Phone bets legitimate says Horan

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2012
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FAIRFAX
BRENDAN HORAN: MP and former television weatherman.

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Sacked NZ First MP Brendan Horan is defending his use of a parliamentary phone to ring a TAB bet line, saying it was personal use that was allowed.

But his former leader Winston Peters says that is "humbug" and such use was outside the rules.

Records seen by The Dominion Post show Mr Horan used his taxpayer-funded parliamentary mobile phone to call a TAB phonebet number 12 times in the space of about four hours on Saturday afternoon, April 28.

In the records, which covered a less than one month period, he called the bet line on nine other occasions.

Mr Horan said he was entitled to call who he wanted but did not deny the calls to the TAB.

He has strongly denied having a gambling problem, and has also rejected allegations he took money from his dying mother.

He said he did not have his phone records so had no way of confirming it. "Look up the rules; people can use their phones for anything.

"There is fringe benefit and people can use their phones for a certain amount of private business. Whatever I use my phone for is my private business."

But Mr Peters yesterday said that was "humbug".

"That's not private business is it? If you're ringing up your husband or your wife or your children, that's understood to be legit, that's private business. How could that be?"

Mr Peters dumped Mr Horan from the party on Tuesday, saying he had received information that meant he no longer had confidence in him as an MP.

Mr Horan has said he will stay on as an independent MP, and will not bow to pressure from Mr Peters to quit Parliament.

A spokeswoman for Parliamentary Service referred questions about Mr Horan to the MP and said it did not discuss individual members.

"We do however work with individual MPs in respect of their entitlements."

The Dominion Post has been told by sources that NZ First tried to seize the MP's laptop computer, after he phoned an assistant and asked her to wipe his records. But the computer was later returned to him.

Mr Peters declined to comment and Mr Horan did not respond to a call seeking comment.

After an hour-long discussion with Parliament's Speaker Lockwood Smith yesterday, Mr Horan said he had been given permission for two days' leave.

He had earlier attended a closed session of the Maori affairs select committee.

He later moved to a new office in a different part of the parliamentary complex away from NZ First MPs.

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Meanwhile, respected New Plymouth horse trainer John Wheeler yesterday said Mr Horan would ring him maybe five or six times a year, often to check on weather conditions when he was planning to dive for crayfish, and would ask about how certain horses were going.

"He did not strike me as a guy with a [gambling] problem."

He had never seen Mr Horan put a bet on and from their conversation had struck him as "a $5 each way kind of bloke".

He had not seemed obsessed, though he knew his horses well.

"Either he had a good memory or he did a lot of study."

He did not think ringing the betting line 12 times in one day was out of the ordinary.

Wheeler would himself place small bets and may call six times on one day.

As for using a parliamentary phone to place bets, he said as a racing man "I think everyone should use their parliamentary phones and ring the TAB - keep the stakes up."

- Fairfax Media

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