One moment, Labour’s three leadership aspirants are being criticised for using tax-payer funds to fly around the country campaigning.
The next, Trevor Mallard comes up with a distraction:
. . . Hon Trevor Mallard: Has Housing New Zealand given any advice to Ministerial Services as to how to recover approximately $10,800 which was not paid when he squatted for over 6 weeks in a $2 million house owned by Ministerial Services?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: When I resigned as a Minister last year, myself and my family stayed in the ministerial house until the end of that term for my kids who were attending school in Wellington. Ministerial Services gave me consent to leave my personal belongings there until I established a new flat in Hill Street. I would note that it has long been the practice where Ministers resign—and as occurs when there is a change of Government, such as after the 2008 election—that families are given a reasonable amount of time to move. The time when my family moved out was less than 2 weeks after I resigned. . .
Mallard is entitled to be called Honourable but there’s nothing honourable about his behaviour.
A farm worker who lives on the job and is sacked, or resigns, is entitled to a period of grace to find somewhere else to live.
MPs families put up with a lot and expecting them to find and shift to new accommodation immediately upon a change of circumstances is ridiculous.
As the supplementary question which followed from Prime Minister John Key showed, he extended far more courtesy to his predecessor than Mallard’s questions suggests should be permitted:
Rt Hon John Key: Is it true that when National became the Government in 2008, I said to the outgoing then Prime Minister that she should feel free to stay at Premier House as long as she wanted, without rent, to allow a smooth transition and to allow her to pack up with her family?
. . . Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The attitude I have felt consistently from the Prime Minister, whether it was for the families and members opposite when they ceased to be Ministers or my own experience, was one of sympathy for Ministers’ families. I had children at school in Wellington, and I appreciated the Prime Minister’s office allowing those children to stay at school for the 2 weeks to the end of term.
The question also provided the opportunity for a finger to be pointed back at Labour:
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you would be able to assist the Opposition in its quest to gain these efficiencies for the State by perhaps ruling that if a Leader of the Opposition publicly announces their intention to relinquish that position, and then fails to turn up to Parliament, that they may not also claim the ministerial salary and various other entitlements that go with that job?
Nick Smith did the honourable thing by resigning when he did and his behaviour following that resignation was exemplary.
Unlike David Shearer who has announced his resignation as Labour leader and who’s taking three weeks holiday to lick his wounds, the Nelson MP carried on with electorate work and parliamentary duties on relinquishing his ministerial warrant. He also earned his reinstatement.
Mallard is just playing hey-look-over-there in the hope that it will distract attention from Labour’s prolonged leadership campaign and the costs of that which are being foisted on the taxpayer.
In doing so, he’s once again shown that Labour wants tough protections for workers because it judges employers by its own low standards.
He’s also crossed the line, which MPs do at their peril, by bringing family matters into House.
Keeping Stock has a video of the exchange.