McCully is munificent – but it’s easy to treat guests to posh wine and oysters with public money

Alf is bound to observe (at the risk of offending colleagues) he has always been bothered by the Government’s curious urge to have a Rugby World Cup Minister, a portfolio he regards as thoroughly unnecessary and surplus to requirements at the best of times, let alone when we are tightening the old budgetary belt.

If the Government was plush with the spending stuff, of course, and if someone really has to be the Rugby World Cup Minister, then that someone really should be Alf.

An element of self-interest, accordingly, might taint what follows.

What follows happens to be a spluttering of profound outrage on learning from the Herald that Murray McCully …

has snatched the dubious record for the most expensive wine bought at the taxpayers’ expense with not one but four bottles of $185pinot noir while hosting a dinner for the International Rugby Board this year.

Ministerial credit card statements released yesterday show Mr McCully’s $2855 bill for the March 30 dinner for 14 at the Viaduct’s upmarket Kermadec restaurant included four bottles of Ata Rangi Pinot Noir ’06 for $740, or $185 each.

That easily tops the $155 bottle of champagne former Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard splashed out on during a dinner with Australian ministers at the Cin Cin OnQuay harbourside restaurant two years ago.

One good thing can be said for McCully’s munificence with money plucked (via Inland Revenue and Ministerial Service) from the pockets of Alf’s constituents and all other taxpayers. He at least will be contributing nicely to the cash flow of the splendid people who make Ata Rangi wine down the road a bit from here at Martinborough.

Alas, the Herald does not tell us the nature of the other four bottles of wine purchased for McCully’s dinner for 14 people but they were priced between $72 and $80 each, and this means they did not come from the under-$10 bargain bins at the supermarket where Alf requires Mrs Grumble to go to stock up his wine cellar.

On the other hand, Alf is sure the Busted Blonde and her mates will be delighted to learn that:

Local delicacies included three one-dozen servings of Bluff oysters at $52 each and a further four half-dozen servings at $27 each.

Mind you, the mark-up is worth noting: BB’s whanau, Alf imagines, will be getting much less than $52 a dozen.

But it was more than twice the price McCully was charged on another oyster-scoffing occasion.

In his role as Foreign Minister, the Herald points out, McCully…

is expected to extend hospitality befitting the status of foreign dignitaries both at home and when abroad and continued to fulfil this role between March and June this year with a number of lavish dinners.

Oysters – at $54 a half-dozen – were again on the menu when he hosted Tongan Prime Minister Feleti Sevele and five other guests at Soul Bar in Auckland in May, where the bill, including $150 for two bottles of Cloudy Bay chardonnay and a $68 bottle of Big Sky Pinot Noir, came to $747.50.

Alf can only suppose McCully learned the art of troughing handsomely at some other bugger’s expense in the days when he was in public relations.

It is Alf’s understanding (although he admits he does not know from first-hand experience) that PR people like to feed high off the hog, preferably with a bunch of good lunch and dining companions, and moreover they are adept at finding a good business reason to hold these lunches and dinners so that a client can be appropriately charged. And if a client can not be found to pick up the tab, then no matter – it’s a business expense for tax purposes.

We must now look forward to see if the Herald’s publicising of McCully’s fondness for fine wine and Bluff oysters will be tempered by the Herald’s headlines.

There is every chance it will be, because the Herald tells us (a) ministers are doing less troughing than before and (b) poor old Tim Groser has put himself on a regime that involves drinking water.

Overall the credit card statements suggest public scrutiny means ministers and their staff are now more careful with their spending compared with what was revealed in the previous seven years of records released last month.

Trade Minister Tim Groser’s frequent recourse to hotel minibars when overseas was curbed in recent months, limited to the occasional bottle of water.

Groser drinking water?

It looks awfully like we are going much too far in dragging Ministers’ snouts out of the trough.

Things have come to a pretty pass when a politician – or anyone – is reduced to drinking water.

Alf likes to quote W.C.Fields on the subject: “I don’t drink water. Fish fuck in it.”

One Response to McCully is munificent – but it’s easy to treat guests to posh wine and oysters with public money

  1. Sam Buchanan says:

    …and speaking of Murray, apparently MFATs new overseas aid schemes will see an increase in scholarships for ASEAN officials to come and study in NZ. Including, of course, officials from the Burmese junta that Murray was so vehement about when he was in opposition.

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