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Conflict of interest raised over Key’s wine holdings

Written By: - Date published: 8:01 am, May 28th, 2010 - 70 comments
Categories: accountability, Politics - Tags: , ,

Labour MP Pete Hodgson has complained to Parliament’s powerful privileges committee over Key’s shareholdings in an Otago vineyard. It turns out that Key co-owns the vineyard (in his not-so-blind trust) with some of NZ’s largest supermarket owners. This, while the government has ruled out liquor tax increases.

According to the Herald:

Mr Hodgson said Mr Key misled the House because his Aldgate Trust – set up after his election victory in 2008 to manage some of his estimated $50 million in assets – was not “blind” at all.

Blind trusts are recommended in the Cabinet Manual as a way for ministers to avoid conflicts of interest.

Mr Hodgson said “this blind trust has a parallel company which John Key, so long as he knows the name of the company, can check out”.

The company referred to is Whitechapel Ltd. Simple Companies Office searches reveal it was set up a week after Mr Key became Prime Minister and that he and his wife, Bronagh, sold their shares in Highwater Vineyard Ltd, Earl of Auckland Ltd and Dairy Investment Fund Ltd to the company shortly after. Whitechapel still owns the shares.

But Mr Key continues to deny he knew anything about Whitechapel. That’s very hard to believe when it looks like the whole reason Whitechapel was set up was to peep and see what exactly what Mr Key owned.

It appears very clear that Mr Key’s trust wasn’t blind. Surely if the trust isn’t blind then those shareholdings should have been declared in Mr Key’s pecuniary interests. Since they weren’t, a case for a privileges and conflict of interest complaint is strong indeed.

One wonders in light of the ‘blind’ trust revelations, exactly how many potential conflicts of interests Key has managed to amass with his vast wealth of interests. The wine questions look to be merely the tip of the iceberg.

70 comments on “Conflict of interest raised over Key’s wine holdings ”

  1. mike 1

    So, how does Key explain the video of him being very well informed about this only last year – ie his wine company was doing well, exporting etc etc ? Am I missing something???

  2. tc 2

    Sideshow’s been caught red handed here……let’s now see what our 4th estate does as in any other western country he’d be hammered relentlessly as a political skill is to not commit, slip, slide and weasel out of any direct answers that may haunt them later…..and then there’s shonkey.

    IMHO it fails a test of reasonableness that a self made man has no idea what his millions are up to……does he think people are that stupid…..oh hang on he got voted in so some are that stupid.

    • coolas 2.1

      Morning Report quoted Key’s reaction ‘Labour grasping at straws’ but gave no substance to the allegations. Weak as piss.

  3. zimmer 3

    here we go again. Labour mud. Must be a bastard dealing with Key, keep you awake at night does it?

  4. Nemesis 4

    Who cares. Gollum is a joke. When labour has something useful to say about the world, then tell us.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1

      You must have missed labours reaction to the budget, you know that budget, where they broke their promise not to increase GST, and they are borrowing to fund tax cuts for the rich

      • Nemesis 4.1.1

        Yeah I remember that budget, the best budget in a generation that has made labour cry and start panty sniffing again. Good one labour and the standard, worked so well on the h fee didn’t it.

        • Marty G

          so you’re 100% certain that Key doesn’t know what’s in his blind trust? You trust him? After Tranzrail and Jackson Mining?

          Tell us then. What’s the reason for Whitechapel to exist?

          • Nemesis

            I don’t know and I don’t care. It has nothing to do with running the country. Get a life, loser.

            • vto

              Nemesis, conflicts of interest have everything to do with running the country.

              Get a brain, dipstick.

              • frustrated

                Which is why blind trusts are bullshit, No parliamentarians should be allowed them and all their decisions can then be viewed in the cold light of day.

            • Bright Red

              nemesis. we’re guests on this blog have some basic manners to your hosts. what’s wrong with you?

        • Craig Glen Eden

          You wingnuts seem to know quite a lot about panty sniffing is this a behavior you develop after you set up a blind trust or is it a membership requirement for the wingnut club?

          The truth is your shonky hero has always been weak but the media have given him a soft ride.
          The first time the heat comes on him you start to cry, harden up this is politics .

          • zimmer

            Maybe Natasha Fuller should harden up as well instead of sucking on the public tit. Wah wah wah, I want $15K.

            • Pascal's bookie

              “Hey look over there, another law breaking cabinet minister!”

              good distraction zim.

            • Bright Red

              If your right to privacy was violated by a cabinet minster, what would you consider fair compensation?

  5. zimmer 5

    Anyway a priviliges committee would find JK not guity anyway as it would be stacked, just like Winnys was in 2008 when he did know about the $100K from Owen Glenn.

    • Rex Widerstrom 5.1

      Yup. I see Michael Foxglove has picked up the MSM’s wonderfully alliterative but wholly inaccurate:

      Parliament’s powerful privileges committee

      Sure the Privileges Committee can theoretically do a lot of things if the mood takes it. But it never does and never will… it exists to provide a veneer of accountability to the cosy clubland that is Parliament, and to uphold the unspoken but very real agreement that the worst we (the party in the majority) will ever do to you (the party in the minority) is harumph and write a critical report, on the basis that that’s the worst you’ll ever do to us when the time comes.

      Absent an independent Parliamentary Standards Commissioner with power to censure and openly investigate and report, recommending sacking in the worst cases, there is no “power” over MPs, Ministers or PMs representing the integrity of the system or the best interests of the people.

      If you’re going to call the Privileges Committee “powerful” then I demand to be called powerful too. I mean I could come round and kick you senseless if I felt like it, it’s just that I’m never going to do it 😛

      • Michael Foxglove 5.1.1

        You gotta admit though Rex, “powerful” has a nice ring to it 🙂

        • Rex Widerstrom

          I have some much better suggestions:

          “death dealing”
          “eater of souls”
          “feared and worshipped”
          “planet destroying”


      • Cnr Joe 5.1.2

        Parliaments Prestigious Potentially Powerful Privileges Committee

  6. vto 6

    Any conflict of interest over the lack of tax increas on alchol surely pales in comparison to his ownership stake in the dairy industry and the recent dairy industry heist of Ecan.

  7. jcuknz 7

    I think the idea of a blind trust is well meaning but rather silly becuase anybody with any integrity can make decisions for the good of the situation and contrary to their personal position. Those without cannot and no number of blind trusts will alter that situation. But the Keyphobes do go on ……

    • Richard 7.1

      No kidding. That is why there is a list of pecuniary interests.

      Key needs to list what he owns on the list of pecuniary interests so that he can be seen to be acting with integrity.

      *He* choose to instead put most of his assets in a blind trust. This saves him from explicitly spelling out what he owns. But…if the trust isn’t blind to him (and his trust is blind to no-one who has the ability to search the companies register), then it isn’t a really a blind trust. So everything owned by that “blind” trust need to instead be on the list of pecuniary interests. It isn’t. So he broke the rules.

      The issue isn’t that Key owns stuff. It is that he has broken the rules on declaring what he owns. The reason that he broke the rules is because he is trying to disguise the fact that he has heaps of potential conflicts of interest.

      He has mistaken rules that are intended to *prevent* and *declare* conflicts of interest for a system to *obfuscate* conflicts of interest. Which is a mistake typical of the arrogant privileged elite. Now that his obfuscation has been undone, all that he is left with is a morass of undeclared apparent conflicts of interest.

    • Bright Red 7.2

      “becuase anybody with any integrity can make decisions for the good of the situation and contrary to their personal position”

      They can but the point is that any person is fallible. Which is why people must declare conflicts of interest and step aside when they arise, to remove any chance of corruption.

  8. Nick C 8

    To be clear – This is the same privilages committee which labour completely disgraced itself in by defending winston peters for his rorting of the donation system? And then called their biggest doner Owen Glenn a liar? And the accused National of doing the very thing they did?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 8.1

      So Winstone is to blame !!!
      If thats the best you can do better have another bottle of PMs Pinot before lunch

    • Pascal's bookie 8.2

      Shorter Nick C:

      National are totes better than Labour because they would never say anything bad about their donors, other that though? Samesies.

    • Bright Red 8.3

      Same one. Now, Key’s in the dock, if there’s any justice.

  9. Rick Rowling 9

    This is exactly the same kind of ridiculous sideshow as paintergate. Both purportedly challenge(d) the honesty of a PM, and both are so unimportant compared to the actual governance of the country that it’s a disgrace to informed public debate in New Zealand.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 9.1

      Actually , their running the country is at the same level of competence. From Hide, to Tolley to Nick Smith to Brownlee, not to mention Keys ridiculous antics in Washington ( still waiting for the Oval office ?) or Afghanistan ( room for cameras) ansd the broken election promises in the budget

      Glad you asked!

      • Irascible 9.1.1

        Add in Key’s infamous “scuttle and run” technique of international diplomacy and “statesmanship” when on an international trade delegation representing NZ in the Gulf States. You’ve now got the picture of a very serious PM.

    • lprent 9.2

      And speedergate and tennis balls and…. well the list goes on. Not many of which had any substance (whereas this does have strong questions about conflicts of interest and declaration of interests).

      So the question is why did the wingnuts, ACToids, and right politicians start doing their ridiculous stupidity?

      As I said after the election. They started using the technique – now they’re going to have to live with it being used on them. It means that little or no quarter is given because there was none given to the previous government. Where I’d (as a centre-leftist) normally be restraining debate, I’m a lot less inclined to do so.

      Otherwise we can never be sure that the right have learned the lesson about how it degrades politics. It was successful for them, now we’ll see how successful it is for the left to use.

  10. Sixty Four Thousand Dollars 10

    This is a win win situation. For the left they get rid of NZ’s most popular PM ever, who seems to have got all his ideas from previous Labour governments. And for the right they get rid of National’s most left-leaning PM ever, opening the door for a more right wing economic policy, changes to super, bigger cuts to the civil service etc.
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

    • Lanthanide 10.1

      The fact that a right-wing party needs a left-leaning leader to get elected should tell you something about the future of right-wing parties.

  11. uke 11

    Many years John Lennon wrote a song about the likes of our PM, Mr. Smile-and-Wave, of all the dirty financial baggage. The relevant verse is:

    There’s room at the top they are telling you still,
    But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
    If you want to be like the folks on the hill,
    A working class hero is something to be.

    Good one John, you’ve definitely made it.

  12. Alexandra 12

    As much as I would love Key to be done over this, I fear that he wont and anything less that a severe sanction will back fire on Labour. The media’s role in bringing this to the publics attention is sufficient on its own to chip away at Key integrity. Unless the privilege committe upholds the complaint, Labour runs the risk of looking opportunistic and grasping. The effect of the story will then be lost.

  13. coolas 13

    Even if MSM don’t dig into this it’s yet another patch of rust that’ll eventually spread to erode Key’s credibility altogether. More and more Key’s being exposed as a corporate lackey, serving those who hold economic power.

  14. gobsmacked 14

    To those who say it doesn’t matter (or variations on that theme):

    Yesterday John Key was asked about his ‘blind’ trust. He said he didn’t know what was in it, and that it would be illegal if he did. (source: Radio Live news bulletin, not online AFAIK).

    So we have the Prime Minister’s word for it. This matters very much.

    Of course, you may choose not to believe the allegations – that’s up to you. But please stop pretending that the issue itself isn’t important. It is very important, and you know it. John Key certainly does.

    • Bright Red 14.1

      what was the time of that bulletin?

    • felix 14.2

      Oh they know alright, that’s why they’re here.

      I see they’ve given themselves new names today too – same old trolls though.

      • Jim Nald 14.2.1

        The trolls take on a number of names here like the PM adopt many names with various corporate/legal entities. They must think you all blind to trust them.

        captcha: titles

        • felix


          • Jim Nald

            Tell you what though, I bet someone in his position might would have been cunning enough to have been purchasing so-called legal/professional advice/opinions for building the house of cards.

  15. Of course, you may choose not to believe the allegations that’s up to you.

    No wonder his handlers want to keep him away from the ‘free’ press. It’s fairly obvious Key cant lie to save himself. You can see it in his face and, to an extent, hear it in his voice when hes not just regurgitating stats and propaganda and is asked a question he knows the true answer to, but wont give it.

    The trick is to ask the right questions and even if he’s lying he can’t hide the truth in his face/voice. Then follow through on that line of enquiry. Maybe that’s the part of his schtick that appeals to the average kiwi though. The wounded schoolboy look and hurtful voice as if the big bad bullying journo has just stood over him for his luch money.

    English though…jeez, you can barely hear the venomous hiss or see the fork in his tongue when he’s pokin it out at us .

    captcha : country (bumpkins, despite the image, they certainly are not)

  16. Pascal's bookie 16

    You can see it in his face and, to an extent, hear it in his voice when hes not just regurgitating stats and propaganda and is asked a question he knows the true answer to, but wont give it.

    Maybe that’s why he only got so far at that Lynch mob he used to run with. His heart and mind are in the right place but his face and voice let him down.

  17. roger nome 17


    Um – you obviously know bollocks all about politics. Muldoon was way to the left of Key. Key has just made one of the more inequitable developed countries in the the world much more so. With the tax cuts for the rich in the budjet we’re going to be challenging the US and Japan in the feudalist-capitalist stakes.

  18. Greyhound 18

    Man worth 50 mil quits high paying job to take tiny MP’s salary in the sole aim he may one day he may be Prime Minister and may be able to influence legislation so he can make a few grand on his stock portfolio.

    Honestly you must be able to do better than this.

    • Carol 18.1

      Actually, you touch on some interesting issues, Greyhound. I have always wondered why Key went into politics. He says he alsways wantewd to be a PM, yet, prior to entering politcs, he had shown no interest in politics.

      It isn’t beyond the realms of belief, whatever his motivation to be PM, that he doesn’t want to see his financial wealth diminish – once a trader…..?

      And I am reminded of Ian Wishart’s argument about his belief that Helen Clark is a lesbian, and entered a lavender marriage of convenience. He says the sexuality is not the issue, but the lies about her sexuality is. ie he cites some tenuous research to support his claim that, a person who will lie about one thing, will lie about others.

      I don’t buy this argument, especially when it comes to the strong pressures for lesbians & gays to stay closetted. But I’m wondering what Wishart has to say about JK’s apparent lies about financial interests – and this goes direct to a conflict of interest issue in ways that HC’s sexuality doesn’t. I mean, Ian Wishart being so concerned about politicians patterns of lying and all….

  19. roger nome 19

    Exactly Greyhound. Makes you wonder what else Mr Key has hidden in his ‘blind’ trust doesn’t it? If we can’t trust him on the small things, how can we trust him on the big things?

    • Jim Nald 19.1

      Well, as they say, you can fool some people some of the time, …..

      Similarly, you can blind some people some of the time, …..

  20. rich 20

    Earl of Auckland? Explains why Key was so quick to bring back imperial honours. He’s clearly got his eye on a title on his upcoming retirement.

  21. I dreamed a dream 21

    Just saw this press release from Key: “Advice refutes Labour’s conflict allegations”

    Looking forward to comments.

    • Armchair Critic 21.1

      Wow, the PM says that his lawyer says it’s OK. Now I’m convinced – not.
      Did he own or have an interest in the winery (through his blind trust) when he told journalists he owned it? That’s the real question and this press release does nothing to clear that up.

    • I dreamed a dream 21.2

      The drama continues to unfold with the response by the Labour Party with their press release, “Key gives lots of answers to the wrong questions’.

      “The central question remains ‘How can John Key prove that he could not see into his own blind trust through viewing Whitechapel Limited’,’ Pete Hodgson said.

      “Incidentally, their advice in paragraph two would seem to suggest that they have a different view of what is meant by ‘blind trust’ than does the Cabinet Manual in paragraph 2.70(f).’

      May soon be getting tricky for the PM.

      (oops. This response is supposed be further down. sorry the edit doesn’t allow changing the thread hierachy 🙂

      [lprent: Too complex as a user interface. You can refer to the numbers on the right of the comment. ]

  22. ianmac 22

    I dreamed: Oops. It looks compelling.
    “Prime Minister John Key today released legal advice that totally refutes allegations made by Pete Hodgson and the Labour Party in the last few days.”

    “The advice from the law firm that established Aldgate, my blind trust, states I don’t have ‘any ownership or other interest in Whitechapel’, and that it is not correct for Mr Hodgson to claim the assets I did own were ‘transferred’ to Whitechapel Ltd. They were in fact sold to Whitechapel.

    Mind you, it should be that even the highest position in the country should be subject to scrutiny. Muckraking? Don’t think so. Paintergate muckraking? Yep

    • Jim Nald 22.1

      Dated today. Thought it was the legal advice going back to before or when it was set-up.
      Reads like a statement or a more technical press release.

      • Tigger 22.1.1

        Why was Key bragging about owning that vineyard then? He clearly knew he owned it. The trust wasn’t blind.

    • gobsmacked 22.2

      Compelling? If a PM’s press release is all it takes to keep you happy, I got a bridge to sell you …

      At any time, Key could have said “I don’t own those assets. I sold them.” He hasn’t, until today.

      He owns them or he doesn’t own them. If he does, there’s a case to answer. If not, then he tells porkies to journos, claiming to own things he doesn’t.

      • ianmac 22.2.1

        gobsmacked. Don’t get me wrong. If it means what it says, then doesn’t it collapse the whole argument? We might be up a creek somewhere, but I fervently hope we still have a reason to keep paddling – not digging.

    • Lazy Susan 22.3

      Notice the wording “don’t have any ownership or other interest in Whitechapel” is in present i.e. nothing here to refute ownershi prior to today.

      Also, what difference does it make whether they were sold or transferred?

  23. MikeG 23

    Key continues to make statements that are on the wrong side of the truth, and the the so-called legal advice does nothing to clear things up.
    1. He says that the shares were ‘sold’ to Whitechapel – if so, why did he say a month or so later that he had shares in a vineyard?
    2. He says that he doesn’t know the other shareholders in the vineyard. This at best is not believeable – to own 10% of a company with only 10 other shareholders, and not know them! Hard to prove either way I admit, but most people would check out the other shareholders before buying a 10% stakeholding.
    3. The wine is not from the vineyard stated on the label. OK, not a lie, but certainly a mis-representation. Just as well they were not being sold or this would definitely be bigger than paintergate.
    4. The connection between the vineyard that he doesn’t know if he has a share in or not, and the winery that did the bottling, trademark registration etc. Just coincidence?

  24. ianmac 24

    But there has to be proof that would stand up in “court.” To surmise or infer is not enough. (I’m neither an economist or a lawyer! 🙂 )

    • MikeG 24.1

      True, but at the same time the PM should be above reproach, and this one certainly isn’t.

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