There is a story developing which is much more important than the colour of scarves that David Cunliffe wears. It involves the potential gross misuse of public funds and the refusal of John Key to tell us or even to find out how much is involved.
For some inexplicable reason John Key would have us believe that he and National do not know how much Claudette Hauiti spent on our credit card. And he would have us believe that she is resigning because suddenly she was no longer going to get a good list placement.
He has accepted that she spent $200 on a trip to Australia. If this is true she should be reemployed by the Crown to purchase air flights for MPs. Because air flights to Australia are normally about three times that amount, particularly over the Christmas period.
John Key has also suggest that Hauiti decided to stand down after she was told she would receive a low list ranking. But this is not correct. I was aware on July 9 this year that she was going to receive a low ranking (58) when the list would be announced on the weekend of the 26th of July. The story broke a week later.
It would have been clear that she would not be re-elected. Carmel Sepuloni is always going to win Kelston. At 58 her ranking would be better than last time (63) but disappointing in that there were so many MPs retiring. Effectively she had gone backwards. Last time Cam Calder at 50 was the lowest ranked list MP to be elected to Parliament and it took four resignations for Hauiti to make it.
So I am sure that despite claims to the contrary her low list ranking is not the cause of her resignation. National’s ability to “persuade” its MPs to stand down is impressive and you have to wonder what method of persuasion has been used here.
National would have known about her credit card problem at the time. Andrea Vance reported on July 16 that it had taken more than a week for the National party to return calls from her asking questions on the subject.
And despite Key’s claims to the contrary Hauiti is not being punished. In what job would you be able to breach the credit card policy so clearly, remain on full pay until September 20, not be expected to turn up to work and get paid a further three months afterwards.
Of course National knows how much money is involved. The very first thing that would happen once the questions were asked would be to find out how much was involved. All Key has to do is ask his chief of staff and then I am sure that he will be able to tell us what sums are involved.
Andrea Vance sums up the situation well.
The episode has made a mockery of Key’s boasts about being transparent on MPs’ spending.
He made great fanfare of this openness back in 2010, axing international travel perks and opening government high heidyins to greater scrutiny.
Former minister Phil Heatley was forced to resign his portfolios for misuse of his credit card.
This transparency does not extend to Key’s MPs. Hauiti and the National Party are exploiting an obstinate interpretation of the Parliamentary Service rule which prevents the release of information about MPs.
This is reasonable when it applies to private details such as pension schemes, phone records or that would identify constituents. Where it should not be applicable is the use of taxpayer cash, particularly where there are irregularities.