English’s story disintegrating

Written By: - Date published: 5:12 am, September 17th, 2009 - 29 comments
Categories: bill english, corruption - Tags: ,

Pete Hodgson is continuing to chip away at English’s ministerial allowance story. English looks very uncomfortable as Brownlee and Key cover for him. To my mind, this is yesterday’s crucial exchange:

Hon Pete Hodgson: If the Hon Bill English has no pecuniary interest in his ministerial residence, then how come the email I have here, dated 19 March, shows Mr English telling Ministerial Services which bank account to put the money into?

Hon JOHN KEY: It is a legal test as to whether someone has a pecuniary interest, and Mr English has no pecuniary interest.

So English is writing to tell Ministerial Services the bank account of the trust that he has nothing to do with – well, since he took his name out the list of trustees – that owns the house he and his family live in, which is getting money to pay for the cost of his and his family’s accommodation because he is a minister supposedly not based in Wellington. And we’re supposed to believe he has no pecuniary interest in this trust?

What is the legal test, Mr Key? And how does Mr English’s trust arrangements satisfy that test? Would the test have been satisfied if he hadn’t, at the last minute, changed his relationship with the trust?

The other interesting quote:

Hon Pete Hodgson: Has the Minister been advised that a request for an additional $20 per week of cleaning allowance was made by or on behalf of Mr English on 5 December—the day Treasury told Mr English that Government expenditure had to be seriously cut—and that by 10 February Mr English had managed to claim cleaning costs even in excess of the new higher allowance?

english's mannerSo, this is English requesting another $20 a week, on top of the $40 a week he is already getting for cleaning, on top of the other $850 a week he is getting for housing – all part of an allowance he isn’t entitled to – on top of his $5300 a week salary. Meanwhile, the cleaners who clean English’s office, whose wages are frozen by his public wage ‘freeze’, are on $12.55 an hour – 5 cents above minimum wage.

Disgraceful.

29 comments on “English’s story disintegrating”

  1. Eric C. 1

    And today the Herald tells us that we bought Bill and his family a new TV too!

    Where do I sign up for my free TV? Treasury?

  2. Ron 2

    You can see the Heralds hesitation, tough, can’t you. Story reads “Mr Hodgson is attempting to rekindle the issue”. If it had been a Labour pollie before th election it would read “English reveals startling new facts” or somesuch..

  3. Scott 3

    These are all valid questions, but Hodgson is probably not the man for the job. He sounded like a complete dick on Morning Report this morning.

    His argument, “I have no proof that what you did was illegal, so prove to me that it was legal”, was dismantled by a gleeful Sean Plunket, who tore strips off him.

    • gobsmacked 3.1

      Actually Plunket just came across as he usually does: abrasive, obnoxious, fighting fearlessly on behalf of the Nats.

      He’s a long-running joke.

    • Marty G 3.2

      Plunket’s argument is that you can’t question a politician unless you have proof that they have acted illegally.

      He was effectively arguing himself out of a job

      just trying to cover english’s arse.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 3.2.1

        Thats just the format of the questioning, they have to show balance. So if you claim blah blah blah the interviewer says show us the evidence.

        Of course if English appeared on the show he should get a grilling but that wont happen, and now the media are showing ‘ennui’ which usually means we will be hurting our sources if we persue this.
        Much better to run the PR spin from Hootens ‘Regurgium’ on another story

        In fact there is a string of circumstancial ‘ clues’ that English has left behind in his rort – like crums leading to schooboy who has raided the school tuckshop.

        Perhaps if they used ‘thai’ cleaners they would have been happy
        to run with it

      • Scott 3.2.2

        I find it amusing (being politically neutral in this matter) that when Plunket attacks a politician of the Right, he’s applauded, but when it’s someone on the Left he’s attacked.

        Hodgson was employing a classic tactic of political mischief: demanding someone disprove an allegation that was itself made without evidence.

        It is like the classic Birther argument: “I think you were born in Kenya. Prove you were not”.

        Why didn’t Hodgson just focus on English’s “moral” failings in this matter?

        • gobsmacked 3.2.2.1

          “when Plunket attacks a politician of the Right, he’s applauded”

          Seriously, Scott, do you actually listen to his interviews?

          When has he ever behaved that way with a senior National Minister? I have no problem with him grilling Hodgson – and look forward to him doing the same to the people who are in power. He never does.

          Spare us the meaningless “neutral” line – AKA the great Evolution vs Creationism cop-out. You’re smart enough to judge by evidence and a pattern of behaviour. It’s about an interviewer being professional, withour fear or favour. Plunket isn’t.

          • Scott 3.2.2.1.1

            The interview was not about whether English did wrong. It was about whether he’d broken the law. Hodgson tried to insinuate there was possibly something illegal in what English had done. Plunket called him on it, asking for Hodgson to show the evidence. Hodgson admitted he had no hard evidence.

            I don’t buy the “media bias” line. I’m sure if you asked the crowd at Kiwiblog what they thought of Plunket they’d probably use a number of expletives. Plunket does sometimes lose his way, and I’ve complained before about his occasional bullying of interviewees, but in my mind he doesn’t display any obvious political bias.

            And yes I listen to Plunket every morning, and have done so for a number of years.

        • ghostwhowalksnz 3.2.2.2

          Yet Obama did provide his birth certificate !!
          Just they then wanted more than the normal certificate that is used everyday

  4. Good effort from labour against english. Keep the pressure on, the cracks are starting to appear

  5. Eric C. 5

    The problem with Plunket is he probably didn’t even read his notes. He just followed Key’s line about legality. He clearly didn’t listen to the lead-in to the story.

    It is not a legal issue. Key is head of Ministerial Services and he okayed the payment. English can’t steal what Key gave him.

    As RNZ in their lead-in and Guyon Espiner rightfully pointed out, it is a moral issue.

    The fact is English is a Wellington-based MP and should not get a cent for his or any other house in Wellington. He should not get cleaning and he certainly should not get a new TV at the taxpayers expense!

    And definitely not when English and Key are telling everyone else to tighten their belts.

    Still you have to give the Nats credit for their very able spin. It works.

    • Tigger 5.1

      The moral issue is why I’m so concerned about this government – they are dodgy, they lie, they refuse to answer questions and they don’t appear to suffer remorse for any of this. Sociopathic much?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.2

      They cant steal what was given to them ???
      yeah right and that line worked with the auditor generals investigation into spending on communications before the 2005 election. Remember the money was given to labour to spend, just that the AG said there are guidelines you must follow

      This is exactly the same circumstances , prove that you have been paid correctly because you seem to be different than all the other ministerial houses

  6. Olwyn 6

    Before the election, when Winston Peters had trust questions hanging over his head, the mainstream media frothed at the mouth to such an extent you would have thought he had been outed as a card-carrying member of the Taleban. They are very much more subdued when a National politician is faced with similar issues.

  7. burt 7

    English should just resign – plain and simple. Now normally when I call for minsiters to resign on this blog I get shot down by all the defenders of corruption so – bring on the abuse… I’m ready for it.

    • felix 7.1

      I’d prefer he was stood down and investigated. Fat chance though

      If only there were a “perk-busting-mp” who would lead the charge on this as a matter of principle…

  8. burt 8

    So if some motivated person takes a civil case against English and National validate the actions of English and kill the court case – who here will tell me to move on cause Parliament know best about what is legal and what is not ?

  9. ghostwhowalksnz 9

    Some media are reporting English personally rang the TV3 and TV1 journalists after the stories on this issue last night and he ‘abused’ them over the phone.

  10. Clarke 10

    The only test that matters in this case is whether English is a beneficiary of the Trust. If he is, then he has a pecuniary interest – that’s the legal test Key seems to be alluding to.

    The way to see who is telling the truth is simply for English to put the trust deed in the public domain. Better yet, to preserve his privacy (after all, he’s not a DPB recipient) he only needs to publish the beneficiary section of the trust deed. My money is on the fact that he won’t do so, which will pretty much guarantee that Pete Hodgson is right on the money.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 10.1

      What about the title deed ? Why can he claim that the legal owner at the land registry wasnt the actual owner.
      There doesnt seem to a consistent stream of excuses.

      • Clarke 10.1.1

        The trust is the one who actually owns the house, and so the trust (and trustees) names are the ones that will appear on the title deed at LINZ. English has already stated that he’s no longer a trustee, so there’s no reason to think his name is on the title.

        However the acid test with a private trust is who is on the list of beneficiaries, rather than who is a trustee. Beneficiaries are the ones on the receiving end of the money when the trust is settled – trustees merely administer the trust on the way through. So if English is as pure as he claims, he should disclose the beneficiary portions of the trust deed, simply to prove that he can’t financially profit from the sale of the Karori house.

        • aj 10.1.1.1

          Clarke,

          Right on the button. One can draw one’s own conclusions over his reluctance to come out with details.

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