The Dominion Post reports today that National List MP Claudette Hauiti employed her wife as an issues assistant in her electorate office. This is of course a clear breach of Parliament’s rules, which ban MPs from employing spouses or partners, either inside or outside of Parliament.
Ms Hauiti said she didn’t know about the rule, as she’d only been in Parliament for a year:
“I’m really disappointed that I didn’t know the rules, I’ve only been here a year and I should have kept up to speed with that and I didn’t. I made a really big mistake.”
There’s a couple of issues here for me. Firstly, did Ms Hauiti really make it through a whole year of being an MP without anyone telling her about those sorts of issues? If Parliamentary Services didn’t tell her, that’s fairly terrible; and if Parliamentary Services failed to do so, the National Party whips should definitely have briefed her on the rules. Here’s a comment from David Garrett on Kiwiblog, basically calling bollocks on her “I didn’t know” defence:
As a new MP you get a comprehensive briefing from the good folks at Parliamentary Services on just what you can and cannot do… and that’s before the Whips take you aside and give you a grilling about what you own, and what your personal relationships are. (The guy I boarded with in Welly is a long time friend for example; we didnt share a bed). Rules about who you can employ in your electorate office (Yes, List MP’s have them too) is one of the most basic things you get told.
Secondly, even if she didn’t know (or had had the advice go in one ear and out the other), what does this say about her judgment and ethics? Surely, when you’re considering whether to give a taxpayer funded job to your wife, you would think, “Is this ethical?” or “Maybe I should check the rules on this…” or “How would this look if the newspapers got hold of it?” Unfortunately, it would appear that none of these thoughts went through Ms Hauiti’s head. Instead, getting her wife on the payroll seems to have trumped all ethical concerns.
And politicians wonder why Joe and Jane Public shake their heads and mutter, “Bunch of troughers…”