In attempting to explain away their ministerial credit card misspending, one of the most cowardly lines run by politicians has been to blame someone else and say ‘it wasn’t my fault’. Those being blamed by National and Labour ministers and ex-ministers include their own ministerial staff, Ministerial Services, and even the various hotels and vendors that ‘mistakenly’ put charges on the taxpayer credit cards. MP Chris Carter has become the epitome of the ‘it wasn’t my fault’ line. The MP’s current troubles partly stem from the perception that he has been quick to both minimise the seriousness of his misspending and to attempt to shift the blame on to other people. First, he has blamed his staff, saying, ‘My ministerial office was a very busy place. ... Small mistakes were perhaps inevitable, but never excusable’. Essentially Carter thinks that it’s not himself that should be sorry – it’s the staff that stuffed up and should apologise, and he’s not willing to excuse them himself. [Read more below]
Carter has also explicitly stated that it was his staff looking after the credit cards and making some of the purchases. So when flowers were sent to Lianne Dalziel for being sacked, Carter obviously didn’t know who was paying for it but just that he ordered that they be sent. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t feel he should take responsibility for such expenditure or that he ever thought he should pay for them himself.
Similarly, when accounting for his huge expensive transport on a trip while in Australia, Carter claimed that he spent $5500 on a four-days of limousines because the Australian Government made him do so. According to him, ‘For security reasons, they made New Zealand ministers travel in Australian Government-supplied cars and then billed the costs back to our government, he said’. He could not explain why – if this was true – that the New Zealand Government didn’t reciprocate by doing likewise and making visiting Australian ministers pay for limos. It also appeared that no other ministers were ‘forced’ to hire such limos in Australia.
Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury has insightfully blogged about listening to Carter deal with all of this with Radio NZ interviewer Kathryn Ryan:
What offended me most in this avalanche of hotel bills and miscellaneous ministerial receipts wasn't Shane Jones' hotel proclivities, it was Chris Carter's disgusting attitude, especially to the massive limousine bill from the Aussie government. On National radio he told an exasperated Kathryn Ryan that the Aussie government charge us and we don't charge them. She asked why we don't then - given it is so expensive. In a patronising tone he told her that if she wanted to complain she could. He blew all that money and he reckons it's the questioner's problem to fix!? He has to go. That greasy, grinning, oaf couldn't care less and he has to go. He demonstrates he absolutely could not care less about how much he cost the taxpayers or what exactly he was spending their money on. He didn't care that NZ should at least reciprocate - he's obviously never thought about it and doesn't care to. His job, as he must see it, is to spend the money; go around the world - with his partner - and spend the money. The amount isn't important - as long as they're all having a first class time on their junkets/holidays it's all good.
Although Chris Carter appears to be the worse offender of the ‘it wasn’t my fault’ excuse, he’s not the only one. Too often we are hearing the politicians say that they know nothing of the bill that they were charged for, they blame the hotel for adding something to their bill, or they blame their staff for paying for something extravagant or booking them into an expensive hotel. The good news, however, is that such lame excuses don’t appear to be brought by the public.