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Ministers—Westpac Hospitality

Tuesday 7 June 2011 Hansard source (external site)

Norman1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Does he stand by his comments that there is nothing wrong with Ministers accepting hospitality from the Government’s banker, Westpac?

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Does he have any concerns about ministerial staff accepting the corporate hospitality of Westpac; if not, why not?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I expect them to act carefully, in a considered manner, and, even though they are not bound by the Cabinet Manual, in the same way as is laid out in the Cabinet Manual.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Does he consider that public servants, such as staff from Treasury, should be able to enjoy the corporate hospitality of Westpac?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

That is a matter for the State Services Commissioner.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Can he guarantee that no ministerial staff seconded from Treasury have enjoyed the corporate hospitality of Westpac?

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Will he, then, follow up with the Minister of Finance as to whether any of his ministerial staff seconded from Treasury have been enjoying Westpac’s corporate boxes given that public servants are not supposed to accept such gifts?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

No—I think the edict was over the Rugby World Cup, not prior to that—in the same way that I will not be delving into that member’s mind to see whether he changed it on his views to America when he accepted free travel from the US State Department.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Would the Prime Minister have any concerns about Treasury staff receiving corporate gifts in the form of access to Westpac’s corporate boxes given that Treasury is the decision maker for the Government’s multimillion-dollar banking contract?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

No. I do not think the member is right. I think the process is being run by the Ministry of Economic Development. It will make a recommendation and that recommendation will go to Ministers, who are likely to base their decision on the recommendation. What I am fairly sure of is that we will not be following the suggestion at the Green Party conference that it goes to Kiwibank. That is because Kiwibank itself has come out and said that although it has the ambition it does not have the capability.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

If the final decision on the master banking contract is therefore in the hands of Ministers under the influence of ministerial advisers, does he have any concerns that both Ministers and ministerial advisers have been in receipt of corporate hospitality from Westpac?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Mr Speaker, I—

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know it is unusual to come to the defence of the Government at this time, but I think it is important that the question of undue influence of people on members of Parliament, even, in my suggestion, in their ministerial roles, is a suggestion that should not be made in this House.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

If I have inadvertently made an inference of undue influence, that was certainly not my intent. I am questioning the process of awarding the contract—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I will allow the member to repeat his question and to make sure that there is no implication of undue influence.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Does the Prime Minister accept that if, as he has just said, it is up to Ministers to make the decision about the allocation of the master banking contract, the public may rightly have concerns when they see Ministers receiving corporate hospitality from Westpac?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

No more than they would have concerns about Russel Norman going off to America, paid for by the US State Department. I do not really like the inference from the member, because it is without foundation. There are well set out guidelines in the Cabinet guidelines. There is also a pecuniary interests list. The member is simply making accusations to get on the front page of the paper, and I think the member can do better than that.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

I seek leave to table my pecuniary interests statement, where I made it transparent about the State Department gift, unlike—

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

—corporate gifts from Westpac.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Dr Russel Norman is very lucky that I do not take more serious action, because he knows I was on my feet. He kept speaking when there not a matter of a point of order. It started out as a point of order, and I fully accept that, but then he went on to matters beyond a point of order, and we do not table publications that are as readily available to all members, as pecuniary interests are.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to reflect when you have a moment on the comments made by Dr Norman. What he has said in the House this afternoon is that members are in breach—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Forgive me, but it was not a point of order that the Prime Minister was seeking to raise there. The questions, I accept, may have had implications, but because of that I allowed the answers to somewhat reflect on the questioner, which I may not have done under other circumstances. So I think the situation has balanced itself out. I think the questioner, in the answers received, had some of his actions questioned, and I think that is where the matter should rest at the moment. But I do urge members to be careful in asking questions to make sure they do not imply improper practice. I apologise, because I should have come down more heavily on the last supplementary question. I did err there in not making sure more quickly than I did that the question was rephrased.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not wish to prolong things, but it is against the Standing Orders for a member to deliberately mislead the House. The point I was going to make is that the member has actually made an accusation that people have deliberately misled the House.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I apologise, but members cannot use the Standing Orders procedure to accuse other members of deliberately misleading the House. There is a proper procedure for doing that. If the member has offended any individual members, they can make a personal explanation. There are other procedures, though, to be followed if it is believed that a member has deliberately and wilfully misled the House. There are other procedures to be followed on that; we do not use the Standing Orders procedure for that purpose.

PowerHon Simon Power Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As somebody who has declared in the pecuniary interests register that I received hospitality from Westpac, I do take offence at the comments made by the member that all members on this side of the House did not.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

If the member wishes to make a personal explanation he can seek leave to do that, but he cannot use the point of order process to make a political statement in the way he just has. The Standing Orders do not provide for members to do that; there is a procedure. If the member has been offended, he can seek leave to make a personal explanation.

PowerHon Simon Power Link to this

Which I just did.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

If the member is seeking—

PowerHon Simon Power Link to this

No, no, I am not seeking—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member cannot get to his feet on a point of order and claim someone has misled the House or claim he has been offended. He can seek leave to make a personal explanation if he believes that an unparliamentary statement was made; I have already dealt with that matter. I accept that I perhaps erred in not coming down rapidly enough on the questioner when he appeared to imply, in a question, possible inappropriate behaviour. If a member believes some other member has deliberately and wilfully misled the House, there is a procedure to go through for that; it is not the point of order process.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I have dealt with that point of order. Does the member have a new point of order?

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

I do, Mr Speaker. Just to clarify, at no point was I suggesting that—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member will resume his seat immediately. This is just abusing the Standing Orders of the House. We do not carry on a debate under a point of order. Members should be careful to not abuse the Standing Orders in the first place. I have already apologised to the House; I blame myself for letting things get to the point they did. I will watch more closely in the future.

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