It has just been revealed that National List MP Claudette Hauiti surrendered her parliamentary charge card back in March, after unauthorised spending, including a personal trip to Australia. Apparently a backbencher’s salary isn’t enough to allow Ms Hauiti to afford to travel to Australia on her own credit card…
Andrea Vance reports on Ms Hauiti’s description of the trip:
“I went to Australia. It was travel only and way outside Parliamentary Service guidelines.”
Asked if it was a personal trip, she replied: “Totally.” She then added: “Well, no, I went to meet with Maori in Australia who were registered on the Maori roll.” She has repaid the cost.
Now, this trip occurred over Christmas. Holiday time. And her first reaction, when asked if it was a personal trip, was “Totally”. Her subsequent “work” justification is presumably the excuse she used at the time to justify putting the flights on the taxpayer’s tab. If that’s the line that Ms Hauiti wants to run, perhaps she’d like to shed a little more light on it for us. For instance, who were these Maori in Australia who were registered on the Maori roll? Why did she meet them and who organised these “meetings”? Or does Ms Hauiti merely have friends and family in Australia who just happen to be on the Maori roll?
There are, of course, the usual litany of excuses are offered. She didn’t know the rules:
“Of course it’s absolutely no excuse for not knowing the Speaker’s rulings. It is my responsibility and I didn’t do it.”
It was the fault of her staff:
“There were issues with my purchasing that neither of my EAs [executive assistants] were able to give me a steer on.”
The rules are too complicated:
“[I]t got a little bit too difficult for me to get my head around and I volunteered it back. They did not confiscate it.”
When I say “Strike two for Claudette Hauiti” in the title of this post, it was, chronologically speaking, the first strike for abusing taxpayer funds. Her card was surrendered in March, and it was just a few months later, in May, that Ms Hauiti was busted for employing her wife in her electorate office. At the time, I wrote:
[E]ven 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…”
One can apply the same test for charging taxpayers for holiday flights to Australia. Surely you ask, “Is this ethical?” or “Maybe I should check the rules on this…” or “Would this look good in a newspaper article?” Unless your sense of entitlement makes an entrance, kicking questions of ethics to the kerb…