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Pecuniary interest

Written By: - Date published: 6:24 pm, September 26th, 2009 - 10 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

John Key has repeatedly said Bill English did not have a”pecuniary interest” in the house he lives in in Wellington with his family. It was apparently the Richard Worth test No 1 – Bill told him so.

The Auditor-General’s website deals with the issue of pecuniary interest in offering guidance to Local Authorities regarding conflicts of interest.

The following is taken from their advice:

The Act does not define the term ‘pecuniary interest’. Its meaning is a matter for legal interpretation according to the circumstances of the particular situation. However, there is a significant body of relevant case law which offers some guidance. The most significant cases are summarised in this appendix….

Downward v Babington [1975] VR 872

This case concerned a councillor of a shire in Victoria, Australia, who owned and leased certain shops. At different times, the council or its committees had before them:

  • a project to allow the establishment of a supermarket in the immediate vicinity of the councillor’s shops;
  • a proposal to compulsorily acquire land adjoining those shops and the supermarket site for off-street parking;
  • a proposal to permit development of vacant land adjoining the councillor’s shops as a retail shop; and
  • a proposal to buy land in the immediate vicinity for off-street parking.

The case did not involve any finding of fact as to whether the member had a pecuniary interest in those matters, but did produce a useful definition of the term ‘pecuniary interest’:

a councillor should be held to have a pecuniary interest in a matter before the council if the matter would, if dealt with in a particular way, give rise to an expectation which is not too remote of a gain or loss of money by him.

We have chosen to adopt this definition as appropriate in the New Zealand context, although acknowledging that our Act deals separately with the element of remoteness in section 6(3)(f).

The particular ways in which the matter has been dealt with by Bill English would seem to give rise to an expectation which is not too remote of a gain of money by him. That would certainly be how the average punter sees it.

The Auditor-General will also have to investigate all the documents and their dates to be certain as to how remote the pecuniary interest in the Endeavour Trust declared by Bill English in 2008 has become in 2009 – oh, and when it happened.

10 comments on “Pecuniary interest ”

  1. burt 1

    So it looks like Key might be acting like Helen did over Winston Peters – I was told “NO” by the honorable member and I have taken him at his word….

    Funny, it was good enough to keep a govt limping along when Labour did it, even after the privileges committee found Winston to be less than honorable. However I’m getting the feeling that National will not be so well defended for taking this stance.

    Why do myopic supporters of political parties need to be in opposition to see that accountability is something that is constant ?

  2. Westminster 2

    I can’t wait until Burt brings out one of his “retrospective” zingers. Talk about a stuck record.

    • burt 2.1

      Westminster

      If you type the following ‘<b>retrospective</b>’ it will come out bold and then you can at least take the piss with some degree of dignity.

      • mickysavage 2.1.1

        The wingnuts must be in trouble over this. Any time they are caught they resort to “Oh but Helen did xyz”.

        The way I see it the situation is quite clear. Allowing one’s spouse or children to benefit from a decision is to gain a pecuniary advantage. A financial gain by a spouse during a relationship has to be shared equally, and the increase of wealth of a trust by the addition of relationship property also results in a legal expectation that the addition is shared equally.

        Bill would appear to be caught. He should disclose all trust documents and then if in breach pay the money back and face the opprobrium of the public.

        Dare I say it but Peters was a different issue. He belonged to a different party and received the payment of funds which was perfectly legal. He chose to tell a porkie to the public and to Parliament and eventually was caught out. If telling porkies is such a hanging offence then why isn’t Nick Smith before the privileges committee?

      • Craig Glen Eden 2.1.2

        Its you Burt who has no dignity look at your first post. You admit English is in the wrong and then because of your obsession with Helen you start making a comparison out of the allegations made at Winston ( which had nothing to do with ripping of the tax payer nor was his actions illegal). Have some self respect man.

      • Westminster 2.1.3

        Keep it up, Burt. You might be a stuck record – but in a topsy turvy World of uncertainty and general craziness, I guess we need your boring as batshit repetition to keep our collective feet grounded, ay? On the editing side, maybe I can get Klark and Kullen to pass RETROSPECTIVE legislation to allow me to go back and re-edit that comment, whaddya reckon? You know socialists do that kind of thing….

  3. r0b 3

    This is an excellent post. Bill is really hiding behind the shield of this phrase “no pecuniary interest”. It sounds impressive doesn’t it! But what does it mean? Bill is depending on the fact that not many of us know (I certainly had only a vague idea). So let’s get it out in the open.

    The Downward v. Babington case you cite John A does seem to be the crucial one. It is also cited as the “The benchmark legal decision in this area” in an Australian local government “Pecuniary Interest Handbook” (PDF), which quotes the same crucial phrase “give rise to an expectation which is not too remote of a gain or loss of money by him”. It also states:

    The principles underlying pecuniary interest relate to a person’s interest in a matter being based on the probability that the person stands to gain or lose financially from it … [and refers to] .. outcomes of which will or may affect their personal financial interests or those of their close associates.

    Here’s another interesting document. It’s specific to the topic of securities, but it again gives a flavour of what is usually meant by “pecuniary interest”:

    i. The term pecuniary interest in any class of equity securities shall mean the opportunity, directly or indirectly, to profit or share in any profit derived from a transaction in the subject securities.

    ii. The term indirect pecuniary interest in any class of equity securities shall include, but not be limited to: A. Securities held by members of a person’s immediate family sharing the same household…

    Interesting. So “pecuniary interest” seems to be typically taken to include direct, indirect or shared profit, to the individual or to immediate family sharing the same household. In what possible world does Bill English not have a pecuniary interest in his own family trust? Some enterprising reporter needs to ask Bill what definition of “pecuniary interest” he is using…

  4. BLiP 4

    There seems no doubt that Blinglish has changed his relationship with the Endeavour Trust to maximise entitlement and that his legal position in this matter is little more than a contrivance.

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