business the matter will disappear until a decision is made as to whether the conduct complained of is a) not sufficient to be unsatisfactory conduct, b) is unsatisfactory conduct or is c) considered to be misconduct resulting charges being laid in the LCDT.
If it is a or b you might never hear about it. if c you might hear about it in 18-24 months unless the tribunal puts name suppression orders in place as it does from time to time.

Nookin:

1. Dotcom and Mona said that the conversation to which you referred took place at the dinner table during the lunch session.
2. Mona says that she was there and heard it.
3. Dotcom said that that Mona was not there and did not hear it.
4. John Banks says that that the discussion did not take place in those terms and he denies asking for 2 cheques. As I recall, Banks said that he had a private conversation with Dotcom which was inconclusive and, according to Banks, gave him no assurance that any money would be coming let alone $50,000 let alone two payments of $25,000.
5. Banks says that there were a couple of American businessmen at the table. Dotcom says that that there were not a couple of American business people at the table.
6. The judge believed Dotcom but says he was mistaken about the date of the meeting and the presence of Mona.
7. The two American businessmen have surfaced. They say that they were present at the meeting. They heard everything that was discussed. There was no discussion about campaign contributions. This directly contradicts Dotcom’s evidence.
8. The Court of Appeal concluded that if the evidence was produced at the first hearing, it may very well have resulted in a different outcome altogether.
9. The Crown knew that Dotcom had reversed his evidence, accepted that the Americans were present, accepted that there was no campaign discussions at that meeting but has now invented another luncheon meeting a few days later. The date he asserts as the date of the discussion is a day on which Mr Banks established, to the unquestioned satisfaction of the court, that he was campaigning elsewhere and that Mrs Banks, also to the unquestioned satisfaction of the court, was working.
10. Keeping Stock’s theory, and indeed the theory of a considerable number of people, is that the revelations of the American business people raise very serious doubts about the credibility of Mr Com. When you add the undisclosed evidence, you have Mr Com doing a complete about face on his denials about the presence of the American business people and adding an entirely new dimension, namely a second meeting on a date already rejected by the court as untenable. At no stage, over the very prolonged period that this matter has been debated, has anybody ever suggested that there was a second meeting.
11. Which ever way you look at it, the introduction of the new evidence from the Americans, the backdown by Mr Com and what appears to be a complete fabrication in the face of compelling evidence from the Americans do somewhat undermine the veracity of what Mr Com has been saying.

Some, of course, disagree.

Alex Masterly:

Nookin,
Well said.
A fair summary of the essential evidence.
I suspect that the Court of Appeal will not be happy with the late provision of the Barristers report.

Good news for Banks and Dotcom

It seems unlikely the news received by Kim Dotcom and John Banks over the last day or two is about the same thing, but there were coincidental claims of good news for both of them.

From Kiwiblog:

Nostradamus: Are you in a position to update us on how a certain judicial teleconference went yesterday?

Flipper: Yes, the source has delivered, and for Banksie it is good news which I shall post here in the morning.

More on that when Flipper fronts up.

I can’t tell you why (not yet) but today I have received the greatest news. I’m so happy right now. I just want to hug the entire world :-)

I’m not sure the entire world would be willing recipients but I get the drift. But it could be related to this news from Canada:

Kim Dotcom Megaupload case falters over sharing Canadian data

More than three years have passed since Canadian police seized 32 Megaupload servers on behalf of U.S. authorities seeking to prosecute company founder Kim Dotcom in one of the world’s largest copyright infringement cases.

Still, no one — except perhaps officials with the file-sharing company itself — knows what’s on the servers.

At issue now is how much of this seized Canadian data can be shared with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is very eager to press its case against Dotcom, who is currently fighting extradition from New Zealand, where he’s a permanent resident.

In a Toronto court on Monday, Crown attorney Moiz Rahman, acting on behalf of the U.S., recommended bringing in a U.S. “clean team” — an American term for a group of forensic investigators independent of the case — to sift through the 25 terabytes of data on the servers to pick out relevant files and separate them from personal information.

But Megaupload’s lawyer argued that the Ontario court can only ask the U.S. police officials on the so-called clean team to “double pinky promise” that they won’t share information not relevant to the case, since there’s no way to enforce the court’s decision south of the border.

The judge ordered both parties to do a cost comparison between the U.S. clean team versus. hiring Canadian experts before a decision will be made.

So that news seems a legal step on the way amongst many steps for Dotcom, hard to see it as “the greatest news”. Perhaps he’s referring to something else.

More explanation of the Dotcom data at Torrent Freak in MegaUpload Canada Servers Battle Reignites:

When Megaupload was raided in 2012, more than 1,100 servers were seized in the United States. However, an additional 32 were also locked down in Canada, the contents of which still remain a mystery. More than three years on and the U.S. government is again trying to get its hands on this hardware.

One of the oldest issues surrounds the hardware seized as part of the global operation to close down what was once the world’s largest centralized file-sharing operation.

The U.S. Government seized 1,103 servers at Carpathia’s hosting facility in the United States, equipment that is currently gathering dust in a Virginia storage facility. Also at issue is a lesser-discussed batch of servers seized in Canada.

On January 18, 2012, a judge in Ontario issued a warrant to seize the 32 servers located in an Equinix datacenter. As the case continued to build against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and his associates, the U.S. government asked Canadian authorities to hand the hardware over, claiming that an internal Megaupload email revealed them to be “database / number crunching machines.”

A year later in January 2013, Megaupload protested the handing over of the hardware to U.S. authorities claiming that the servers contained a lot of information irrelevant to the case. Megaupload said an independent forensic examiner could examine the servers and determine their contents before any handover.

An Ontario court sided with Megaupload and refused to send the servers’ data to the United States. Instead, both sides were ordered to find a way to filter out irrelevant content.

Now, more than two years later, the issue of just how much of this seized content can be sent to the United States remains an issue. The matter reappeared before a Toronto court Monday, with fresh ideas on how progression can be made.

The extended court wrangles may eventually save Dotcom from prosecution, but they are also dominating his present and future. And they may prove futile in the end. Three years and counting.

Amanda Banks succeeds in John’s appeal

The conviction against John Banks for filing an incorrect electoral return has been overturned by the court of appeal, largely due to the efforts of his wife Amanda to clear her own name.

NZ Herald reported Wife clears Banks’ name:

The Court of Appeal yesterday overturned former Act leader Mr Banks’ conviction for filing a false electoral return, charges which ended his parliamentary career.

A jubilant Mr Banks paid tribute to his wife who he said had been a hero for her part in clearing his name.

Amanda Banks’ “obsessive” detective work saw her husband John Banks’ electoral fraud conviction quashed yesterday and answered a High Court judge’s doubts over her honesty.

Mr Banks was convicted in the High Court this year after failing to disclose donations from Kim Dotcom to his Auckland Mayoralty campaign in 2010.

Crucially, the High Court’s Justice Edwin Wylie believed testimony given by Dotcom’s wife Mona over that of Mrs Banks about what was said at a lunch where both were present and at which Dotcom said donations were discussed.

Mr Banks’ appeal introduced affidavits from two US-based businessmen who he says were at that lunch. The pair – David Schaeffer and Jeffrey Karnes – both said donations were not discussed at that lunch.

The Court of Appeal’s Justices Ellen France, John Wild and Forrest Miller said that if the new evidence had been accepted in the High Court trial “it likely would have changed the outcome”. The Court of Appeal’s decision notes that Mrs Banks “was stung by the judge’s opinion of her reliability”.

“She became quite obsessed, as she puts it, with identifying the two Americans.

“She recalled that a transpacific communications cable had been discussed at the lunch and scoured news articles on the topic, eventually finding one which mentioned that Mr Dotcom had endorsed such a project and was trying to organise a group of investors to fund it.”

Mrs Banks’ research also identified the second businessman and Mr Banks’ lawyers contacted the two men and secured sworn affidavits from them.

The trial has taken a heavy toll on Banks – it wrecked is political career – and on both John and Amanda who say the pressure contributed significantly to their marriage breaking up.

The Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial – but say the new evidence would likely have overturned the outcome of the case.

The original trial judge put the credibility of Dotcom and his wife Mona ahead of the credibility of the Banks and this seems to be a major factor behind him finding Banks guilty – apparently incorrect or false claims swung the trial and the judge guessed incorrectly who wasn’t telling the truth.

A re-trial would add further hardship to Banks but he may think it could be worth it if it further clears his and his wife’s names.

This has been a major legal wrangle over the often fudgy world of political donations – it seems to have been driven by politically motivation – to take down the Government by removing Bank’s support from the last term coalition.

Bank’s resignation from Parliament was too late to cause major problems,

Dotcom went on to finance and set up a party with a main aim being to get John Key and National out of Government.

Politics is often a dirty game, and there’s some very dirty looking things swirling around this case.

How does signing off an electoral return after a failed campaign compare to bringing down the Government?

John Banks resignation statement

Just after the news broke that John Banks would resign from Parliament he posted a statement on his Facebook page.

John Banks to resign from Parliament.

“Further to the of the decision of the High Court at Auckland last Thursday, I will resign the seat of Epsom effective from 5pm this Friday the 13th of June 2014” Mr Banks said.

“I will write to the Speaker tomorrow advising him of my resignation said Mr Banks.

“This timeframe allows a number of constituency, administrative and staffing matters in Epsom and Wellington to be dealt with over the next few days.

“I have been privileged to serve the people of Epsom and New Zealand at both a local level and in Wellington.

“I have given my heart and soul over four decades to making a worthwhile contribution to this country. I have always endeavoured to do the right thing. Consequently I am deeply saddened at this turn of events.

“As the matter is still before the Court I will be making no further comment” said Mr Banks.

Should Banks be convicted and should he resign?

In the John Banks case summary Justice Edwin Wylie said it was “reasonable to infer that Mr Banks requested that the donation be split so they did not stand out and so that the donations would be consistent with other donations of $25,000 that his campaign team was endeavouring to solicit”.

That seems a reasonable inference.

It’s not uncommon for politicians and parties to arrange donations and hide sources by a variety of means. Banks has been judged guilty of doing this illegally.

Banks is unlucky in that his case was pursued and prosecuted. Many complaints, including from the last two elections, disappear into a police black hole.

Labour leader David Cunliffe was found to have breach electoral law during the Christchurch East by-election but no action was taken.

It might be relatively tough on Banks but taking a legal dim view of electoral abuse has to start somewhere, with someone.

So I think a conviction for Banks would be in the interests of the greater good for our electoral system.

Banks can remain in Parliament unless/until he is convicted. That will be in August at the earliest. Unlike what some politicians are claiming and intimating no one can make him resign.

But for the greater good of Parliament (and probably the ACT Party) I think Banks should resign from Parliament.

Over the years I’ve not been a fan of Banks. I’ve heard him speak in person and met him once, last year at an ACT regional conference, and he came across well, as decent and genuine.

But he has erred with his electoral return, and he hasn’t handled the scrutiny of that well, nor has he handled his dealings with Kim Dotcom well.

I wouldn’t be surprised that Banks assesses his current situation and decides to resign. I think that would be a wise and correct decision.

Little to gloat about the Banks verdict

It’s a sad situation.  I think any very public political fall from grace is sad, regardless of the circumstances. The degree of scrutiny and level of criticism is always magnified.

It should be magnified to an extent for our elected representatives but I find the degree of scorn, criticism and gloating is a poor reflection on human behaviour. I find the glee with which many people like to stick the boot in is distasteful.

The cheering in some political circles is predictable, that’s what some want, to destroy the careers of opponents. They see this as a major victory. I think the whole circus is a defeat for decent democracy.

Graham McCready, the person responsible for the prosecution, was “ecstatic” over the verdict. He sung a smug song outside the court. That made it look like it was far more vindictive than noble of him in his pursuit of Banks.

I think Banks deserves some criticism and I have no reason to doubt the judge’s decision. I don’t know if it was a sound decision in a legal sense but there has to be a fairly high chance Banks was aware of the donations. It seems he sought donations from Dotcom and then turned a blind eye to the paperwork.

How many politicians have done this? A number of systems of separation have been used to keep an appearance of distance between politicians and the money they need to campaign with.

It’s really a difficult balance to achieve, especially for sole politicians who don’t have party organisations to do the fundraising for them. Even then I expect that rich donors will often like to speak to the person at the top, to get some sort of high level association in return for their generosity.

But it looks like Banks was not careful enough. And he got caught out, first by a political opposition who wanted a Government scalp at any cost, and then be a tenacious individual with questionable motives, especially when you see his reaction to success.

McCready looked like he was gleefully dancing on Banks’ political grave.

Surprisingly Banks himself looked more dignified than despondent after the verdict. He has looked like he has struggled early in this debacle but seemed to be well prepared for yesterday’s outcome.

Banks has been caught out and found guilty for sloppiness prior to returning as an MP and in action of little consequence, he had already lost the mayoralty contest when he fudged his electoral return.

Is Banks the only politician who has fiddled his paperwork on donations? His opponent Len Brown seems to have been smarter in the way he has disguised his donations. David Cunliffe was embarrassed by the use of a trust to officially separate himself from his donors. John Key is often involved in party fundraising events but claims to have nothing to do with the money handling.

Politicians and parties need money to survive and succeed.

Banks got caught out but the system didn’t make it easy for him, or the other politicians who secretly seek funds.

Banks didn’t help his case by the way he dealt with it when the political blowtorch was applied. When opponents sense a misstep or a weakness they dig deeper and try to hit harder with the shit shovel. This time they scored a victim.

It’s an ignominious end to another phase in the political careers of Banks. It will be awkward for John Key and National for the next two or three months.

It also taints the ACT Party even though they had nothing to do with the offence, Banks wasn’t even a party member at the time. But it has already forced ACT to re-invent itself and select a new Epsom candidate and also a new party leader.

It looks bad and is bad for Banks. Is it a fair and justified outcome? I don’t know. The ‘crime’ seems quite trivial and inconsequential to me, so the repercussions seem somewhat out of proportion.

This is politics, and it can be a vicious and uncompromising arena.

The parliamentary career of of Banks will fade away in some degree of disgrace mixed with misfortune in being the one who was found out and taken to task.

But this adds to the shoddy reputation of politicians. Although the offence had nothing to do with Parliament it has further dirtied the appearance of our top house of ill repute. And the blood isn’t just on Banks’ political floor, it’s on a number of hands and taints the whole house.

Banks. Key. Peters. Robertson. McCready.

All of them look worse for this exercise in political targeting and evasion.

Banks is ultimately responsible, but he is not the only one to have been hurt by this.

A decent democracy dashed and trashed. Again.

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

John Banks after he left court today:

There’s a wonderful 1930’s song “Onto every life some rain must fall”. And for me the rain’s still falling.

We were hoping it would become a very sunny day. We are disappointed with the verdict. We are surprised with the result.

Presumably this refers to “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall“, a 1944 song performed as a duet by The Ink Spots, featuring Bill Kenny and Ella Fitzgerald (Wikipedia).

Into each life some rain must fall
But too much is falling in mine
Into each heart some tears must fall
But some day the sun will shine

Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts
But when I think of you another shower starts
Into each life some rain must fall
But too much is falling in mine

Ombudsman – withholding Banks’ full statement to Police “was not justified”

The Ombusdman has recommended that a reacted version of John Banks’ statement to police is given to NZ Herald and Labour – after the current court proceedings have concluded.

In relation to requests by NZ Herald (David Fisher) and Labour (Kate Challis) for a copy of the statement provided by the Hon John Banks to the Police in the course of their investigation into alleged irregularities in respect of electoral funding donations the Ombudsman has ruled:

I have formed the opinion that in September and October 2012 the Police had good reason to refuse parts of the statement under those provisions but that the decision to withhold the statement in full was not justified.

He has recommended “that the Police release a redacted statement to the requesters once the related court proceedings against Mr Banks have concluded.”

So that won’t have any immediate effect, it will have to wait until the current court proceedings are complete.

Ombudsman’s role:

As an Ombudsman, I am authorised to investigate and review, on complaint, any decision by which a Minister or agency subject to the OIA refuses to make official information available when requested. My role in undertaking an investigation is to form an independent opinion as to whether the request was properly refused.

Summary

David Fisher of The New Zealand Herald and Kate Challis of the Office of the Labour Leader requested a copy of the statement provided by the Hon John Banks to the Police in the course of their investigation into alleged irregularities in respect of electoral funding donations.

The allegations pertained to the 2010 Auckland Super City Mayoral election in which Mr Banks was a candidate for the mayoralty. The statement was withheld pursuant to sections 9(2)(a) and 9(2)(ba) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). I have formed the opinion that in September and October
2012 the Police had good reason to refuse parts of the statement under those provisions but that the decision to withhold the statement in full was not justified. 

Ombudsman’s opinion and recommendation

49. For the reasons set out above, I have formed the opinion that in September and October 2012 the Police had good reason to withhold parts of Mr Banks’ statement under sections 9(2)(a) and 9(2)(ba)(ii) of the OIA, but the decision to withhold the statement in full was not justified.

50. I recommend that the Police release a redacted statement to the requesters once the related court proceedings against Mr Banks have concluded. I have stipulated that the release be delayed because although I consider the OIA did not provide good reason to withhold the majority of the statement at the time the Police made its decision on the requests, in light of subsequent events, disclosure at the present time would be likely to prejudice Mr Banks’ right to a fair trial (section 6(c) of the OIA). Accordingly, a recommendation to disclose before the conclusion of the pending court proceedings would be c ontrary to one of the purposes of the OIA which is “to protect official information to the extent consistent with the public interest …” (section 4(c) of the OIA).

Full report (PDF).

John Banks on poverty, unconditional love and education

In Parliament’s first day for the year John Key made his Prime Minister’s Statement followed by party leaders launching their parliamentary year.

The best was from John Banks, who, in response to a read speech by Hone Harawira targeting inequality and poverty, gave an impassioned and often very personal view on how he thinks we need to deal with poverty.

I don’t know what Banks may have prepared to speak on, but he responded strongly and passionately to Harawira. It was eloquent and obviously heartfelt.

I know a lot about child poverty.

I know what it is like to live in a house with no power and no running water; having a bath once a week in a 44-gallon drum cut in half; sleeping on straw covered with sacks; going to bed every night hungry; piddling the bed every night, psychologically disturbed; being thrashed every morning for piddling the bed every night; going to school every day in an ex-army uniform with no shoes; spending all day, every day, out of the classroom stealing other kids’ lunches; going home to bread and milk, at best, at night, cooked over an open fire with sugar on top; if I am very lucky, taking Weet-bix covered in dripping to school each day; and living in a very dark hole.

That is child poverty.

If I thought that the policies of the previous speaker from the Tai Tokerau would work against that—and they do exist; they do exist—I would go to the other side of the House and support him. I would be the first to line up to support him.

Why would I not be the first to line up to support Hone Harawira if he had the answers to this country’s deep, deep vein of underprivilege, desperation, desolation, and despair that so many of our kids live under? If I thought that his policies were the answer, I would line up with him and I would say so.

But let me give him one ticket out of child poverty that he might like to think about. That one ticket is twofold: living in a home with unconditional love—and I never knew about that—and a world-class education. I did get that.

If every one of his people lived in a home with unconditional love and access to a world-class education, then in a generation we would get rid of the deep vein of social deprivation and child poverty in this country.

That is the ticket. That is the only ticket—not welfare, not big Governments, not more borrowing, and not more handouts.

It is instilling in people that having children is a God-given right but an awesome responsibility, that love goes a long, long way, and that a world-class education is a ticket to the future for so many of these people whom the previous speaker talked about and represents to the best of his ability in this House.

Banks’ answer:

The answer is giving everybody the opportunity of the dignity of work, and you can have a job only if you are educated. And you can get educated only if you go to school. And you can go to school only if you come from a home that loves you.

And the corollary to that is a dark place, and I know about living in dark places.

So if we want to deal with the fundamental issues of about 20 percent of this country’s young people coming from dysfunctional homes and families, we have to deal with the causes, not with the political side effects for the purposes of getting a few votes.

For context here is (edited) Harawira’s closing:

At the beginning of this new year, Mana stands resolute in our determination to find ways to eradicate poverty—particularly child poverty—wherever and however it may exist.

We will do all we can to ensure that this issue is the issue by which political parties are measured by voters in 2014.

Mana wants a new deal for Aotearoa—one based on everyone playing their part and everyone paying their way, not just families and big business as well—and an economy where everyone can live in dignity and respect, and where jobs are secure, hard work is rewarded, and people can earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living.

Mana is calling for homes for every Kiwi family—the building of 10,000 homes a year, especially for those on low incomes, until every child in every family is housed in a clean and warm home.

Mana wants jobs for all, and Government-created community work on an index minimum wage for everyone else who is able to work in hospitals, schools, old people’s homes, marae, sports clubs, local parks, and the like, giving people the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and develop basic work skills, while helping to revitalise their communities.

Mana also calls for taxing the rich to free the poor, introducing a Hone Heke tax on all financial transactions, adding billions to the national budget and enabling Government to launch positive jobs programmes, feed the kids, provide a well-resourced and positive educational environment at all levels, reduce taxes for low income earners, and abolish GST on food and essential services.

Mana’s position is clear. This is not a time for tinkering. This is a time to be bold, to chart a new path, and to establish a new deal, where a life of dignity and respect is a birth right afforded to everyone. We call on all of the parties to rise to the challenge rather than surrender to the squabbling.

Mana is closely associated with socialist movements in New Zealand, with a strong emphasis on taxing more (“the rich”) and transferring wealth, with the state heavily involved in job creation and spending. And spending.

I have never seen any attempt by Mana to cost their policy proposals.

Interestingly while Harawira frequently mentioned Mana (his party) Banks didn’t once refer to the Act Party. It was very personal for him.

Hone Harawira video:

John Banks video:

Full speeches (draft Hansard):

15:48:59~HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana)

HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana): Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker.

Seeing as the Prime Minister may have missed the fact that while he was up in Hawaii playing golf and his MPs were sizing up more investment properties to buy for the biggest untaxed capital gains they could get, most Kiwi families were actually going backwards.

Since Parliament last sat, housing has become even less affordable, more families have fallen behind in their rent, more families have been evicted, more families have shifted to caravan parks, the price of food and just about everything else has continued to rise, more jobs have become more precarious and more have become poorly paid, more food parcels have been given out at food banks, more families have had their electricity cut off because they cannot pay the bill, more children are in hospital with poverty related illnesses and diseases, and more children are regularly going hungry.

Big bank economists tell us we are about to benefit from a rock star economy in 2014 but that is rubbish. Everywhere in the world, the benefit of the economic recovery is going to the richest 1 percent while the 99 percent either stagnate or go backwards, and New Zealand is no exception.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer under a system where people strive to get as rich as they can and the winner is the person who has the most money when they die. How crazy is that? How does that make sense when kids go hungry because families have to pay the rent, the electricity, the petrol for the car, doctors’ bills, and medical bills before they can even afford to buy food for the kids?

But does this Government care? Not for one second. Take loan sharks, for example. Six years ago this Government said it wanted to deal to loan sharks for preying on poor families.

Well, what did it do? Nothing. Instead it bailed out the banks, wealthy investors, and companies like South Canterbury Finance, which got a $1.7 billion taxpayer windfall, which in one single gift to the rich was more than the entire 22 years of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, where iwi ended up with less than 3 percent of what was stolen from them.

Meanwhile, the victims of loan sharks are told they have to pay up to 500 plus percent interest rates so that a small loan to pay a power bill rapidly becomes a crippling debt to the loan sharks, with no bailouts for the poor.

Housing is the same. Everyone knows housing is becoming less affordable. Mortgages are through the roof, and as interest rates go up—it was in the paper this morning—so do rents. But this Government has no plans to create more affordable housing for low-income families who need them the most.

In Glen Innes and elsewhere, the Government is actually pushing people off the waiting list, then telling everybody that State houses are no longer needed, and then bulldozing those homes so private developers can build mansions for the rich. In education, the Government is also missing the mark.

Instead of ensuring that every child can learn by adopting a comprehensive food in schools programme, as recommended by its own experts, it is focusing on a failed charter schools model from overseas and drop-in principals.

We have all heard the drivel about how poverty has nothing to do with educational underachievement, but that is a refrain delivered only by those commentators who choose not to hear the advice and Governments who choose to ignore the inequality that is at the heart of increased social problems in low-income communities.

As for those jobs, Mr Key, are you happy that unemployment helps to keep wages down and to keep workers worrying that they might lose their jobs? Is it your plan that 260,000 workers cannot get a job or cannot get enough hours at work to pay for a decent chance in life for themselves and their families?

Is it your plan that this Government has no policy at all to create meaningful employment, except to leave the fate of the worker in the hands of the free market? Instead all we get is policy after policy, bill after bill, to take even more from low-income workers—employment rights, social support, tax dollars, and all of that—to feed oil and mining giants, property developers, foreign bankers, casino bosses, private consultants, and the like.

Families are struggling—Māori families, Pasifika families, and increasingly more Pākehā families—after decades of the deepest cuts this country has ever experienced. These cuts come from policies that have deliberately driven hundreds of thousands of families into poverty, policies that have led us to a direction that has been disastrous for all Kiwi families outside of the comfortable middle class and ruling elite, and a direction that has brought us to a critical crossroad in our lives.

There is growing inequality, homelessness, and unemployment, and a growing population of working poor who cannot even make ends meet.

At the end of the last year, the world mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela and celebrated his momentous life, but Mandela was not just an anti-apartheid campaigner. He was also a fighter for the poor who once said: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Mandela considered poverty to be one of the great evils of the world and believed there could be no freedom where poverty persists.

At the beginning of this new year, Mana stands resolute in our determination to find ways to eradicate poverty—particularly child poverty—wherever and however it may exist. We will do all we can to ensure that this issue is the issue by which political parties are measured by voters in 2014.

Mana wants a new deal for Aotearoa—one based on everyone playing their part and everyone paying their way, not just families and big business as well—and an economy where everyone can live in dignity and respect, and where jobs are secure, hard work is rewarded, and people can earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living.

Mana is calling for homes for every Kiwi family—the building of 10,000 homes a year, especially for those on low incomes, until every child in every family is housed in a clean and warm home. This will create thousands of jobs in design, architecture, carpentry, cabinet making, painting, roofing, electrical work, plumbing, drainlaying, landscaping, roading, community infrastructure, and all the related jobs that come with a strong and vibrant housing sector.

Mana will encourage immigrants to build new homes rather than buy existing ones to increase the jobs in the housing sector and to keep the current housing stock for kiwis and introduce a serious capital gains tax to force those with too many investment properties to sell back into the housing market, drive down the prices, and free up homes for those who can afford to buy but cannot find anything in the overheated market place.

Mana wants jobs for all, and Government-created community work on an index minimum wage for everyone else who is able to work in hospitals, schools, old people’s homes, marae, sports clubs, local parks, and the like, giving people the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and develop basic work skills, while helping to revitalise their communities.

Mana wants financing and mentoring for small business, because if you back small business owners, they commit to a future in this country, rather than leave, and their success encourages their families to do the same.

Mana also calls for taxing the rich to free the poor, introducing a Hone Heke tax on all financial transactions, adding billions to the national budget and enabling Government to launch positive jobs programmes, feed the kids, provide a well-resourced and positive educational environment at all levels, reduce taxes for low income earners, and abolish GST on food and essential services.

Of course, Mana also supports taking back the power. In today’s world, access to a consistent and affordable supply of electricity is a staple part of life for all New Zealanders. It was never envisioned that it be owned. Mana supports reclaiming all electricity assets for the benefit of all citizens of Aotearoa.

Mana’s position is clear. This is not a time for tinkering. This is a time to be bold, to chart a new path, and to establish a new deal, where a life of dignity and respect is a birth right afforded to everyone. We call on all of the parties to rise to the challenge rather than surrender to the squabbling. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.

DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

15:58:44~Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT)

Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. The seeds of my political philosophy lie in my background. I am not sure how much the previous member knows about child poverty.

I know a lot about child poverty. I know what it is like to live in a house with no power and no running water; having a bath once a week in a 44-gallon drum cut in half; sleeping on straw covered with sacks; going to bed every night hungry; piddling the bed every night, psychologically disturbed; being thrashed every morning for piddling the bed every night; going to school every day in an ex-army uniform with no shoes; spending all day, every day, out of the classroom stealing other kids’ lunches; going home to bread and milk, at best, at night, cooked over an open fire with sugar on top; if I am very lucky, taking Weet-bix covered in dripping to school each day; and living in a very dark hole.

That is child poverty.

If I thought that the policies of the previous speaker from the Tai Tokerau would work against that—and they do exist; they do exist—I would go to the other side of the House and support him. I would be the first to line up to support him.

Why would I not be the first to line up to support Hone Harawira if he had the answers to this country’s deep, deep vein of underprivilege, desperation, desolation, and despair that so many of our kids live under? If I thought that his policies were the answer, I would line up with him and I would say so.

But let me give him one ticket out of child poverty that he might like to think about. That one ticket is twofold: living in a home with unconditional love—and I never knew about that—and a world-class education. I did get that.

If every one of his people lived in a home with unconditional love and access to a world-class education, then in a generation we would get rid of the deep vein of social deprivation and child poverty in this country.

That is the ticket. That is the only ticket—not welfare, not big Governments, not more borrowing, and not more handouts. It is instilling in people that having children is a God-given right but an awesome responsibility, that love goes a long, long way, and that a world-class education is a ticket to the future for so many of these people whom the previous speaker talked about and represents to the best of his ability in this House. But he is misguided.

In a couple of weeks we are going to open the first charter school—they call it—in Northland. I do not mind whether they call it a charter school or whether they call them partnership schools, but this is what I can tell you.

The first partnership school in Whangarei will open in 2 weeks’ time. For the last 4 years it has taken 40 Māori boys and girls from the poorest, poorest families in the whole of the Tai Tokerau. It has boarded them in Whangarei and it has given them an opportunity to go to the best State schools in Whangarei, mostly Whangarei Boys High School, and after school they are tutored.

They get in that collective home unconditional love every day of the week and tutoring every night of the week.

They feel a sense of purpose and direction, and those young people sit National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 1 with a 100 percent pass rate, I say to the Minister of Finance, a 100 percent pass rate in that partnership school in Whangarei for the last 4 years, a 100 percent pass rate in NCEA level 1 in Whangarei with Māori boys who come from places that the previous speaker represents and knows nothing about and has a doctrine he peddles in this House that is bankrupt—more borrowing, more welfare, less responsibility. He does it because he thinks there are votes in it.

There are no votes in representing people who have no hope, and that member will not get up on his hind legs and say to this House: “I’m going to support the partnership school that has served my mokopuna in Tai Tokerau for so, so long.”

That member and the Labour Party have promised to close down that school, which gets a 100 percent—100 percent—pass rate in NCEA level 1. That is the ticket out of deprivation.

That is the only way, the one-way street, the only way out of poverty in this country. It will take a generation, but this is what this Government is working on. It stands for bringing those people up. It is like high tides raising all boats. Lift the standards at the bottom and the high tide will rise and raise more boats—all boats.

We have tried throwing money. We have tried borrowing money. We have tried big welfare. And what we do know is that any Government big enough to give you everything you want is a Government big enough to take from the hard workers everything they have.

So if we want to deal with the deep vein of social deprivation—and I do because I know what it is like, and it is a dark place, a very dark place—then we have to deal with the fundamentals of human behaviour: taking responsibility for your family, giving them unconditional love regardless of your status and your wealth, taking advantage of a world-class education that is there for you at the school down the street, and encouraging young people to do that.

It will be a generation but it will lift them out. If we want to empty the jails, we have got to educate the young people. If we want to get the health lists down, we have got to teach young people what it is like to be in charge of yourself and take responsibility for your own actions. Then we will make progress.

But borrowing from the savings of offshore people to hand out to others in a country and mounting up the debt to the next generation is not the way we deal with poverty in this country.

Of course I support sandwiches and food in schools—by God I would have loved some sandwiches and some food in school—but that is not the answer.

The answer is getting the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy so that we are internationally competitive.

I pay tribute to Bill English, whom I have worked with closely these last 2 years, who has done a remarkable job of turning this economy round. I give praise to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the National Party caucus—my coalition partners—for taking tough decisions, but the answer to child poverty, I say to the parliamentary Opposition, is not about taking others’ money and throwing it at a problem, because we have tried that and it has failed.

The answer is education.

The answer is giving everybody the opportunity of the dignity of work, and you can have a job only if you are educated. And you can get educated only if you go to school. And you can go to school only if you come from a home that loves you. And the corollary to that is a dark place, and I know about living in dark places.

So if we want to deal with the fundamental issues of about 20 percent of this country’s young people coming from dysfunctional homes and families, we have to deal with the causes, not with the political side effects for the purposes of getting a few votes.

 

 

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