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Is National the party of law and order?

Written By: - Date published: 8:26 am, January 30th, 2020 - 38 comments
Categories: election 2020, election funding, law, law and "order", national, same old national, Simon Bridges, suppression orders, uncategorized - Tags:

Yesterday’s SFO announcement that four persons have been charged with offences following the investigation of the Feng Shue carve up of a $100,000 donation to National will reverberate for a while.  Unfortunately for National during election year.  It makes National’s claim that it is the party of Law and Order pretty suspect.  And it reinforces concerns that National is rather too reliant on Chinese sourced money.

Bridges tried to suggest National had been exonerated by the decision to charge.  In a press release he and the party said:

As expected neither National Party Leader Simon Bridges, nor the National Party have been charged following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

“I have always maintained I had nothing to do with the donations. As I have always said the allegations against both myself and the Party were baseless and false,” National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.

“This was always just a vendetta by a disgruntled former MP.”

“I have always been confident in the way the Party receives and declares donations,” General Manager Greg Hamilton says.

“We are happy to put this matter behind us and will not be making any other comment.”

Bridges claiming he had nothing to do with the donations is a bit rich.  We have all heard the tape Simon.  Particularly this bit:

JLR: [laughs] Hey um you know at Paul Goldsmith’s function you saw those two Chinese guys, [redacted] and [redacted] ? You had dinner at their home?

SB: Yes.

JLR: They talked to you about a hundred thousand dollar donation –

SB: Yep

JLR: That is now in.

SB: Fantastic

JLR: What would you like done with it? It’s currently sitting in a Botany electorate account.

SB: Um look, I just think we want it for, uh, the advertisements and the like, you know? We want it for the things that we’re gonna need to do over the next year or so, sort of outside of the – not outside of the party but um, uh, you know, like I say we want to do some more attack ads – say we want to do another regional fuel one, say we want to do an industrial relations one.

When I first read the statement my lawyer’s antenna picked up. National is an unincorporated society and generally for legal purposes has no separate standing.

Under the Electoral Act normally an unincorporated body cannot be charged with an offence.  There are some references to “unincorporated bod[ies]” in the Act but offence provisions refer to persons.

So saying that the party had been cleared is not correct.  It could not be charged.

Sam Sachdeva and Andrew Geddis have interpreted the statement as being that no one in the party has been charged, and in particular the party secretary.  But I wish that Bridges and National were more careful with their language.  After all Bridges is a lawyer.  Surely he knows the difference between the party and the general secretary.

I am sure the press will be focussed on the first appearance of the defendants later next month.  If and when disclosure of the identities of those charged is made then his statement can be reviewed.

As I said yesterday please do not speculate on who the people charged are or on the details of the case.  This is for the Court process to work out and decide.

38 comments on “Is National the party of law and order?”

  1. DirkDirkin 1

    “We are happy to put this matter behind us and will not be making any other comment.”

    And the compliant media wont ask questions.

    Why?

  2. Incognito 2

    Cui bono?

  3. RedLogix 3

    A question for mickey; what are the boundaries on this 'unincorporated societies cannot be charged for anything' malarkey?

    If the office-holders can hide behind 'the party' and then the party itself cannot be held to account because it's 'unincorporated' … on paper it seems a massive loophole. Put like this it seems they could get away with anything, but in reality there must be some point at which it breaksdown.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      General Secretary of a party is the person with the most onerous obligations. They have obligations over and above others.

      You then get into a situation working out who knew what when and who was conducting it all.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        Thanks. That makes sense, although it does seem designed to maximise plausible deniability. Which I guess is a real thing in politics laugh

        Nominations for new GenSec being sought as we speak eh?

        • You_Fool 3.1.1.1

          My (non-lawyer) understanding is that it means that the National Party is not a thing. Bridge's comment has the same meaning as saying that neither Simon Bridges, nor Simon Bridge's shoes, have been charged. Factually true, but meaningless

          • Dennis Frank 3.1.1.1.1

            Intriguing, huh? The notion that a political party is not a legal entity if it hasn't formed as an incorporated society. Did I get that right? If so, I wonder how many of our political parties are above the law?? 🤔

            • veutoviper 3.1.1.1.1.1

              "The notion that a political party is not a legal entity if it hasn't formed as an incorporated society. Did I get that right? "

              Umm – no, Dennis – not imho in the way you are suggesting. LOL

              A political party is still a legal entity under the Electoral Act whether or not it is incorporated, if it meets the criteria set down in Section 3 (Interpretation), ie :

              party, in Parts 6AA, 6A, and 6B,—

              (a) means a political party registered under Part 4; and

              (b) includes a political party that at any time during the regulated period has been registered under Part 4. "

              Some registered political parties are incorporated, and others are not.

              For example, NZ Labour, NZ Green and TOP are all incorporated according to their Constitions, whereas the National Party Constitution describes it as "a non-profit making, unincorporated group, established to undertake political activity".

              Using the current Register of Parties, it is not clear whether ACT or NZF are incorporated or not; I suspect the latter. Haven't checked the remaining registered parties but here is a link to the Register:

              https://elections.nz/democracy-in-nz/political-parties-in-new-zealand/register-of-political-parties/

              As I understand it, regardless of incorporation status, any registered political party and its officers must meet the legal requirements of the Electoral Act and therefore the party is essentially a 'legal entity' for that purpose/reason.

              Although I used to be well up with the intrinsic pros and cons of incorporation for legal purposes and otherwise, I am now very rusty in that area so will not attempt to comment on that aspect. Cheers.

              • RedLogix

                What can of worms has been opened here?

                What if a society is not incorporated?

                A society does not have to be incorporated in order to operate. So, before you decide whether to incorporate, you should consider the following issues of not doing so:

                • The society does not have a separate legal identity to that of its members.
                • Members of an unincorporated society can be held liable for the society’s debts.
                • An unincorporated society cannot sue or be sued in court. Any court action would be taken by, or against, the members individually.
                • An unincorporated society cannot own property or enter into contracts.
                • If a society is not incorporated, it is not required to have rules to govern it. This can become a problem if there are disputes about how the society is run.
                • Gifting property (including money) to a society that is not incorporated can be a problem.
                • An unincorporated society cannot use the word ‘Incorporated’ at the end of its name.

                https://is-register.companiesoffice.govt.nz/help-centre/getting-started/about-incorporated-societies/

                Does this mean all contracts the National Party have ever entered into are null and void? For example, advertising, polling, party administration and the like.

                The way it’s worded it seems as if Unincorporated societies are very much just extensions of their ‘owner’. So who ‘owns’ the National Party? And what if that owner is a trust of some kind? Is this what they’re hiding behind?

                • veutoviper

                  Now I have that headache I was trying to avoid !!!!!!!!

                  It is a massive can of worms but unfortunately (or luckily) I don't have time right now to come up with anything constructive/informative as have other commitments which have been avoided so far today but cannot do so any longer.

                  Will think on it, but I seem to recall that Labour only recently became incorporated … MS can possibly help us with their reasoning for doing so – she asks hopefully …

                  It is now going to drive me crazy ! PS it is great to see you back for a lot of reasons which I won't elaborate on or my commenting may come to an end.

              • Dennis Frank

                Thanks for that clarification – had got my head nicely cleared on a bushwalk alongside the local river (all those negative ions from Gaia) but now I'm puzzled again.

                Just guessing, looks like the SFO may have adopted a two-stage strategy: go for the low-hanging fruit, and if convictions result, use them as the basis for making the higher-hanging fruit the next target.

                As I mentioned earlier, the second prong would have to go for the organisers of the scheme rather than those who put it into operation. Provided that conspiracy to commit a crime that was actually committed is also a criminal act, of course. Evidence that three Nats discussed the scheme is already in the public domain. Non-conspiracy theorists would point out that this is just a coincidence… 😎

      • This money went into an electorate account – it may be the party's particular electorate committee, and more importantly their secretary (rather than the national one) who's on the spot here. In fact National may be avoiding a lot of the law by spreading the money around.

        It's way past time we made EVERY dollar that is given to political parties public, it's mostly done through bank transfers and online credit card payments anyway, collecting this data should be trivial. People worry about discrimination (in jobs, housing etc) against people who donate – but we should make that discrimination illegal, not use it as an excuse for transparency

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    The taped conversation refers to a single donation entering the National Party Botany account. The National Party leader is heard acknowledging the offer of it from two Chinese men. A jury could reasonably be expected to see the cause and effect relationship between the offer and the deposit.

    These are the two historical facts that the court case will hinge on. They are not speculation. Since JLR publicised them, they have become part of our political history.

    And history is often a morality play, right? Shakespeare made a career out of dramatising that part of political group psychodynamics. So, regardless of the legal side of things, there's a public interest in how National conducted the donation process because it seems to be an attempt to circumvent the law.

    Politicians gaming the system by finessing laws are normal in the USA, but the public here are more traditionally British still, I suspect, and view this type of behaviour askance – since it seems obviously immoral. Hard to see Simon's wriggling on the moral hook as having much prospect of success…

  5. Surely he knows the difference between the party and the general secretary.

    Yep, I don't doubt that for a moment…

  6. Anne 6

    Relevant excerpt form phonecall transcript:

    Ross: Donations can only be raised two ways: Party donation or candidate donation.

    Party donation has a different disclosure which is fine, and the way they've done it meets the disclosure requirements… it meets the requirements where it's under the particular disclosure level because they're a big association and there's multiple people and multiple people make donations, so that's all fine. But if it was a candidate donation that'd be different. So making them party donations is the way to do it. Legally though if they're party donations they're kind of under Greg's name as the party secretary.

    Bridges: We need to tell them, I get that. I get that. I'm going to tell him… I think he'll accept it I just need to explain to him what it is I want it for. Unless I get him to… leave it with me. I might talk to McClay as well; see what he's got up his sleeve. Because Peter is going to be with me at this meeting in Wellington, is all. If I then brought him [in] after that… good work though man, that's a lot of money.

    Ross: Yeah they're good people. Now there's no catch or anything to it. You may recall at the dinner they did discuss candidacy, and another Chinese candidate.

    Bridges: Two MPs, yeah.

    Based on the above, there's no way Bridges can claim to have "had nothing to do with it". He may not have managed any of the process adopted, but he knew from the start exactly what was done and he signaled his approval.

    https://i.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/107914931/jamilee-ross-and-simon-bridges-phone-call-transcript

    • mac1 6.1

      Amongst all this dishonesty we must keep in mind the trading going on in List MPs as Anne's excerpt highlights, but also the racism of their banter about relative merits of MPs by race, let alone the disparaging remarks about their own MPs in these phone calls with Bridges and Ross.

      Is National the party of law and order? I hardly think so.

      The best image I have seen about where National is at is on Facebook where a National MP is proudly showing off the laundry where his suits are being dry-cleaned ready for election year.

      It'll take more for this particular tarnish to be removed. I bought a second hand shirt, very nice, new and light for summer. It stinks of deodorant. Multiple washes, use of vinegar, repeated airings, exposure to sunlight- nothing alters the fact that the fabric is irrevocably stained.

      Like National, it won't even recycle well. Best to consign it to the rag bag of history

      • patricia 6.1.1

        Mac1 Try baking soda pasted on to the area, leave for 30 minutes then wash as normal Cheers. Baking soda can be used as a deodorant as well. Good luck.
        National need a barrel of the stuff lol.

        • mac1 6.1.1.1

          Thanks, patricia. I'll try that. After a good barrel dosage, National needs to be hung out to dry. Sunlight, like laughter, is a good disinfectant.

  7. veutoviper 7

    I note that MS' link for Andrew Geddis in the post above is to Andrew's article on The Spinoff, which is well worth a read.

    Andrew was also interviewed on RNZ Checkpoint last night and I posted the link to this plus a short summary on the SFO post late last night @14. As I found this interview an excellent summary, I will take the liberty of repeating some of my earlier comment again here.

    Legal aspects (including probable legal reasons why "the party" (ie National) or any of its officers have apparently NOT been charged)

    There has been a lot of speculation above on these aspects so I wanted to recommend that as a first step people listen to the interview with Andrew Geddis, constitional law professor, Otago University, on Checkpoint this evening which covers Andrew's views on these aspects in a clear down to earth manner for non-legal beagles.

    In summary, Geddis believes that this is the first time that such charges have been laid – assuming that they relate to 'how the donations were paid into the National Party accounts', and not to any other issues that were found in the course of the SFO's investigations.

    He is not particularly surprised that neither Bridges nor any Party offficials have been charged – for example the Party Secretary.

    According to Geddes:

    • For Bridges to have personally been charged he would have had to explicitly told the donors that he wanted them to pay the donations to the party in this specific illegal way. Geddis didn't believe anyone would be that stupid. LOL
    • Re the Party officials, the Party Secretary is the one essentially with legal liability but their duty is simply to receive the donations, bank them and then pass information onto the Electoral Commission.
    • There is no duty on the part of the Party Secretary to check or verify the information provided re the donations is accurate or true etc other than, for example, the donations were made by these named people and these people exist.

    The interview then covers other issues such as whether it is morally acceptable to operate in certain ways re party donations regardless of whether it is actually legal etc.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018731861/criminal-charges-filed-over-national-party-donations

    • veutoviper 7.1

      Just to add to the above, my perception of the above is that Bridges and the Party Secretary are unlikely to ever be able to be charged with anything to do with how the donations were paid to the Party – regardless of the JLR recordings etc. Again a case of "pretty legal" – but morally corrupt IMO.

  8. Kevin 8

    So, Simon wants to run attack ads on 'hard working Kiwi mums and dads' by going after industrial relations…

  9. Gosman 9

    No ACT is far more the party of law and order than National was/is. ACT stands up for protecting the individual far more than National.

  10. soddenleaf 10

    So someone has charged Bridges with knowing about these donations, that are current before the courts, and Bridges is happy. When they start plead deals…

    Surely this is the start of Bridges problems.

    • Muttonbird 10.1

      I would have thought so. The defence will do their best to defend their clients and that will surely involve attacking the National Party or individuals within it.

  11. after the gang shootings last weekend the laura norder rednecks were claiming that the solution is more guns… 🤔

  12. Muttonbird 12

    Ross – who is now an independent MP – dropped a bombshell in October 2018 claiming Bridges had asked him to collect a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun.

    He said Bridges had stressed it should not be made public. The money then arrived in chunks smaller than $15,000, the threshold at which donations have to be declared, Ross said.

    The reason Bridges didn't want it made public is that the public do not want $100K donations from Chinese interests. Bridges knew it. Everyone fucking knows it.

    Hence the carve up.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/408445/moral-questions-remain-over-national-donations-as-unnamed-people-charged

  13. Fireblade 13

    Newshub has been trying to contact eight National Party donors and Jami-Lee Ross.

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/01/national-party-donors-silent-after-serious-fraud-office-lays-charges.html

  14. Michael 14

    For students of irony: although National mouthpiece David Farrar has taken down his post, reporting that Newstalk ZB hack Barry Soper outed one of the four defendants (even though name suppression orders have not been granted or, AFAIK, even applied for), that person's identity can be obtained via a google search for "Barry Soper". I should mention that Soper himself issued a tweet vehemently denying that he identified the person. Finally, the purpose of name suppression orders is to protect the victims of offending not the offenders themselves.

  15. mosa 15

    Is National the party of law and order ?

    Of course it is and 45% of the electorate agree.

    If Simon said he knew nothing about it then that's good enough for them.

    It worked for Key numerous times when he was convenient with the truth.

    It is an example of the alternative reality that Nationals supporters inhabit.

    Ignore the facts that state the obvious and carry on regardless.

    • roblogic 15.1

      Easy to say that crime is down if you lie about the statistics and tell the Police not to record some incidents

      • NZJester 15.1.1

        Yes, we should forget that under National some serious crimes got listed on the list of the less serious crimes instead and got ignored for follow-ups by police in some areas.

        They also like to underfund the police just like most other public services while they are the government.

        Crime tends to rise under a National government and keeps going up for a bit before it starts to slow down or shrink under a Labour government.

        A lot of the crime also imboldened under a National government tends to be the kind where those caught can only be given a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket.

        Steal a few hundred dollars from your employer, you go to jail. Your employer steads a few thousand from you, wet bus ticket slap on the wrist time for them.

  16. JustMe 16

    If the SFO is anything like the ASA then lets be assured there will be a total botch up by the relevant agency and that botch up will be in favour of the NZ National Party.

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12304817

    Simon Bridges will probably get away with what happened and may well become known as the Teflon Simon(a complete change to the Teflon Don and John(Key).

    I had thought he(Bridges)might be called the Teflon Si(short for Simon) because of his amazing ability to avoid taking responsibility for his actions and misleading advertising of the NZ National Party and of course his MPs that also embark on misleading innuendos and comments.. But a quick Google of the name Si meaning in Chinese is "One who thinks". Sorry but the track record of Simon Bridges shows he is incapable of thinking with any sense of credibility or responsibility let alone morals.

    Another Google search of the name Simon and what it means in English is one who hears and listens. Again those are two things Simon Bridges just doesn't have. Whilst he may well hear what people said to him especially whilst he was a minister in the Key government he like his colleagues lack the ability to listen to people.

    I recall one time he, whilst minister of Transport in the previous National government, said it was not the government(the National government)responsibility to deal with the road safety(or something along those lines). And yet when he became leader of the Opposition he was on camera as saying that 'people are doiying(yep I am playing with his speech impediment)on Nu Zilland roids”
    Bridges demanded that this current Coalition government do something about the number of road deaths on Nu Zilland roids(using his words) because a National government wouldn’t allow it.
    Looking at Bridges comments whilst minister of Transport and his words of say only 2 years ago methinks Bridges suffers badly from selective amnesia when it suits him and so contrary to the Chinese meaning of the name Si and the English meaning of the name Simon it confirms to us all that Bridges neither thinks, nor listens nor hears especially when it suits the NZ National Party ideology that nothing is ever THEIR mistake(s).

    • In Vino 16.1

      I would add to that. National loudly and heroically lowered the alcohol levels for drivers to prove that they would bring alcohol-related road deaths down. Easy – no cost – a stroke of the pen.

      They then studiously ignored the fact that other countries which had done the same and lowered their road tolls, had also increased afterwards the number of checkpoints. (That extra enforcement was what lowered their toll – not changing the limit.)

      What did our Law & Order stalwarts do? They decided to produce a budget surplus to show what good economic managers they were. They then starved health, hospitals, schools and police to the point that police had to reduce the number of alcohol checkpoints on our roads.

      Congratulations National – you alone made NZ the only country so far to lower the alcohol driving limit, and then actually raise instead of lower the number of alcohol-related road deaths.

      That is what our National Govt did, and they have no way of denying it.

      Law and Order indeed..

      Under this Government we have seen a timely increase in the number of alcohol checkpoints.
      That alone will bring down the number of drunk drivers.
      Already proven overseas – places like France and New South Wales, countries quoted by advocates of lowering the limit…

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