Editorials 26 February 2010

First the Herald on Heatley:

There is absolutely no question that had to resign from his ministerial posts. The Prime Minister’s suggestion that the Whangarei MP was being too hard on himself was wide of the mark.

The Dom Post is not so harsh:

The shock at Parliament was palpable yesterday following Phil Heatley’s resignation as minister of housing and fisheries.

Not that a minister had resigned, but that a minister had given up his ministerial home, car and $243,700 salary over such a trifling matter as two bottles of wine. …

Only the stonehearted would not feel a measure of sympathy. There are few who could lay their hands on their hearts and honestly say they have not, at some point, titivated their expenses – which may explain why Labour, despite its blustering, passed up the opportunity to grill Mr Heatley during question time on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Mr Heatley has done the right thing. …

Mr Heatley is not the first minister to confuse personal and public expenditure. He is just the first to be caught for a while.

He has belatedly shown himself to be an honourable member. Fellow politicians thinking “there but for a paper trail go I” would be wise to open the system to public scrutiny before another of their number falls victim to it.

And the Press says Heatley had to go:

Key discovered that the expenses claim for the wine listed the purchase as “dinner” and that the credit card receipt was notated as “food and beverage”. These were incorrect as there was no food involved.

This inconsistency might seem like a technicality or an inadvertent error, rather than a reason for resigning. But whenever ministers spend public money they must be scrupulous about how they account for it and Heatley had little choice but to tender his resignation.

The ODT focuses on the :

entered the EU in the early 1980s and joined the euro in 2000.

Riding on a wave of national pride and new-found prosperity, capped by the ambitious and hugely expensive 2004 Olympic Games, the Greek people and their government alike went on credit-based spending sprees – living beyond their means. …

For now, the euro-honeymoon for Greece is well and truly over – and other European leaders will be regarding with anxiety the potential for a domino effect in the similarly indebted and stalled economies of Portugal, Italy and Spain.

For observers on this side of the world, the lessons are clear: reduce budget deficits (New Zealand’s tends to run at a high 8-9% of GDP), close tax loopholes, and keep a lid on public sector spending now – or face the prospect of more radical action further down the track.

Labour and the unions should take note.

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