The slippery standards of Mr Key

Written By: - Date published: 9:23 am, November 3rd, 2009 - 21 comments
Categories: bill english, john key, national/act government, parliamentary spending, slippery - Tags: ,

Yesterday, John Key cleverly tried to reframe his ministers’ failure to obey his standards on use of perks:

“You don’t want 120 Members of Parliament who have the financial independence to be able to make the financial decisions that I make.

“It wouldn’t be the House of Representatives, we need people from all walks of life.”

Yes, yes. Very noble. But we’re not talking about giving MPs adequate remuneration so they don’t need to be independently wealthy to be MPs. We’re talking about Ministers (wealthy Ministers) using taxpayer funds to pay for ultra expensive overseas flights for their spouses against the expressly stated standards of the Prime Minister.

We’re not arguing here over what the salary for an MP should be to let anyone take up the office and insure against corruption. We’re talking about a guy, Hide, who is being paid quarter of a million dollars a year spending another $25,000 of taxpayer money (enough too get you to most European capitals and back in economy class ten times over) on flights for his girlfriend after Key had already said that ministers spouses must pay their own way.

Actually, this fake pleading poverty routine reminds me of the way Key and English tried to excuse English’s housing rort. ‘I took the money so my family could be together’ English growled. Key said that his ministers’ relationships would be at sake if Wellington-based ministers weren’t allowed to rort the out of town housing allowance.

You know, no-one ever explained (and no journalist ever asked) why it would be cheaper for English’s family to live in Dipton than Wellington – I would have thought such a move would add to Mary’s commuting costs to her medical practice in Wellington for one. Actually, he hasn’t bundled the family back to Dipton since giving back the money he rorted, eh? Guess he was lying about needing it, after all.

Returning to the spousal travel affair. I don’t have a problem with limited use of travel allowances for spouses, the rules allow for it (still don’t know how you spend $25K flying to Europe though). What I do have a problem with is Key setting a standard, claiming the moral high ground, and then signing off on his ministers using a loophole to get around it.

21 comments on “The slippery standards of Mr Key”

  1. BLiP 1

    Geeze – I wish John Key was my boss. I’d like to give him the one-fingered salute while I took money out of one account to cover an expense from another. Still, that’s what money-changing is all about I guess.

  2. Pat 2

    The post is suggesting that only Ministers should be banned from using their MP travel perks, but it is OK for every other MP from every other party to do so.

    As I understand it, every MP is entitled to some level of travel perk, based on length of service. Rodney Hides perk would be larger than Nicki Kayes, Phil Goffs would be larger than Charles Chavel.

    Key has said that it is up to every individual MP whether they use it, but if they do so then it will be subject to public scrutiny. This time around Rodney Hide has copped it, last time it was Chris Carter. Next time the figures come out, it will be someone else.

    As it is Melbourne Cup day, a sweepstake would be in order. My money is on Anderton.

    • snoozer 2.1

      it’s not about whether there should be a travel allowance or not, it’s about the PM promising to set a standard then not enforcing it.

      … like the post says in the last paragraph

      • Pat 2.1.1

        As you well know there are two types of travel allownaces available to Ministers – the ministerial allowance, and their MP travel perk.

        As I understand, Hide did not take his girlfriend using the ministerial allowance.

        I’d be interested to know how you think Key can “enforce” an MP from using his/her MP travel perk.

        • BLiP

          He probably under estimated his fellow Ministers’ willingness to contribute positively towards establishing the new standards he promised the tax payers while under estimating their willingness to expose him as a hollow man. Sucker, eh?

        • Pascal's bookie

          Ask Richard Worth. (but don’t ask Key why he’s gone.)

          Speaking of which. Anyone seen the promised defamation suits yet?

        • snoozer

          “I’d be interested to know how you think Key can “enforce’ an MP from using his/her MP travel perk.”

          Um, he can tell them not to do it. They’re only ministers at his pleasure.

          I don’t see why the fact the taxpayer money comes from one fund or another should matter.

          Key set a very clear standard:

          “I’ve told them if they want to take their partner, they can do it, but they pay for it’.

          How is using the Ministerial allowance or the Parliamentary allowance payin for it themselves?

        • felix

          Like this:

          “From today, no MP from my party will spend any public money on their spouses’ travel expenses. I thought I’d made myself clear earlier but apparently a few snouts are still stuck in the trough so I’m making myself very clear now. Other parties can do as they see fit, of course, but I’m taking the lead on this issue.”

          Not so hard, is it? Not if he wants to, that is.

          • Pat

            If Key was clever enough to play a long game, he would quietly issue that directive to not only his MP’s but also all former National MP’s entitled to the perk.

            Then release the figures for all current and former MP’s 3 months before the election, and Whammo! watch the public backlash against Labour.

            • Pascal's bookie

              Cabinet would roll him by lunchtime

            • felix

              Yep, if his objective is purely political that’d be an idea.

              If, on the other hand, he’s actually serious about the spending issue he should just say it out loud – take the high ground and watch all the other parties fall into line.

              And they all would (except ACT of course, they’re entitled.)

            • snoozer

              oh dear, pat.

              Under your scenario, National MPs would still have travel allowance bills, just not for their spouses… and that wouldn’t necessarily make their total bills smaller than other MPs’

              the money is paid by the Parliamentary Service and the statement issued every three months by the PS don’t breakdown each MP’s spending into what they spent on themselves and what they spent on their spouses – MPs would have to supply that information themselves (the PS is not subject to the OIA)

  3. Pat 3

    “…watch all the other parties fall into line.”

    I suspect that over time the quarterly release of figures is going to do this anyway, because unless you want the public blowtorch on your taxpayer funded family holiday, you are going to pay for much of it yourself.

    You are smart enough to know that Hide and Douglas did nothing wrong in terms of the rules, but their refusal to “martyr” themselves gives them a major credibility issue and is going to hurt them where it matters most – the perception of voters.

    Surely other parties have watched this and are saying to themselves “Let’s not go there”.

  4. Tigger 4

    I have no problem with the perk. I have problems with the hypocrisy of telling the rest of us to tighten our belts. If it doesn’t go both ways then it shouldn’t go either. Either Ministers (who are the government so must lead by example) start tightening up on the extra spending or else they can shut up about the rest of us having to do the same.

  5. RichardR 5

    I have seen no evidence that $25,000 was spent on taking his partner. Can anyone substantiate this number?

    • snoozer 5.1

      read the news websites, richard, for god’s sake.

      or try this little site I found –

  6. RichardR 6

    So everything reported in the news is accurate?
    My understanding is that the $25,000 was extrapolated from the ministers expenses and does not accurately reflect the additional expenditure.

    • snoozer 6.1

      RichardR, you obviously still haven’t read the articles. They contain interviews with Hide. There is no dispute that he spent $25,000 of taxpayer money on flights for his girlfriend.

      I wonder what’s in your head. You seem desperate not to accept what everyone involved (including Hide) says is true. You’re searching for a way out of facing the truth that no-one else denies – Hide took the money.

      Now, face that truth, and where does it leave you? What now do you think of Hide and Key, the man who set the stand then signed off on Hide’s spending as he breached it?

    • BLiP 6.2

      Its actually more than $25,000. Disgusting, eh?

  7. Homo Domesticus 7

    Friends, aw shucks glove puppet donKey talks tough but will not deliver. He got tough on useless Richard Worth, although we don’t really know what Dr Worth really did wrong, but he will not do the same to a Cabinet colleague. He is not that stupid; he knows that those that pulls his strings, his crony mates the international currency speculators, Business Roundtable, Brash and Douglas etc will not like it.

    Homo d.

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