Is his money our business?

08/04/2013

Susan Woods pressed David Shearer to reveal on Q+A yesterday how much money is in the account he omitted to declare in his register of pecuniary interest.

SUSAN          Much made this week of the Prime Minister’s memory loss. You, of course, have had your own memory loss over that $50,000 US or more, how much was it?

DAVID            I’m not going to say. It’s my family business. I don’t talk about my savings online, but I do-

SUSAN          Tony Ryall said in the house it was a couple of hundred thousand dollars US. Is that correct, or is it more than that?

DAVID            I’m not going to say. It’s my family business.

SUSAN          Didn’t you lose your right for privacy around it when you forgot to declare it? When you broke the rules and did not declare it?

DAVID            No, I absolutely did not. I said that I made an error. I myself came forward and corrected that error. I took it on the chin and said ‘here it is’. And I expect that to be the standard by which all politicians operate if they do make a mistake.

SUSAN          That’s what John Key did this week. He said he’d made a mistake and he fessed up. Exactly the same scenario.

DAVID            I think what John Key was doing this week-

SUSAN          He came forward.

DAVID            No-

SUSAN          Yes, he did. He came forward and he said, ‘Actually, I’ve checked by records and I did call Ian Fletcher.’ He came forward.

DAVID            What he was doing this week was that he was deliberately trying to move opinion away from and deflect opinion away from his friendship and relationship with Fletcher.

SUSAN          Is your problem with this money- Is your problem with this more than $50,000 US in the bank, is your problem that there is so much money there that it would not resonate? You would not resonate? I mean, Michael Cullen very famously called John Key a ‘rich prick’. Are you, Mr Shearer, a rich prick?

DAVID            Look, I worked for my money working for the United Nations in Iraq. I put it in the bank. It’s my family’s savings. I didn’t put it on my pecuniary interest. I declared that and I came forward and I was honest about it.

SUSAN          And you were very well paid in that job, sometimes up to half a million Kiwi dollars a year.

DAVID            No, I think you need to do your research on that, quite frankly, Susan. But, look, working in Iraq, where we lost 25 people, there was a- people do get paid hazard money in those situations.

SUSAN          What’s the money sitting there for?

DAVID            Look, it’s my family- Look, people put money in the bank for any- Look, this is my private savings, my family’s savings. Do you ask John Key what he does with $50 million when he comes on to your show?

SUSAN          John Key actually does have scrutiny over his money all the time. There are reports about how much money he has; he’s on the NBR Rich List – all those sorts of things. So, yes, he does have the same sort of scrutiny.

DAVID            Well, I haven’t heard you asking the same sorts of questions-

SUSAN          I haven’t had him on the programme yet, but when I do, I will ask him. So, are reports that it’s around $1 million correct or incorrect?

DAVID            Look, I am not going to put a figure on it, and I resent the fact that you are asking me to reveal how much is in my bank account. Nobody needs to do that. I have done-

SUSAN          You do need to.

DAVID            I have done what I was obliged to do under parliamentary rules, which is to declare any account that had more than $50,000 in it. I did do that. I regret, obviously, not putting that on my pecuniary interests, and that’s where it stops.

In the normal course of events it is none of our business exactly how much money MPs have.

They have to declare anything more than $50,000 and Shearer didn’t.

That he could forget he had that much when filling in his register of pecuniary interest although his memory didn’t fail him when filling in his tax return is peculiar.

Even if the account has $50,000.01 which requires it to be declared, it is more than a great many people would ever have saved and a lot more than most would ever forget they owned.

Shearer has opened himself up to questions. Many people will be very interested in exactly how much is in the account he forgot about. The greater the amount, the stranger his memory lapse, but is it in the public interest to know the total?

Woods says she’s going to ask the PM the same questions but Shearer’s memory lapse and refusal to divulge the amount in the forgotten account doesn’t give her any reason to dig into anyone else’s personal finances.

Providing it was made legally and anything that has to be declared is, how much an MP has, is not our business.


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