Shane Jones, Minister of Pornography
The political future of shamed Labour MP Shane Jones is on a knife-edge after he admitted charging hotel pornography to his tax-payer funded credit card.
Internal Affairs has spent months collating 7000 pages of credit card transactions and receipts from MPs’ spending. Stuff reporters are trawling through the receipts.
» Click here for highlights as they emerge
Labour MPs who formed the last Labour-led government have endured a wave of humiliation today as ministerial credit card spending dating back 10 years is revealed.
More than 7000 documents were released under the Official Information Act today detailing credit card transactions by Labour ministers between 2003 and 2008.
Mr Jones has borne the brunt of the embarrassment this afternoon after his spending came to light with the release of MPs' expenses to the media this morning (see receipt).
He told reporters this afternoon he was not a "sex fiend" but got in the habit of watching pornographic movies while he was away.
His wife was enraged after he broke the news to her this morning, he said.
The Labour spokesperson for economic development and the environment offered no excuses, saying: "I just lost the plot."
The shamed MP appears to be within a heart-beat of resigning from Parliament.
"[The people] will say that Shane has dug a hole for himself - a hole and that may very well prove to be his grave," Jones said of himself today.
PRIME MINISTER RESPONDS
Prime Minister John Key said he was "a little surprised" by the spending revealed today but it showed that the "transparency" instituted by his government worked by focusing the minds of ministers from now on.
Things hadn't been perfect under National but there had clearly been an improvement since Labour was in office.
"Hopefully we'll see improved behaviour in the future."
There was no need for rule changes, providing people stuck to the rules.
"The role of a minister was quite varied and sometimes they find themselves in difficult and unusual circumstances and there's certainly an element of entertaining for the likes of the minister of trade and the minister of foreign affairs."
Asked about Mr Groser's minibar bills, Mr Key said it added up to about one alcoholic drink a day, which was within the rules. Alcohol in Denmark was expensive.
"But I've certainly spoken to him and made it clear to all of my ministers what my expectations are. I expect them to be cautious with spending tax payer funds."
CARTER ALSO UNDER FIRE
Former Labour government minister Chris Carter was repeatedly warned about what was appropriate to use his ministerial credit card for but has still been caught out misusing it - including paying for movies in hotels, documents released today show.
Throughout the years Mr Carter's office was reminded about getting receipts and reconciliations in on time.
And early on, in June 2003, Dean Stratford finance manager in executive government support, sent an email saying: "Can you please remind the minister the importance of retaining the detailed invoice when using the corporate credit card," he wrote. The email goes on to talk about the Audit Office taking a "deep interest" in the use of cards.
In 2004 Mr Carter's office was sent the whole credit card policy and the paragraph on the need for supplying receipts was highlighted.
Mr Carter has previously been in the news for his expensive travel bill after work trips where his partner Peter Kaiser often accompanied him.
Mr Carter has checked the credit card transactions released to reporters for the years 2003 to 2008 and had found a few things that he should have paid for amounting to $251.16.
Those included two charges for watching pay per view movies in hotels, one for himself and one for a staff member. The movies cost $23 and $26.
Labour's Shane Jones today admitted using his card to pay for porn flicks in hotels. Mr Carter said he could not remember what film he watched; "I assure you it was not a pornographic movie". He did not know what the staff watched.
Mr Carter said he would pay back money for flowers and an April 9, 2008 charge for hotel spa treatment for a staff member.
He assured NZPA that other treatments such as massages at hotels had been reimbursed or paid privately already. Some payments had appeared on hotel receipts with other transactions even though they were not paid by ministerial cards.
"Some have been for me, some for staff and they have all been paid for. We have been most careful to check this."
Mr Carter said the flower purchasers should not have been put on the card but it had been staff rather than he that had made the error.
"It wasn't appropriate."
JONES CONSIDERS HIS FUTURE
"This is a day of great shame. Not only have I embarrassed myself, my family and party colleagues, but I got in to a pattern of expenditure that is inexcusable.
"It's beyond excuse and it's a day of humiliation for me."
However, he would not resign today because he did not want to make a decision "in the heat of humiliation".
Mr Jones said he had "apologised to all and sundry" after admitting he had spent thousands on his credit card on personal items.
"I'm a red-blooded adult, it shouldn't have happened, it has happened, it doesn't make me feel particularly worthy but I'm not going to hide from it."
Further to the pornography, Mr Jones has reimbursed about $6450 in personal spending on his ministerial card after racking-up expenses including paying for six "ultimate breakfasts" and various hot drinks for a total of $250.
On another occasion he put a breakfast for himself and two of his sons at the Dargaville Motel on his card at a cost of $105, which he reimbursed.
In November 2007 Mr Jones reimbursed $227.20 for movies, drinks, confectionary and magazines as well as $115 spent at Munns menswear shop in Wellington.
On November 30, 2007 he put $288.48 on the card for a night's accommodation at Taipa Bay Resort in Mangonui in the far north, including $160.50 for a cooked breakfast. He stayed at the report several times late in 2007.
All of the spending had been reimbursed, most of it before Labour left office.
However, while admitting Mr Jones digressions had damaged his political career, Labour deputy leader Annette King said she did not think he should resign.
"He has let himself down and he has let the tax payers down. I think he's very embarrassed and we've said that what he has to do now is put his head down and his bottom up and rebuild his reputation," she said.
"It's not for me to judge what people do in the privacy of their rooms but it is not appropriate to use a ministerial credit card to pay for it."
However, she said the fact that the MPs had paid the money back, it suggested they weren't attempting to deliberately rort the taxpayer.
Ministers "would have to be very, very silly indeed" to misspend tax payer money in the future now that levels of transparency had increased, she said.
"There's no excuse from now on to say you didn't know the rules."
The use of tax-payer credit cards was something that was flagged during Labours last term in government.
The documents will raise questions about why ministers were not pulled up earlier over their spending.
The records during Labour's time in office revealed that ministers used their taxpayer funded credit cards for items including a $155 bottle of Bollinger, flowers, a chartered airplane for Mr Jones, and expensive dinners.
Former Labour minister Chris Carter spent $639.21 on a dinner in London for himself, his partner, New Zealand's High Commissioner to London Jonathan Hunt - known during his parliamentary career as the minister for wine and cheese - and British Labour lord Chris Smith, Britain's first openly gay MP. The minister's records state that no detailed invoice for the dinner is available.
Former Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Judith Tizard also splashed out more than $200 on two bottles of wine at a dinner at Cin Cin on Quay in downtown Auckland.
This included a $155 bottle of Bollinger and a $55 bottle of Allan Scott wine were purchased on the former Central Auckland MP's credit card on 23 May 2008, and accompanied a meal of roast salmon, grilled tuna and fresh figs.
The records also show ministers and their staff were warned repeatedly over their failure to reconcile their statements and provide documents when required.
In a memo in March 2006 Ministerial Services assistant general manager Richard McDonald told ministers' secretaries that although most accounts were fine "there is a single issue which has come up again - use of credit cards for personal expenditure".
"The policy is unarguable! Departmental credit cards are NOT to be used for personal expenditure regardless that the user pays back the sum after the fact."
The release also includes the records of National ministers and also credit card details for their staff, who often racked-up bills on their ministers behalf.
While Labour MPs have been most embarrassed by today's release, National's Trade Minister Tim Groser has charged at least $1469 against tax-payer funded credit cards for alcohol purchases since becoming a Minister in November 2008.
The total amount includes a $466 mini-bar bill racked up in the space of one week during the Copenhagen climate change conference.
Mr Groser is also the Minister for Climate Change Negotiations and travels widely.
He was the subject of censure from the Prime Minister's office in May following a complaint about heavy drinking among his trade delegation on a flight back from the Middle East.
- By TRACY WATKINS, JOHN HARTEVELT, MICHAEL FOX, NICK VENTER, GREER MCDONALD and VERNON SMALL and NZPA