Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A perk of office

One of the expectations in our modern, non-corrupt democracy is that government is a free service. If you want your MP to do something for you, you won't be charged a fee, and if you want to know what the government is planning to do, you won't have to give a backhander to a Minister for the privilege. Access to government is not for sale in this country.

Not according to Rodney Hide. He's running a roadshow on his plans for local government - explicitly government business, the sort of thing we expect Ministers to do as a matter of course - as an ACT party fundraiser. If local body members in Christchurch want to know what the Minister has planned for them, they have to pay a fee to his party for the privilege.

This is a gross abuse of office. Promoting policy is explicitly listed in the Cabinet Manual as being something done in a Ministerial capacity. And the rules on how Ministers conduct themselves in that capacity are very clear:

accepting additional payment for doing anything that could be regarded as a ministerial function is not permissible;
The payment is to Hide's party, but I don't think that lets him off the hook, any more than paying a partner or relative or business associate would. He profits indirectly through increased election chances, and the perception is that the party is being paid for his services as a Minister. This absolutely fails to meet the requirement that
In all these roles and at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.
Rodney Hide has failed to meet that standard. He has behaved in a way which is frankly corrupt. But I guess he just regards it as a perk of office.