John Key has refused to sack John Banks saying “The test is, did he breach the law or not? If he hasn’t, then he’s not guilty”. That has never been the standard ministers are held to. Ministers are required to uphold “the highest ethical standards“. It looks like Banks traded an ‘anonymous’ donation from Kim Dotcom for his political influence. Is that Key’s idea of the “highest ethical standards”?
Last night, we learned that Dotcom emailed Banks, after Banks had the helicopter flight he can’t remember to the meeting he can’t remember at the mansion he isn’t sure exists (the helicopter’s logbook remembers), saying “I appreciate your call yesterday and your kind offer to help me become a resident. We would like to support you anyway we can…”. That was a few weeks before Dotcom paid Banks two $25,000 cheques, as requested by Banks.
This morning, we learn that Banks lobbied Maurice Williamson over Dotcom’s application to buy land at Coatesville. It stinks of undue influence being exercised by a political figure on behalf of a donor. That is just as bad as the offence that lost Nick Smith his job. Yes, Banks wasn’t a minister at the time, but the message is still same: Banks is willing to use his political power to influence government actions to benefit his donors. Just as Smith was willing to try to use his political influence to try to benefit a close friend.
(And, before you righties start running Key’s line again: it matters not whether undue influence has the desired outcome. It is the attempt, not the result).
Behind all these revelations, Banks’ behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic. His memory fades haven’t protected him as documentary evidence of his relationship with Dotcom has emerged. Now, he has resorted to acting like a lunatic (and it is an act). He hung up on an interviewer yesterday after she asked about his relationship with Dotcom saying “I don’t have a relationship with Dotcom, he’s a married man!”. Honestly, have a listen. Is that conduct becoming of a person we pay quarter of a million dollars a year to be a minister?
The Herald is calling for Banks to resign from Parliament. I think that is the right course for him. But until he does, Key needs to act to restore the credibility of his administration,and sack Banks as a minister.