Banks redux

Having slept on the Banks decision, here's some slightly more ordered thoughts on the matter.

Before I run to catch a plane, I thought I'd post a few more reactions to Banks' trial and the outcome. Boy, did I pick a bad time to decide to fly!

First, as indicated in my last post on the topic, I was quite surprised at the result. I thought there was enough confusion around Banks' actions and state of knowledge regarding both sets of donations that there was "reasonable doubt" whether he'd committed the relevant offence. But skim reading the judgment, it seems that the Judge had the advantage of seeing the various witnesses in the flesh and was able to determine that (not to put to fine a point on it) Banks' account of how the Dotcom donations came to be given and what he knew about them was a load of hoaky. That's why we have judges, and Banks chose to have a judge alone assess his (and others') credibility, so he really can't have any sort of complaint about the result.

Second, I'm conflicted about how outraged I should be at Banks' actions. Yes, Banks is guilty of deliberately trying to hide from the world the identity of donors to his campaign that (for whatever reason) he thought might prove embarrasing down the track. This is a bad thing for politicians at any level to do. However, Banks' opponent at the relevant mayoral election was also busy hiding from the world the identity of those who funded his campaign ... he just did it more cleverly by utilising a trust as a conduit. So is the real issue here that Banks just didn't obey the letter rather than the spirit of the law?

Third, John Key's ongoing claim that he's always found Banks to be honest and straightforward is a bit beside the point. A court has just ruled that beyond reasonable doubt Banks knowingly filed a false electoral return - an offence so serious that you can go to jail for 2 years and deems you unfit to sit as an MP. So Key's personal experiences with Mr Banks are a bit beside the point - he's kind of like those neighbours of a murderer who always get interviewed saying "he always seemed like such a nice, gentle guy who always waved to us on his way to work."

Fourth, it is true that Banks only has to leave Parliament if he gets convicted of the offence he is guilty of (conviction and guilt are not the same thing). But I really, really hope he doesn't get discharged without conviction - New Zealand has a terrible record of pursuing and punishing electoral offences (the police still haven't actioned a bunch of complaints from the last election campaign!), and so to (effectively) let off an MP for breaching electoral law would reinforce the message that these sorts of rules really don't matter. Furthermore, the honourable thing for Banks to do would be to resign now ... it's a bad look for Parliament as an institution to have an MP guilty of an offence that should see him thrown out hanging on in the hope that a court will spare him that indignity. By all means Banks should carry on trying to clear his name with appeals and the like, but he won't be doing the institution any favours if he insists on his right to remain.

OK - gotta run. Blogging will be intermittent for the next month. You'll just have to learn to get along without me.