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Epsom MP John Banks announces withdrawal from politics after High Court rules he must stand trial on electoral fraud allegations

Epsom MP John Banks announces withdrawal from politics after High Court rules he must stand trial on electoral fraud allegations

Former National MP and Auckland Mayor John Banks has announced his retirement from politics and said he will not stand again for ACT in the Epsom electorate at the 2014 General Election.

The announcement reinforces the scale of the challenge the National-led coalition faces in getting re-elected, given the weakened state of National's support partners. The Maori Party's support has waned in opinion polls, United Future's Peter Dunne resigned as a minister earlier this year and Banks had already resigned as a minister.

The announcement follows a High Court ruling yesterday that Banks may face charges of electoral fraud after he failed to declare that Sky City and Kim Dotcom had donated to his Mayoral campaign.

"I am simply not able to dedicate all my energy and ability on returning ACT to Parliament in bigger numbers next year while fighting to clear my name," Banks told a news conference with ACT President John Boscawen in his Bowen St office opposite Parliament.

"This allows ACT to select a new candidate to put before the people of Epsom for the next election. That candidate will have the maximum opportunity to apply their energy and ability on earning the confidence of the people of Epsom," Banks said, adding he would continue to serve as leader until the Party's annual conference in early March.

"This allows the ACT Party to look to a new Leader to take it into the election campaign next year.  That Leader can focus on building a great team to put in front of New Zealanders and earn Party votes for ACT," he said.

"This announcement today does not affect the commitments made between National and ACT in our confidence and supply agreement."

Banks said the 2014 election would be close.

Boscawen said Banks had decided to spend "more time on his family and his private business interests" after 36 years of public service.

ACT would shortly open its nominations for candidates to stand for ACT at the election, Boscawen said. 

"We have a number of very talented potential candidates and we expect to name our key candidates, including a new candidate for Epsom, by the time of our annual conference in early March," he said.

Political reaction

The Government's opponents said Banks' decision indicated the coalition was imploding.

“A fundamental player of the National Act Government is so discredited his own party has rejected him,” Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.

“It’s impossible to see how this unstable Government can continue wobbling on through to the next election, without real harm being inflicted on the country," Norman said.

“John Key will try to paint this as business as usual, but the wheels have fallen off and he can’t keep driving the Government with just one right hand wheel."

National has already started courting the Conservative Party led by Colin Craig.

“If John Banks looks bad, look at Colin Craig: he doubts the moon landing happened, is a climate denier, opposes marriage equality, wants adults to have the right to hit kids, and, bizarrely, doesn’t like unisex toilets," Norman said.

Labour Leader David Cunliffe called on Prime Minister John Key to stand down Banks as an MP immediately.

“John Key is leading a lame duck Government propped up by the disgraced John Banks and the tarnished Peter Dunne. He is so desperate he is now reaching for support from Colin Craig, who may believe in chemtrails and questions whether man ever landed on the Moon," Cunliffe said.

“The Prime Minister has lost his moral compass. He is once again putting the numbers ahead of principle," Cunliffe said.

(Updated with political reaction, more Banks comments)

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National are toast.
Once the rest of the country sees what they have done to Chch and start to realise how many people they have directly harmed through the mismanagement of Eqc and the ridiculous red zoning ripoff and destruction.  The tide will swing out just as it did in Chch East on Saturday.  Add to that, that not one anchor project will be completed by next election or started for that matter.  What happened to Keys promise of the Green frame being in place by March 2013?  What happened to the promise to have all repairs over $50k done by June 2013, then December 2013, or what's it now December 2014?  Well they haven't even looked at most of the difficult cases yet so try 2018 at this rate!
Examine Chch East results: 2011,  13,252 votes National, 9100 Labour.
2013 by election, 3506 National, 8119 Labour and 573 Specials.
But look closely, considering 6000 voters left the electorate between the elections and about 80% voted in 2011, then 7571 who voted Labour last time were still in the electorate and 11,025 that voted National.  But in 2013 adding specials on a pro rata basis gives 8468 votes for Labour and 3656 votes for National.
So for John Key to say that the scale of the Labour win was because National voters didn't turn out is bollocks.  100% of those who voted Labour in 2011 turned out plus another 897! And only 31% of people who voted National in 2011 bothered turning up to vote!  I really don't think so JK!
It was a swing of 50% against National.
It reminds me of the John Cleese line in A Fish Called Wanda when he's taunting Kevin Kline about Vietnam:  "they whipped your arse, real good"...

All fair comments Chris_J except people outside Canterbury don't care and/or can't relate, exhibit A - NG contribution

About right. There are 90,000 new voters arriving in Auckland each year, every year, who have never heard of Christchurch, or Canterbury or Cera or EQC

And unfortunately most of them are people who would rather milk the country, so will probably vote Labour traditionally anyway, especially if they can get a $300k house etc.
BTW I have always voted National/Act, I just believe that we need regime change from the current bunch of fools running the show.
The reality is that the economy has done better under Labour so it makes little difference who is in charge, however the current undemocratic and regularly illegal actions of National in Chch and their complicity in the insurance fraud that many have been subject to, by both EQC and private insurers is inexcusable.  Therefore I would be happy to see the current roosters converted to feather dusters and chicken dinners!
Whatever happened to the values of fairness that National stood for?

Whatever happened to the values of fairness
What a good question
One answer is .. it is being bred out of the kiwi character and culture by uncontrolled importation of other cultures .. a characteristic that others call cultural diversity

Racist rubbish. The problem is that we a political system that is top down and the closest thing to dictatorship that democracy allows. This allows our leaders to ignore the public -a la Helen Clark and bully them - Brownlee.
These behavioural characteristics are then transferred down through societies institutions to the general public.
The fish rots from the head down.
The replacement of expat kiwis with new migrants is just a side effect of this process not the cause of it.

You want to talk about migrants and fish?
There is a place calle Ruapuke, good fishing spot by Raglan, go there and watch them taking under size fish , every day. Parasites. No Respect.

That's right, they dont play by our rules, they play by their own rules
If it can be taken, take it
One could call it plundering our natural habitat by the culturally diversified

I guess 'they' are also pouring all the cow cr4p into 'our' rivers?

I'll back Brendon on this one. No respect, or little respect anyway from the top down, sets the tone for the general populace. When did we last have politicians at the top who (despite any faults or flawed policy) actually seemed to have a pride in this country and worked to try and make it a better place?

If you want to see the result of run away immigration go to England and check out the state that it's in. 

Is that England today, or England over the centuries? Anyway, I always thought that England bought this on themselves. The price they paid for their own colonisation across the globe. But I'm sure that in years gone by, England emmigrants to the far corners of the Commonwealth only did good and were impeccable in the way they integrated into other societies?
I'm backing Brendon's assertion that the tone of society is set from the top. The rebuttal seems to be 'immigration'. It's like the answer is being given to a different question.
To merge the two points, would it not be reasonable to expect that a government that enables immigration at whatever volume, would also help to integrate said immigrants? And maybe set a standard of pride in this country that all can connect to?

Stands to reason that the growth of large immigrant communities will change the cultural character and politics of a small nation. Most Asian immigrants come from countries that are conservative, autocratic if not totalitarian, not disposed towards minorities or indigenous people and environmentally indifferent. Depends who you ask whether this is good or bad .Scale and pace is the main issue. Long term the second generation is far more assimilated and moderated.

The government has been the worst since MMP in terms of passing legislation under urgency - without select committee scrutiny for matters involving fundamental human and constitutional rights. Their own Attourney General has advised on numerous occasions that, for example, such proposed legislation is likely to breach the NZ Bill of Rights Act. Both EQ Recovery Acts fit into this dubious category. As the courts recently pointed out - one of the main purposes of those Acts is to assist the region and its citizens to recover from the disasters. This was the point of law upheld by both courts in the recent case taken by the red-zoned land-only holders - that being that the government was acting unlawfully in offering these persons only 50% of 2007 RV for their land because such an action taken under the Act did not assist these people to recover and the 50% offer was therefore unlawful. The lower court also ruled the creation of the red zone itself was also unlawful, but the higher court did not uphold that ruling.
Clearly the legislation was bad from the onset and the government's actions under it from the get-go were also ill conceived and executed. Goodness knows what the citizens of Chch via the previous council have committed to in terms of funding the rebuild as Leanne D. has said she isn't even clear what the implications of those agreements are. She wants to put those documents out into the public arena so that they may be fully scrutinised by the wider legal and public fraternity, but the government is blocking her from undertaking those full disclosures.
Fairness, in my opinion, isn't what this particular Cabinet executive have in mind for us. Quite the opposite - other examples include Pike River, Charter Schools, asset sales etc. Banks' vote has been essential - often being their majority of one - in many of these strong-armed decisions.

The difference between Centre-Right coalition votes and a possible Centre-Left one at the last election was about 10,000. Yes, Christchurch matters.

Unfortunately at a national level the stats and history suggests your wrong...
"If recent history is anything to go by, the 2014 general election result has already been decided. As the chart to the right shows, since 1998 the party leading the opinion polls in July of the year preceding the election has gone on to win the highest proportion of the party vote, enabling them to form a government.
Despite the current centre-left Labour/Greens bloc looking competitive, history tells us National should have the 2014 election in the bag, again.
Although David Cunliffe emerged from the Labour leadership 'primary' with all guns blazing, recent political history also suggests he will find it hard to make a sustained impact within the next 12 months. The MMP era is littered with major party leaders who have rolled their predecessors with the hope of doing better within two to three years of the next election, only to fall by the way.
John Key was the exception as leader of the Opposition for just under two years before he became Prime Minister; before that Helen Clark was leader of the Opposition for six years, and before that Jim Bolger was leader of the Opposition for 4.5 years. No one has yet gone on to lead a government within 12 months of assuming party leadership."

History didn't begin in 1998...

So what would Labour have done in chch.
The biggest problem in CHCH is that people won't move and no party can help with that.

Me non compredenez... 
What do you mean by won't move??  There is nothing wrong with Chch fundamentally, it's insurers and government intervention that is the problem.  If insurers had met their obligations, and centrally government had assisted rather than bullied, everything would be fine now.
Dictating and think big ideas with OPM (other people's money) doesn't achieve anything good.  It was a situation with thousands of individual problems, "greater good" solutions don't work EVER, especially not in a small city democracy.
National have become the party of bullys, look at the likes of Brownlee and Bridges.  At least Labour might have listened to ordinary people rather than relying on consultants in their own fantasyland.

Great comments Chris_J. Labour needs a coherent Canterbury rebuild policy coming into the next election. National won the last election because they won Christchurch. They will not win the next election if those voters in Canterbury desert them.
I suggest that Labour announce the Insurance ombourdsman be replaced with a new independent person.
The insurance companies be given 12 months to settle or face penalties for not servicing their contracts.
EQC to be put under new management.
A new town to releave the shortage of housing supply to be announced along these lines in partnership between private developers and state backed kiwi homes.
The funding arrangements of Local Councils be reorganised so that Cera can be disbanded and CCC can rebuild the city themselves. Obviously from the above comments the rest of the country is sick of us, so if we could be left to get on with the rebuild ourselves that would be best. The same deal can be offered to Auckland and Wellington whereby the big new infrastructure developments of those regions are provided by local not central government.

John Key went on TV in the aftermath of the February quake and declared the nation was behind Christchurch. As it has turned out all of the management focus has swung to the CBD rebuild even while the elderly and other vulnerable residents are facing Winter #4 in sub-standard housing. What could they have done differently? How about:

  • Locked EQC and all other insurers in a room and only released them when there was a viable plan for the recovery of people's lives; and
  • Did the red-zoning with integrity (remember, between the quakes they promised to remediate all the quake-affected land)
  • Made recovery of living circumstances priority #1 and propping up their mates' CBD property values priority #2
  • Set up a specific fraud unit to detect and prosecute all the dodgy stuff happening around the town
  • Actually listened to what the residents of Christchurch want rather than imposing a top-down white elephant 'solution'. There is no urgency about the CBD rebuild - the city has adapted to the new environment
  • Stopped passing off insurance money for government-owned property as generosity on their own part
  • Stopped trumpeting the economic boost that arises (in theory) from the rebuild given that it cost 180 lives

That's a start - any other suggestions?

Doing some reading on the first Labour government's state housing programme yesterday and how they mobilised resources in conjunction with Fletchers and others and funded it with public credit from the Reserve Bank. Everyone, Fletchers included, knew the government was the only one who could put a project like that together but Nash and Lee were fully cognisant that they needed to work through the private sector. They even built two joinery factories and leased them out.
"The disparity between the state housing programme of 1935 and the current National government’s response to a purported housing shortage and rapidly rising prices in Auckland is dramatic.
Labour in 1935, with public credit created by the Reserve Bank, bought land, built factories, paid select companies, especially Fletchers, to harness unemployed builders and other tradespeople to design and build high quality but modest homes and passed them to another government department to rent cheaply.
In 2013 National has left everything to the “market”. There is no national effort to finance, design, build and rent to low income families. There is no attempt to harness the resources of the unemployed or to utilise local materials and manufacturers, to give local businesses the assistance to gear up to meet a clear failure in the housing market, even in Christchurch after the earthquake apart from a very few temporary villages. The price of land and the cost of finance precludes low cost housing being built by private developers. Only the government has the resources to make it happen and the ability to finance it with low or zero interest public credit. But as in most of New Zealand’s history, progressive policies on property and how it is financed does not align with the ambitions of the private banks, who now more than ever, are dependent for their profits and solvency on ever escalating property values and the mortgages that back them."
The Christchurch earthquakes should have provoked a wartime like response fron National. With projects so vast only the state can provide the finance and impetus to fast track the rebuild at the required cost and pace. A "market" response is not adequate.

Question to Bernard.
Is this a financial website or not?
Why a topic on politics and politicians - unless of course it has financial implications?

Before we had economists we had people who studied 'political-economy', those were more honest times though....

Dont politics and economics mix? though badly I will admit. If you say the Govn sets the financial/economic policy eg no CGT which impacts how businesses operate? This probably increases they likeyhood of National losing? Then Labour and the Greens with a CGT and a WOF will have a huge impact on PIs and hence the housing market? and hence one big aspect of our economy?  Now if the Green's get their way and get some renewables under way that will create jobs and resiliance, here's hoping.
Look at what JK is now contemplating, an alliance with the fundie loonies. Lets say Colin loopy fruit cake Craig is handed a seat by JK and gets 2.5% of the vote, 4 MPs (not that I think they will, 1% maybe). I kind of think of them at the NZ equiv of the tea party, I cant see that ending well, how to drive our economy into a recession. AGW denier so no renewables or green work...god shall provide and all that cw*p(TM).
Kind of hoping that enough "normal" NZers will be aghast at the prospect of a fundie ultra-conservative like party in power that they will not vote JK as a result.
Blah some choice, vote right with some real fruity loops or left with um some fruity loops...****face palm****

Bernard Hickey
Labour Leader David Cunliffe called on Prime Minister John Key to stand down Banks as an MP immediately.

Banks has been treated very kindly for too long. Allowed to linger with or without dignity.

I have been mesmerised by the investigations and hearings being coducted over the last 12 months by the NSW ICAC which has coercive powers, can raid premises, confiscate property. Anything you like except impose criminal prosecutions. It can only investigate Local and state Government Institutions and staff and parliamentarians.
It was fairly quiet until 2011. Since then it has got a head of steam up, got legs, and running
Check this latest one out .. and you will see how John Banks should consider himself very lucky. Similar circumstances. Political Donations .. hiding them

In September, the Independent Commission Against Corruption raided the offices of central coast Liberal MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber, seizing computers and documents. The raids are believed to have been linked to allegations, revealed by Fairfax Media last year, that two staff members of Mr Hartcher funnelled political donations through a front company before the 2011 state election.
Hatcher resigned today. No mucking around MP-resigns-from-cabinet-over-icac-inquiry

As an electorate MP Banks is safe unless....he is convicted of an offence punishable by two years imprisonment (electoral fraud exempli gratia).
JK could do the right thing and distance himself from ACT at the speed of light by cancelling the charter schools policy asap.

Under an ICAC regime, anyone can lay a complaint, and it has to be investigated. Or dismissed for good reason
In the case of John Banks, it was dismissed by the police, and it was only the persistance of a private individual pursuing a private action through the courts, that was subsequently taken over by the Public Prosecutor, only after the first court hearing
Had it not been for that private individual, the case against Banks would have simply disappeared.

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Days to the General Election: 36
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.