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Heatley story full of holes

Written By: - Date published: 7:10 am, February 26th, 2010 - 84 comments
Categories: national/act government, parliamentary spending, spin - Tags: ,

I’ll try just sticking to the observable facts of the Heatley affair, rather than relying on any of the Nats’ word on events that took place out of the public eye in the lead up to his resignation.

Phil Heatley is adament he didn’t resign for misusing his ministerial credit card. He says the problem is that he signed off on a claim for beverage and food (a claim that incidentally was against the rules, but that’s by the by) but he didn’t, in fact, buy any food. He claims that he sees that as a resigning offence. Come on, pull the other one. ‘Food and beverages’ is a category that covers booze. The expense falls in that category. No minister is going to resign for describing a trivial expense in a perfectly legitimate, or at worst trivially inaccurate, way.

And Heatley and John Key have conflicting stories about how this ‘issue’ was discovered – Heatley says he found it, Key says a reporter brought it to his office.

There’s clearly something else at play. But I don’t think this was planned by the National hierarchy. Key would not have flown to Christchurch only to suddenly turn around and fly back if he had expected Heatley to resign.

That very strongly suggests that as of last night and early in the morning Key didn’t think Heatley was resigning.

I think we need to look at Heatley’s performance. His press conference was clearly being managed by the hierarchy. Heatley isn’t a good liar and throughout the four minute press conference, until Chris Tremain and Simon Power held him by the shoulder and bundled him out the door, I got the overwhelming impression that Heatley was lying and he knew it. Heatley looked like a condemned man at a show trial, reading the false confession his executioners had prepared for him.

But if Heatley was going to be forced to resign because of some other reason why didn’t he either admit that reason or, given the Nats’ love of secrecy, simply claim he was resigning over his misuse of the ministerial credit card?

I think this is where we get to the heart of the issue. If Heatley has resigned because of what is essentially his theft of taxpayer money for private use with his ministerial credit card, then Brownlee would be on the chopping block for the same behaviour, and Brownlee is like English – too important to lose.

So here’s my theory. Heatley, tender soul that he is, agonised over the ministerial card issue and decided to do what would be expected in similar circumstances in a business and what would have been automatic not so long ago for a minister – he decided to resign.

The problem from National’s perspective with that was that Brownlee would be under serious pressure to resign too. Initially, on Wednesday night, Key tried to talk Heatley out of it and had a three hour crisis meeting with Bill English. Thinking it was under control, Key went to Christchurch.

But then Heatley decided he wanted to resign after all. What National needed was a reason for Heatley to resign that wasn’t the misuse of the credit cards, something that wouldn’t implicate Brownlee. And so we got the farce we saw yesterday. I think the whole thing over the receipt and maybe even getting the Auditor-General to investigate his other expenses is a distraction.

That’s my theory, anyway. Any other ideas?

Labour will have to pursue this to dig out the truth. Because, as with Richard Worth, it’s clear that National has no intention of being open with the public.

On that note, the Right is desperately spinning this as some example of high standards. What a laugh. It’s not a high standard to resign for not doing anything wrong, it’s a farce. If this is the bar then most of the Cabinet should be gone for actual sackable offences:

  • Heatley and Gerry Brownlee should have resigned when they were caught breaking the rules for using ministerial credit cards.
  • Bill English, Heatley, Murray McCully, Tim Groser, and Anne Tolley should have resigned for rorting the housing allowance (I notice that a number of ministers still have very big expense claims in that area).
  • Judith Collins, Heatley, Tolley, Rodney Hide, Simon Power, and Wayne Mapp should have resigned for breaking the rules on spousal flights.
  • Jonathan Coleman should have resigned for covering up Melissa Lee’s NZ on Air rip-off.
  • Hide and Heather Roy should resign for charging for appearing at events as ministers, in contravention of the rules.
  • English should resign for getting TVNZ to make him a political ad.
  • And Tolley and Paula Bennett should be sacked for sheer bloody incompetence.

Of course, the only ones who have gone are Richard Worth for reasons Key won’t tell us and Heatley under an obviously false pretext.

No, we didn’t see a new and bizarre age of ministerial standards yesterday. We saw a cover-up.

84 comments on “Heatley story full of holes ”

  1. wyndham 1

    Is it not just possible that Mr. Heatley simply “wanted out” of his ministerial responsibilities and the expenses incident has provided both he and the PM with a convenient let out ? Whilst not a good look, it is preferable to admitting that he cannot handle the job.

    The haggard features and the tears at the time of his public apology bore all the signs of a man under extreme pressure. Far more that would be occasioned by cheating over the cost of a couple of bottles of wine.

    • Marty G 1.1

      Yeah. that’s not lightyears away from my theory.

      The problem is if he wanted out why didn’t he resign over what he actually did wrong – spending taxpayer money on private use – rather than something that isn’t even wrong – categorising a wine purchase as ‘food and beverages’?

      • the sprout 1.1.1

        Or indeed if he he just wanted out, why not just resign before rather than go through this embrassment and look like you’re resigning over one misdeamenour?

        It doesn’t add up.

    • toad 1.2

      Whilst not a good look, it is preferable to admitting that he cannot handle the job.

      By that reasoning, I would expect considerable scrutiny of Anne Tolley’s expenses to be going on at the moment.

  2. vto 2

    My theory is that it is the usual bullshit emanating out of the beehive. The full story and all reasons are never explained. There were countless of them during Clark’s time, and before that, and it is simply the horrid tradition continuing. I roll my eyes.

    Politicians will hence continue to occupy the lower rungs of respectables.

  3. greenfly 3

    Let’s hear from Gerry now, shall we?

    Gerry? Your turn to air some linen.

    Fat chance!

    • tim 3.1

      Gerry’s linen is still in the wash! But standby, it’s on the spin cycle as I type

  4. I actually think he’s legit. I haven’t seen any other person as sincere as Heatley. I could be wrong, but I really don’t see anything going on here.

    • the sprout 4.1

      Then that would just make it a massive error of judgement.

      • infused 4.1.1

        He seems like the person to make a masive error or judement. Letting his emotions take over

        • Marty G 4.1.1.1

          Apart from the fact that there’s nothing wrong in characterising two bottles of wine as ‘food and beverage’ (remember, this is totally separate from the issue of misusing the card for private use) there’s also the problem that Key and Heatley provided different explanations of how the ‘error’ was discovered

          • infused 4.1.1.1.1

            After 5yrs in business, I think I’ve only just got a handle on everything I can claim on correctly.

            Maybe I’m a slow learner.

            • Marty G 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Did you ever charge wine and holidays for your private use to your work account?

              There’s understanding the technicalities and there’s understanding the basics.

        • IrishBill 4.1.1.2

          Which would beg the question, who the hell thought he should be a minister?

  5. Eric C. 5

    There are many unanswered questions about why this whole story was mismanaged by John Key.

    For example, if the Dom Post got the documents under the OIA why didn’t Key make the ministers payback the misspent funds before the papers were sent to the Dom Post? That would have kept it from getting any momentum with the follow up “he will pay it back” and “he has paid it back” stories. I mean, it is not like the story came out of a leak. They gave the information out and had plenty of time to plan how to manage the story.

    I reckon once again, Key and his mates didn’t think they had done anything wrong until they saw what the Dom Post was going to publish. Rules and laws are for someone else not them.

  6. It would be nice to think a poltician had a crisis of conscience to do the right thing but i just dont have that much faith in them.

    It does however seem Cheatley was on the slippery rort slide and maybe that dishonesty was getting to him. Now if someone could get him alone, tug the heartstrings and get him to whistleblow on the culture of disingenuousness within parliament, that would be choice !

  7. the sprout 7

    I wonder who shared the various dinners and bottles of wine with Heatley?
    I understand one of them says ‘Phil Heatley and Wife’.
    I suppose if it wasn’t actually Heatley’s wife at the time that could be problematic for him.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      sprout – the particular wine for “Phil Heatly and spouse” was at the National party conference. That is, official party business where everyone would have seen him, so he wouldn’t have been there with some other women.

      It is possible that other spending could’ve been as you suggest, but the particular instance of ‘2 bottles of wine marked as food and beverages’ is above board.

    • Lanthanide 7.2

      sprout – the particular instance with the 2 bottles of wine charged as ‘food and beverage’ were from the National party conference. That is, an official party function where he definitely would not be seen with a woman other than his wife.

      Other spending could have been with someone else, but this particular instance is above board.

  8. luva 8

    It is depressing that this government is looking like they will have the same strike rate as the last sorry bunch.

    They obviously don’t have a corrupt minister amongst them like a certain TPF. But I am dissapointed that my high hopes for them in this area are not being realised.

    • r0b 8.1

      They obviously don’t have a corrupt minister amongst them like a certain TPF

      Mmmmm, yes, obviously.

      • luva 8.1.1

        r0b

        When was a National minister or former National minister questioned by the authorities in respect of corruption, charged in respect of corruption or convicted of corruption?

  9. Yup, marital impropriety and tearful confession. That’s always good for a laugh. Let’s fookin ave it !

  10. Anne 10

    I say MARTY G is bang on!
    It makes sense. Note that as soon as questions became tricky the minders removed Heatley. Scared he would contradict the agreed version of events? Of course. The mess is more an indictment of John Key and his sloppy management style. But of course Jo and Mary Bloggs would have watched him on TV last night and thought… gosh, he’s a good man isn’ he.

  11. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that he resigned over two bottles of wine being classified as food and beverages.
    This is also not some new standard otherwise Key has no cabinet.They are covering for sure.

    Heatley is acting as far as I am concerned, I mean seriously all those emotions and heart felt expressions of “I am really sorry please please for give me”
    For what, maybe for driving dangerously maiming or killing ( manslaughter) someone, sexual indiscretion, or He is not coping in the job and he needs to resign because someone close to him is dying or his marriage is on the rocks would all be reasons that you would go, Ok fair enough he should be sorry or ok poor blokes under a lot of personal and work stress, so needs a brake.

    I don’t buy this, Heatley either knows far worse is going to be exposed or there is something else they need a distraction for.

  12. coolas 12

    ‘Error in judgement’ seems the catch phrase for Heatly. And no doubt a few more errors will emerge. But if his sloppy use of c/cards is indicative of his work ethic the guy must have been muffing his portfolio’s and the emotional wreck we saw on TV is a man way stressed and out of his depth.

    Makes me wonder how well supported he was. Seems he didn’t talk to Key before resigning. Strange. Helen was a micro-manager calling her Ministers on a daily basis (except Cullen). Is Key so macro Ministers are running alone? If so I reckon Heatly just couldn’t cope with both the job and the lifestyle a Crown Minister assumes.

    He was close to a melt-down, knew it, and got out before the shit hit the fan.

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      Makes me wonder how well supported he was.

      NBR (private bin pge 43) says Heatley went for a chat with Gerry on Wed.

      Gerry was “less than sympathetic to his cabinet colleague blubbering”.

      • coolas 12.1.1

        Thanks Pascal. Makes more sense than the 2 bottles. So strengthens the reason Heatly resigned was because he was on the brink of a meltdown and unsupported by colleagues; Key too busy taking photo ops, English unapproachable, and Gerry unsympathetic.

  13. Where is the story of Phil Goff spending 70 Thousand dollars on limos?

  14. Lanthanide 14

    According to Matthew Hooten on the radio this morning, there are 2 aspects that should be considered:

    1. It seems he continued using his CC in a bad way, even after being warned and told to stop. So continued errors is a bit more embarassing here. Contrast with Brownlee who only had the single $150 lunch to reimburse. Also Hooten said that Brownlee’s lunch was for ‘his whole staff’, which sounds like at least 6-7 people, so $150 isn’t an amazingly expensive amount for that many people.

    2. Heatly may have wanted to avoid the spotlight from the media and the opposition for the next couple of months, who would bring this up repeatedly. By resigning (and being re-appointed by Key pending AG report), he can avoid all of this, and in the long-run come out looking better than his peers.

  15. Akldnut 15

    He chose the wrong vocation, with sensitivity like that he should have been a family crisis phone operator

    I don’t buy into the pathetic line thats being used, they’re treating the public like idiots which is nothing unusual for this govt. They’re just following on from the precedent they set at the last election by putting it over on Joe public with spin.

    My theory is that he could see the writing on the wall and didn’t want to be on the front line when the public realises that is this government is full of bullshit and gives them the sack next year.

    OK rant finished.

  16. Lanthanide:

    Thanks for the link.

    Very suprised that the open and always honest and never bias writers of the standard, arent screaming for Goff to resign.

    Heck a Politican in a position of power ripping off the tax payer, is their worst nightmare, oh hang on its their guy so they will shut up and say nothing.

    • lprent 16.1

      Just so long as John Key resigns for the SAME reason. His bill for limos was much the same…

      Brett – don’t be such a fool. There are people doing the business of governing the country (including the PM and the leader of the opposition) who require transport around a lot of different cities. They need to be driven because that allows them time to read the volumes of material that gets shunted at them all of the time or do phone calls.

      The real story here is that the cost of those limo’s is too damn high. Taxi’s look a lot cheaper.

      • chris 16.1.1

        DPF makes a salient point on this today though. the “cost” is mainly for accounting reasons rather than actual cost.

        • lprent 16.1.1.1

          Yeah, but presumably the ‘prices’ are based on something.

          1. some kind of cost accounting basis related to the cost of running the service

          2. costs of alternative ways of running the service.

          Otherwise it really makes little sense to have a nominal charge..

    • Armchair Critic 16.2

      Or it could it be that no one can point to how the spending was outside the rules? Stretching that point, maybe that is because the spending wasn’t outside the rules and was actually part of his role as leader of the opposition.
      Or maybe you know something that no one else does, in which case you should put up the evidence.

  17. Anne 17

    This whole debacle comes across like a scene from “The Godfather”.
    And the wingnuts claimed that HC and co. were control freaks. They were pussies compared to this lot! 😀

  18. Iprent.

    7O Thousand dollars in three months on Limos?

    If this was a National MP you would be furious, so would all your posters here.

    You guys try to say here that you have a high standard unlike the bias press, but your just as bad.

    Its one standard for one group of MP’s and one for another.

    He should of taxied.

    • Lanthanide 18.1

      You should try reading the article a bit more closely before you make such rash pronouncements:

      “Mr Key’s VIP car bill for the last three months of 2009 paid by Ministerial Services was $56,769”
      “The total for all ministers was $707,851.”

      Also the correct phrase is “should have”.

      • lprent 18.1.1

        I don’t think that he read the article… He was making a story.

        • Lanthanide 18.1.1.1

          Actually now that I’d re-read his post, it is completely full of grammatical errors, not just “should of”.

          I wonder if he realises that he is only making himself look stupid?

        • Kevin Welsh 18.1.1.2

          Don’t worry lp, Brett’s speciality is making up stories.

    • the sprout 18.2

      So why do you reckon Heatley resigned Bretty?
      Covering up for something much worse maybe?
      Will other National ministers hold themselves to such high standards you reckon Bretty?

  19. weizguy 19

    Did Key Taxi when he was leader of the opposition? If not, why should Goff?

  20. Herodotus 20

    I am concerned that with this new regime and the disclosure “we” are being side tracted to wwhat are minor issues (If what is stated by all to be true) Does this not display our immaturity to some matters. I am sure that in the past things like this occurred but we the public remainded unaware. If there is something more sinister then fine to continue this. I will be surprised if this goes on much longer what actions taken by Lab will be exposed and we will be feed a continual diet of crap we all will be infected with Leptospira. Which will just allow all to sit back and condem the other side for their behaviour of justify our actions by they did it as well.
    Perhaps this was planned to divert us from minor issues as ACC or some other bill just passed?

  21. Doug 21

    Phil Heatley’s expenses pale into Insignificants compared to Phil Goff’s $89,454 spend for no gain in the polls.

    [lprent: Link? That is a figure that I haven’t seen yet. ]

  22. Seti 22

    Goff’s limo bill equates to approx $780 per day…every day…including weekends…for three months.

    What a disgrace!

    [lprent: And you’ve also calculated what John Keys daily cost is? ]

  23. Bill 23

    Couldn’t help but notice Heatley says he failed to live up to his own standards (twice)…not that he failed to live up to the standards expected of him by the government.

    So we can assume that his standards would represent a bar being a tad high for his thieving and rorting cabinet colleagues. Not that he wants to drop them in it, their standards are theirs. So out comes the desperate wine excuse and an unnecessary auditors report in the making that will keep the press from asking any questions during the time it takes for everything to be quietly forgotten.

  24. So you guys are okay with Goff’s limo bill.

    • Lanthanide 24.1

      It does seem a bit high.

      However your point is that no one has posted an article on The Standard about it because it was ‘our man’ who did it, and if any of National’s ministers had done the same, we’d be jumping up and down.

      Turns out that Key spent almost as much as Goff did, and the total for all ministers is 700k. As there is no post on The Standard about this issue as yet, it is clear that your claim is in fact, wrong.

      • Seti 24.1.1

        Goff spent 22% more than Key. You would think with the number of official engagements the PM is expected to attend it would be the other way round, and then some.

        If Goff is a true socialist he would have caught the bus.

        • Lanthanide 24.1.1.1

          Actually Key probably spends more time in the beehive than Goff would, and he probably also spent more time on holiday in Hawaii.

          • Adders 24.1.1.1.1

            John Key also spent more on VIP cars when he was Leader of the Opposition than the Prime Minister at the time Helen Clark did.

  25. wizeguy:

    Im not sure about what mode of Transport Key used?

    Howe can Goff claim any credibility when he limoed everywhere.

    He SHOULD HAVE used a Taxi.

    • Bright Red 25.1

      brett. They’re not limos. They’re the Crown BMWs that ministers and the leader of the opposition have for use in their official duties.

  26. the sprout:

    Heatly resigned because he was corrupt, it wasnt an accident he knew what he was doing and he got caught.

    There may be more to it, there may not be.

    I’m guessing Goff will just giggle his corruption off.

    His fanbase of course will forgive him.

    • Bright Red 26.1

      Brett. there is no corruption in using the vip cars to do your job.

      You can’t confuse amount of spending with legitimacy of spending.

      Moreover, the increase in Goff’s VIP car costs is due to back charges for a change in costing that took place in the previous quarter.

  27. sean14 27

    If he drowns he’s not a witch!

  28. sean14:

    That makes sense?

    • Bright Red 28.1

      it’s monty python, brett

      • Outofbed 28.1.1

        Sir Bedevere: No, no. What else floats in water?
        Peasant 1: Bread.
        Peasant 2: Apples.
        Peasant 3: Very small rocks.
        Peasant 1: Cider.
        Peasant 2: Gravy.
        Peasant 3: Cherries.
        Peasant 1: Mud.
        Peasant 2: Churches.
        Peasant 3: Lead! Lead!
        King Arthur: A Duck.
        Sir Bedevere: …Exactly. So, logically…
        Peasant 1: If she weighed the same as a duck… she’s made of wood.
        Sir Bedevere: And therefore…
        Peasant 2: …A witch!

    • Puddleglum 28.2

      Hi Brett,

      In keeping with the non-partisan, politically neutral spirit you profess, I’d like to ask if you post a similar number of comments on Kiwiblog, or some other politically right-leaning blog, to the effect that they don’t post stories critical of National and Act New Zealand MPs’ behaviour and restrict themselves to highlighting the failings of Labour and Green MPs? If not, why not? (Before you answer, I’d advise you to think carefully about the line of argumentation I’m using within these questions. You might recognise it.)

  29. BLiP 29

    Definitely something fishy: there one minute – gone the next.

    Perhaps he just simply was an incompetent bestr shuffled off to the sidelines to obscure news of yet another chunk of New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand going down the toilet?

  30. Bright Red:

    Sorry my IQ is less than 175 so I dont get Monty Python.

  31. Bright Red:

    He used Limo’s for pete’s sake instead of using taxis, which would of saved Tax payer dollars.

    70 thousand dollars in three months????

    That’s outrageous!!!

    But no one here seems to care, because hes one of your guys.

    • Lanthanide 31.1

      He used Limo\’s for pete’s sake instead of using taxis, which would of saved Tax payer dollars.

      56 thousand dollars in three months????

      That’s outrageous!!!

      But you don’t seem to care, because hes one of your guys.

      • RedLogix 31.1.1

        What of course everyone is overlooking is that these costs are of course internal charge out rates. I’d be surprised if the real costs approach anywhere near these numbers (but I’m open to being convinced otherwise). Is someone in Parliamentary Services using this service as a cash-cow to cross-subsidise something else under-budgeted?

        Knowing a bit about how PS operates I’d speculate there was something a little hokey going on here.

    • Tongue 31.2

      Correct me if I’m way out of line, but arent the ‘Limos’ are owned by the Govt? And are ‘leased’ out to Ministers only in theory? The only real cost of the limo’s is the drivers salary and fuel.
      Its a money-go-round. $70,000 in limo costs paid by the Govt, for limos already owned by the Govt?

  32. winston smith 32

    it’s monty python, brett

    Eyupp… much like this website.

    I see the left is still struggling with the concepts of ministerial responsibility and integrity.

    [lprent: Apparently so is Heatley. Brownlee and others appear to wonder what the fuss is about from troughing it at the taxpayers expense. If you’re going to write something then I suggest that you actually say something rather than some stupid lines. It makes you look even thicker than you probably actually are. Looks like you’ll be staying in moderation for a while. You seem to be a slow learner. ]

  33. notTim 33

    hey brett, run away back to your national party kiwibog, your diversion here is getting boring and predictable. Why not send over your colleague ‘dad-with-4-personalities’ instead, at least he is ‘funny’..

    [lprent: I’ve never seen Brett or a personality like him in my excursions reading at KB. He doesn’t seem the type. I suspect you are mistaken. ]

  34. Lew 34

    I think the proof that Brett doesn’t read the Bog is in the fact that he has absolutely no freaking idea that the $70k quoted for Goff’s limo services is a nominal internal-charge sunk-cost figure only — as David has made crystal clear and even the most misinformed Bogster knows.

    L

  35. Ive voted Labour all my life, except for the last election. Im a huge fan of Obama, (a lefty)

    My views are always centre left.

    One thing I hate is hypocrites.

    I said it many times this site is like Faux News, you critize politicans on one side for certain behaviour, but let the guys on your side, slide by.

    Just once I would like to see some honesty, I anit holding my breath though.

    BTW: I dont post at kiwiblog and have no idea who dad-with-4-personalities is.

  36. The whole Heatley affair stinks of something very bad.
    The immediate resignation makes one wonder what he did not want bought out. The swift Tory sleaze machines quick reaction trying to put Goff in a bad situation spells out that something big is being covered up.Both Key and Brownlee look very uncomfortable over this strange episode .
    The other aspect of all this is how much longer are the public going to accept this governments sleazy actions. We’ve had rent rorts , share ownership cover ups ,” The Worth” affair ,on and on it goes , how much longer can smilling Key fool the people .

  37. SD 37

    The headlines are saying it now. “Heatly repeatedly warned about spending” so there must be more to it. More spending.

    It’s sad that there are still some politicians out there that have that “If I keep quiet then hopefuly no one will find out, but when they do I just plead ignorance” mentality.

    I agree with some commentators on this page that it most likely goes back through previous governments too, not just this lot.

  38. Roger Wakefield 38

    Question: Do Heatley’s high standards only kick in when he’s caught out? Or does his moral compass need boxing?

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