Thursday, June 10, 2010

No pity for thieves

The big story of the day is the release of Labour Ministers' expenses. This has already turned up some rather uncomfortable spending - Tim Groser's alcohol habit, Parekura Horomia's big dinners, Chris Carter's flowers and kitchenware and Shane Jones' porn - and no doubt there'll be more to come. The politicians involved are trying to make out that it was all an innocent mistake, and in some cases it likely was - but in others there is a clear and consistent pattern of abuse of Ministerial credit cards for "expenses" that are neither reasonable not necessary. And as with Phil Heatley, we should have neither pity not mercy for these people.

As the Dim-Post so pointedly points out, these people are simply thieves. An ordinary person caught stealing from their employer in this fashion would not just be forced to pay the money back, but would also likely be facing dismissal and prosecution. We should apply the same standard to politicians. There can be no place in our political system for thieves.

Meanwhile, it is clear that without constant scrutiny, politicians will run amok, breach the public trust and steal from us. The only way of preventing it is to keep them under constant watch. While the government has released this information for political purposes - payback for Heatley - it should now commit to the proactive release of Ministerial expenses on a regular basis. It should also heed the advice of the Auditor-General on Heatley's case, and make sure that the rules are clear and that Ministers have no excuses to hide behind. Anything less is simply a conspiracy to defraud the public.