Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Labour steps up attacks on Pansy Wong and the travel perks controversy...

Philip Bruce Goff, current Leader of the Oppos...Image via Wikipedia
Labour has continued its attack on Pansy Wong, revealing new photos which it says show the MP for Botany using her ministerial title to promote her husband's hovercraft business in China.
Prime Minister John Key concedes this could have been enough to get her sacked from Cabinet even without her abusing the taxpayer travel perk
Wong resigned as a Cabinet minister last Friday, admitting she misused her taxpayer-funded travel subsidy by paying for her husband Sammy Wong's travel to China in 2008, while he was on personal business.
Labour said the issue is black and white, claiming photos from a Chinese website show Wong using her ministerial position to promote her husband's business.

And the Opposition is calling for her to be ousted from parliament.

Labour leader Phil Goff said it is vital to prevent corruption that MPs do not merge personal business interests with parliamentary entitlements.

But Key does not have the power to sack Wong as MP for Botany because she was elected to the position.
"If Pansy Wong was a Minister today, then there would be a question that needs to be answered. On the face of things it appears to be in breach of the Cabinet manual, but she's not a Minister, and I can't sack someone that's quit," Key said.

In March last year, former Minister Richard Worth also came under fire, accused of promoting his business interests on a trip to India.

Labour MP for Dunedin North, Pete Hodgson, said the issue has been ongoing.
"Pansy Wong's been doing it and nobody thought to go to Cabinet and say stop doing if after Richard Worth. I wonder who is next?" Hodgson said.
Speaker's decision delayed
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, said he will meet with authorities tomorrow night to discuss scrapping the international travel perk that sparked the controversy.
Smith had been expected to make an announcement on the matter today, but instead, he has decided to consult with the Parliamentary Service Commission before deciding if changes will be made.
Smith will meet with the Commission tomorrow night.

Smith recently moved to make international travel expenditure by MPs less transparent, before backtracking after party leaders, including Key, spoke out against it.

Smith has defended MPs' use of the subsidy, taking the view that seeing it is funded out of their own salary packages it should be their business what they do with it, as long as it is not abused.

Earlier today, Prime Minister John Key said MPs' travel perks were a "relic of the past" and should be sc
He wants an end to the subsidy system and the Remuneration Authority to be charged with looking at how MPs' salaries could be adjusted to counter it.

"Realistically, I think it's hard to justify to the New Zealand public that the taxpayers out there should be paying for an MP to take a holiday," Key said on TV ONE's Breakfast this morning.

Other MPs have also got themselves in hot water over questionable use of the subsidy and Key said it was destroying public confidence in the way the system worked and undermining the institution of parliament.
"The strong view of National Party MPs is that this entitlement has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished as soon as possible," Key said.
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