Is Labour breaking the rules again?

March 18, 2014

Matthew Beveridge is providing a comprehensive commentary on politicians’ use of social media and he’s noticed a possible breach of parliamentary guidelines:

In my recent post about Brand Consistency I talked about Labour and a lack of brand consistency in the emails listed on their candidate contact details page. I noticed one other thing, that I thought was worth its own blog post. . .

If you look closely at that screen grab, there are four Labour Party candidates on there whose contact details include an @parliament.govt.nz email address.

The Parliamentary Service has very strict rules on the use of Parliamentary Service resources for explicit electioneering. This is expanded on by the Parliamentary Service in their Publicity Guidelines:

“The prohibition on explicit electioneering extends to any use of Parliamentary Service funds. This includes phone services, postage, email, and staff time. “

So the question has to be asked, have the Labour Party and their MPs breached the rules by using Parliamentary Service resources? . . .

The candidates in question are sitting MPs who have a right to use the @parliament.govt.nz email address for their parliamentary duties.

But is it breaching Parliamentary Service rules to use it for campaigning?


MPs’ employment spats expensive

January 8, 2014

Spats between MPs and their staff are proving to be very expensive:

The Taxpayers’ Union has released figures showing that MPs are chewing through more than $65,000 per month on payouts to avoid messy employment grievances.

“While every other New Zealander must follow the letter of employment law, MPs are often ignoring it and having the poor taxpayer fund the resulting payouts,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“Many of the payouts result from MPs sacking staff on the spot. It appears that parliamentary officials offer generous settlements to avoid cases going to the Employment Relations Authority.”

The Taxpayers’ Union is aware of two examples of instant dismissal due to a minor party leader being unwilling to hear his employee’s response to minor allegations made by a colleague. The former employees were offered confidential payouts from Parliamentary Service well above what the individuals were advised they would be awarded in court.

“Parliamentary Service is effectively buying the silence of former staff, some of whom have been treated appallingly by MPs.”

“Parliamentary Service contracts include an instant dismissal clause when there is an ‘irreconcilable breakdown’ of the relationship with the employee’s MP. The legality of the clause is questionable and it appears that the Parliamentary Service offers these generous settlements to avoid them being challenged.”

The six months of severance pay figures total $395,941 and show the average payout is approximately $20,000.

Ministerial Services has refused to provide the equivalent information for ministerial staff. A complaint regarding that request is currently before the Ombudsman.

PARLIAMENTARY SEVERANCE PAYMENTS

Severance payments made to former parliamentary (non-ministerial) staff in the 6 months ending 13 November 2013.

• Support staff working directly to Members of Parliament: 11 payments totalling $122,935
• Other Parliamentary Staff: 9 payments totalling $273,006.

Paying employees to leave isn’t confined to parliamentary service.

It is usually the easiest and fastest way to solve a problem and it can be the cheapest.

However,  a large sum of public money has been spent on this way and the Taxpayers’ Union is right to question it.

If these payments are happening because MPs are doing wrong then that is a problem which must be addressed.

However, one of the questions that should be asked is whether it is the fault of the people involved or the laws under which they have to work?

It is very difficult to sack someone these days, even when they are not doing what they should be the way they should be doing it, creating more work and stress for other staff and the employer, and costing money through their incompetence.

Employees need protection from bad employers and MPs should not be responsible for wasting public money because they ignore employment law nor should they be leaving parliamentary services to clean up messes they have made.

However, good employers shouldn’t have to keep bad employees or pay large sums to compensate them for terminating their employment when they aren’t doing what they are paid to do to the standard required.


Campaigning with our money again

June 28, 2013

The left haven’t managed to get public funding of political parties but that hasn’t stopped them campaigning with our money.

Whaleoil spotted Labour and Green Party  soliciting votes for their candidates in the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election on material which bears the parliamentary crest that signifies it’s been paid for by us.

You’d think they’d have learned from the pledge card rort.

All parties found to have misused funds in the investigation following that had to repay that money and these two parties should be required to repay all money misspent on the by-election too.


Information or persuasion, parliamentary or political?

July 11, 2011

Providing information to or seeking it from constituents could be a legitimate part of an MP’s parliamentary work and therefore should be publicly funded.

But persuasion is political work and should be funded by polticial parties not the public.

Labour’s asserton they  didn’t intend to breach the Electoral Act is difficult to believe.

Equally troubling is the fact that Parliamentary Services okayed the payment  for the offending stop asset sales signs.

Nobody is suggesting that funding breaches any rules which means the rules are still far too lenient.

Some, perhaps almost all, of an MP’s parliamentary work could also be political but campaigning is definitely political not parliamentary and the public should not be funding that.

 


The trouble with volunteers

June 12, 2011

Whaleoil has come across Labour Party  emails, finan­cial details, party plan­ning infor­ma­tion and mem­ber­ship data among which is the minutes of a meeting of Labour North which say:

The meeting was reminded of the successes and achievements of the LN collective – in fundraising and public meetings. The role of the office and MP were clarified, noting these add value to the collective, and to use Parliamentary services for best outcome for the LP.

The Herald On Sunday asked MP Darien Fenton, who was at the meeting about this:

She said minutes of meetings were taken by volunteers and could contain errors.

However, she conceded that there had been pressure to use the Parliamentary staff member for party business.

“It has been an area of tension. It is an ongoing discussion with them about how we protect the role of the staff member and the MP. . .”

The trouble with volunteers is that they do sometimes get carried away with their enthusiasm and they might make errors.

However, MPs should be very well aware of the very clear division between what Parliamentary Services staff and funds do on behalf of constituents and what a party and its members do for political ends.

An MP who was taking part in campaign discussions should have left the meeting and the minute taker in no doubt at all that Parliamentary Services had absolutely no role in any outcomes for the Labour Party.


An oath in any other language

December 6, 2008

The complaint by Labour’s new Managere MP Sua William Sio  because he can’t be sworn into parliament in Samoan had the talk back callers running hot yesterday.

I agree that Parliamentary Services is not being unreasonable. New Zealand has three official languages, English, Maori and sign, MPs are sworn in three at a time and it would take too much time if other languages were used.

Most callers used this argument but there was a distrubing number who were simply racist and used this story to exercise their prejudice.

However, there was a glimmer of hope. Most noted that Maori is an official language and it would be acceptable to use it and I suspect that level of acceptance wouldn’t have been evident a few years ago.


Who’s right?

October 25, 2008

I had just finished reading a Kiwiblog post on the story behind the trust which received $78,000 from New Zealand First when TV One’s news came on.

Kiwiblog says the trust was set up a couple of months after Winston Peters announced his party had donated to charities the $158,000 they owed the tax payer; that two of Peters’ lawyers are trustees and:

There is no reference to Susan Couch in the trust deed, except being the name of the trust. Couch is not listed as the Patron, and the three Trustees have total power over the Trust.  She is not listed specifically as a beneficiary either. Again the Trustees have total discretion over who the money goes to (so long as within the objects), and Couch has no rights or say at all. So the Herald is wrong when they say it is “A trust for Susan Couch”.

That doesn’t mean the trust can’t give her money, but there’s a difference in a trust for someone and a trust from which someone may benefit.

However,  TV 1 says:

A trust for Susan Couch received money that was supposed to be paid back to parliamentary services for New Zealand First’s overspending in the 2005 election campaign, but was instead given to charity.

“I’m not sure what the exact figure is, but obviously I’m not going to say no and this money benefits,” Couch says.

“It’s a victim of crime fund, so it will benefit many people,”

That’s a little vague – does it mean she’s actually got some money, or just that she knows the trust has money it could give her?

I’m not doubting her need. She was the victim of an horrific crime and is unable to work because of the injuries she received. But Peters has used her for political ends and chose to donate money to a trust rather than repay the debt he owes the public.

That makes it a story of public interest and the TV news version appears to be at odds with the information on Kiwiblog.


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