High ministerial standards

Written By: - Date published: 6:54 pm, February 27th, 2010 - 13 comments
Categories: john key, labour, national/act government, parliamentary spending - Tags: , ,

 No, it’s not one of the Nats or their hangers-on. It’s Shane Jones.

Following revelations that National ministers have been essentially stealing taxpayer money by using their ministerial credit cards for prohibited purchases, Jones has recounted an incident from his time as a minister.

When Jones was Building Minister in 2008 he hosted a dinner for some architects. It was clearly ministerial business, not private, but on examining his accounts the next day Jones decided that he felt paying for some after-dinner drinks with those architects on his ministerial credit card arguably went over the line of legitimate ministerial expense. So he got out his wallet and refunded the taxpayer for those drinks.

Jones didn’t need to be caught by the media. He didn’t need to have a cry on TV. He used his own judgement and his own principles, and he paid the money back.

Of course, it’s not just Jones’s principles at play here. He had a boss, and his boss had a chief of staff, who would have gone apocalyptic at a minister displaying the sense of entitlement and carelessness with public money that we have seen from National ministers.

As Tracey Watkins notes today, Do Nothing John Key and his Chief of Staff Wayne Eagleson are so lax that they didn’t give Heatley a bat around the ears when he was told off (in gentle civil service language) by Ministerial Services for abusing his card. They’re so ‘relaxed’ they didn’t even see the credit card controversy coming (and they’re clearly worried now, because Key is asking the Auditor-General not to look at all ministers’ credit card expenses).

This is straying a bit from my original point but it seems to me that Key operates on ‘high trust’ model of management – ie. he leaves his ministers to it and hopes like hell they don’t stuff. As we’re seeing nearly every week, that’s a sloppy, lazy leadership style that invites corruption.

Unfortunately, it’s exactly the same model that the Government is using in its policies – everything from Job Ops, where employers are being allowed to claim subsidies for ‘creating’ jobs that already existed, to the Whanau Ora programme, where private providers will essentially be handed a wad of taxpayer cash and trusted to use it well.

The ‘high trust’ model is just an excuse for our Do Nothing PM to not spend his time doing his job and checking public money is well spent so that he can pop off for photo ops instead.

13 comments on “High ministerial standards”

  1. Anne 1

    It’s a pity parliament is not sitting again until Mar. 16th., but I hope Labour takes every opportunity to publicly ram home the huge difference in attitude over matters of ministerial – and related – use of public monies during their tenure in office. For nine years there was a constant barrage of accusations levelled at Labour politicians and ministers in particular. Setting aside the corrupt practices of Taito Phillip Field (which took place beyond parliament anyway) none of the allegations proved to have any basis of truth to them. Sure, some mistakes were made – and a few ministers paid the price – but there was nothing that comes close to what we are seeing with this government and they have only been in office for 15 months!

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Quoting from here

    Mr Key said there was no need for the Auditor-General to go through all ministers’ accounts.

    Yes there is. The fact that a couple have been shown to be using them against the rules indicates that they all need looking at.

    • Tigger 2.1

      Why on earth would he make a remark like that? He looks like he’s covering up and if it doesn’t go ahead he can be marked for applying inappropriate pressure. If it goes ahead and if all is shown to be largely okay he can’t say ‘well, I said everything should be in the open’. And if it turns to shite he’ll look like he tried to hide the abuse. It’s an all around fail. I thought Key was smarter than that. Or that at least his advisors were more cunning…

  3. Cocamc 3

    What, the same chief of staff who misappropriated tax money on pledge cards

  4. Anne 4

    @ Cocamc. Thanks for proving my point at 8 01pm 🙂

  5. Ed 5

    It is clear that we will not see consistency from National either – Brownlee deserves no less support than Heatley. Disturbing too that it is only through a cartoon that we see another area that cries out for investigation, but has been suggested before: Two men walking; Suit 1 “Does the Minister ever misuse his Ministerial credit card? Suit 2 Never …. He prefers to misuse my credit card”

  6. BLiP 6

    Classic National Ltdâ„¢ – New Zealand is not a society, its just a big business run, not by elected official guardians of the public purse, but wanna be fat cat managers deriving a hollow sense of self worth by splashing the company credit card around.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us have to wonder whether or not to take the drive down the line the catch up with whanau at a nephew’s 21st – or put it off and just post the gift because the electricity bill is due.

  7. Redge 7

    Labour were totally corrupt during the nine years they had in power, look at Phillip Field and Helen and ‘her’ painting. Thank god they are gone and dont look like coming back anytime soon.

    • Jan Black 7.1

      It’s so sad that in NZ we’ve got to this level. You can’t seriously believe a 9 year administration that lifted tens of thousands of children out of poverty, that reinvigorated the cultural sector and built more roads than any government since the colonial era was “totally corrupt”.

  8. Oh Redge you Tories are getting desperate and only 18 months in to your term. Firstly Helen didnt financially benefit from the paintings and what Feild did was corrupt. Once investigated and found to be guilty Field was thrown out of the Labour Party. National on the other hand with MR SLOPPY are trying to prevent the AUD GEN from looking.further. Keys handling of Worth was a joke and National are looking sick way to early in their term. I see that so called public meetings by Ministers are not being publicized and venues are now restricted to their offices.So shit scared are they to face the voters.

  9. Salsy 9

    I know this might be slightly off topic, but I cant help thinking Shane Jones would make a great Labour leader, he’s an intellectual also like Goff, but with less restrictive connections to the Helen admin (for all those dimwitted Helen haters, ex labours voters who have turned blue). He also speaks Te Reo, which i think all our PM’s should (we are after all apparently a bi-lingual nation – Key cant even speak English) I also like the fact that he’s got a relaxed, confident and authoritative style, we need some David Lange style arrogance to wipe that repulsive nervous grin right off old uranium breath.

  10. Anne 10

    Redge and his mates are like one of those old gramophone records with the needle stuck firmly in a groove. Helen… painting… Taito… corrupt… painting… Taito… corrupt…Helen. I’m sure there must be a medical term for their unfortunate disability.

    Has it ever occurred to any of them that if whe was remotely guilty of these ‘crimes’ there is no way she would be the third most powerul person at the UN. And don’t claim that Key got her the job because that was utter bullshit.

  11. Homo Domesticus 11


    The Heatley resignation is a sham. Heatley is cunning and corrupt and resigning his ministerial post is nothing. Like most of the Key cabinet Heatley has little talent, no original ideas and will not be missed around the Cabinet table. The fact that he stole money from the taxpayer is proof enough that he is was not capable or worthy of a place in Cabinet. If he cannot be trusted to use a credit card correctly, how can he be trusted to look after the nation’s state housing? I believe Heatley should have resigned from Parliament. As it stands, he has a safe seat and no doubt a guaranteed place high on National’s list too. Therefore, Heatley is guaranteed a sweet sinecure in Parliament for the rest of his natural.

    Is this justice? Not likely.

    Homo d.

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