Hidden assets seem to be a dirty little secret of the National Party. There was John Key’s Tranzrail shares and there’s the ongoing issue of his blind trust. There’s Jonathan Young’s undeclared company. And, now, we learn that Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has apparently been failing to declare his interest in a company for years.
These disclosures are important. Transparency is needed so we can trust and ministers can avoid conflicts of interest.
David Parker stood down as Attorney-General when he thought he had signed a false declaration. Will Finlayson?
Trevor Mallard writing on Red Alert has the details:
Finlayson helped set up a company in 2006, after he became an MP, and became a director then and has failed to declare it on any return since that date.
Standing Orders page 128 are very clear.
4 Contents of return relating to member’s position as at effective date of return
(1) Every return of pecuniary interests must contain the following information as at the effective date of the return:
(a) the name of each company of which the member is a director ..
An Office of the Clerk of the House spokeswoman said the rules were clear. ‘Members are required to declare the name of each company of which the MP is a director or controls more than 5 per cent of the voting rights. At the very worst, it could be contempt of the house if an MP has knowingly provided false information to the House.’
For most members people don’t get too upset if a genuine error is made once. But the Attorney-General is special. There is a clear precedent. Dr Don Brash (Leader of the Opposition), 21 March 2006 :
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.
Rodney Hide (Leaderâ€”ACT), 21 March 2006 :
I say to Helen Clark that her Government now lacks integrity and honesty. I think that filing a false statement, a statutory document, when one is the Attorney-General and a Minister of the Crown is unacceptable. I think this issue does need a full investigation. I say to the House that it is an important job to hold Ministers to account. That is what Parliament doesâ€”that is our Westminster parliamentary democracy.
David Parker stood down because there was doubt as to whether he signed a false statement. As it turned out he hadn’t and was reinstated.
Finlayson appears to have signed a false statement every year since March 2006.
He needs to go to the sin bin and not be allowed out until he can prove that each of his declarations have been factual. Given the other problems he has it might be an easy way out for Key.
Finlayson is still a director of this company, Te Puhi Trustee (2) Ltd. As recently as March he updated his directorship details. It seems highly unlikely that failing to declare his interest in the company year after year is just an error. Finlayson has some explaining to do.
And Key needs to show that he will hold his ministers to the kind of standards that Phill Goff has held his people.