The Wong Report

The report by Hugh McPhail on behalf of The Parliamentary Service over travel by Pansy and Sammy Wong is here. It is 46 pages long. McPhail worked in the public service from 1970 to 2008, retiring as a senior manager at SSC.

His primary findings are:

  • There is no evidence of systemic abuse of the parliamentary international air travel entitlement by Pansy and Sammy Wong
  • There is evidence that the trip from Beijing to Lianyungang, China, in December 2008, involved activity by both Pansy and Sammy Wong that, although unplanned and inadvertent, could be construed as private business purposes, and I therefore recommend that they should each refund the level of rebate attributable to that trip, being $237.06 each
  • With regard to all of the other international trips investigated I have no reason to believe that Pansy and Sammy Wong have not acted in compliance with the conditions set out in the Speaker’s Directions regarding private international air travel
  • I have no reason to believe that Pansy and Sammy Wong have not acted in compliance with the conditions set out in the Speaker’s Directions regarding domestic air travel
  • There is no evidence that the use of the address 735 Chapel Road, Dannemora, Manukau as the registered address for two of Sammy Wong’s companies, has resulted in Pansy Wong’s electorate office, which is located in the building at that address, being used for commercial business purposes.

So it seems quite clear there will not be a by-election.

However I think it is unlikely Pansy will become a Minister again. The public don’t like a rotational policy to the Cabinet. And there are many other backbenches who have not yet had a chance at Cabinet.

The decision for Pansy is whether she wants to stand again for Botany, with no probability of being a Minister again.

Back to the report, a few extracts:

I would note that it is my impression that Sammy Wong’s business activities have been consciously limited, with priority given to his wife’s political career and the need to minimise potential conflicts of interest.

And:

  • Sammy Wong’s overall business interests have been consciously limited, and are primarily located in New Zealand, with his Chinese business interests limited to the hovercraft company in Lianyungang
  • Sammy Wong has paid for his own travel where it has related to his private business interests
  • Pansy Wong has herself no private business interests that are likely to raise issues in relation to the parliamentary rebate.

The reports reviews the total subsided international air travel since 2003. For Pansy Wong it is $27,000 against the average for an MP of $60,000. And Sammy Wong’s travel is also below the average for a spouse – $26,000 against the average of $49,000.

With the trip in question that attracted all the attention, the review finds the trip was primarily holiday – in fact to follow on Little Pumpkin and her grandmother and see how they were doing. The travel to Lianyungang was an extra cost of only $263.40 each – which is the amount be be refunded at 90%.

There seems little doubt that there was no systemic rorting – that in fact normally Sammy was quite careful about keeping the business travel separately funded. They did inappropriately mix it on one occasion – and Pansy has paid a big price for that.

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