Te Heuheu to retire

May 10, 2011

National cabinet Minister Georgina te Heuheu has announced she will retire from parliament at the end of this term.

“Now is a good time to go. The National Party is in good heart. It has strong leadership. The National Government has outlined a credible programme for New Zealand’s future, and it’s now time for family and friends.

“I came in under MMP at a time when the National Government had embarked on an ambitious programme to settle Treaty injustices and to work to lift Māori participation in the economy and society. I’m proud to have been part of this key policy direction as I strongly believe it has set the course for a strong and enduring future for all New Zealanders.

“I have had 15 great years as a Member of the National Party Caucus. I have served under three Prime Ministers. Jim Bolger was Prime Minister when I came in and I have had the privilege to serve twice in Cabinet, first under Jenny Shipley and now under John Key.

“During that time I have had the opportunity of contributing to some very challenging issues that go to the heart of who we are as New Zealanders, including promoting the reconciliation of the interests of Māori and their fellow New Zealanders.

“I’ve endeavoured to do this by promoting reasoned debate and hopefully, exercising a degree of calm, and quiet determination.

“I am very proud to have served in the current Cabinet in this term. John Key has a very keen sense of what it takes to build a dynamic, inclusive society and I’ll be working hard up to the election to ensure he gets the chance to carry that leadership on for our country.

“I also hope New Zealanders give him a good mandate to pursue a vision for New Zealand that recognises that every New Zealander has an important role to play in building a strong nation.

“Politics is a brutal game at times. I have tried to focus on the issues rather than personalities. Politics can be all-encompassing and often you forget there are other things in life.

“I know there are other challenges out there, but for now I’m looking forward to going home and enjoying my family. I only hope they’re looking forward to the same thing.”

Mrs te Heuheu entered parliament as a list MP in the first MMP election in 1996.

She was the first Maori woman to gain a law degree from Victoria University and  and be admitted to the High Court as Barrister and Solicitor.

She practised law in Wellington and Rotorua before becoming an MP.

Her career in politics saw her become the first Maori woman to gain election as an MP for the National Party; the first Maori woman to chair the Maori Affairs Select Committee, and only the second Maori woman to be appointed to a New Zealand Cabinet.

Her ministerial portfolios from 1998 to 1999 were Minister of Women’s Affairs, Associate Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Minister of Health.

She is now Minister for Courts, Pacific Island Affairs, Disarmament and Arms Control and Associate Minister of Maori Affairs.

Prime Minister John Key said:

“I want to thank Georgina for the contribution she has made in her career in national politics over the last 15 years, and also for her public service in a myriad of other roles.

“In particular I want to record my appreciation for the role Mrs te Heuheu has played over the years in helping to grow the relationship between iwi and the National Party,” says Mr Key.

Two other ministers, Simon Power and Wayne Mapp, have announced they are retiring at the end of this term; Richard Worth and Pansy Wong have already stood down and Coromandel MP Sandra Goudie has announced she will retire in November too.

Having a turn over of Ministers and MPs is good for the health of the party. It makes it much easier to refresh caucus and cabinet without putting any noses out of joint.


Ministry’s role not to narrow choice

December 18, 2010

Among John Armstrong’s awards for the year is:

The Tammy Wynette “Stand by your Man” Award: Pansy Wong for demonstrating what she really thought of her former role as Minister of Women’s Affairs by putting her husband, Sammy, first, her career second

 Armstrong misunderstands the role of the Ministry. It’s not there to narrow choices for women but broaden them.

Its website says:

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is the Government’s source of advice on issues relevant to advancing the well-being of women. This encompasses women having real choices and using their strengths to maximise social and economic success.  

There is a perception, which I think Armstrong illustrates, that women who choose to put family before a career are somehow letting themselves, and other women down.

But if  the Ministry’s actions match its words it will not be prising open the door to new roles and opportunities for women with one hand while slamming shut the door to traditional ones with the other.

I regard the Ministry as one of the low hanging fruit which could be picked to reduce the red in the government’s books. But if it is successful in its aim to help women have real choices, the Ministry will acknowledge and be equally supportive of those who choose to put family before a career as those who don’t.


Robust politics or personal persecution? UPDATE: Pansy resigns

December 14, 2010

A media advisory gives notice that Botany MP Pansy Wong will be holding a press conference this morning.

Could it possibly have anything to do with the Pansy Facts website launched by Labour?

Labour has said the investigation into the use of travel subsidies by Pansy and her husband Sammy wasn’t thorough enough and that it should be investigated by the Auditor General.

Auditor General Lyn Provost is expected to announce this week whether or not she will do anything.

Had the call for an investigation been ignored or turned down there might be a case for Labour’s continued attacks on the MP.

But when an investigation is still under consideration the efforts they’re going to look more like personal persecution than robust politics.

Hat Tip: NBR

UPDATE: The media release form the conference says:

Pansy Wong, MP for Botany, has today announced her intention to resign from Parliament following 14 years of public service.

 “This was my decision. I have not taken it lightly but I feel now is the right time for me to step down,” Mrs Wong says.

 “Over the past month, I have felt that the allegations directed at me have been a distraction to the Government and have put undue pressure on my family and friends. I strongly refute these allegations and do not want to tie-up the Government’s and my time continuing to do so.

 “I want to ensure the National-led Government can progress its agenda without unnecessary distractions.”

 Mrs Wong said it was a privilege to be the MP for Botany and she thanked her constituents for their support and patience.

 “I believe Botany is the best electorate in the country. They deserve an MP who is able to fully focus on their needs.

 “The past 14 years have passed without me having time to stop and reflect. But the past three weeks have given me the opportunity to do so, and it will forever weigh on my conscience that my continuing political pursuit has placed huge demands and constraints on my husband. I have decided this will no longer be the case.

 “It is also time for me to turn a new page in my life’s journey to focus on personal and family priorities.”

 Mrs Wong’s resignation is effective from 17 January 2011, but she has made the decision not to receive any salary or personal entitlements from 20 December to the effective day.

 “I have timed my resignation to ensure that the by-election will not impact on the holiday break of my Botany constituents, and I have also taken into account the work agenda of the National-led Government,” Mrs Wong says.

 “I am looking forward to spending more time with my husband Sammy, and my extended family, who have been a great support to me during my career in Parliament.”

 Mrs Wong wishes to deliver her valedictory speech this afternoon, subject to the leave of the House.

I am very sorry about this and admire the way she has put her constituents and the government first.


ipredict picks Parata for Cabinet – updated

December 6, 2010

Hekia Parata is the most likely to replace Pansy Wong as a Minister according to ipredict.

She’s given a 97.52% chance of becoming a Minister.

Other picks are: Simon Bridges 2.74%; Chris Tremain 2.48%; Craig Foss 2.48% and Amy Adams 1.74%.

Pansy Wong’s chance of getting back into Cabinet are rated at 1.34%.

UPDATE:

ipredict was right:

Prime Minister John Key today announced that Hekia Parata is to be appointed a Minister in Cabinet.

“Ms Parata takes over the Ethnic Affairs and Women’s Affairs portfolios previously held by Pansy Wong. She will also be Associate Minister for ACC, of Energy and Resources and for the Community and Voluntary Sector,” Mr Key says.

Ms Parata’s role as Associate Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector follows discussions with Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Tariana Turia, who requested an associate in this portfolio. It is no longer considered necessary to have an associate in Mrs Turia’s Disability Issues portfolio.

Ms Parata will be sworn in on Wednesday afternoon by Her Excellency the Administrator of the Government.

“Ms Parata has a strong background in the public service and has also been a successful businesswoman.

“Her competence and ability were highlighted by the excellent result she achieved for the National Party in the recent Mana by-election, after running an outstanding campaign.

This is a swift promotion after only two years in parliament but it is well deserved.


Report confirms wisdom of decision to end travel perk

December 3, 2010

The independent investigation found no systemic abuse of the  MPs’ travel rebate by Pansy Wong and her husband Sammy.

Speaker Lockwood Smith said:

“The investigation, conducted for the Parliamentary Service by former senior public servant Hugh McPhail, looked into 13 international trips made by Pansy Wong and her husband together or separately since 2000. It found that one trip, a flight from Beijing to Lianyungang, China in December 2008, could have been in breach of the Speaker’s Directions.

“The report notes that while this trip was unplanned and inadvertent, it could be construed as having been for a private business purpose. It recommends that Pansy Wong and her husband should repay the travel rebate for that trip of $237.06 each.

“Otherwise, the report found no evidence that Pansy and Sammy Wong had not com plied with the Speaker’s Directions regarding private international travel,” Dr Smith said.

The investigation also looked at the use of the electorate office as the registered address for a ocmpany and found no evidence the office was ever used for private business purposes.

What looked like a large bomb has turned in to a small cracker albeit a  very costly one for Pansy who said:

“I apologise, and I will refund the level of rebate attributable to the section of the trip, which amounts to $237.06 each for my husband and myself,” Mrs Wong says.

“The experience of the past three weeks is not something that I would want to repeat.

“I am grateful for the support I have received from family, friends, supporters, and colleagues during this difficult period. . .

“While it is my hope to return to Cabinet, I understand that it has to be earned, and my energy and focus now will be used to serve the people of Botany and promoting the interests of ethnic communities across our country. I am looking forward to returning to Parliament.”

This episode was the last straw which showed up the faults in the travel rebate scheme.

MPs should be paid a reasonable a mount for the work they do, there should be an open and transparent process for paying work-related travel costs and private travel costs should be their business paid from their own funds.

UPDATE: Kiwiblog has more which shows the length the Wongs went to to comply with the rules and avoid any conflict of interest.


Bad employers make bad policy

November 24, 2010

Labour has a penchant for employment policy which treats all employers as if they are like the minority of bad ones.

My theory that that’s because they judge others by their own low standards has been strengthened by another example:

Mr Goff today put pressure on Mr Key, saying he should make Mrs Wong front-up and explain, or sack her from National’s caucus.

Kiwiblog covers the hypocrisy of this in the wake of the way Labour has acted over misdeeds in its own caucus.

But there is more hypocrisy – Labour is the party which keeps telling us it’s the one which stands up for workers’ rights, among which is the right to fair process.

Yet here’s the leader calling for someone to be thrown out of caucus before the process is completed.

Imagine how he’d react if an employer tried to do that with a worker.

And oh how ironic that this call was made when employment law reforms, including a 90 day trial period for all new employees, are being opposed so strongly by Labour.


Travel rules, monitoring must change

November 13, 2010

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.


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