Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Costly indeed

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    do you nonetheless suspect it's true that Anderton was instructed to pay in the manner he did?

    Perhaps, but by whom? Because that person will have been breaking the law. It may also be the case that this is an absolute liability offence (i.e. if it can be proved to be improper, if you did the act you broke the law). And even if it's true, I'm not sure I care.

    And let's not forget that during some of this time, Anderton was the Deputy Prime Minister. "I was just following orders" rings a little hollow.

    If Heatley was cleared on the basis of ignorance, it would appear that Anderton has a rather stronger claim than that.

    I'm not so sure. Although I'll note for a start that "I wasn't sure whether I was allowed it so I took it anyway" isn't a particularly endearing defence. There may be a difference between "I thought this proper spending, although I was wrong because the rules were unclear" and "I knew this wasn't allowed, but I was told it was much easier, and I intended to and did pay it back quick smart." (although I'm not sure which applies to which case).

    There were numerous advisory memos going out that it was never ever acceptable to pay for private expenses with government money. Paying for something that you think is a government expense, but isn't, is different from paying for something you know is a private expense, but you intend to cover personally, in light of such recurrent advise.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2991 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Large numbers of us have had, used and abused company credit cards. Lots of us have been out on the town after the company Xmas bash and had our boss put a round of shots on the company card and then slide it past accounts next month.

    The funny thing about that, Tom, is that uppity shareholders (and juries) are very far from amused by shit like this.

    One law for corporate CEOs, another for politicians?

    And let's not forget that during some of this time, Anderton was the Deputy Prime Minister. "I was just following orders" rings a little hollow.

    And would it be too bitchy to point out that politicians are more likely to follow advice that just happens to be what they want to hear? :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11856 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    I also have no problem with it all on the bill and sorting it later. (The Dom calls it Rorting & Troughing.)
    What puzzles me is what should happen if a Minister with an official party in tow, staying at a hotel on expenses paid by the system. The Minister calls for a personal meal to be sent to his room as he has a headache. The purists like Craig say "nothing personal on the bill".
    So what in a perfect practical world happens with the meal?

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Tha's right Craig, inappropriate use of the credit card after a staff xmas party is EXACTLY like looting a business of 600 million dollars.

    Lord, spare me from fools with rule books.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I think he ate all the chocolate in his minibar one night.

    Well let's hope he ate it, anyway.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2073 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And let's not forget that during some of this time, Anderton was the Deputy Prime Minister. "I was just following orders" rings a little hollow.

    Yikes. I trust you didn't intend a Godwin there. Because, y'know, I think this falls some way short of a war crime.

    I'm sure you're right. But it does also appear that actual practice was something else for a long time, and that Anderton and other ministers, and their staff, paid a single hotel bill and promptly reimbursed relatively minor personal expenses charged against their rooms. I really can't see any bad faith faith there.

    And I'm damned if I'd be hanging anyone for it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18663 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The purists like Craig say "nothing personal on the bill".
    So what in a perfect practical world happens with the meal?

    @Ian: I've never said Ministers and officials should travel in row boats, stay in budget backpackers and live off their body fat while overseas.

    A tray dinner and a glass of the house white on your lap isn't unreasonable if you've got a hell of a lot of work to do of an evening. I'd personally not make a habit of it, given the premium most hotels charge for room service. And I'm still not seeing the crotch-sniffing puritanism in suggesting that there's no public service justification for PPV porn, golf clubs or doing anything at a party conference on the public dime.

    And, like Russell, I don't think it's utterly beyond the pale to entertain a party on official business. (And to be fair to Grosser, Tokyo's not exactly the cheapest place on Earth to eat out in.) But, come on, it's unreasonable to suggest laying off the three figure end of the wine list?

    The sums may be relatively trivial in themselves, but the unthinking sense of entitlement isn't.

    Tha's right Craig, inappropriate use of the credit card after a staff xmas party is EXACTLY like looting a business of 600 million dollars.

    Lord, spare me from fools with rule books.

    @Tom: Only after the Lord has saved me from the impenetrably obtuse first. And for the record, the difference was around one and a half million dollars from a company that was putting thousands out of work as share values tanked.

    Now isn't this where you scold me for the politics of envy with a stentorian reading The Fountainhead.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11856 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    @Russell:<i>But it does also appear that actual practice was something else for a long time,</i>
    That could lead to an interesting question.
    Was the "rule" on the spending the same in the 90s and 1999-2008?
    When was it stated so clearly? What if the rules that are used to judge Ministers today were not so clear-cut back then?

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Graeme, I'd be interested in your response to this excerpt from the auditor-general's report on Heatley's spending:

    "We found that a total of $1402 of Mr Heatley's expenditure - $608 in Vote Ministerial Services and $794 in Vote Parliamentary Service - was outside the rules. In all cases, Mr Heatley thought that the expenditure was within the rules, but he did not understand the rules correctly.

    "In the case of the expenditure in Vote Parliamentary Service, the Parliamentary Service was also administering a rule incorrectly for members of Parliament, and Mr Heatley is not the only member who will have been affected."

    As I noted, Heatley's spending -- including a family holiday -- seems much harder to explain that Anderton's. I cannot imagine that the auditor general would find any case against Anderton having waved through Heatley.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18663 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Yikes. I trust you didn't intend a Godwin there. Because, y'know, I think this falls some way short of a war crime.

    No it isn't, Russell, and I'll Godwin you right back. This isn't the first time Anderton has claimed that he just acted on advice from Ministerial/Parliamentary Services, a la Mita Ririnui this morning. Has he (or anyone else) produced any documentary evidence of such advice, or is this just another case of der Große Lüge -- blame the officials who are in no position to turn around and call you out?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11856 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    The Herald is clearly working in with the right wing muck rakers. It can't be an accident we get TWO PAGES of trivial credit card nonsense - mainlyabout Labour - only a handful of days after national's poll support went below 50%.

    Their campaign against Len Brown kicked off within 24 hours of reporting he had a huge lead in a mayoral poll.

    A shonky newspaper trying to manipulate voters to pick their scripted winners.

    Auckland deserves better than this.

    New Zealand deserves better than this.

    It's frankly disgusting. Its like Fox News had a monopoly in Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    .. or is this just another case of der Große Lüge -- blame the officials who are in no position to turn around and call you out?

    This is just way over the top. We're talking about some fricking expense claims here.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Yes, but...

    I can see how in some circumstances this would be inconvenient, but why don't they just use their own cards, and then file claims for legitimate expenses? That is likely what most of them will be doing now anyway, having cut up the old cards.

    If they can't keep adequate financial records, and make decisions on what counts as 'reasonable' expenditure in any given situation, then what the hell are they doing running the country?

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Has he (or anyone else) produced any documentary evidence of such advice, or is this just another case of der Große Lüge -- blame the officials who are in no position to turn around and call you out?

    Honestly, I can't be bothered responding to that.

    I would remind you how, rightly, sensitive you have been in the past when others have invoked the Nazis with respect to the present governing party.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18663 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    This is just way over the top. We're talking about some fricking expense claims here.

    Yes, and when Ministers are trying to justify their behaviour by blaming advice from officials I'd like to know if people like Mita Ririnui and Anderton are actually telling the truth. If they are, it shouldn't be that hard to come up with documentary evidence should it?

    Don't get me wrong: I value a non-partisan professional civil service, and I respect that part of that involves biting your tongue while the politicians are playing politics. (Also easy to forget that civil servants are there to implement government policy, and can offer all the advice they like -- there''s no obligation on their political lords and masters to pay a blind bit of notice.) But I don't like the thought of civil servants being dragged into political damage control when they're most definitely not on a level playing field.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11856 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Yeah, can we have a moratorium on gratuitous evocations of Nazism please? I mean, Jim Anderton is Goebbels? Or Hitler? I fear, Craig, that in the search for the pungent phrase you may have lost your sense of perspective somewhat.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2932 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Yes, and when Ministers are trying to justify their behaviour by blaming advice from officials I'd like to know if people like Mita Ririnui and Anderton are actually telling the truth. If they are, it shouldn't be that hard to come up with documentary evidence should it?

    This was not what I objected to. I'm happy to agree with you on what you just wrote now, but your earlier comparison to der Große Lüge, with the implications that carries, was, IMO, out of proportion and unwarranted.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I fear, Craig, that in the search for the pungent phrase you may have lost your sense of perspective somewhat.

    It's always in the last place you look. Take it from me.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7348 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I can see how in some circumstances this would be inconvenient, but why don't they just use their own cards, and then file claims for legitimate expenses? That is likely what most of them will be doing now anyway, having cut up the old cards.

    In the case of the foreign trips, that's actually a bloody big call for individual ministerial staff. Anderton was in Europe for a month on the trip noted in the Dom Post. Maybe he'll have the bonus-size credit limit, but not everyone will. Remember, the card you put down at the registration desk will generally have the entire forward cost of your stay blocked off as a condition of getting your room key.

    What will presumably happen now is that room-related expenses will have to be separated at checkout (meaning everyone will have to be present and wait for their turn at the desk) and pay their personal expenses at each juncture, rather than via a lump reimbursement.

    Although that will work, I can see why reimbursement would have been the practice.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18663 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner,

    I wonder if we can return to the original discussion here?

    If you look very closely at it, the Toblerone logo contains an animal. I think this is fascinating, and probably associated with the town where Toblerone is/was based.

    It's probably more rewarding for you to find out more yourself, than for me to tell you.

    And I apologise if I'm telling you something you already know (what we refer to as "teaching your grandmother to suck eggs").

    I understand that posts such as this are permissible here on Fridays.

    Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I have no interest in Shane Jones or his sad lonely pursuits, or even the fact that he put it all on his Ministerial credit card - although, what's wrong with using their own personal credit cards? Surely these people have them? I just want to point out that you must be all incredibly agitated not to recognise Craig's brilliance. Seriously.

    Shane's going to be driven out of Parliament by the politically correct front-botties

    I love that phrase. Permission to use it. Regularly.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    Graeme said:

    These card are administered by Ministerial Services, but the bill goes to the applicable ministry.

    Not so, unless something has changed recently: the bills are paid from Vote:Ministerial Services. Ministry officials travelling with a Minister woud be a charge to the Ministry, yes.

    Kyle said:

    Presumably ordinary MPs costs while travelling etc are covered by parliamentary services?

    Ordinary MPs travel within NZ is paid, and they claim hotel costs (up to $160 per night incl GST for commercial accommodation outside Auckland. Meals and other out-of-pocket expenses are expected to be covered by their pretty reasonable $14,800 expenses allowance.

    International travel for MPs using public funds is quite limited.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    This was not what I objected to. I'm happy to agree with you on what you just wrote now, but your earlier comparison to der Große Lüge, with the implications that carries, was, IMO, out of proportion and unwarranted.

    Ah, Martin, if there's anything the various expense-account mini-scandals have taught us, it's that we shouldn't get bogged down in the details here, and clearly it wasn't a good look, but I think it's best that we put it in the past and move on with the issues that matter.

    What do I win? :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1549 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    It's always in the last place you look.

    But things are always in the last place you look. Why would you keep on looking after you've found it?

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    I must say that aside from the silly puritan angle with the porn I find all these scandals - the Taito Philip Fields grouting saga, the Bollinger, the rented films, the minibar - immensely endearing. ... I also approve of the taking of exception. Again, not necessarily of the tone of the coverage, but that people should be bothered - yeah, I think it's very healthy.

    Yes. On the one hand it does seem like a bit of a storm in a teacup. On the other hand perhaps this sort of thing is the reason why NZ is perceived to be the least corrupt country in the world. I think I'd rather err on the side of overreacting to minor breaches of the rules rather than just letting it slide and hoping it doesn't escalate.

    Since Sep 2009 • 365 posts Report Reply

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