Disgraced Act MP John Banks will give up his seat in
Parliament on Friday but is unlikely to be stripped of the
royal honour he received three years ago if he is convicted of
an electoral rort, Prime Minister John Key says.
Banks was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours, for services to local
In August, he may be convicted after being found guilty last
week of knowingly filing a false electoral return during his
bid for the Auckland mayoralty in 2010.
That has raised questions about whether he should keep the
Yesterday, Mr Key said he would give some consideration to
that -- probably after the September election -- but offered
clues as to what his decision might be.
"I take a very considered and cautious view of that because
when we bestow an honour on somebody it's a very significant
event and I always want to get a bit of perspective around
that. History tells you there are very few honours that have
been taken off people. You'll remember the debate we had
around Doug Graham."
Mr Key decided late last year that Sir Douglas should keep
his knighthood despite the Supreme Court's upholding his
conviction for signing off on false statements in the
prospectus of failed finance company Lombard while he was on
Mr Key also downplayed the need for a stronger investigative
approach to cases of electoral malfeasance.
The John Banks case prompted Labour justice spokesman Andrew
Little to call for a high-level independent inquiry into
recent police investigations into politically charged cases,
and for consideration to be given to establishing a dedicated
independent anti-corruption unit.
But the PM said that when a complaint is made against a
politician, "in my experience the police are quite thorough
in investigating those because they don't want to be
criticised that they somehow apply a different standard to
members of Parliament than they would to anyone else in the
general public ... I don't have evidence to support that
they're not following things through."
He downplayed the extent of corruption in New Zealand. "We
rank either No 1 or 2 or 3 in the world in terms of being the
least corrupt and having the greatest transparency.
"I personally think there's a lot of people that throw around
the word corruption in New Zealand and they might do it for
political effect for [the media] to report but actually New
Zealand in my experience of being here is not corrupt. Our
judicial system, our police force our public service and
actually our politicians are good, law-abiding, honest
Mr Key confirmed Banks' resignation would be effective from
Friday. The Act MP sent his letter of resignation to Speaker
of the House David Carter yesterday. The Government is likely
to put a motion to Parliament next week to avoid an otherwise
automatic byelection in Epsom so close to a general election.
The vote will require a 75 per cent majority but Labour has
yet to confirm it will support the motion. A spokeswoman said
it would decide at its caucus meeting next Tuesday.
- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald