Not good enough Goff

Phil Goff has demoted three MPs from Opposition MPs to…well…Opposition MPs. It is pathetic. The so-called sanctions of  no Shame Carter, Tugger Jones and Mita Ririnui are that they no longer have to do any work, they can sit on their ever widening chuffs and trough it up with Parliamentary Services largesse. There will be no hurt to their wallets by their demotions, the pay remains the same.

Two of them are scum List MPs so they will do even less than they did before. I see no reason why they weren’t asked to tender their resignations.

If No Shame Carter is as good as his word, I know a joke coming from a troughing Labour MP, then he will resign forthwith and give us a by-election. Even the cost of that will be money well spent in getting rid of someone who has used the taxpayer to cart his testicles around the world and keep his “marriage” together.

Goff’s press release is like him, all smiles and no substance, it mouths meaningless nothings and platitudes. He has remained silent for a week while his MPs have with the sole exception of Shane Jones, excused appalling behaviour and excessive troughing as entitlements. None more so than the world’s unluckiest traveller, Plughead Cosgrove. Air New Zealand must really have it in for him as they have lost irretrievably, never to be seen again his luggage not once but three times. The fact that they managed to do this in an era of unprecedented security and tracking of luggage due to terrorism concerns is simple astounding. One would assume that state secrets and important minsterial documents have also gone missing, surely they were packed in with his suits as well. Cosgrove is another who should be invited to tender his resignation.

Enough of the talk about these illegal purchases being repaid. Look no further than Graeme Edgeler for why it is simply unacceptable for Phil Goff to slap these three over the hands with a wet noodle.

The basic underpinning of Parliamentary Democracy, and Westminster Democracy in Particular, is that the Government, from the lowliest junior policy advisor, through the various ranks of the police, and other enforcement agencies, and all the way up to departmental CEOs, Ministers, and even the Prime Minister, can only do what Parliament allows them to do. In particular, the government can’t levy taxes without parliamentary permission, and can only spend money in the amounts, and on the things, the Parliament allows them (usually by passing a budget). And it’s been this way since at least 1688.

This is why – to a lawyer like me anyway – the abuse of ministerial credit cards is a big deal. Parliament has given ministers permission to spend money in the operation of their offices. These appropriations of taxpayer funds follow the same basic rules of all appropriations – their amount, scope (what the money may be spent on), and period (when the money may be spent), is regulated by the rules set down by Parliament in the budget – for ministerial expenses, these are the Estimates for Vote Ministerial Services.

Graeme is dead right on this and this is exactly why troughing ministers make me apolplectic. It is simply unacceptable to explain any of it away with the stock standard labour excuses of “I paid it back” or I forgot my perosnal card that day”. These are illegal appropriations of money.

There are a few bits of law it is useful to appreciate. An excerpt from the Bill of Rights 1688:

Levying money—That levying money for or to the use of the Crowne by pretence of prerogative without grant of Parlyament for longer time or in other manner then the same is or shall be granted is illegall.

And a more recent statement to the same effect – section 4(1) of the Public Finance Act 1989:

(1) The Crown or an Office of Parliament must not incur expenses or capital expenditure, except as expressly authorised by an appropriation, or other authority, by or under an Act.

And section 5:

The Crown or an Office of Parliament must not spend public money, except as expressly authorised by or under an Act (including this Act).

Graeme has been very precise and even unearthed the killer blow for any apologist excusing away legendary troughing.

But, there’s still the caveat, in clause 7.4, that:

Operational resources are not provided and may not be used-
(a) for personal or private benefit

And the overarching principles, including one I didn’t mention earlier:

The principle that expenditure must be reasonable for the circumstances and able to withstand tax-payers’ scrutiny

There’s scope for debate about some things, but it’s pretty clear overall: if its personal, it’s out. There are a couple of other things, pertinent to any discussion of ministerial credit cards.

Well it is as clear as the nose on your face that every one of the troughers have broken the law. Silly changes of seats to the naughty bench doesn’t cut it for me. Let’s see some real punishment for law-breakers because of the law-makers are not held accountable then who are they to actually contemplate making laws when they can’t even be relied upon to keep them themselves.

There is no way that buying cigarettes, fish and chips (a nice team troughing effort there by Plughead and Tugger), flowers for disgraced cabinet ministers, dinner with your mates in the UK, massages, sauna or porn can ever be construed as legitimate.

Labour plus some National ministers have shown utter contempt for the taxpayer, utter contempt for the law and little or no remorse. If ever there was a need for a clean out it is now. Pjil Goff can cry all he likes about sanctioning his MPs, but the reality is they are still there sucking of the public tit.

It is time for an anti-trougher party. It is time for a taxpayers revolt, because sure as hell the MPs are revolting to us.

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