Alf reckons the news media, now in a feeding frenzy after Rodney Hide sullied his image as a perk-buster, are asking the wrong questions of the wrong person.
They are focussing on Rodney and naturally, when they ask him about his perk-busting lapse, he makes no apology but says he would do it again, using his MP’s travel expenses to take his partner overseas.
Obviously this has something to do with hormones running rampant.
The Act leader was making no apologies yesterday for the public purse paying $25,163 for his partner, Louise Crome, to accompany him as Local Government Minister on a Super City fact-finding visit to Britain, Canada and the United States, and some domestic travel.
Mr Hide is the second Act MP to run up a big globetrotting bill on the taxpayer by using a travel perk for longstanding MPs.
The Herald gives Rodney’s explanation –
He said Ms Crome – a national squash representative – was there to “be with me” and he would use the perk again to travel overseas and “no doubt on the odd trip around New Zealand”.
Squash, of course, is a fast and furious game which involves thrashing the hell out of just one ball – a black one – on an inside court. This raises fascinating questions about Ms Crome’s enthusiasm and talent for other ball games played indoors, and whether she prefers big balls to small ones, white ones to black ones, and so on.
Oh, and how does Rodney measure up.
The media have been woefully one-sided in focussing on him and the shattering of his perk-busting image, and have failed to approach her to ask those sorts of questions.
Above all, says Mrs Grumble, she is keen to learn much more about Ms Crome’s choice of playing partner for non-squash recreation.
What exactly does she see in a bald bloke who would be the ugliest of her garden gnomes by far, if only we could shrink the bugger, have him cast in stone and place him among the other gnomes in our garden?
Betcha heaps of women are asking the same question, although Cactus Kate might be among the exceptions.
As for Rodney –
Asked if his credibility as a perkbuster had taken a knock, Mr Hide said he stood on his record to get a more transparent and accountable process for MPs’ allowances.
“Does that mean that because I’m against unjustified spending that I shouldn’t spend any money. That’s not the case.
“I didn’t go into this trip lightly. I thought long and hard about it and knew I would have to justify it.
“I hope that people will look at my job as MP and minister and say, ‘Actually, that guy did a good job and he was good value for money overall’,” Mr Hide said.
Rodney was bound to say his credibility as a perk-buster has not taken a knock. It’s a bit like asking Alf if he spends too much time at the Eketahuna Club. No bloody way, he will huff.
But Alf seriously wonders about how a perk-busting braggart can make no apologies for slurping $25,000 or so from the public trough for Ms Crome to accompany him on his travels.
Mr Hide said he checked twice with the Prime Minster’s office about a directive from John Key to ministers to leave their partners at home or pay for the trip themselves and was cleared to use his MP’s perk of 90 per cent subsidised international travel for partners.
He said he opposed the 90 per cent subsidy but was not prepared to become a martyr and sacrifice his personal life, saying the Remuneration Authority took the subsidy into account when deciding MPs’ salaries.
This brings us to another part of the story that excites Mrs Grumble.
She notes that a spokesman for Mr Key said ministers using the MPs’ perk met the definition of paying for partners’ travel.
She is urging Alf to press himself much harder as ministerial material – so he gets a cabinet post in any reshuffle – and is dusting off her suitcases in readiness for his first official overseas trip.
Alf, by the way, is indifferent to whether Hide is handsome, ugly, or whatever, but he does regard the bugger as sartorially challenged for persisting with that silly yellow jacket last year.