OPINION: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. And in John Key's case, read no evil.
The prime minister is resolutely refusing to take a look at the 126-page dossier from the police investigation into "anonymous" donations to Mr Banks' 2010 mayoralty campaign.
What's good for the goose, is good for the gander: John Banks didn't feel the need to look over his electoral return, so why should we expect Mr Key to cast his eye over witness statements that skewer his minister's credibility?
Mr Key spent a good third of yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference defending his evasive coalition partner over the gifts from Megaupload millionaire Kim Dotcom and SkyCity casino. The question and answer session was torturous and frustrating.
Mr Key's position is conveniently black and white: Mr Banks has "complied with the law", therefore he gets to keep his portfolios.
He doesn't have to accept the shades of grey that damn Mr Banks because he hasn't scrutinised them.
Nor has he sought assurances directly from Mr Banks - that was left to chief of staff Wayne Eagleson in April. Conveniently, he can't answer detailed questions about that conversation because he wasn't party to it.
He slickly sidesteps the damning detail that Mr Banks discussed Dotcom's "electoral support" with a lawyer, a couple of months before publicly saying he couldn't recall it.
"There is always a wide variation in the interpretation of a conversation," Mr Key obfuscated. His "out" in the case of Mr Banks' statement to police in June? "This is a historical matter."
Helpfully, the Government announced plans to fix local electoral legislation on the day the files were released. This allows Mr Key to answer any uncomfortable questions about Mr Banks' behaviour by criticising the law.
"It's quite possible for someone under the existing law to comply with the law and have extensive conversations about donations," he said, apparently condoning Mr Banks' alleged interactions with Dotcom.
As well as act lawfully, the Cabinet Manual demands ministers "behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards".
Does this not apply to Mr Banks? "That's for behaviour held before they had a warrant," Mr Key explains.
Mr Banks passes the good minister test because Mr Key believes he didn't lie to him."This is a system based on trust," Mr Key says of his relationship with his ministers. "The test is: has he misled me?"
But has he misled the public over the saga? "You'd have to put that to Mr Banks," he shrugs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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