Law reform stopped by Banks' exit

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014

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Controversial labour law reform is to be shelved until at least after the election in the wake of John Banks' resignation as an MP.

The Epsom MP was last week found guilty of knowingly filing an incorrect electoral return, in relation to donations made by besieged German internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.

While Banks' decision to resign, which takes effect on Friday, does not threaten the stability of the Government, it means it requires the support of the Maori Party to pass any legislation.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which would allow employers greater flexibility to dictate conditions such as the timing of coffee breaks and the process of wage bargaining, is currently before a select committee.

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday he did not expect the Maori Party to change its position opposing the bill, meaning it was almost certain to be the subject of a carry-over motion, which it would aim to progress if it formed a government after the election.

Key said National would take steps to avoid an Epsom by-election - the motion requires the support of 75 per cent of MPs - and believed only the employment legislation could be threatened by Banks' resignation.

"I think that's the only legislation that was sitting around that 61-60 [vote] margin," Key said.

However, the fallout from last week's guilty verdict for the former Auckland mayor continues, with scrutiny of the police decision to not prosecute him.

The verdict was secured only after a private prosecution.

Labour has said that an inquiry should be launched into the police claim there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Justice spokesman Andrew Little said the investigation should consider whether an independent agency devoted to dealing with allegations of electoral malpractice and corruption was needed.

Police have said they will comment after Banks' sentencing on August 1, while the Independent Police Conduct Authority said yesterday it would also consider complaints made, once the legal process against Banks is completed.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the outcome of the case was likely to have an impact on how police treated future complaints against MPs.

Key said police had constabulary independence, while the courts had judicial independence and, in his experience, police investigations into the conduct of MPs were thorough, despite being in an "unenviable" position.

Unlike other countries, New Zealand did not have an issue with corruption, and he claimed those who suggested otherwise were doing so for political purposes.

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"A lot of countries around the world have endemic corruption, they have all sorts of issues that cut to the core of democracy . . . That's not the case in New Zealand."

Police had thoroughly investigated allegations of breaches of electoral law, including the decision not to take action against Labour leader David Cunliffe for a tweet he sent on the day of the Christchurch East by-election, Key said.

"The fact that the leader of the Opposition was dumb enough to send a tweet on the day of a by-election and didn't know the electoral law is sloppy, but I'd hardly consider it to be an earth-shattering event that the UN is going to be concerned about."

 

MCCREADY MUST PAY MORE

The man who forced John Banks to face charges of electoral malpractice has lost an appeal against having to make an upfront payment for costs in a case relating to his bankruptcy.

Retired accountant Graham McCready was bankrupted for the second time last year. He was ordered to provide security of $5880 for court proceedings, but he appealed.

The Supreme Court has upheld the original decision, and additionally ordered McCready to pay $2500 for costs relating to his appeals.

The decision noted he had received an ACC payment of more than $8000 this year.

- The Dominion Post

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