Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We're paying for Rodney's fundraising trip

Last week we learned that Local Government Minister Rodney Hide was treating his job as a corrupt little fiefdom, giving speeches within his portfolio and charging stakeholders a donation to the ACT party if they wanted to hear them in clear contravention of Ministerial guidelines. That's bad enough, but the response to an urgent OIA request has added insult to injury - we're paying for his travel as well:

On Wednesday 4 November, Mr Hide will be in Christchurch on business related to his Ministerial portfolios of Local Government and Regulatory Reform. The purpose of this trip is to deliver a keynote address to the Canterbury Manufacturers Association on the principles behind his Regulatory Reform programme. While he is in Christchurch he will also be making site visits to a local engineering firm and the University of Canterbury. Mr Hide will also be meeting with members of the press and conducting other Ministerial duties.

There will be no additional costs to Vote: Ministerial Services related to Mr Hide's address to the ACT Party at the Heartland Cotswald Hotel.

Sure, there's no additional costs to the taxpayer, and it is of course all within the rules, but it is an unacceptable mingling of public and private business. Thanks to some clever scheduling, we're effectively footing the bill for Hide's attendance at his little fundraiser. And we simply shouldn't be. The Ministerial travel budget is to pay for travel as part of Ministerial duties - not for Ministers to zip around the country touching up donors for cash.

More generally, Ministers need to be able to maintain a rigid separation between their public duties and their private business. But like some feudal lord, Hide seems unable to tell the difference. If he cannot distinguish between the two, then he is simply unfit to be a Minister.