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Finlayson’s false declaration confirmed

Written By: - Date published: 1:48 pm, June 24th, 2010 - 36 comments
Categories: accountability, Parliament - Tags:

Well, this is pretty embarrassing for the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson. He’s the (big g) Government’s top lawyer, and he’s just been taken to school by one of those former teachers in Labour’s ranks that National is always mocking.

Yesterday, Trevor Mallard showed that Finlayson had not declared his directorship of a company as required in his declaration of pecuniary interests, meaning Finlayson had been signing false documents for years.

Finlayson responded with that oddly weak anger he does, snapping about Mallard’s “psychopathic rant” and saying he had no pecuniary interest in Te Puhi Trustee (2) Ltd, which he claimed had no assets.

But the rules are clear. An MP must declare all directorships in all companies. It’s simple rule. One you might have hoped the top lawyer could understand. Like Mallard says “I would have thought frankly the Attorney-General is someone who should be able to understand what’s written down in black and white.”

And it turns out the company does own assets. Oops.

Now, Registrar of Pecuniary Interests Dame Margaret Bazley (possibly the country’s busiest superannuitant) has confirmed that Mallard has the rules right and Finlayson has been breaking them: “Parliament’s Standing Orders stated that all company directorships needed to be declared and there were no exemptions”

Finlayson, in what is a pretty humiliating about face considering just hours before he was calling Mallard a psycho, now says he will correct his declarations as soon as possible.

As Mallard says “the question now goes to (Prime Minister John Key) as to whether he thinks it’s satisfactory to have someone who has now apparently admitted making four years of false declarations as attorney-general”.

Oh, I see Key is “relaxed“. I don’t know what the guy’s on but they should use it to treat constipation.

36 comments on “Finlayson’s false declaration confirmed”

  1. ianmac 1

    What a surprise! Mr Key is “comfortable” with Mr Findlayson’s handling. Comfortable equals relaxed I expect.

  2. Pete 2

    Actually a pretty big political story this, but I think the ‘nothing-to-see-here’ meme will take over and the public won’t give two shits – that’s my prediction.

    Oh, and Key will do nothing, except maybe the ‘stern talking to’ routine to ensure ‘higher standards’…

  3. RedLogix 3

    Oh, I see Key is “relaxed”.

    Which is exactly the same response Goff should have made over the cc issue.

    Now while I understand that there is a some valid concerns around the special probity demanded of the AG, and that David Parker’s response to a very similar set of circumstances was commendable, and that Findlayson would have done better to follow the same example….the fact remains that it is a rather inconsequential matter in the larger scheme of things. Trying to leverage this into a big story was always going to fall apart under real scrutiny.

    By running with the framing his opponents have erected, Goff made matters worse with his response to the cc issue; Key picked the correct response to this small matter and has put it to bed.

    Listen and learn.

    • A Post With Me In It 3.1

      disagree totally. You appear to be under the assumption that the rules are the same for left and right. They are not.

      The red necks get to play fast and loose as it is “just how they operate” and the left are held to exacting standards by both sides because the left is considered more moralistic.
      Ridiculous but unfortunately true.

      Had Goff OR Helen pulled the same stunt over the credit card issue or the previous labour disclosure problem there would have been hell top pay.

      Having the media in your back pocket and highly paid spin drs helps also…

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        You appear to be under the assumption that the rules are the same for left and right.

        Not at all, you are perfectly correct, the rules are not the same. My point is that Labour has been playing as if there was a level playing, and constantly getting a bloody nose because of it.

        Now we are not likely to have the media or a decent spin machine available to us any time soon. So what are the effective strategies open to us?

        Do you think that ‘whine and grizzle that the ref’s biased and it’s not fair’ is going to work? (Jeeze I’m beginning to sound like Lew and that has me worried….)

        • Lew


          RL, while I applaud your verve here, I think you’ve judged this (and the expenses case) a bit wrong.

          Carter could not have been permitted to pass without comment. The response was appropriate (if anything, he could have been harsher on Carter) but Edwards is right: that should have been the end of it. The error wasn’t in accepting the Nats’ framing of the situation (which was inevitable, and impossible to fight since there actually was wrongdoing) — it was in allowing the situation to turn into a freakshow.

          As for the current situation with Finlayson — it’s now the opposition’s job to form these false declarations into a narrative about the Nats’ and their casual attitude to transparency (etc.), and to punish the PM for remaining “relaxed” whe he should be enforcing strict and rigorous standards on his cabinet.

          The best possible case for the government — and this is what they’re pitching for — is that the key point which sinks into the public consciousness is the magnitude of the misdeed (which is small), not the fact that there was a misdeed in the first place. It was easy for them to focus on the epense spending because it was symbolically resonant — it will be harder for the opposition to make an issue like this resonate. That isn’t really their fault, but bringing Carter back into the spotlight isn’t going to help.


          • RedLogix

            The error wasn’t in accepting the Nats’ framing of the situation (which was inevitable, and impossible to fight since there actually was wrongdoing)

            And I guess that’s been my point all along…really when you unzip the cc thing a bit…the magnitude of any wrongdoing has been trifling.

            Key plays these things off with a shrug, while Goff’s been busy with an 20 tonne digger.

            Goff’s line should have been something like, “Yes in the light of current expecations, the some of the spending the previous govt approved was, around the margins, was less than wise. We understand that it’s pretty easy to retrospectively paint in a bad light, decisions that were made in good faith, in the more austere hues of changed times. We accept this and I will be making the implications of this clear to those colleagues whose spending has been highlighted. Equally it the case that, with a few trifling exceptions due to adminstrative error, these extraneous expenses were paid personally by the Members concerned, long before the matter came to any attention, and are of no public interest.”

            Turn and walk away from feeding frenzy….

            • Lew

              The magnitude is trifling, but the magnitude isn’t what counts. The magnitude is a matter of substance — amenable to cold, crisp reason and rational assessment. The fact of the wrongdoing, if well-handled, can be turned into a symbolic matter, a visceral and emotional issue which can’t be reasoned away.

              That’s what it happened. It didn’t even take any effort — the narrative rails were already laid: profligate degenerate libertine [maoris/homos] living large while ordinary battlers like you and I pay. That sentiment, while unfair, was real and genuinely held by the electorate who, in the final analysis, actually were paying. They couldn’t just walk away from it. They would have been crucified.

              The task now, having taken their medicine, is for Labour to find a way to dish some back up. On that point I think you and I agree.


              • RedLogix

                profligate degenerate libertine [maoris/homos] living large while ordinary battlers like you and I pay.

                ummm… yes the ugly ‘politics of envy’ underbelly of the whole matter. Agreed.

                But forever eating their shit will only guarantee that they will keep on serving it up. Merely trying to get some dirt back to them doesn’t stick; our heart’s not in it and they’re innately better at it.

                In real life I long ago found out there are only two way to deal with bullies, either take it righteously back into their faces at whatever cost… or leave town.

    • Pete 3.2

      “Oh, I see Key is “relaxed”.

      Which is exactly the same response Goff should have made over the cc issue.”

      The problem with this for me is that this approach may be good politics (often played up by the media when National does it as some form of victory), but it is not good. Which is the conundrum that is often faced – the problem being that neither option is usually picked, or a third terible option to make ’em look like pillocks.

    • The better analogy isn’t to David Parker (who was alleged to committed a criminal offence) but to Winston Peters (who was also alleged to have filed a false return to the registrar of pecuniary interests).

  4. BLiP 4

    It was a very clever play by Mallard to use an amendment to, I think, some appropriations bill to put Finlayson’s malfeasance before the House. Watching Brownlee wriggle and try to squirm out of having the debate was worth the Sky fee this month.

    In the ensuing debate Mallard took the time to remind National Ltdâ„¢ of John Key’s statement in relation to David Parker stepping aside to allow an investigation when he was Attorney General:

    Lawyers are the professionals we depend on in our society to ensure the accuracy of the documents that they sign. They should not sign documents knowing them to be false under any circumstances. For the most senior law official in the land, the Attorney-General, to have done so not once but on several occasions, is a serious matter. Mr Parker was right to tender his resignation. I commend him for that.

  5. Irascible 5

    Again we see the NACT – Herald maxim in action: “One incredibly relaxed rule for NACT MPS and another hard line one for Labour.” Finlayson’s behaviour will be whitewashed and massaged into a mistake made by a hard working individual who has let his “concern” for the country over ride the small detail of not declaring his pecuniary interests and thus avoiding any possible conflict of interest… after all his leader has a “blind” trust written in braille that he boasts about.
    The Herald will argue there is no salacious “wrong doing” in Finlayson’s behaviour so will over look it.
    This NACT Government has more scandals lurking under its bed than any other Government in recent history which must be hung out to public scrutiny – and would be if our media had any scruples and integrity as a responsible investigative journal.

  6. uke 6

    I find the topic of “the advice” interesting.

    Why did Finlayson even seek “advice”? Always seems very shifty and these NACTS are the shiftiest of all.

    Also I wonder from whom the brilliant advice came?

    • Ed 6.1

      National are usually very quick to get ‘lawyered up’ when they are accused of doing something wrong, but in this case we hear: “Mr Key said today that Mr Finlayson had advised him that he took independent legal advice before he filed his pecuniary interests something MPs have to do annually.”

      Whether he took legal advice once or four times, it is surprising that any layer can have misread the requirements. It does call into question either the veracity of the statement, or the quality of the advisers which the Attorney General employs. Poor judgment twice.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 6.1.1

        Means that he had someone else do the paperwork for him, and then use the ‘advice’ excuse.
        This is OK for some technical issue as a Minister but hes a lawyer himself, so he could be bullshitting about the ‘advice’ and the circumstances. Dig deeper and I bet he wont have any paperwork to support him and will probably have mate say they talked over drinks

  7. ianmac 7

    And this Government is driven by public concerns. They wait “comfortably” but if their polling shows a concern they introduce a hot debate about another matter, or if no real concerns are shown they sail on.

  8. Fisiani 8

    This is the number one issue in New Zealand and should be harped on about every day. This will raise Phil from 6.5% popularity to 65% surely

  9. I disagree with Graeme Edgeler. I may be wrong but I understand that the MPs have to provide a sworn declaration as part of the return.

    It is an offence to provide a false declaration.

    Section 111 of the Crimes Act 1961 states:

    Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, on any occasion on which he is required or permitted by law to make any statement or declaration before any officer or person authorised by law to take or receive it, or before any notary public to be certifed by him as such notary , makes a statement or declaration that would amount to perjury if made on oath in a judicial proceeding.

    Perjury is defined as “an assertion as to a matter of fact, opinion, belief, or knowledge made by a witness in a judicial proceeding as part of his evidence on oath, whether the evidence is given in open court or by af fdavit or otherwise, that assertion being known to the witness to be false and being intended by him to mislead the tribunal holding the proceeding.

    On the face of it the declaration is false. There should as a minimum be an investigation into the matter. If Finlayson made an honest mistake than this should be confirmed but like Parker he should stand down in the meantime. Standards are standards especially when the Attorney General is involved.

  10. Mac1 10

    And the skipper is bringing on another right arm spinner from the Beehive end. It’s Fisiani, a part- time bowler, used to hard tracks. He can get a grip on any surface though he remains wicketless. He has a peculiar delivery from the back of the hand, called a ‘fizzer’, that attempts a complete misdirection of the ball in flight.

    A change bowler able to give the main attack a rest when the batsmen are on attack. Very good use of figures which he often quotes to maintain a good line, at length. Appeals a lot, but is usually turned down on direction missing the stumps, though he never looks at a replay to check the quality of his appeal. Howzat?

    • Pascal's bookie 10.1

      Peculiar delivery? Chucking is what it is.

    • I dreamed a dream 10.2

      Surely you can come up with a Football commentary! 🙂

      • Mac1 10.2.1

        Five minutes to go and a free kick has been awarded. The All Blues have brought on a substitute striker, Fisiani. He is unknown to this commentator but previous form indicates he is a right foot kicker. He has been yellow carded before for arguing with the ref and has a track record for running interference lines for the Blues main strike attack.

        He has an educated right boot which is able to bend the ball back a long way from the right. Known for never examining replays, “Fizzy,” as he is known to his team mates, prefers to make it up on the hoof, as it were.

        Fizzy, well known for his drift defence and obstructive play, avoids opposition tackling him by the simple technique of never revealing the sources of his lines of attack. Pops up in attack, but generally leaves the field before the end of the game. Well known for leaving disagreements on the field, he is a valuable member of the All Blues which is having a good early season.

        The All Blues though lacking in long term tactics are their sponsor’s dream; mining, farming and other corporate interests certainly are interested in a long term investment. The team manager knows how to invade the field of play at the end of a game, wearing the number 11 shirt; a ruthless player in his day, he was known as the ‘smiling assassin” for his dismissal of his own team members.

        There are doubts on some of the centre field making in through the competition. Finlayson and Hide are showing brittleness in defence and new members show inexperience.

        Whether the All Blues will make it into the second round depends on the continued good form of the main opposition and the fan base which has known to be fickle in the past. Their lack of goals and forward planning makes 2011 a likely tough year.

  11. Adrian 11

    I posted on Finlayson a few weeks ago in relation to his grip on his job. I’m only a rural shitkicker but I kept saying that he could not be involved in tidying up an estate because he was now A-G, after a month of being pissed about it was ” Oh sorry, I’ve been told I can’t help because I’m A-G”. He may be likeable and busy but I’m covinced he’s a space cadet and it leads me to wonder what else he has stuffed up. I’m looking forward to the footage of him being chased through Parliament by that self important gap-toothed TV3 boofhead with the big ears who looks like a mix-up between the Bugs Bunny sperm bank and a wingnut factory.

  12. Draco T Bastard 12

    Prime Minister John Key says he’s comfortable with cabinet minister Chris Finlayson’s handling of a pecuniary interest issue raised by Labour, though he has since declared a directorship.

    Well, there you have it – Jonkey is comfortable with his ministers breaking the rules.

    • Armchair Critic 12.1

      Well, there you have it Jonkey is comfortable with his ministers breaking the rules
      I thought it was a requirement to be a National minister, new (low) standards of accountability, behaviour and all that…

  13. Maggie 13

    Finlayson uaed to be a nice guy – what happened to him?

    Now he snaps and snarls at anyone who dares question him, launching into nasty personal attacks at the drop of a hat.

    He even accused Trevor Mallard of being psychotic this week!

    Totally wrong of course, we all know Trev is psychotic every week.

  14. eye saw 14

    He will be hurting with being over ridden with the Tuhoe negotiations and is probably trying to do a Julia G on Key.Normally he gives reasonable answers to questions but like you say he’s bitchy and Mallard copped it on the chin.

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