Another government minister has been caught in corrupt behaviour, and this is arguably the worst of the lot.
Rodney Hide is speaking at a breakfast in Christchurch next month. He will be speaking as minister and on his portfolio – Local Government. Local government officials have been invited to hear him. Hide is charging $45 per person, and the profits will be kept by the ACT Party, which is organising the event.
This is corruption plain and simple. If you want to hear your Minister for Local Government speak, you will have to make a contribution to the ACT party. It’s unacceptable to abuse the privileges of a ministerial warrant to fund-raise for your own political party. Hide is essentially selling access to him in his role as a minister in our government in return for donations to his political party. It’s an abuse of democracy and amounts to extortion.
Here is an interview between Hide and Susan Wood on Newstalk ZB from this Monday. Hide initially admits that the event is an ACT fundraiser, before hurriedly trying to retreat. This article, buried in yesterday’s Press, provides further info. It is clear Hide will be speaking as minister and that ACT will be fundraising. It seems from the interview that Hide has been doing it for some time.
There’s nothing wrong with a politician, speaking as a member of their party, holding a fundraiser. But it is completely out of bounds for a minister, speaking as minister, to hold a meeting with stakeholders, charge them money, and channel that money back into his party’s coffers. Hide is selling access to fill his party coffers. We do not do that in New Zealand.
The test for being a minister is not a simple legal one, even John Key said as much when he fired Richard Worth. The Cabinet Manual, which sets down basic requirements for ministerial behaviour, has this to say: “At all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.”
Ministers must behave according to the highest moral, as well as legal, standards. Clearly, Hide’s behaviour breaches ethical standards and possibly legal ones. This is unacceptable in our democracy. We cannot have ministers profiteering for political ends from their privileged and trusted position of power.
I look forward to Key enforcing the high standards of ministerial accountability that he promised and which New Zealanders expect. Hide must go.