Banks supports donation reform

John Banks
John Banks

Under fire Act MP John Banks says he "absolutely" supports reforms to the rules of local government campaign donations.

Police last week said there was not enough evidence to charge the Epsom MP over anonymous donations to his failed Auckland super city mayoralty campaign.

Police found Banks solicited money for his campaign from MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom but were unable to establish he knew two $25,000 gifts recorded as anonymous on his electoral return, were from the multi-millionaire. The return was compiled by volunteers.

Police were also found Banks solicited radio advertisements declared as anonymous. They were unable to consider other charges because they fell outside the time limit allowed in the Local Electoral Act.

Both Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Shearer today said there should be changes to the law under which Banks had received the donations.

Banks, today making his first public appearance since police announced they would not charge him, appeared reluctant to answer questions about his case.

On his way in to Parliament, he walked away from reporters asking him questions.

He eventually said he ''absolutely'' backed the calls for reform.

"As I said from day one, I operated at all times within the Local Government Elections Act 2001 put in place by the Labour Party," Banks said.

"We've had an extensive police inquiry and I have been cleared."

Key this morning said candidates were allowed to solicit donations and Banks had not broken the law.

"The law may be very loose as I've said before, and the law may well need reforming and that's something we'll consider in due course but I'm comfortable with what he's done,'' Key said.

The same law had applied to central government until it was reformed by the former Labour government.

"There was a pretty strong case that it should have done it for both local and central government."

Anyone could "drive a bus through the law,'' he said.

"The law literally is an ass in this particular case."

Just because someone said they were going to give a candidate money, didn't mean they ultimately did, Key said.

"Lots of people tell you they are going to vote for you, it doesn't mean they ultimately do."

However, no one was arguing the law was not substandard, he said.

"It's just a question of getting rid of it and having time to change it."

Labour leader David Shearer said Banks had gotten off on a technicality.

"He approached the donor, asked for the money, reached out his hand and took the cheque from Sky City. Anybody in New Zealand watching that would know that he knew exactly what was happening.

"That's why he couldn't remember anything because if he did remember anything he would've out himself in real jeopardy."

Banks was "advised to forget".

Police had done as much as they could, Shearer said. He agreed there were too many holes in the law and said Labour was open to working on a cross-party solution.