Ridiculous criticism

Idiot/Savant at blogs:

Why are we paying for to stay in hotels in Auckland?

According to his latest Ministerial credit card receipts [PDF, p. 12], we paid for McCully to spend two nights at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland. The expense is justified as “accommodation during ”. This would be entirely uncontentious, except for one thing: McCully represents an Auckland electorate, and I am informed he is on the electoral roll there. Which means he has a home of his own to go to in Auckland. So again, why the hotel? …

Ministers are given credit cards to cover actual, reasonable and necessary expenses – not because they feel like spending a night of luxury on the taxpayer, or just can’t be arsed driving home.

I’m sorry but this is ridicolous. First of all staying for two nights in the Heritage hotel is not a night of luxury. I’ve stayed there as TVNZ put you up there if you are up for one of their shows. It is a very standard hotel. Nothing wrong with it, but not a luxury hotel.

As for why McCully was staying there for two nights, during the Rugby World Cup. Well he was the Minister in charge of a event which is broadcast to a billion people, and has overall revenues of hundreds of millions. At an event like that you could well have meetings starting very early and finishing late, plus a hotel room allows you to hold meetings in it.

I speak from experience. I was the Chair of the organising committee for the ICANN meeting in Wellington some years ago. This is a fraction of the size of the RCW, but was a fairly major event to host, as you had 500 – 700 Internet policy makers here. Despite living in Wellington, I stayed at the official host hotel of the Duxton (and if anyone calls that a luxury hotel, they have not been there often) as it was decided that the extra cost was fairly minimal in the context of the importance of smooth management, which was having all the key decision makers staying together so that as issues arose, decisions could be made quickly.

In the context of an almost billion dollar events like the RWC, a decision by the Minister to spend two nights in the Auckland CBD rather than what can be an hour away in East Coast Bays, is unremarkable and trivial – and frankly criticism of it is ludicrous, especially painting it a night of luxury.

I think those that glamorise hotels have never stayed in one themselves. In the main they are just places they supply a bed you can sleep in and a bathroom you can shower and freshen up in. Sure there are some luxury hotels with stunning views and the like, but 95% of staying in hotels is just about a well located bed.

When I go up to Auckland, I much prefer crashing at a friend’s place than staying in sterile hotels. However sometimes I will reluctantly go into a hotel, because the location in the CBD allows you to do business more efficiently.

Why did McCully stay in a hotel for two nights in Auckland? The exact same reason – it allowed him to do his job as RWC Minister more efficiently.

UPDATE: Looking closer at the actual DIA documents, the title page is headed up “Credit Card Statements and Reconciliations – Staff of the Office of Hon Murray McCully”. This means it is not McCully’s credit card, but his staff’s ones. And when they are paying for something on behalf of the Minister, they always note that. So when there is no such notation, then the expense is presumably for them, not the Minister.

Having made inquiries, it turns out that in fact the two nights at the Heritage was for a Wellington based staff member who was in Auckland for RWC duties. So I look forward to NRT doing a retraction.

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