Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wong didn't just abuse her Parliamentary perks

Two weeks ago, Pansy Wong resigned as a Minister after abusing her Parliamentary travel perks. It turns out that those aren't the only perks she's been abusing. In Parliament today, Pete Hodgson started asking questions about her use of Ministerial travel as well. And it turns out that she was under investigation by the Prime Minister's Office for misusing a Ministerial trip for "family business".

(Hodgson will have the answer to that question by now, but Parliament is quite slow in putting them online for us peasants to read)

The trip in question is likely to be her trip to the Shanghai Expo with the Prime Minister in July (the authorisation for which is in her Ministerial credit card expenses [PDF]), on which she took two days personal leave "at her own expense". If she did business during that leave, then we effectively paid for her to do it (OTOH, if she didn't, then we merely paid for her to take a holiday, which isn't much better).

Those questions in Parliament also revealed that Wong has been on 11 Ministerial trips since she became a Minister - about one every two months. Last quarter, she was the fifth highest-spending Minister on international travel. Which seems a little odd. And some of those trips do seem a little dodgy - for example, in April she detoured from a trip to Hong Kong for the signing of the New Zealand - Hong Kong Closer Economic partnership, in order to travel to China to open a Fonterra plant. Hardly the sort of thing you think should require Ministerial attention, let alone it being well outside her portfolio responsibilities. And all of this was signed off by John Key.

Lockwood Smith's investigation will cover only Wong's Parliamentary perks. It looks like there needs to be another thorough going-over of her use of Ministerial expenses as well. And if it turns out that she stole from us, she should not just be forced to repay the money and resign from parliament - she should be prosecuted. We can have no pity for thieving politicians.