Advice for MPs

There has been quite a lot of comment about how it would be a shame if people were scared off becoming MPs due to having been in etc in the past – because there are inevitably disputes in any business.

I agree this is a concern, but the solution here – and my advice for MPs – is to keep their business in the past so it won’t be a factor.

Taking David Parker as an issue. If the false returns all happened before he became an MP then he would still be a Minister (maybe not AG though as that must be squeaky clean). But his problem was he was filing false returns while still an MP.

Now I think any MP who keeps up significant business interests once they are an MP is in significant danger of ending up in trouble like David Parker. Once you are an MP – it is now a relatively well paid fulltime job – you should remove yourself from active business dealings. Not saying sell your businesses, but put someone else in to manage them. Many of the problems MPs have had of late is due to them doing non MP stuff as an MP.

John Tamihere came a cropper because he could not let go of his old Waipareira Trust Board and was trying to still run it from Parliament. Donna Awatere-Huata was running an educational trust while an MP. Owen Jennings was at least passively associated with a pyramid scheme. Tuku Morgan stayed on the payroll and involved with Aotearoa TV after becoming an MP.

One school of thought is you can keep significant outside interests so long as you behave well with them. This is true but the problem is that few people ever think they are doing something a bit dodgy or inappropriate. And that lack of judgement becomes a major issue if you are sitting of Representatives at the same time. It is far less of an issue if it related to activities before you became an MP (unless you lie about it in the House).

For my 2c the better course of action for MPs is over six months or so, remove themselves from their outside interests. Sure stay on your local school board of trustees, and keep an interest in your old firms etc but do not try and be both an MP and running outside interests. It is near inevitable that will come a cropper by staying on as Chair of the Maori Commission for 18 months while an MP. He should get out before he has to explain why some scandal at the MFC is not really his fault.

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