Robust politics or personal persecution? UPDATE: Pansy resigns

14/12/2010

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.


Report confirms wisdom of decision to end travel perk

03/12/2010

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.


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