Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Deliberate non-compliance

Yesterday Transport Minister Michael Wood was stood down after failing to properly declare a conflict of interest - namely his continued ownership of Auckland Airport shares while transport minister. Chris Hipkins and his Labour cronies tried to pass this off as Wood simply being forgetful, but this was somewhat undercut by the admission that the Cabinet Office had told him to sell the shares "around half a dozen" times, and each time received an assurance that he was doing it. That's enough to cast serious doubts on Wood's honesty, but it turns out that its actually worse than that: in question time today Hipkins admitted that Cabinet Office had told Wood to sell a full dozen times since the 2020 election, receiving an assurance each time.

Having to be reminded once, or maybe even twice, could be regarded as just a mistake, a matter of things getting away on a busy person. Being reminded a dozen times makes it look less like forgetfulness and more like deliberate non-compliance. And those assurances look less like the hurried "yeah, yeah, I'll get round to it", and more like outright lies.

The rules in the Cabinet Manual are clear: Ministers must behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical and behavioural standards. They must declare their conflicts and have them managed. Wood hasn't just fallen below that standard - he appears to be deliberately flouting it. Its not enough anymore to stand him down from his transport portfolio - he has shown that he simply cannot be trusted. He must be removed as a Minister, and never allowed to sit in Cabinet again.