Back in 2012, Hone Harawira got himself arrested in Glen Innes, protesting against the removal state houses in the area. He ended up being found guilty, was fined the princely sum of $500 and was ordered to pay Court costs of $132.89. At the time, Mr Harawira did a bit of a whip around, and found others to help him pay the fine. And there it ended.
Until this morning, with the NZ Herald reporting that the Mana Party’s Tamaki Makaurau candidate, Kereama Pene, was stirring up rumour, alleging that Winston Peters had paid Mr Harawira’s fine. Personally, I’m not particularly interested in whether Mr Peters did or didn’t. (For the record, Peters has denied it, asking – given that it was $500 – “Why didn’t he pay it himself?”) Mr Harawira is refusing to say who helped pay the fine, saying:
“I don’t want to go naming names. Some of them were ex-MPs, some of them were current MPs, some of them were just ordinary people from GI and from other walks of life.”
The bit that I’m interested in is the Herald’s assertion that the names of those who paid the fine should be disclosed in Parliament’s register of pecuniary interests. The register requires MPs to give “a description of all debts of more than $500 that were owing by the member that were discharged or paid (in whole or in part) by any other person and the names of each of those persons”.
Hone Harawira is refusing to disclose names and I’m not convinced that he’s required to, although it depends on how the donations he received to pay the fine were made. If the donations were made to the Mana Party, and were recorded as such, then they’re able to simply be declared as anonymous small donations. In my opinion, it would be irrelevant whether the donors intended for Mr Harawira to use the donations to pay off the fine. This isn’t a situation where someone wanders down to the local Ministry of Justice Collections Department, slaps down $500 and says, “This is for Hone Harawira’s fine”. To my mind (assuming the donations were recorded by Mana), it’s a situation analogous to Colin Craig or Russel Norman raising money to pay legal fees relating to Mr Craig’s defamation action.
Of course, if Mr Harawira simply pocketed a number of small donations which had been given to him for the purpose of paying his fine, didn’t run those donations through Mana’s books, and then used them to pay his fine, that’s a different story, and he would fall foul of the register’s rules if he didn’t declare who helped pay the fine.