Vernon Small at Stuff reports:
Sacked NZ First MP Brendan Horan is defending his use of a parliamentary phone to ring a TAB bet line, saying it was personal use that was allowed.
But his former leader Winston Peters says that is “humbug” and such use was outside the rules.
Records seen by The Dominion Post show Mr Horan used his taxpayer-funded parliamentary mobile phone to call a TAB phonebet number 12 times in the space of about four hours on Saturday afternoon, April 28.
In the records, which covered a less than one month period, he called the bet line on nine other occasions.
Mr Horan said he was entitled to call who he wanted but did not deny the calls to the TAB.
He has strongly denied having a gambling problem, and has also rejected allegations he took money from his dying mother.
He said he did not have his phone records so had no way of confirming it. “Look up the rules; people can use their phones for anything.
“There is fringe benefit and people can use their phones for a certain amount of private business. Whatever I use my phone for is my private business.”
But Mr Peters yesterday said that was “humbug”.
“That’s not private business is it? If you’re ringing up your husband or your wife or your children, that’s understood to be legit, that’s private business. How could that be?”
The issue of Horan using his mobile phone is a red herring. You don’t sack an MP from your party because of some calls to the TAB from his mobile. Horan is correct that there is no restriction on what numbers MPs can call from their phones. It is interesting that Peters is releasing what is normally private information on Horan to discredit him.
Meanwhile, respected New Plymouth horse trainer John Wheeler yesterday said Mr Horan would ring him maybe five or six times a year, often to check on weather conditions when he was planning to dive for crayfish, and would ask about how certain horses were going.
“He did not strike me as a guy with a [gambling] problem.”
He had never seen Mr Horan put a bet on and from their conversation had struck him as “a $5 each way kind of bloke”.
He had not seemed obsessed, though he knew his horses well.
“Either he had a good memory or he did a lot of study.”
He did not think ringing the betting line 12 times in one day was out of the ordinary.
Wheeler would himself place small bets and may call six times on one day.
For my 2c, I think 12 calls in four hours does indicate a potential gambling problem. But that is not even the issue. The issue is whether he took money from his mother’s bank account without permission to gamble with.
On 3 News last night Patrick Gower said Horan “doesn’t deny ringing the TAB or putting a few bets on with his mother“.
So I think what we have is that bank records will show Horan took money from his mother’s account and gambled it at the TAB. However his defence will be that they were bets either on behalf of his mother or joint bets with his mother.
I don’t see that there is an easy way to prove or disprove whether or not his mother authorised the bets, but here’s what Id be looking for.
- Did she have a history of gambling at the TAB herself?
- When there were winnings from a race, who got them – just Horan or did some go back to his mum?
- Do phone records show frequent calls between Horan and his mum, which might indicate they were discussing bets?
If Horan can show some history of his mum being an active gambler herself, then his defence may have credibility. However I would still make the point that if, as indicated, her wealth dropped by almost $100,000 over a couple of years – it is not exactly a good look to have enabled this.