Botany by-election on March 5 after Wong walks away
Dec. 14 (BusinessDesk) – Prime Minister John Key has set the date for the Botany by-election after former Cabinet Minister Pansy Wong walked away from Parliament amid increasing pressure over her husband’s use of her travel perk.
The third by-election this parliamentary term will be held on March 5 next year after Wong’s resignation becomes effective on Jan. 17.
Amid the clamour, Auditor-General Lyn Provost said she won’t be investigating Wong’s travel expenses, but said the system is flawed and needs fixing.
"Irrespective of Mrs Wong's decision to resign from Parliament, I had already decided that further investigation by this Office is not warranted,” Provost said. "It is very clear to me that a flawed system and weaknesses in administration are not helping our MPs and Ministers to spend and account for public money in a way that is open and transparent to everyone.”
Wong resigned as Opposition MPs turned up the pressure on her over her husband’s involvement in private business deals while travelling on her subsidised parliamentary travel perk.
She “strongly” denied the allegations in her resignation statement. Earlier this month, a Speaker’s inquiry forced Wong to repay $474.12 to the taxpayer for money spent on a side-trip from official business in China, in which her husband Sammy engaged in private business.
The inquiry found no evidence of systemic abuse of travel perks.
She lost her ministerial portfolios of Women’s Affairs and Ethnic Affairs when reports first broke over Sammy Wong’s dealings in November, and she has been subsequently replaced by Hekia Parata.
Wong is the second minister of the National-led administration to leave Parliament in disgrace after former Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth resigned amid speculation of inappropriate conduct that the Prime Minister refused to elaborate on.
Housing Minister Phil Heatley was also stood down from Cabinet for misusing his ministerial credit card, though he was later reinstated after being cleared of any intentional wrongdoing.
Key paid tribute to Wong’s 14-year parliamentary career, which included her being the first Asian minister in Cabinet.