Embattled former NZ First MP Brendan Horan's use of his
parliamentary mobile phone to place bets at the TAB is not
sufficient reason to sack him, Prime Minister John Key says.
Mr Horan today told the New Zealand Herald he used his
parliamentary-funded cellphone to call the TAB about 140
times during 10 months in Parliament as he was entitled to
do, and the total cost to the taxpayer was only about $20.
Mr Horan's parliamentary cellphone records showing calls to
the TAB were leaked to media last week, a few days after he
was expelled from the NZ First caucus following allegations
he had improperly accessed his dying mother's bank account.
Mr Horan's brother Mana Ormsby has claimed the MP used the
money to buy food, hire DVDs and fund a gambling habit.
Mr Peters has said Mr Horan's use of his parliamentary
cellphone to place bets was one of the reasons he sacked the
When asked about the possibility of National using Mr Horan's
proxy vote, Mr Key said the party would want to understand
exactly what Mr Horan was accused of, before having that
discussion with him.
"Using his mobile phone - to the best of my knowledge and I
might stand corrected - is not a reason to sack a member of
"I use my mobile phone to ring my wife, I use my mobile phone
to make restaurant bookings."
Mr Key said he understood that kind of personal use was
permitted as a fringe benefit.
He also questioned whether the frequency of Mr Horan's calls
to the TAB indicated he had a gambling problem.
"Ringing 14 times a month; is that an addiction? I reckon
that would be a stretch."
Mr Horan, who says his name will be cleared, is staying on in
Parliament as an independent MP but is expected to be kicked
out of the NZ First party when the board meets this evening.
This afternoon he told the Herald he had asked for the return
of his phone records which it is understood were originally
supplied to NZ First by the Parliamentary service with Mr
"I was very concerned for the people who had rung me in
They included KiwiRail contacts he spoke to while exposing
alleged safety issues at the rail operator, including
thousands of rotting sleepers.
Mr Horan said he had approached both the police and the
Privacy Commissioner about the leak of his phone records.
"I wasn't at all concerned about the amount of TAB calls on
my line. There's an average of 14 a month, that's nothing.
"The costs would have been about $20 over 10 months. There's
fringe benefit tax paid on our cell phones for our personal
calls and it falls well within that.
"I would just say that whoever leaked them was politically
irresponsible in the extreme ... they were used selectively
for political gain."
However, Mr Horan is under fresh pressure in the form of
media reports that forensic accountants examining his late
mother's affairs have raised issues with a number of cheques.
Meanwhile, Mr Key this morning said it was possible the
Government may move to reinstate some form of "waka
jumping"legislation that would prevent list MPs, such as Mr
Horan, from staying on if they no longer represented the
party which took them into Parliament.
Previous legislation dealing with the issue expired in 2005.
"Parliament might hold hands and look at this issue and
decide once more to try and put something more permanent in
place," Mr Key told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
"The issue is it's really difficult to write the rules, but
if you in theory could write the rules then it's possible."
In an interview with RadioLive's Duncan Garner this
afternoon, Mr Horan said his lawyers would be dealing with
the allegations later this week.
That would make it clear that: "I have never stolen a cent
from my mother".
However, Mr Horan did not deny he had received money from his
"My relationship with my mother was such that if I ever
required anything, all I needed to do was ask."
Asked whether that included money, Mr Horan said: "this is
all going to be brought out in a few days".
While NZ First's board may choose to cancel his membership,
Mr Horan believed he still had a mandate to stay on in
"I've done nothing wrong first and foremost, and I was
elected for the term in Parliament.
He would "absolutely"stay on as an independent MP until the
2014 general election.
- By Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald