Question Time and media reports have revealed more on Hide’s ministerial-speeches-for-party-donations scam (as you know, every political scandal needs a ‘-gate’. I like Breakfast-gate).
Hon Annette King: Does he expect all his Ministers to comply with paragraph 2.54 of the Cabinet Manual, which states: ‘accepting additional payment for doing anything that could be regarded as a ministerial function is not permissible’ and ‘accepting payment for any other activities requires the prior approval of the Prime Minister’; if so, in what cases has he approved Ministers accepting payment for such activities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second one is that I cannot tell the member, as I do not have that advice here.
If Hide is speaking as a minister, he and his party can’t take payment.
Hon Annette King: Does he believe that the Minister of Local Government upheld the highest standards as required by section 2.53 of the Cabinet Manual when he invited local government councillors to a breakfast called ‘The Future of Local Government Breakfast’ in his capacity as Minister of Local Government, with all cheques, at $45 a head, to be made out to the ACT Party?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: My understanding is that the Cabinet Office does not have concerns about this situation but any questions of detail should be directed to the Minister, who, I understand, has explained the circumstances.
Since when has the Cabinet Office been the judge of whether the Cabinet Manual is complied with? It is the Prime Minister’s job to appoint and fire ministers.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the Minister of Local Government said on Checkpoint last night that the Christchurch breakfast is the only time he has used his title as Minister to attract paying customers to hear him speak in his capacity as Minister, but contradicted that statement when he spoke to Susan Wood on Newstalk ZB and said that he had had meetings like this all around the country before, and is he aware of any such other meetings being held?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will be aware that whether MPs are Ministers or not they take part in fundraising activities.
So, has Hide been doing this regularly or is this the first time? Murkier and murkier.
Carol Beaumont: Is he aware his Minister of Consumer Affairs, Heather Roy, is holding a similar breakfast in her ministerial capacity to talk about her plan to review consumer legislation, with all cheques going into the same bank account that Mr Hide is using to build the ACT Party campaign fund; if so, what is he going to do about this Minister’s behaviour?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, all Ministers are expected to comply with the Cabinet Manual and there has been no suggestion that they have not.
Well, Bill, there’s quite strong suggestions they have not. And it looks like every ACT MP is playing this dirty little game. There was a time when they called themselves perk-busters
Hon Annette King: When the Prime Minister said that he would be operating a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy for his Ministers, did he establish the standard of ethical performance he expected from his Ministers, and did it exclude arranging private financial affairs to get as much money out of the taxpayers as possible, using their positions as Ministers to raise money for political campaigns, leaking commercially sensitive information to competitors in a bidding process, and releasing private information about people who question Government policy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is just a bit rich, coming from Labour. That member knows that politicians attend fund-raisers all the time, and that is fine as long as everyone is clear about the basis on which they are attending.
There have been lot of strikes for a lot of ministers, the speaking minister, English, among them. What he says is the nub of the issue: “politicians attend fund-raisers all the time, and that is fine as long as everyone is clear about the basis on which they are attending”. Clearly, people are not clear about the role in which Hide is speaking. He is speaking on his portfolio and he has invited stakeholders – sounds like a ministerial speech, yet he (now) claims it’s a fundraiser.
Hon Rodney Hide: Could the Prime Minister confirm that when Ministers in this Government attend public meetings…
So, he is speaking as minister at a public meeting? Not as party leader at a fundraiser? Damned by his own words.
Meanwhile, Hide was saying the opposite to reporters outside the chamber, claiming it was the organisers’ fault and he’s speaking as ACT Leader:
“I’m going to make it quite plain that I’m speaking as the leader of the Act Party. Obviously, everybody knows now that I’m minister of local government and that doesn’t need to be added.”
Sorry, the fact that it says he’s minister on the invite isn’t the problem. With or without that he’s still clearly talking as minister – he’s inviting stakeholders, he’s talking about his portfolio.
And now he seems to be flip-flopping again on whether or not it’s a fundraiser. Yesterday it was, today:
“They’re not paying for the speech, they’re paying for the breakfast”
Um, The most expensive breakfast is $21. What’s the other $24 per head going on? Pixie dust? It’s the lies that get you in the end.