Ethics Exit and Carter's Credibility Crashes

The National led Government is taking a battering at the moment, and for good reason, yet the Speaker is doing his best to protect it. Since first coming to power there have been numerous examples of decisions and behaviour that raised concerns about National's understanding of ethics and morality. Since I wrote an earlier post titled 15 Ethical "Fails" Under National there have been a number more. The Skycity judgement revealed poor process and an unfair advantage and Hekia Parata has been found wanting in two legal cases that demonstrated a lack of proper consultation and diligence involving school closures.

The issue of the moment is National's blindness to the obvious conflict of interest that John Banks has regarding his vote on the Skycity deal. Metiria's questioning of the Prime Minister's views on the matter put Key on a back foot. The logic of Metiria's argument was irrefutable and his mumbled responses lacked his usual bravado.

At one point Metiria asked:

"How can he consider that John Banks does not face a conflict of interest when the CEO of Skycity needs Banks' single vote to ensure the casino secures a massive increase in business, while that same Skycity CEO is in court giving evidence that could sink John Banks' political career?"

Key's reply, "I don't accept the proposition from the member," followed by a quick intake of breath was hardly convincing. He didn't even try to put forward a different take on the situation.

And later:

"Is the Prime Minister seriously telling the house that he is genuinely unconcerned about allowing one of his Ministers, who is dependent on the Sky City CEO (who could make or break that Minister's political career), to have the deciding vote on a deal that is worth more than $400 million dollars to the Sky city casino?"

"I don't accept the proposition from the member, for the Skycity convention centre, which I understand these days that the Labour Party's supporting, quietly."

Key's last statement drew loud responses from Labour MPs who tried to use points of order to ask why the speaker allowed the Prime Minister to comment on their party's position (and providing deliberate misinformation) when he had no authority to do so. Key had cleverly avoided attention to his weak answer to Metiria by creating a diversion. Labour could not understand the subsequent ruling from the Speaker that although it was Metiria's question, Key's jibe at the Labour Party in his answer was acceptable. David Carter explained that Metiria had asked a politically loaded question (really?), therefore the Prime Minister's response was understandable. With the support of the Speaker, Key had successfully sidestepped proper attention to his weak answer by creating an argument with Labour (sadly, rather than support Metiria's question line they bought into Key's strategy).

Key's lack of ethics and integrity allows him to easily exploit the self righteous rage of others by pressing buttons as the need arises. His smug smile when he is successful is telling. He will stop at nothing to ensure that John Banks' vote will carry the day.

Due to the highly unsatisfactory answers the day before Metiria tried again in the following session to get a definitive answer from the Government how they could tolerate a clear conflict of interest. Unfortunately she was blocked from asking a question that described the Skycity deal as sleazy and was ordered out of the house when using a number of points of order to try and establish which part of the question was inappropriate (after the Speaker had explained he had no objection to the use of the word sleazy).

It is apparently perfectly ethical and above board to:
  • Do a back room deal with Skycity, that included changes in law to benefit the company, and not offer the same deal to competitors.
  • Gifting Skycity 510 gaming machines and tables (the equivalent of another large casino), in exchange for a convention centre, while at the same time the country is attempting to reduce the number of pokies because of the social and economic harm they cause.
  • Build a convention centre effectively on the misery of hundreds of new problem gamblers (each new machine produces an average of .8 of a problem gambler).  This would also impact on hundreds of families and businesses many of the gamblers will defraud to feed their addiction.  
  • Allow the  casting vote for the Skycity bill to come from a recently resigned Minister on trial for fraud, whose freedom and political career is dependent on a testimony from the CEO of the company that will profit from his vote.
  • Continue with a convention centre deal that will create more problem gamblers than actual jobs
It is obviously not OK (according to the Speaker) to describe the deal by including the word "sleazy". Also, according to his rulings, questioning the ethics of the Government is deemed too politically loaded to expect a direct and clear answer.   



Philip Todd said…
Pokies are a great way to take what little spending power many have and divert that money to another group of the population. Far simpler than tax as its mostly unaccounted for and they make the big statements about freedom for people to do as they please.
However when such a large part of our communities are below the poverty line they become desperate and cannot see a normal way out of their situation so gambling is one form of hope. Sad for such things to be able to take place in this once great country where everyone should be able work and live in the knowledge they can work and contribute both to the communities and also their families.
The argument about ethics has been lost long ago, that word has been replaced by greed.
bsprout said…
Philip, I agree with your view that ethics have been replaced by greed. We are experiencing one of the biggest shifts of wealth that New Zealand has experienced with growing poverty and extreme wealth as a consequence.
Philip Todd said…
I often ponder the way we can show people just what happens. The right has done a great job convincing people to think of large groups of people as one. Unionists for instance is a great term for a large group of people that fails to understand the many different people encompassed in that description. We need to find and actively promote the description of those who are bent on taking what they can without a thought in the world for the big picture. The Don Elders of NZ and there are plenty. We should also be looking to finds ways to stop the rot as it is increasing as salaries for some rocket up. I suggested some years ago that Labour should promote the fixing of CEO's salaries to perhaps 12 times the lowest paid person in the company. Would be a great policy for the Greens to bring sustainable business practices back into peoples thinking. If there is anyone out there who believes you have to pay such salaries to attract the right people roll out Don Elder and ask how it worked there. NZ is full of extremely bright young people who could step up and do a lot better than most of the present day million dollar a year plus people
bsprout said…
I totally agree with you, Philip. The idea of making the CEO salary linked to the lowest paid has come up quite often recently and already occurs in Scandinavia, it's a great idea.
Philip Todd said…
I think the country is ready for a political party to come out and make a big bold statement about getting rid of the greedies. Grab some headlines and really make some effort to debate the facts around the way it rots the community from the inside out. Such leadership would unite a lot of young people who are presently very cynical about politics.
Philip Todd said…
The big thing around these people is they only generate a following because they promise their followers that they will get their share. Apart from that there is very little loyalty and any public debate could easily be won by just nodding an smiling and saying yes the people understand you need two million dollars a year. Be interesting to see. Winston is the expert on picking on minorities but he is a tory at heart and would never do this.

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