All about Heatley

February 26th, 2010 at 6:28 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

It isn’t the amount of money that is at issue; it is that the declaration was inaccurate. Its inaccuracy raises questions of honesty and trust that should never have to be asked of a Cabinet minister.

Rather than immediately sacking him, the Prime Minister intended temporarily standing Heatley down from his portfolio responsibilities. This was a compromise position which made allowances for human fallibility on Heatley’s part, while at the same time calling in the Audit Office to run a fine tooth-comb through all the expenses he had claimed in the 15 months or so that he was a minister.

But John Key was seemingly gazumped by Heatley’s desire to resign altogether. That is the unusual feature of this resignation. Usually the minister is pleading with the Prime Minister to stay in the job.

Key urged Heatley to “sleep on it” before handing in his ministerial warrant. Significantly, that gesture did not extend to refusing to accept Heatley’s resignation. That is telling. It suggests although the Prime Minister is not ruling out Heatley’s return to the Cabinet, there is not much optimism that the Audit Office probe will not reveal further shortcomings with the ex-minister’s expenses.

Heatley’s route back to the Cabinet will require that everything is squeaky clean. It also presumes he wants his job back. Heatley’s statement about needing to spend a long time on National’s backbenches suggests he realises that is not going to happen.

I have commented at NBR along similiar lines;

For Heatley to return to Cabinet after resigning, he would need to have the Auditor-General provide an unqualified report with no finding of any fault at all. It is difficult to believe that the public sector watchdog will find that it is okay to describe a purchase of alcohol only, as a food or a meal.

Claire Trevett observes:

So it is that National finds the full truth of the maxim that “wine and women bring misery”.

Former minister Richard Worth resigned over rumours about women. Now resigns over two bottles of wine. It was not a pretty sight. …

Small and Watkins in the Dom Post reveal:

But documents issued yesterday show Mr Heatley was warned on several occasions about providing all the paperwork needed.

In July and September, Mr Heatley was told by a Ministerial Services manager: “Due to the scrutiny that credit cards attract we would like to remind you that all records are open to review and should comply with the five expenditure principles … of the Ministerial Office handbook.”

While this was not about the two bottles of wine, it should have still served as a warning to the Minister and his staff, that one had to be very careful in this area.

Colin Espiner blogs:

I don’t think Heatley deliberately tried to mislead anyone, for the record. I think he genuinely didn’t understand the rules, or the political consequences of breaking them. But that’s still his responsibility, and proffering his resignation was the right course of action.

Key will be annoyed and embarrassed by this, but not overly concerned. Heatley was by all accounts a competent and hard-working minister, but there are others in National’s ranks who will do an equally competent job.

My money’s on Chris Tremain, the hard-working and capable Napier MP and chief whip to replace Heatley and take his housing portfolio. I’d leave fisheries with David Carter, since it’s a good fit with agriculture.

The issue of who will be the new Minister is an interesting one. It is possible no appointments will be for a while, but there are three possible courses of actions:

  1. No new Minister is appointed, and portfolios just reallocated. Carter is an obvious choice for fisheries. Housing is a tougher fit, as it is a quite time intensive portfolio.
  2. A Minister outside Cabinet is promoted to Cabinet (almost certainly Nathan Guy) and an MP is promoted to be a Minister outside Cabinet. If this happens, it is possible Guy could pick up Housing (so it is represented within Cabinet) and the new Minister picks up Internal Affairs.
  3. A backbench MP is promoted directly into Cabinet, possibly taking both of Heatley’s portfolios.

It is possible Key will use the vacancy to do a minor reallocation of portfolios also. The main interest however will be on which backbench MP gets made a Minister.

The consensus is it will be one of the two Hawke’s Bay MPs – Napier’s Chris Tremain and Tukituki’s Craig Foss. I think that is quite correct. They both hold one of the twp jobs which almost inevitably leads to becoming a Minister – Chief Government Whip and Chairman of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

There isn’t anything much between the two MPs, and friends. And whichever one doesn’t make it this time, is pretty certain to be the next one through the time after. They are both judged to be “Minister ready”.

If iPredict does a stock on who it will be, I’d probably put a small bit of money on Foss, purely because Tremain’s role as Chief Whip is quite integral to the smooth running of the Government, and his promotion means you need a new Chief Whip, and if Jo Goodhew moves into that role then you need a new Junior Whip, and if they are a Select Committee Chair, a new Select Committee Chair.

A promotion for Foss is less disruptive. The Deputy Chair of the F&E Select Committee is Amy Adams, and she would be more than capable of steping up to be Chair, with Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga a likely replacement Deputy Chair.

As I said though, it could easily be either one of them.

18 Responses to “All about Heatley”

  1. tvb (5,510 comments) says:

    That is the cruelty of politics. When ever someone goes overboard, either death or resignation there is always someone, often better, waiting in the wings for their turn. And very quickly the person overboard is forgotten and we focus on the new person with hope and anticipation.

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  2. tvb (5,510 comments) says:

    PS In due course there will be a new Minister and a minor moving up of the ranks. John Key is anxious to give the new talent a go and get them moving upwards. I suspect John Key is watching the performance of his Ministers very closely especially Anne Tolley. I doubt the John Key will tolerate woefully inadequate performance beyond 6 months. Replacing her with say Stephen Joyce will be hard for Ann but again 2-3 days of bad press over that, is nothing compared with months of bad press from inadequate performance. This sort of calculation will be going on in the PM’s mind with all his Ministers.

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  3. sonic (2,020 comments) says:

    What an overreaction, just because he committed fraud by falsifying an official document for his own personal, financial gain everyone is getting all grumpy!

    Lets remember when Labour used to (insert example here)

    Two wrongs do after all make a right!

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  4. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (773 comments) says:

    Stop trying to spin this David.

    Heatley deserved to go. Really there is one rule with company credit cards. DONT PUT PERSONAL SHIT ON THEM

    there is that so very hard. Claiming personal expenditure on the company dime is theft. Its not a “mistake” to put the wrong card on the table.

    If you really want to argue that its a mistake, then you really have to acknowledge you are dealing with someone with the IQ of a rock.

    Being a Minister does not give anyone the entitlement to have their entertainment expenses covered. Full stop.

    Now personally I have a pretty liberal approach to the entertainment thing. We live in a grown-up world, you need to do it, and to reciprocate as appropriate. But the rules are simple. Work related. Entertainment must be with external business contacts. THe reason, who, why, where and what needs to be recorded. and the people processing it have the absolute right to ask questions.

    That said, accountability is key, and Heatley has clearly done the right thing. I imagine a lot of his colleagues on both sides of the House are squirming a bit at the moment. If the Labour Party showed the same integrity, I imagine their entire front bench would be shifting offices this arvo.

    [DPF: For fucks sake did you even read what I blogged. Where have I said Heatley should not go?]

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  5. david (2,340 comments) says:

    How many organisations have the following breakdowns for expense accounting (often there will be domestic and international subcategories for each because of FBT etc)

    Air travel
    Ground travel (taxis trains etc)
    Food & Beverage
    Client Entertainment

    I would have lost count of the number of receipts coded to F&B which contained food but no beverage, or beverage but no food or both food and beverage.

    Can’t see the distinction really but then Government seems to have its own arcane rules that bear no relationship with the real world.

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  6. RRM (12,553 comments) says:

    All the emphasis about “the fraud wasn’t all that large really” and “at least he did the right thing” is noted. If this was an MP of the evil Liarbore party everyone here would be screaming blue fucking murder. Heatley = filthy fucking thieving, cavalier little rich prick National Party trougher. Just in case any of you were dumbly one-eyed enough to think that troughing / not troughing was somehow divided on party lines.

    To all you screaming “Right Good, Left Bad” cocksuckers who insist and insist and insist that ONLY the evil Liarbore are corrupt troughers, and the Blue-eyed boys of the Rich Prick party can do no wrong, Heatley just called BULLSHIT.

    So Fuck You All. Read of your own slime and fucking WEEP, nutjobs. Then go lynch one of your own fucking dirty troughers for a change. If you are honest about your ideals and not just sycophantic, faithful little Liarnational cocksuckers. Or would that be too upsetting to these masturbatory little cheer-leading “National-is-good-Liarbore-is-bad”-fests?

    [DPF: 20 demmerits for cock suckers]

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  7. RRM (12,553 comments) says:

    And Sonic’s far more temperate comments, x2.

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  8. Manolo (21,991 comments) says:

    Heatley is no different to other politicians, socialists and neo-socialists, caught with their snouts in the trough. In fact, a trougher is what he is. He made a grave mistake and it’s only fair he pays the political price for it.

    If a Minister of the Crown does not know which credit card to use when on duty, then NZ is utterly doomed.
    Regardelss of political affiliation, corruption is corruption and fraud is fraud.

    There is no way for the National party sycophants to spin this.

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  9. suzie q (25 comments) says:

    Espiner puts money on Chris Tremain to be Housing Minister. I have no doubts he could do a good job, but surely his ties with Tremain Real Estate would be viewed as a conflict of interest. I guess if Chris was made a Minister there would be some portfolio shuffling.

    I agree with Farrar as well about the disruption promoting Chris would cause, this was seen with the changes that had to occur when Nathan Guy became a Minister.

    It will be interesting to see which Select Committee Mr Heatley gets assigned to…

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  10. RRM (12,553 comments) says:

    [DPF: 20 demmerits for cock suckers]

    Fair enough, I’d demerit me for that too. But I’m damned angry about this issue. See you in a couple of weeks.

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  11. Nefarious (533 comments) says:

    What Manolo said but with more cussing and narcissistic rage.

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  12. cha (6,209 comments) says:

    Almost teary over a two bottles of wine, nah, close to blubbing about something else though and a pretty fucking big something else too, I reckon.

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  13. Megatron (190 comments) says:

    They should audit credit card spending of every MP. Watch the mass exodus if they do.
    I bet most MP’s are nervous knowing they have done the same.

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  14. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    There is surely more to this than meets the eye.

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  15. Richard Hurst (1,226 comments) says:


    Unemployment at over 7%. Kiwi dollar still sky high. GST set to rise to 15% in order to lower income and company tax. Central govt for the first time considering terminating a regional council (Ecan) and replacing it with an unelected commission. Police facing more violent crime. ETS now in effect in the forestry industry etc etc. All very big issues any one of which I would have thought the media, the govt, the opposition, the public in general would be taking about a lot. But no.
    What are we talking about? A credit card receipt for two bottles of wine which had been claimed as food.

    Oh dear.

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  16. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    May have to get used to it Richard, we have become a trivial society. Heatley’s press coverage will probably fade a lot quicker then Tiger’s, but hey, he’s only local and probably not even a self acclaimed “celebrity”.

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  17. KevinH (1,751 comments) says:

    Obviously Heatley hasn’t got the goods required around the cabinet table and his demise over a couple of bottles of wine is the lynchpin to get him out the door. Life must be getting tough in cabinet and quite possibly the bullies are in ascendence. Tolley also has had the hard word and so far has survived so the question is whose next?

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  18. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Shouldn’t we be picking ministers according to their portfolio knowledge. Housing is actually a fairly important portfolio at the moment. We have got very few new houses getting built and you can see Auckland reaching 2 million people by 2030. How we go about tackling this problem is important to our economic future.

    in Auckland I know Housing NZ decisions have fairly large consequences for local communities so I am not sure selecting ministers from rural areas to try and sort out an essentially urban problem is agood idea. Paula Bennett , who seems to be making a reasonable fist of her portfolio was given MSD for precisely her knowledge of the issues.

    Picking someone because they are next in line does not seem a smart move to me. Picking a PI or maori from Auckland ?

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