Found guilty of a campaign finance rort, Act's last man
standing in Parliament John Banks gets to stay there until it
rises for the election, avoiding the ignominy of being one of
the only MPs to lose their place in the House over a serious
But Opposition Leader David Cunliffe says Justice Edwin
Wylie's decision to leave the issue of a conviction that
would force Mr Banks out of Parliament until after it rises
leaves Prime Minister John Key's Government propped up by a
"rotting political carcass".
Following a torturous two-year saga which ended up in a High
Court hearing last month, Justice Wylie yesterday found Mr
Banks guilty of knowingly filing a false electoral return
during his 2010 Auckland mayoralty bid, an offence severe
enough to see him automatically ejected from Parliament.
However, he must be convicted to trigger his removal.
In his decision Justice Wylie did not enter a conviction and
Mr Banks' lawyer David Jones QC said there would be an
application for Banks to be discharged without conviction at
his sentencing on August 1.
Senior Cabinet Minister Gerry Brownlee pointed out Parliament
is scheduled to rise the day before on July 31 for the
election in September.
Any questions about Mr Banks' status in Parliament until then
needed to be directed to Speaker of the House David Carter.
"But as I understand it he is not convicted therefore can
remain in Parliament and exercise his vote."
A spokesman for Mr Carter said that until the August 1
hearing, "there is no change to Mr Banks status as a member
Whether Mr Banks had been immediately convicted and ejected
from Parliament or not makes little difference to the
stability of the Government, which would retain a majority
anyway with United Future and the Maori Party.
Speaking to reporters in Niue yesterday Mr Key refused to
comment on Justice Wylie's decision to park the issue of a
conviction. "That's a matter for the judge, all I can do is
note that he's done that".
Despite Opposition calls for Mr Banks to resign his seat
immediately, Mr Key said he still stood by the former Act
"In the end, Mr Banks may appeal, I don't know the details of
that but in my experience of dealing with him over the period
of time that he's been both the leader of the Act Party and
in Parliament and in my previous dealings with him, I've
always found him to be very honest."
Mr Cunliffe said Justice Wylie's decision to leave sentencing
and the issue of conviction until after Parliament rose was
"One might be saying that perhaps they are taking a cautious
approach in light of uncertainties on the impact on the
Parliamentary process and maybe they've been helped to that
conclusion by representations from counsel."
But for the next five weeks, New Zealanders who saw Mr Banks
in Parliament were going to see "a person who is guilty of
electoral fraud and they are going to know that this
Government is being propped up by a rotting political carcass
who has lost all moral legitimacy".
Act Leader Jamie Whyte said yesterday's verdict was "very
disappointing" but he still believed Mr Banks was an
He didn't believe the affair had damaged Act's brand.
" I don't believe Act politicians are notably corrupt
people... people understand that these events took place when
John wasn't a member of Act".
But Mr Cunliffe said Dr Whyte's comment would indicate he was
in "fantasy land except for the fact that Jamie Whyte
proposed making life safe for incestuous couples as a policy
priority, so you wonder how much more they could possibly
mutilate their brand as it is, but I think Act is finished."
Surrounded by media outside court yesterday, Mr Banks said:
"There's a wonderful 1930s song 'Onto every life some rain
must fall', and for me the rain's still falling".
"We were hoping that it would become a very sunny day. We are
disappointed with the verdict. We are surprised with the
result and now we will come back here on August 1 and I've
talked to my legal team, David Jones, QC, about options that
I have going forward.
"In the meantime, thank you very much for your interest."
- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald/additional