Nats campaigning with public money

Written By: - Date published: 12:22 pm, November 26th, 2015 - 45 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, corruption, national - Tags: , , ,

Labour pointed this out a week ago – Investigation needed into roadshow promo

Labour’s State Services spokesperson Kris Faafoi is calling for the Auditor-General and the State Services Commissioner to investigate concerns that taxpayer money and departmental resources are being used for political campaigning.

“Documents released to Labour under the Official Information Act reveal Housing NZ staff working with ‘National HQ’ on filtering data for a roadshow to promote the Government’s Homestart scheme.

“The documents were heavily redacted. However in what appears to be an error in editing, a previously blacked out paragraph also shows National List MP Parmjeet Parmar wanted to co-host the event in Maungakiekie as a means of raising her profile.

“These meetings were supposed to have been organised and paid for by Housing NZ – in other words the taxpayer – as a way of explaining Homestart to the public.

“What’s patently obvious is that they have become a vehicle for National Party campaigning, aided by ministerial staff.

“That is a flagrant mis-use of public money and raises questions about the neutrality of the public service.

Yesterday Vernon Small picked it up as part of a broader context – Public watchdogs need to bare their teeth over misuse of OIA, taxpayer events

Let’s hope the Auditor-General, the State Services Commission or even the Ombudsman have a handy tonne of bricks.

Because something ought to be brought down hard on the officials involved in the preparation – and subsequent censoring – of information relating to various KiwiSaver HomeStart “roadshows” held around the country this year.

To recap, the documents released to Labour MP Kris Faafoi show among other things that Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith’s office was coaching MPs on hosting the roadshows – nothing necessarily wrong in that.

But they also show a disturbing willingness to use a taxpayer-funded event to promote a purely political agenda, which reached its low point with the note that list MP Parmjeet Parmar “has also expressed strong interest in hosting a roadshow as she is keen to raise local profile in Mt Roskill in case of a by-election”.

The offending sentence was cut from several of the documents, but left – inadvertently it seems – in one of the email trails released under the Official Information Act.

Also redacted from all but one document as “out of scope” was the advice that: “A condition for hosting the roadshow is for Minister Lotu-Iiga to send a direct mail invitation to constituents who fall with the relevant demographic as we have found this to be a particularly effective method of promotion. National HQ will provide the filtered data (via Brian Anderton cc’d) and we will provide the letter template.”

It also tells MPs they are “welcome to do party-branded advertising, and Brian can supply templates for billboards and newspaper ads that have been used previously”. Anderton is another official in Smith’s office.

Now, there is always a fine line between MPs (and government departments) promoting the government’s programme and what is overtly political. But the reference to Parmar’s political ambitions and the close liaison with National Party headquarters takes the whole thing well outside the bounds of acceptability.

Oddly, it’s almost a year to the day since I wrote in a similar vein after Cheryl Gwyn’s report into the Security Intelligence Service and then director Warren Tucker’s actions. She found that there was “harm to the leader of the Opposition” from the SIS’s blunders, though its actions were not taken “for the purpose” of harming a political party or for “any partisan political purpose on the part of the director and/or the NZSIS”.

This latest saga is by no means as serious, but the issues – and the threats to public service neutrality (or at least the appearance of neutrality) have not gone away.

Campaigning with public money. Politicising the public service. Cabinet club is cash for access. This is a corrupt government.

45 comments on “Nats campaigning with public money”

  1. savenz 1

    Yes. Natz are corrupt.

  2. Rudi can't Fail 2

    Two words
    Phil Goff
    Pot kettle black.

    Get Goff to resign as an MP now and I will concede the point.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      Watch, as the “law and order” mask slips to reveal “Labour did it too” playground excuses and no personal responsibility whatsoever.

      National have broken the law, and Phil Goff? Not so much.

      • alwyn 2.1.1

        One thing that is consistent is the claim by both sides of politics that “It is OK for us to do it because they did it too”.
        Even MickySavage got in on the act a few days ago.
        He justified Phil not resigning by a classic “But National did it too” in the piece on Phil running for Mayor when he said

        “Leading contender on the right, Mark Thomas has joined in the claims that Goff will be double dipping. Thomas somehow believes that it is appropriate for him to receive a Local Board salary and income from his consultancy and campaign for the Mayoral office but not for Goff.
        If Thomas needs to understand what double dipping then National Cabinet Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga provides a perfect example. He was elected to Parliament in 2008 while also being on the Auckland City Council. Rather than resign his seat he stayed on as a City Councillor. He waited until October 2009 before resigning and the significance of this is that the Council were then able to vote not to have a by election. This option was not available to the Council if he had resigned more than a year before the next election.”

        Yah yah yah yah it goes on.

        • tracey 2.1.1.1

          I think Len Brown resigned from his Law Firm to campaign for the Mayoralty.

          I’m with you, it’s not acceptable whoever does it, it shows a contempt of, and disconnected from, the good folks of NZ

        • Craig H 2.1.1.2

          Goff has stated he will be taking leave without pay while campaigning for mayor. This is the same as the rules for the public service, so I have no issues with that personally.

          • Tracey 2.1.1.2.1

            If he is doing that why not just resign cos the loss of his seat wont bring down a govt? Or is he going to stay an MP if he loses? If he wants to be mayor then want it wholeheartedly with no fall back position?

            • McFlock 2.1.1.2.1.1

              The trouble with no fall back position is that if you lose, you’re screwed. Sure, you look keen, but if it’s genuinely “all or nothing” then the penalty for failure is a bit much, IMO. And in Goff’s case it would just be PR spin because he’d most likely be snapped up by the private sector or NGOs anyway.

              I certainly have no problem with a leave of absence. Public servants need to avoid a conflict of interest, so they take leave. But really, if you can do your current job and campaign at the same time, more power to you.

              • Tracey

                maybe but it’s not like he hasn’t got a pension and perks and employability. I am of the view that when your heart isn’t in something, and you can afford to go, you go…

                I also think he sees his position as MP as giving him publicity and exposure he won’t otherwise get, so he’s staying.

                • McFlock

                  Yes, the exposure might be a consideration, although he has a fair bit of name recognition anyway.

                  Now, if he starts finding excuses to pretend to act as an MP while really campaigning for mayor, I’d be a bit more concerned. But I don’t have a huge problem with taking leave to keep his options open. The vagaries of the electorate and all that.

                  • Tracey

                    Understood. His sudden elevation to the newly created shadow minister for auckland issues was far from subtle tho

              • Nessalt

                but goff is part of the hard right rump of labour that needs to be removed from parliament? now you realise the reality of ejecting them and contemplating who will follow, all the anti-neo liberal rhetoric is largely hollow.

          • Peter 2.1.1.2.2

            … do non-Government candidates resign when running for major?

            • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.1.2.2.1

              Generally Members of Parliament heading into a new role, whatever that role is, don’t resign until it’s certain they’re going to get the new role.

              • Stuart Munro

                It’s a shame really – could’ve seen the back of Groser over the WTO slot. I’m sure we paid enough to be rid of him.

            • Tracey 2.1.1.2.2.2

              Len Brown did, as I said up there ^^^^

              So, yes. And I suspect the number of Mayoral candidates who in one form or another work for themselves is quite high. Mr Goff works for you and I.

          • Nessalt 2.1.1.2.3

            Why doesn’t he resign and really show auckland that he is committed? oh that’s right, if he loses he’ll have to find a real pay cheque.

            it’s not really not double dipping if he only takes leave without pay for the duration of the campaign. what about the work he has to do as the electorate mp for mt roskill? what about parliamentary duties? cop out really.

            • Craig H 2.1.1.2.3.1

              Labour have given him their blessings and will be spreading his work around as much as they are able to. Most electorate MP work is done by staff anyway, rather than the MPs themselves.

              Why are we being so awful about this? We expect fair employment practices, and employers to be good, reasonable employers, but not for MPs, because stuff ’em? If an MP applies for another job, they must resign as soon as they make the application, because reasons? Something we would absolutely decry a private employer for, but MPs don’t count?

              GIven the nature of politics, it’s hardly a great surprise that politicians aspire to other challenges and will move between central and local government from time to time.

        • Pascals bookie 2.1.1.3

          nah.

          Micky was calling Thomas a hypocrite and saying that he didn’t actually believe what he was saying, as could be seen by his own actions. He is saying that what Goff is doing isn’t bad at all by any reasonable standard.

          The Sam example shows what actual double dipping is.

          An actual example of ‘classic you did it too so it must be ok’ is the right defending Carter by pointing to Wilson, ignoring that they complained about her at the time.

          • Tracey 2.1.1.3.1

            Couldnt be clearer than that PB. It is the complaining ONLY when the other team did something exactly the same as your team that is irksome

    • Pascals bookie 2.2

      You just conceded the point.

      Looks like Rudi can’t fail can fail afterall.

      • McFlock 2.2.1

        no, rudi was only offering to make up scurrilous lies about the national party if we made shit up about goff 🙂

    • NZSage 2.3

      Assuming you have to work for a living like the rest of us, I suggest next time you’re looking for a new job you resign first… then start looking?

      Pot kettle black?

  3. Rudi can't Fail 3

    Are you saying he is not going to be on the public teat while campaigning for mayor?

    • McFlock 3.1

      just to clarify, prior to election 2014 no national MPs were still receiving MP or PM paycheques?

      • alwyn 3.1.1

        ???????

        • McFlock 3.1.1.1

          Well, rudi isn’t exactly being specific, but I suspect the “public teat” comment referred to being paid to be an elected official while running for elected office. Just like pretty much every mp does come election time.

          • Craig H 3.1.1.1.1

            Goff will be taking leave without pay, as would any other public servant.

          • mickysavage 3.1.1.1.2

            Yep 13 of them had checked out and were still receiving the pay check even though they were no longer functioning as MPs.

    • Tracey 3.2

      Are you saying someone actually behaving badly is the same as someone yet to behave badly but might?

      Is that what Key meant when he said he would hold his people to higher standards than Clark?

      • Smilin 3.2.1

        How could Key have higher standards than anyone ,he doesnt know the meaning of that and quite a few other things as well that go with having integrity
        He is one of the world’s biggest criminals

    • Tracey 3.3

      And Nick Smith being at new world mt roskill this week

  4. Rudi can't Fail 4

    Now who’s using the “they did it to argument”.
    Not saying you are wrong re Pramjeet Palmer just saying Phil Goff is morally bankrupt as well. So why don’t you point out the faults from both sides?

    • tracey 4.1

      There is NO moral high ground when you are arguing for bad behaviour by everyone, you get that, right?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Actually, that would be you who happens to be morally bankrupt. Phil Goff hasn’t done what you’re accusing him of.

  5. madtom 5

    Help from the Auditor General or the Ombudsman? Yeah, right.

    Ask Kaipara ratepayers how much help they got from the AG when their Council’s budgets were passed as okay, year after year, while the law was broken and they were kept in the dark about how many tens of millions of dollars of debt the 14,000 ratepayers were being burdened with.

    Ask what they got when they became suspicious and requested a closer look from the “responsible” officials.

    Ask them how much help they got from the Ombudsman, when they knew they were being stonewalled by their Council and the AG.

    What Kaipara ratepayers actually got was a bill Mike Sabin sponsored (yes, him, JK’s buddy) – an Act of Parliament saying that the Council’s lawbreaking was okay, and their indebtedness was valid. They owed for massive debts they were never even told about, much less consulted about. Despite the clear word of the law over all those years, guaranteed ratepayer protections were retrospectively withdrawn just in time to nullify the ratepayers’ already-in-court case, while the Council’s powers were not just left intact but expanded.

    What they got was a feeble apology from the AG for a staff that had not performed up to her expectations.

    So I had to smile sadly at the idea that these officials should be consulted about apparent corruption. Toothless? No. But reliable public servants? Also no.

    Government officials corrupt? Unlikely. Even with solid evidence, and even if it could be obtained by the victims, no doubt another retrospective legislative stunt could make it all okay, declaring that all the actions questioned are legal and always have been legal, just like the original retrospective bill from Mike Sabin and from every other party except NZ First and Mana.

    If our watchdogs have any teeth at all, they are only shown to us in the lower classes, not to their paymasters.

    • Mike the Savage One 5.1

      Both the Ombudsman (or rather Ombudsmen) and the AG are indeed rather selective in what they bother to “investigate”, and whatever “recommendations” they make, is mostly a slap on the wrist with a wet bus-ticket.

      The present Chief Ombudsman is unconvincing, some would say “useless”, and all these high Officers they have endless discretion re what they can do or not bother to do, so with all of them also having very limited resources, they are weak and not the kinds of “watchdogs” a functioning, robust democracy needs.

      It is no coincidence that the Ombudsmen’s Office, same as some other Offices of Commissioners and the Auditor General, have under this government not been able to do much at all, and the government has a vested interest in keeping it that way. RIP NZ Democracy, it has become a total farce, also with the 3-yearly elections with biased, complicit media, with the vested interest business lobbies having the stronger strings to pull, so any “opposition” is starting with a huge disadvantage, no matter who is leader or has some good ideas or not.

  6. Tory 6

    I told John just go ahead and spend the money, if he gets caught out then introduce retrospective legislation to legitimise what has occurred……, it’s not hard cause it’s been done before.

  7. Tautuhi 7

    They all feed out of the public trough.

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    I am very happy to be spared the cost of a by-election until we know it is neccessary not just highly likely. If Phil Goff is on leave without pay then he is not being funded for his pariamentary role. My only question is – if he is on leave without pay does he still vote in parliament – or does Key get back his extra margin of 1

  9. Peter 9

    …. as David Cunliffe points out the Nats know how to screw the scrum in their favour. Why not, as long as you can get away with it.

    • Stuart Munro 9.1

      Because it breaks the implicit contract of democracy – respect for the wishes of the people. If it becomes generally known that the game is fixed the game becomes very different and less predictable, and the stakes become higher. As high as treason or revolt.

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