The one when the taniwha got Banksie

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 10:34 17/09/2012
John Banks
Every time John Banks tries to calmly paddle his waka away from the mayoral donations rapids, another taniwha rears its ugly head.

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Dave Armstrong

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OPINION: Poor Banksie. Every time he tries to calmly paddle his waka away from the mayoral donations rapids, another taniwha rears its ugly head.

Last week, we had yet more revelations which detailed the ''Buddy, can you spare a grand?'' tactics of Team Banksie as they desperately targeted wealthy Jafas. The police also explained that though Banks had technically broken the law with his return, it was because he had signed it without reading it.

There was no evidence that the MP for Epsom intentionally broke the law. As someone who never reads the terms and conditions before buying an air ticket or downloading free software, I have considerable sympathy for that line of defence.

But then Banksie's press secretary said her boss had read the document after all. Luckily for Banksie, she retracted faster than an Education Ministry official closing a Christchurch secondary school, and said the Team Banksie treasurer had only ''gone over'' the form with Mr Banks.     

Poor Banksie, not only are Kim Dotcom and the internet tycoon's lawyer contradicting him, but his own staff as well. That never would have happened when Paul Goldsmith worked for him. Whatever did happen to that bright young lad?

Meanwhile, John Key is standing by his teapot chum. According to the prime minister, there has been no conclusive evidence that Mr Banks has been dishonest. I agree. We may smell a rat, we may hear a high-pitched squeak in the room, we may even see rat droppings all over the carpet, but until the body of the rodent has been produced, John Key is right - technically. But one wonders how much collateral damage Mr Banks will cause by continuing to be part of Mr Key's Government.  

At the heart of the matter lies the $50,000 donation that Dotcom made to Team Banksie. One has to ask why on earth Dotcom would have split his donation into two payments of $25,000 if someone from Team Banksie hadn't asked him to. And is it really possible that John Banks didn't know what his own team was doing?

Whether Mr Banks goes or stays, the debacle highlights how big money operates in this country. Political donations miraculously come in just below cut-off limits. Elsewhere, clever accountants ensure that trusts and ''losses'' mean that the taxable incomes of wealthy people often just miss the point where higher tax rates kick in. It's mathematically elegant and, best of all, totally legal.

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And yet if we see a beneficiary eating a MallowPuff instead of a cracker biscuit we all holler blue murder.

Earlier last week, Paula Benefit breathlessly reported, thanks to a Government-commissioned study undertaken by an Australian company, how a lifetime's worth of beneficiaries costs us $80 billion. That's a big number until you learn that it's only half the cost of our massively expensive superannuation system that the Government refuses to touch.

As New Zealand becomes a gold medal contender for the fastest growing rate of inequality in the OECD, I wonder if Paula Bennett will take a break from producing welfare porn and throw nearly a million bucks at some flash Aussie bean counters to calculate how many billions could be saved by a capital gains tax or by raising the superannuation age a year or two.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced that the law will be changed and anonymous donations for local body candidates will now be capped at $1500. So if you're a Right-winger standing for election in the Auckland area, expect a large number of cheques for $1499 to be anonymously flying through your anonymous post office box some time soon.

But first, spare a thought for our poor prime minister. As he tries to hock off state assets, he will look to his Right and see the embattled MP for Epsom, probably toast at the next election, battling for survival. He will look to his Left and see the Maori Party staunchly standing with a united Maoridom over water rights. Perhaps then he'll stare straight down the Centre at the loyal, no-surprises, untainted member for Ohariu, resplendent in his bow tie and coiffured There's Something about Mary hairstyle, and say:  ''Thank God for Peter Dunne''.

- The Dominion Post

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