September 1, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s another paternity fraud case and this one has the potential to bring the problem to a larger audience (New Zealand Herald, 8/23/17). That’s because the actual father of the child may be John Banks, former member of New Zealand’s Parliament and two-time Mayor of Auckland, the country’s largest city.

But it won’t, or such is my prediction. It won’t bring home the importance of paternity fraud because the press is too enthralled with Banks’s despicable behavior and status as a public figure. My guess is that the salacious aspects of the story will drown out the real public policy issues. That’s certainly the case in the linked-to article.

John Banks urged the mother of his illegitimate child to have an abortion and then supplied drugs to make her miscarry and pressured her to take the necessary dose, court documents allege.

The woman, who says in a sworn affidavit she became pregnant after having sex with Banks in a Hamilton motel, claims she refused to take the pills and the two-term Auckland mayor ended their relationship.

Moreover, Banks has in the past trumpeted his respect for the family and “family values.”

[The child’s mother, Pamela] Mayes decided to finally "tell the truth" after Shaw's wife gave birth to the couple's only son in 1999 - allegedly making Banks a grandfather - and after Banks made a moving valedictory speech in Parliament referring to his own "crushing heartache" of growing up without a father.

"The number one problem confronting New Zealand today is the breakdown of the home and the family," Banks said as he bowed out of Parliament.

"We need to exalt mothers and uphold fathers. Children need mothers and fathers. A welfare cheque is not a husband. The state is not a father."

As someone who’s said much the same things many times, my response is the old chestnut, “with friends like him, who needs enemies?” Family breakdown is indeed perhaps the most important problem facing many nations, New Zealand included and the heartache of growing up without a father is palpable for countless kids. But of course Banks isn’t exactly the man we want airing those sentiments.

That assumes that what Mayes said in her affidavit to the court is true. So far, there’s been no genetic testing done of her son who’s now 47, and Banks has neither admitted nor denied her allegation that he tried to convince her to have an abortion and then urged her to identify another man as the dad.

What’s missing from all the tawdry details, whether true of false, is that Mayes admits she lied about her son’s paternity. If we are to believe her, she had sex with Wong for the sole purpose of lying to him about being the child’s father and getting support from him. Admittedly, Wong paid very little – just $5 per week for 15 years, or about $3,000, so he wasn’t financially devastated by her malice.

But “devastated” is exactly what her son, Antony Shaw, was when he learned that Wong probably isn’t his father.

He only learned that Banks could be his paternal blood relative when his mother broke the news to him by letter in 1999.

"Shocked" and "devastated" by the revelations, he admits being surprised by the likeness when he eventually saw a photo of the conservative politician and former Cabinet minister.

And that of course is one of the three major tragedies of paternity fraud. When the child learns the truth, as they often do, the emotional impact can be, well, devastating. In this case, the other two major consequences of paternity fraud are likely not much in evidence. Obviously, if Banks in fact urged Mayes to do what she did, he’s in no position to pretend shock at the news that he’s the father of a son. It further appears that Wong pretty much stayed out of Antony’s life and that Mayes married a man named Shaw who presumably played the role of stepfather to him. So Wong seems to have had little interest in the child he thought was his son.

Still, what shows every indication of being swept under the rug is that, for 29 years, Mayes lied to her son and the world about Antony’s paternity. She told and retold the lie every day for all those years. Nothing forced her to do that, but she did it anyway.

And in New Zealand, as in every other country, there’s not a law, not a regulation and no public censure for mothers who lie about paternity. They do so with impunity, irrespective of who they hurt, how much financial damage they do, how much public money is required to sort out their deceit.

New Zealanders likely won’t get to address those issues despite the notoriety of John Banks. Indeed, they won’t because of that notoriety. The press will irresponsibly focus on the tawdry details, Banks’s status as a public figure and his rank hypocrisy. In doing so, it’ll miss the big picture and a rare opportunity to make right a public policy that is, as in so many other countries, grievously wrong.

 

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