Well the mainstream media and blogs are awash with news on this one since it broke two days ago. (the best humorous post by far is this at one at the Dim-Post).  Even AirNZ got in on the act with another relevant parody ad (on the right).  For those interested there is further in depth editorial here and and a useful round up by Kiwiblog here.

Anyway .. here’s my take (the black and white version):

Firstly lets get it clear – these are credit cards issued to Ministers (so not all MPs get one) to enable them to charge legitimate ministerial related costs directly to the card and avoid having to pay personally and then be reimbursed.

Offense Levels

I have to say I think some of the media are mixing up some of the offenses here.  I think in my mind there are  three levels of offense:

(1) Lowest Offense Level: Charging a personal expense to the card and repaying it back quickly (like the next day).  Against the rules (the rules clearly say you cant do that) but in my view no intention to defraud, so I will call this naughty.  You know bad boy, got stand in the corner stuff.  However to defend this action as OK puts this type of offending up a level.  Like Jim Anderton who says:

“Be sensible about this – these corporate cards pay for the hotel and all the things attached to them.

It’s just silly to think you’re going to carry a number of cards and pay for this on one and that on another.”

Yes Jim, let’s BE sensible.  When traveling overseas you DO have a personal credit card on you, so when you check out from a hotel you just say “hey .. pop the booze on this card and the rest on this one please”.  Easy pesy.  And this guy wants to be my Mayor!  Fat chance Mr with an arrogant attitude like that. You get to stand in the corner and never come out Jim!

(2) Medium Offense Level: Charging lavish items to the card, that are still legitimate expenses.  Like the week in London for $6,000 type thing.  While arguably allowable under the rules, it’s not good use of tax payers dollars and clearly the Ministers in question think they “deserve” this.   Chris Carter and his thousands of dollars on Limos in Australia is a good example.  This is unacceptable.  In this case its a last warning type thing, do it again and we will book you in Motels and feed you on TV dinners (but seriously, I like John Key’s suggestion to just cut up their card). 

(3) Highest Offense Level: Charging personal items to the card (no matter what what cost) and not paying them back.  This includes flowers for other MPs, flowers for your partner, $150+ bottles of wine, ‘kitchen items’ (aka Chris Carter).  Most of this type of stuff was lower in financial dollars that the extravagant items in (2) above, but in my view it’s a greater offense.  This is quite simply fraud.  The Minister should resign.  If they defend it, they should be sacked.

Special Mention

Now I am gonna make special mention of one Minister, because what he’s saying really grates me. And no, its not the new Minister of pornography Shane Jones (he was norti and stupid and should resign, but that’s not the worst of it). And this isn’t jus coz because I am a taxpayer, and I get pissed off my people that steel my money.  This particular Minister claims (repeatedly) he’s being picked on because he is gay.  I think this is complete rubbish. Here’s news for you Mr Carter: I am gay and I think you have your nose in the proverbial trough!

In this article in the NZ Herlad on Carter he defends himself by pulling out the gay persecution card. He did this previously when it was shown that he had one of the highest travel costs of any MP.

“That has been another hard thing – people trying to paint this image of these luxury-loving gay boys who are swanning around, flowers to the boyfriend”

Chris, stop being the victim here and look at the issue. This has NOTHING to do with you being gay and EVERYTHING to do with you putting personal expenses on your card AND also putting other excessive (although legit) expenses on the card such as almost $6,000 in limo costs while in Australia for one trip (other MPs just use a classy taxis).

The simple test is what would the situation be if it was a man and wife. Let’s test it. Minister A buys flowers for his WIFE and charges them on his Ministerial credit card and doesn’t repay them. Minister A also buys a massage in Buenos Aires when there on work and charges this to the card too. Oh, the same Minister buys flowers for another MP (from his party) because she was sacked for lying to the public and the media. None of these are repaid.   I think I can stop there. GUILTY I say, and just unacceptable. This has nothing with you being gay Chris and everything with you being wrong.

Black and White Version: There are levels of offense within the Ministerial Credit Card scandal.  The likes of Carter and Jones need to go.

Update: The more I read Chris Carter’s comments the more I think he needs to go, and now. Case and point as quoted by the NZ Herald:

But he said the public perception of him as living the high-life at the taxpayer’s expense was grossly inaccurate – and he still drives a 1996 Suzuki Swift.

*sigh*.  Chris, this is your PRIVATE car.  You can drive what you want in your PRIVATE capacity.  If you choose to spend your money on a a 1996 Suzuki or a 2010 Ferrari, either is fine with me.  It’s when you spend taxpayer money on flowers for your partner that we get upset.  The reason you are in the spotlight is that you seam unable to differentiate between PRIVATE and WORK (as an MP or Minister) business. The fact that you even mention your private car as an example of your thriftiness is only further reinforcing the point.

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