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March 25, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Notes from the Fourth Estate: Political Belief

They say you can never trust a politician, and, true to form, just in time for Salient’s Belief issue, we spent the week wondering whether we could believe our friends down at the Beehive.

Consistently ranked amongst the least-trusted professions, it seems that conveniently ‘forgetting’ about certain expenditures on Ministerial credit cards or being ‘unable to recall’ certain meetings with wealthy donors are simply part and parcel of being a politician.

 

Last week it was Labour leader David Shearer who was the victim of this amnesia, when it was discovered that he had failed to disclose the existence of an overseas bank account worth a modest $50,000 plus. Despite declaring the income for tax purposes, Shearer hasn’t managed to maintain the same clarity when it comes to Parliament.  In an attempt to increase public trust and belief in politicians, since 2005 all MPs have been required to declare all assets and income for the Parliamentary Register of Pecuniary Interests.

 

Delighted that the chronic case of amnesia had finally been caught by someone else, ACT’s sole MP John Banks was one of the loudest voices in the shaming of Shearer and his “genuine oversight”. Banks, who came under fire last year when a $50,000 donation from Kim Dotcom and helicopter ride ‘slipped his mind’, gleefully leaped on the chance to label Shearer a “rampant hypocrite” if he didn’t resign. We’re guessing that Banks’ own resignation letter has been forgottem somewhere in the Parliamentary mail system.

Noticeably quiet during the affair has been John Key, who has had his fair share of foggy memory in the past.  Key commented only that Shearer’s oversight had been “unfortunate”, but that everyone could make mistakes. Perhaps, unlike Banks, this incident was an all-too-real reminder for Key, who in 2010 was accused of covering up conflicts of interest relating to property in the “blind” trust he uses to manage his $50 million assets.

A blind trust is where details of the contents and value of the trust are kept secret from the beneficiaries of the trust, and are used by MPs as away of avoiding conflicts of interest that may be otherwise tied up with the property they own. Shortly after his election as Prime Minister in 2008, Key transferred share in a vineyard to the blind trust, the following Christmas gifter 240 bottles of JK PM’s Pinot; went on the record saying he owned shares in a vineyard, but then in 2010 Key claimed that he was completely oblivious to the contents of the trust. Curiouser and curiouser…

At least there’s one trust we can believe in: you can never trust a politician.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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