National list MP Claudette Hauiti has withdrawn from standing in Kelston and from the election. Whether she walked or was pushed it doesn’t matter, she had to go.
She hasn’t been in Parliament long, replacing Aaron Gilmore off the list last year, but she has tripped up badly twice.
Earlier this year Hauiti employed her partner in her office which is against Parliamentary rules.
Last week Fairfax reported…
… former broadcaster Hauiti surrendered her charge card after using it for unauthorised spending.
At first she blamed her staff, before admitting she’d used it to pay for a Christmas trip across the Ditch.
Since then she announced she would be withdrawing from standing again, but it’s unlikely she would have got a winnable list position and she wasn’t expected to come close to winning Kelston.
While National have dealt with her exit quickly and efficiently (one the credit card spending went public) they have been far less willing to be transparent about the level of spending, as Andrea Vance reports in Hauiti protected to the bitter end.
What she hasn’t admitted to is how much personal spending went on that card.
Incredibly, National leader John Key and party Whip Louise Upston say they don’t know.
They knew enough to get rid of her.
Insiders say the party was worried more would leak out and Key took charge when he returned from his Hawaii holiday.
But the party is refusing to answer questions about further allegations of misspending and Hauiti has gone to ground.
The episode has made a mockery of Key’s boasts about being transparent on MPs’ spending.
Yes, it’s very poor from Key and National – first for allowing a new MP to make two such basic mistakes, and now for hiding the details.
Hauiti and the National Party are exploiting an obstinate interpretation of the Parliamentary Service rule which prevents the release of information about MPs.
This is reasonable when it applies to private details such as pension schemes, phone records or that would identify constituents. Where it should not be applicable is the use of taxpayer cash, particularly where there are irregularities.
It ignores the reality that we, the taxpayer, are MPs’ employers – not the back-office Parliamentary Service.
Both National and Hauiti have not responded to a request for a privacy waiver to allow the records to be released.
This creates the impression there is something more to hide.
Whether Key has something else to hide or not if he is not prepared to be open and transparent on this he leaves himself and National open to speculation – and most likely more media digging.
This sort of secrecy would be poor at any time but it is a bad look coming into an election campaign, particularly one where National are deliberately risk averse. If this blows up into a bigger issue Key can only blame himself.