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Heatley 'A Decent Bloke' Key Says

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Heatley
Phil Heatley

Wellington, March 1 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key says Whangarei MP Phil Heatley wasn't being deliberately dishonest when he signed an inaccurate ministerial credit card claim.

"I think Phil Heatley is a decent bloke and he's not dishonest," Mr Key said today.

"I wouldn't jump to conclusions that he will be back (in the cabinet) but I haven't said the door is absolutely closed."

Mr Heatley resigned his housing and fisheries portfolios last week after details of his credit card spending were published.

He said he had signed an inaccurate return and thought he deserved to spend a long time on the back benches.

The return was a claim for dinner with his wife, when the money had been spent on bottles of wine at a National Party function.

"He wrote on his receipt `food and beverage' which was the category under which he was claiming," Mr Key said on TV One's Breakfast programme.

"That got translated by his private secretary into dinner, and he signed that form.

"I'm not excusing him for that."

Mr Heatley's credit card accounts have been handed to the Auditor-General for an investigation.

Mr Key said he expected to have the report in two or three weeks.

More details of ministerial spending are expected to be released this week.

ACT leader Rodney Hide said yesterday the rules around MPs' expenses were "treacherously complicated" and should be changed.

Mr Hide used his MP travel discount to take his partner on an overseas trip last year, then paid the money back although he hadn't broken the rules.

But Mr Hide made a name for himself as a "perkbuster" and had to apologise for what he had done.

He said yesterday the travel discount was part of an MP's salary package, but when they used it they were hounded by the media.

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