Order Paper and questions
Questions for oral answer
3. Hon John Banks—Police Investigation into Electoral Returns
[Sitting date: 18 September 2012. Volume:684;Page:5268. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that Hon John Banks has “got a version of events, others have got a different version. It’s not for me to forensically go through that”; if so, whose job is it to hold his Ministers to account for the veracity of their statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : The member is referring to statements made to the police, whose job it is to assess the evidence before them. I have no responsibility for assessing evidence given to the New Zealand Police. However, I would note that the police decided there was “insufficient evidence to consider a prosecution under section 134(1) of the Local Electoral Act …”.
Metiria Turei: Why does the Prime Minister believe John Banks when John Banks says that he did not read his donations declaration even though he signed it, despite comments by John Banks’ ministerial press secretary that he did read the documents and that his campaign treasurer went over the declaration with him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I accept the Minister at his word.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table an email exchange dated 13 September 2012 between John Banks’ press secretary and a New Zealand Herald journalist where the press secretary first claims that John Banks read the declaration and later clarifies that John Banks’ campaign treasurer went over the form with John Banks.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that documentation. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Metiria Turei: Is it a new policy of the Prime Minister that Ministers are not responsible for documents that they sign, and is this a new “don’t read, don’t care” defence on “Planet Key”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I refer the member to the fact that the document was signed when he was not a Minister.
Metiria Turei: Will homeowners on “Planet Key” now be allowed to default on their mortgages and then claim it is OK because they did not read the documents; will business people on “Planet Key” now be allowed to sign illegal—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. I could not hear her question and it is important I can. I invite her to start again. Members must make it possible for the Speaker to hear the questions.
Metiria Turei: Will homeowners on “Planet Key” now be allowed to default on their mortgages and then claim it is OK because they did not read the documents; will business people on “Planet Key” now be allowed to sign illegal contracts under his new “don’t read, don’t care” defence?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know so much about “Planet Key”, but my expectations are it would be a lovely place to live, it would be beautifully governed, golf courses would be plentiful, people would have plenty of holidays to enjoy their time, and what a wonderful place it would be. But I would expect people on such a place—referred to as nirvana—to comply with the law, and that is what Mr Banks did.
Mr SPEAKER: Metiria Turei. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question.
Metiria Turei: Thank you. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the question.
Metiria Turei: Is there one standard for ordinary New Zealanders, who are legally responsible for any statement or contract that they sign up to, and another for the Prime Minister’s Ministers, who can put their name to whatever falsehood they like as long as they live on “Planet Key”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The question here is whether Mr Banks complied with the law, and it is our belief he did. As I was saying earlier, the law prior to the changes for central government would have seen many members of this Parliament do things that would be illegal today but were legal back then. There are also successful candidates who have funnelled money through trusts, for instance, which are legal when it comes to the law. I expect people to comply with the law. That is pretty simple.
Mr SPEAKER: Metiria Turei.
Metiria Turei: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear this question.
Metiria Turei: Will his Government now be changing the law so that enforcement agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office or the police can also apply his new “don’t read, don’t care” defence, or, again, is it only Ministers on “Planet Key” who are entitled to that privilege?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is missing the point. The point is whether the member complied with the law. The member may not like—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the right honourable Prime Minister, but I will not tolerate that kind of interjection. The member will not do that any further. He knows that it is contrary to the Standing Orders of this House to accuse another member of lying.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will not entertain a point of order on the matter. I have ruled on that matter. There can be no interjections accusing any member of this House of lying. If the member wishes to raise a point of order, he may, but it will be on a different matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I would like to refer you to Hansard, Volume 633, at page 5055 and the comments that day of Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith.
Mr SPEAKER: I will look at them when I have time. Supplementary question, Metiria Turei.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister had not completed his answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Prime Minister had long enough to answer it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Oh, I was enjoying myself but.
Mr SPEAKER: Given the nature of the supplementary question, I think the Prime Minister had long enough to deal with it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister why a police incapacity because something was statute-barred at the time is being interpreted by him as being a compliance with the law by Mr Banks?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: First, it is my belief that the member complied with the law, because that is the assurance he gave me. Secondly, I refer to the press release from the police, who have said quite clearly that they had decided there was insufficient evidence to consider a prosecution. Thirdly, there are actually other examples in this House, which I will not bother going into, but there are some very esteemed members who have often said that looking at things, even when there was a prima facie case, would be trivial to pursue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister about a specific position in the law that the police have taken. They said that this matter was statute-barred and therefore they could not take it any further. I—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Where is the point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he now the Speaker of the House?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am now on my feet. I am not sure how—[Interruption] Order! The Leader of the House should know better than that. He does not need to lower himself to that level. It does not help the order of the House for the member to do that. The member asked a question, and it would appear from what he is trying to say in the point of order he is raising that he wants the Prime Minister to give a legal opinion. If I am wrong on that, I am happy to hear the member further, but it must relate to order and not the quality of the answer given by the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not raising a question about the quality of the answer. I am asking a question about whether the Prime Minister even addressed the question I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: To save time, I am going to allow the member to repeat his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Can I ask the Prime Minister why he is taking the police incapacity that they expressed—because any action by them against Mr Banks would have been statute-barred—to mean that Mr Banks complied with the law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not; I am taking the member at his word.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Frankly, I think that if the Prime Minister can get away with that, he might as well just get up and say “Rhubarb!”, because—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! [Interruption] Order! No, no, the House will settle down. Order! I am on my feet, and the House will settle down. The question asked why the Prime Minister was not taking what the member alleges in a report in respect of something being statute-barred and, instead, was choosing to interpret that the member has not broken the law. The Prime Minister’s answer to that was that he took the member’s word that he had not broken the law, and that is an answer to that question. I think when one analyses the question asked and the answer given, it may not have been exactly the answer being sought, but I have to accept that it is an answer to the question why the Prime Minister has done that.