Pansy Wong’s resignation was the right response to her husband’s misuse of a travel allowance.
Her media release makes it quite clear she accepts responsibility:
“It is beyond my wildest dreams that a baby girl born in Shanghai, China, grew up in a Hong Kong apartment where eight families shared a single kitchen and bathroom to be New Zealand’s first List M.P., first constituent M.P. of Botany and first Cabinet Minister of Chinese and Asian ethnicity,” says Pansy Wong.
“That dream is not mine alone and it comes with expectation, responsibility and hope. I havetried every single day to keep that dream alive and nothing should happen to dash that dream.
“That dream can only be kept alive by living up to the high standard set by the Prime Minister and myself. Therefore I have given my resignation as a Cabinet Minister to the Prime Minister.
“This action follows questions about use of my parliamentary travel entitlement to pay for my husband to travel within China at the end of 2008.
“Although the trip was a holiday, my husband did conduct some business. Further, I am not able at this point to give the Prime Minister an assurance that this is a one-off situation.
“As a Member of Parliament it is my responsibility to ensure that the travel entitlement is used within the rules and that does not appear to be the case on this occasion.
“Given that, the appropriate and honourable thing to do is to offer my resignation to the Prime Minister. He has been gracious enough to accept it.
“I have asked the Speaker of the House to have Parliamentary Service review the use of my entitlement.
“In the event that any of my or my husband’s international travel is found to be outside the rules, I will be making a full refund to Parliamentary Service.
“I do not intend to make any further comment to the media pending the outcome of the investigation.”
I like and admire Pansy and am very sorry about this.
Beyond the personal it raises, once again, questions about MPs’ travel entitlements.
I don’ t think the taxpayer should be paying for anything for MPs except their salaries and expenses directly related to doing their work. There is no jsutification for paying spouses/partners travel whether it’s business or personal.
I have very little sympathy for the argument that subsidised travel was part of a salary package. I doubt ihat would have been palatable to the public when it was settled. It is even less so now particularly when it is obvious it if far too easy to misuse.
Does anyone ask the retired MPs if their trips were entirely personal or had an element of business?
What is busienss and what’s personal? If a retired MP who was a farmer visited an agricultural show, or an ex-MP who was a lawyer watched proceedings in court, while on holiday overseas does that become business?
Payment to MPs, past or present, for anything not directly related to their work should stop. If retired MPs are doing something for the country that should be applied for and judged on a case by case basis. If it’s for themselves – whether business or personal – the taxpayer should not be paying.
If that’s not done then travel subsidies should only be paid for in retrospect after the claimant signs a declaration that they are abiding by the rules.