“In all these roles and at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister for their behaviour.” – The Cabinet Manual. John Banks lied to reporters, and the public, while a minister. That’s not upholding the highest ethical standards. When will John Key hold him to account?
Never, if Key can help it. The Banks-Key Government may fall if Key tries to hold Banks to account and Banks resigns from Parliament. At the very least, it would put the Government’s rightwing legislation on pause for at least three months.
Key came to office promising higher standards than he said we had seen from Labour. He started well, sacking Richard Worth for something that, like Banks’ actions, saw a police investigation but no prosecution. But how his standards have slipped. Since then, the ministerial resignations have been in spite of Key’s wishes, not because of them.
We just need to look to the last Labour government to see how the Banks affair would have been handled by a government with higher standards of accountability.
Helen Clark sacked Lianne Dalziel over the ‘lie in unison’ affair – just like Banks, it was about a minister lying to the press and Clark acted. Clark stood down Winston Peters over his donations row – just like Banks, it was a the leader of a support party and a donations scandal but Clark acted.
It’s pretty sad that, after four short years, far from setting higher standards of accountability than Clark, Key is plumbing new depths.