The Dom Post reports:
A National minister used her taxpayer-funded travel perk for a trip to China with her husband where he did a business deal that later turned sour.
Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong has been under fire since it was revealed she signed herself “Minister of NZ Govt”, and her address as “Parliament Buildings, Wellington NZ”, when she witnessed a contract between Pacific Hovercraft NZ and China-based Lianyungang Supreme Hovercraft during her trip to China in January last year.
Parliament’s rules expressly forbid MPs from using their private travel perk to pursue their own or their spouse’s private business interests.
But Mrs Wong’s office insisted last night that the purpose of the trip to China was a holiday. …
There was no issue with either of them using the perk as they were on holiday, she said. While business documents were signed during the trip, “that wasn’t the aim of their holiday”.
I think the Minister may be on shaky ground here. The aim of a trip is subjective. Whether or not business was done on a trip is objective, and it seems clear there was.
Now one can argue about whether or not one business deal as part of a trip that is mainly holiday, turns it into a business trip. What if the business only took up 5% of the holiday? Or 10%?
But in reality I think that doing any business on a trip (unless utterly trivial such as signing some documents faxed to your hotel) will render the trip ineligible for use of the travel perk.
I don’t know the precise details on this issue, but my gut reaction is that the cost of the travel should be repaid if business was done on the trip. The intent is not what counts – it is what happened on the trip.
UPDATE: The above was written at 9 am and set to appear at 1 pm. The media are now reporting she has been stood down.