In amongst all the John Banks / Kim Dotcom donations-but-definitely-not-a-relationship furore today, there was this comment from our Prime Minister.
Asked if he was happy for ministers to act unethically as long as they complied with the law, Mr Key said: “There is quite a wide definition of ethics … The test I have to apply is the law.”
This from the man who said that he was going to bring a higher standard of accountability to Ministers and Cabinet.
Yes, sauces, gooses and ganders: in its last years in power the Labour party was not exactly good on Ministerial accountability either. But I don’t think that you can complain loudly and bitterly about people who follow the letter of the law and not its spirit, and then a few years later do exactly the same thing yourself.
Our Prime Minister, who just a few years ago was railing against the then Labour government and the tactics it adopted to stay in power (one, two, three), has just said that he is not prepared to be guided by ethics. National’s cheerleaders led the charge a few years ago, demanding that Taito Phillip Field be held to account for his unethical behaviour, even if it was not illegal.
But the issue has never been one of legality as much as ethics. The criminal code is the bare minimum standards for society. For MPs we expect behaviour well beyond that.
And just a few weeks ago, on 21 March 2012, Mr Key was demanding high standards of his Minister for Local Government, who had blundered in his former role as Minister for ACC.
Mr Key acknowledged Dr Smith’s “huge contribution” to the National government but said he expected higher standards of his ministers.
“It is important that Ministers are seen to actively manage both real and perceived conflicts of interest in the exercise of their duties,” Mr Key said.
“I have always expected high standards from my ministers – and I will continue to do so.
So exactly when is John Banks, a Minister in John Key’s Cabinet, going to be held accountable for his obvious ethical failings in his relationship with Kim Dotcom?
And from the NZ Herald and RadioLive, some comedy gold – John Banks denying that he has ever been in a relationship with Mr Dotcom, because that was so clearly what the reporter was asking about.
Late last week, RadioLive rang John Banks to see how well he knew Kim Dotcom – and his response was extraordinary.
Banks: “Are you saying that Dotcom’s at SkyCity?”
RadioLive: “No, no – that you had donations to your mayoral campaign from SkyCity and two from Kim Dotcom.”
Banks: “Oh, look, look, look, look, look, look, look [pause] this matter. I don’t know if you’re caught up with it … I have never been to SkyCity with Dotcom.”
RadioLive: “And what about donations to your campaign? Did you have a relationship with Kim Dotcom?”
Banks: “What’s your relationship? This is offensive! He’s a married man, what are you talking about?”
RadioLive: “[Laughs] Not a relationship like that.”
Banks: “No, look I don’t want to go down … I’ve had no relationship with Dotcom – he’s got a wife.”
RadioLive: “Not like that, a business relationship.”
Banks: [hangs up]
RadioLive: [calls back]
RadioLive: “Hi, I was just wanting to clear up something, I wasn’t meaning to …”
Banks: “Just a minute, just a minute – I have never had a relationship with Dotcom, he is a married man. And I have not been to the SkyCity with the guy. So thanks for your time, thanks for your call.”