Prime Minister John Key says the voters of Epsom will decide whether they can trust their embattled local MP and ACT leader John Banks at the next election.
Pressure is growing on Key to sack Banks as a minister outside Cabinet, after police released their investigation file into donations to his failed 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign.
Sworn statements from Kim Dotcom, his lawyer and bodyguard, made public last week under the Official Information Act, cast doubt on whether Banks was upfront about donations.
Police investigated suggestions that Banks solicited $50,000 from Dotcom, and a $15,000 donation from SkyCity, which were later registered as anonymous, but said there was not enough evidence to press charges.
Opposition parties say Key's support for Banks is becoming increasingly untenable.
The prime minister relies on Banks' vote to give him a majority in Parliament and without him National would need the support of the Maori Party, which opposes key Government policies such as partial asset sales.
Key today said he would not "second guess" the people of Epsom and their views of Banks.
National was accused of doing a "dirty deal" in Epsom in last year's election by indicating voters should back the ACT leader when Key met Banks for a now infamous cup of tea before the election.
However, the prime minister today distanced National from tactical voting, saying: "We gave the people of Epsom their choice."
"In the end, all politics is local," he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
"It is for individuals who vote, or don't and chose not to, to decide whether they want someone to represent them or not. If they don't feel they can trust him, they won't vote for him, if they can, they will."
Key denied suggestions Banks had become New Zealand's Silvio Berlusconi.
The former Italian prime minister had corruption charges against him thrown out in February because the statute of limitations had expired.
"Last time I looked, I didn't see him at a 'bunga bunga party'," Key told Newstalk ZB, referring to the lavish sex orgies Berlusconi allegedly threw.
Key said police may not have been successful even charges were bought against Banks.
The prime minister said he wouldn't handle the Banks donation scandal any differently if his Government had a nine-seat majority and didn't depend on the ACT leader.
"When you are prime minister all you can really say is that a minister enjoys my confidence if I can rely on their word. If it's proven otherwise, then fair enough. In the end there are no charges."
Labour leader David Shearer said Key was refusing to read the police file it because it was so damning.
"He knows it will show that all the evidence points to the fact his minister has lied to him."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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