Party's over for Labour's Hooray Henrys

Last updated 15:57 11/06/2010

What a disaster for Labour. Any faint chance it had of winning the 2011 election has been buried in the rubble of the gluttony, greed, and wanton extravagance of its foolhardy MPs.

The ministerial credit card spending of Labour's former stars makes National's odd indulgences look like paragons of fiscal rectitude.

Even Tim the Groser's bar bill pales into insignificance beside the flagrant disregard for taxpayers' money shown by the likes of Chris Carter, Parekura Horomia, Shane Jones, Mita Ririnui and Judith Tizard.

Much has been made of the indiscretions of Jones, and it's true his spending is by far the most embarrassing.

No one likes being pinged on the front page of their local paper for watching blue movies, let alone 50 of them, at up to three a night.

But while Labour would no doubt like the opportunity to sacrifice the formerly high-flying Jones as the fall guy in all this, that would be both unfair and incorrect.

Sure, an addiction to porn is embarrassing. But at least he repaid the money charged to his ministerial credit card on hotel adult movies.

I know he'll get merry hell from the Wimmin's Division of the party but to be brutally honest there'll be as many blokes in Labour rank-and-file who'd be willing to forgive a bloke for a peek at the ladies in the privacy of his hotel room.

Let's not get too prudish, here, either. We're not talking child porn or bestiality here. The offering in most hotels (not that I've studied it closely, I hasten to add) tends towards the mild rather than the wild - the Playboy variety, which incidentally can be accessed by anyone with a Sky TV subscription.

No, what's far worse in my book - and I reckon for the average voter, too - is the utter disregard for the taxpayer that comes through in these credit card statements.

Flowers for each other, $160 bottles of Bolly, 16 beers during a dinner for two, massages and spa treatments, health clubs, whiskey, cigarettes, helicopter rides, plane charters, fancy luggage, and all the other trappings of the high life.

To call a spade a spade, Labour's MPs were taking the piss. They were taking the taxpayers of New Zealand for a ride.

It's such a pity, too. Because the revelations contained in the thousands of pages of credit card statements released to the media reinforce every stereotype and prejudice the public has always had of MPs: that they were on the pig's back at our expense.

And that's something I've always argued against. Most MPs aren't like that. Most are hard-working, have a conscience, and are careful with public money. But their colleagues have totally stuffed it up for them all.

Take a look at Helen Clark and Phil Goff's spending: A pair of gumboots and a single domestic flight. Or Prime Minister John Key: a bunch of rugby jersys for gifts. They knew how to keep their noses clean. It's a shame their colleagues couldn't follow suit.

The revelations are a gift for National. It's richly ironic that Labour took power in 1999 on the back of a tidal wave of opposition to out-of-control spending by the National-New Zealand First government. So much for higher standards.

National is also extremely fortunate. John Key had just enough wind of the changes to the rules around disclosure - plus a recession that focused the mind and tightened the belt - to ensure that most of his ministers have not fallen into the same trap.

There but for the grace of God, though. It's not that National's lot is any more disciplined or morally upright. It's just that now they know they'll get caught.

If Phil Goff is looking for a silver lining in any of this it's that most of his potential challengers have been so fatally wounded by the expose that he is as safe as the Bank of England (OK, I know that's not as safe as it used to be, but it's still pretty safe).

But make no mistake about what this has done to the reputation of his former ministerial colleagues, many of whom still occupy positions either on or near the front bench.

Goff must quickly demote Jones, Carter, and Horomia in particular.

It looks as though Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove may escape relatively unscathed, despite relatively high hotel bills, since these are an unavoidable expense of ministerial travel.

But Jim Anderton's use of the spa facilities while on overseas travel could be used against him in the upcoming Christchurch mayoral campaign.

For the taxpayer, sad as the antics of these Hooray Henrys are, at least there's the consolation that it's unlikely to happen again. 

The disinfectant provided by the sunlight now shining into the wallets of our public servants has put paid to that.

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255 comments
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KiwiKraut   #1   04:08 pm Jun 11 2010

Colin You wrote this about Phil Goff's required actions presuming the man has a spine? Mistake. It's quite clear he's all jelly. No steel there, mate. And that is probably the saddest bit to come out of this drama.

Jo P   #2   04:08 pm Jun 11 2010

Labour only had a very slim chance for 2011 as you suggest. I agree it is gone now. National are equally as corrupt. Only the Maori Party is honourable. The entire system needs an overhaul with this country returned to those who have lived here for thousands of years with an ethic for life around family and environmental values as contasts markedly with the capitalist system inflicted on them by colonizers.

Sack Key (the credit card was REALLY stolen?) Sack Goff (Mr Weak) Promote Pita Sharples to PM, and bring in a new era of fair and decent politics in Aotearoa.

David S   #3   04:13 pm Jun 11 2010

Kiwikraut is correct I think: I doubt Goff has the backbone to demote Jones, Horomia or (worst recidivist of all) Chris Carter; just as Key did not have the spine to demote the Dipton double-dipper English, address Groser's credit card shananagans etc. I'm disillusioned with our political institutions. Your analysis Colin is bang on - the Labour lot have no chance whatsoever in 2011 as best as one can predict this far out. Goff and Key both lack spine in my view.

mello   #4   04:17 pm Jun 11 2010

Shane Jones the Minister for Pornography won't be sacked, because that brings back the Minister for Bollinger Judith Tizard to list #3. And that is one headache too much for Mr Goff and Ms King to bear.

As for David Cunliffe and his outrageous hotel bills - he should be sacked along with Chris Carter the arrogant recidivist who sunk to new lows last night blaming his office staff and still refusing to take responsibility for his own thieving; Mita Ririnui - who does he think he is fooling by saying he only had his ministerial credit card on him when in Australia - what, all his other cards magically fell out of his wallet before he travelled?

And the rest of the arrogant Labour troughers who smugly thought they'd never get caught because when they did this the parliamentary rules were in their favour and they didn't have to disclose.

Songwei   #5   04:19 pm Jun 11 2010

The greedy and foolhardy MPs are on all sides I think. If Johnny Key had guts he would change the system from ministers using credit cards. Did his own really go missing? Who is the mysterious "lost" overseas person who is not here to back Labour's Chris Carter's excuses? So many questions, so few answers. Good on Stuff for being on to it.

germain   #6   04:23 pm Jun 11 2010

couple of things that confuse me... Tizard reportedly got cash advance of $1000... W.T.F.????? so not only do they get any sort of item they wish to put on the card, also CASH ADVANCES??? also, I am puzzled by the number of our members of parliament that seem to lose their luggage??? It seems this is rife, many reports of members overseas charging up new suits etc. due to "lost luggage"... amazing, I wonder if the airlines concerned are aware of so much lost luggage of our government ministers etc. ...

DanM   #7   04:24 pm Jun 11 2010

It's like the old saying, 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

Goff's good fortune is the Labour Party's downfall, the best thing that could happen to them is him getting replaced as leader. But as you say there is now absolutely no one else of any consequence.

And Jumbo Jim was going to claim both salaries at once - surely he wouldn't need to put anything at all on expense?

Just to keep Murray happy, Labour's best hope now would be to offer Goff's position to Winston.

Random   #8   04:24 pm Jun 11 2010

Quote jennifer: "but a burger? That's just poor judgement, plain and simple, which must call into question his suitability for high office."

"However, if a Minister decides to rort the system to access public funds for personal gain, then that's corrupt, simple as that."

"Is anyone in the media asking English or Brownlee or Hide whether they should now resign following Heatley's principled stand over a couple of bottles of wine rorted from the taxpayer?"

I patiently await your call for the former Labour Ministers to resign.

John M   #9   04:31 pm Jun 11 2010

Although Shane Jones porno viewing on the public card is just plain dumb and inexcusable, the 'high life' expenses need to be put into some context.

To me, if flowers, saunas, grog, golf clubs etc were put on the ministerial credit card and immediately reimbursed then that's ok. After all, most hotels require a single credit card imprint at arrival.

But I suspect our media is just gorging itself at these revelations without needing to give us such a breakdown.

Tim   #10   04:35 pm Jun 11 2010

Germain at 6, couldn't Goff ask Tizard to skip(?), but as Colin implies he may or may not have the fortitude to do so. He should put Carter and Jones and Horomia right off travel other than electorate business and use a method that does not involve credit cards. 'Tough love'.

The greedy are on all sides as Song suggests but Labour, whether less disciplined and morally upright or not, have more fraudsters than National. Lordie, it looks like I can only trust the Maori P or the Greens with my taxes.

Why no police involvement?????

Colin must be right in saying Labour have no chance in 2011 now. No worse than English, Heatley or Groser perhaps, but it would be very hard to recover unless National self-destructs.


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