Rodney Hide can't look NZ in the eye - as he purported to do tonight - and have us believe we got good value from him when he made the government fork out for the airfares of his partner - giving her a 90% discount on the ten day round-the-world trip he went on as part of his local government portfolio. He told an unrelenting Hosking on Close Up this evening that yes, it was a perk, but if he couldn't be with his sweetheart he would fall to pieces and become substandard. That is basically what he said: if he is away from her for - I guess only a few days - he would do a terrible job.
Well, how flattering to his amour, or perhaps how controlling... but what he's describing is an unhealthy dependency and personality defect, not a reasonable excuse to trough it up in perksville USA after building a profile based on ending perks. And this isn't France either, Rodney. The paying-for-the-missus routine doesn't have such a deep and wide history as to be accepted without some complaint. The NZ public does not accept that the man who happily basked in the "Perk-busting" moniker can cart his girlfriend around on his travels as if it was a ministerial necessity that mere mortals cannot fathom.
In the interview Hide came out with every bullshit excuse in the manual: the PM said it was OK, it came under a different system and it doesn't really count, that he had never expressly criticised the specific partner element of the perk system before, and even the gem that the Remuneration Authority sets Ministerial salaries lower meaning they are supposed to compensate by soaking up the myriad and ultra-generous perks for whatever they can - a system so lavish they were forced to call a halt to it's worst excesses in the 90s - but not after Hide got a taste and got grandfathered over to the current regime. All the evidence of Rodney having perked it up has been admitted to by the man himself - it's just now it's OK. Rodney doesn't have a problem with it now, it's OK.
OK for him. Not for others. Hosking asks, plaintively, at the end of this remarkable interview if he thinks it is all right if he gets his boss to get TVNZ to pay for his girlfriend to be taken around the world with him if it makes him a better current affairs presenter. At this Rodney says directly, that it's not OK if Hosking does it, I think he even repeated it, something like: 'No, it's not OK for you.'
It's a nadir in the state of his credibility - and with Sir Roger wading in the trough beside him - also a sad state of affairs for the party that preaches prudence and the end of the old entitlement culture that rewarded waste and inefficiency. Act is voting through illiberal anti-freedom of the individual law and order fascist power-grabs and the budget increases that go with them - they're just rubber-stamping them through. There's no philosophy there's no thought, there's even less principles. Act used to have some sort of intellectual pretension, but even that is gone now. Sir Roger has traditional instincts despite the radical mantle, Boscawen is surprisingly pragmatic on many issues, Garrett is the excess baggage they risked when they took on his socially conservative lobby group they didn't think would make it into the House - this is the caucus. The surviving caucus member in the wilderness days of 2005-8 is the only good thing going for the Act Party right now - and she's so low profile as a Minister she doesn't seem like the strong personality it takes to lead a party - especially a right wing party. Where is Rodney Hide going?