18 Jun 2014

Parliament avoids calling by-election

10:11 pm on 18 June 2014

Parliament has passed a Government motion to avoid calling a by-election in the Auckland electorate of Epsom following the resignation of former ACT MP John Banks.

John Banks

John Banks Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

On 5 June this year, Banks was found guilty of filing a false electoral return after his failed 2010 Auckland mayoralty bid relating to a $50,000 donation made by internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman told the House on Wednesday that he wanted to draw attention to all of the laws that passed this term as a result of Banks' one vote.

"Because there's now a series of laws in New Zealand that are only on the statute books because of the disgraced vote of a disgraced MP who broke the campaign finance laws before he came to this place.

Greens' co-leader Russel Norman.

Greens' co-leader Russel Norman. Photo: RNZ

"Before he even got here, he had broken the campaign finance laws and should never have been in Parliament."

National's Gerry Brownlee said if a by-election was called, it would have been too close to the general election on 20 September. He told Parliament this motion has arisen because of the court's finding that Banks' memory of donations was, too say the least, hazy.

But he then moved swiftly on to Labour, saying there are allegations also related to donations swirling around its leader David Cunliffe and his involvement with an Auckland businessman.

"And while it was pointed out to him (Banks) that his recollections of events were not found to be as the court would like them, we also have a situation here in this Parliament right now where there are allegations about donations to a political party - the Labour Party - tens of thousands of donations from a Mr Donghua Liu."

Labour's deputy leader David Parker agreed with the Government that forcing a by-election this close to an election would be ridiculous. He used the opportunity to attack National's past support of Banks, saying the ex-MP should be ashamed of his actions.

"He pretended that he couldn't remember a helicopter trip to Dotcom's mansion. He pretended that he hadn't asked for the cheques to be split into two amounts so it was less obvious. He pretended that he didn't know the donations and none of those lies - because they were lies - were believed by the court."

Mr Parker criticised Prime Minister John Key for refusing to look at the facts when the allegations were made.

John Banks resigned as an MP on 13 July and is to be sentenced on 1 August.