Prime Minister Helen Clark has taken the unusual step of reminding her Cabinet of their ministerial obligations following fresh questions over a trip that Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters made to a world-title boxing fight in Las Vegas last year.
Speculation has been rife in the past fortnight over the private trip Peters made to the Oscar de la Hoya-Floyd Mayweather title fight in Las Vegas last May.
Act leader Rodney Hide has been seeking answers over who exactly picked up the tab.
If, as Hide suggests, the bill was picked up by a third party, Peters would have been required under parliamentary rules to have made a declaration in the register of MPs' pecuniary interests if that "gift" or "donation" exceeded $500.
There's still a very nasty odour pervading this story, and Peters's assurances that everything has been paid up by him personally suddendly have a decidedly "hollow" ring to them. After all, he told the Privileges Committee that he had "personally" repaid Brian Henry the $40k in costs awarded against him in the Tauranga electoral petition. Then on Friday, he revealed that it was indeed the Spencer Trust which made the payment. Clearly his memory of the Owen Glenn donation cannot be trusted, so why should anyone believe it on this issue?
But there's also the issue of Peters's blatant breach of Ministerial rules:
Clark's office, however, confirmed to the Herald on Sunday she knew nothing about Peters' Vegas trip until about a fortnight ago.
The Cabinet manual allows ministers to sometimes extend overseas visits for personal reasons, subject to Prime Ministerial approval, as long as no additional costs are incurred by the Government.
Hide said Peters should have sought Clark's permission before making the Vegas trip. "Winston Peters treats the Cabinet manual with contempt just as he treats the public of New Zealand," said Hide.
"Winston Peters believes there is one rule for him and another set of rules for every other MP in Parliament. This is again a classic example of Winston putting his needs before anyone else's."
This is an interesting issue. For Ministers do not travel alone, especially those in the Foreign Affairs arena. Did Peters's entourage travel with him to Las Vegas, or did it fly directly to Singapore and wait? And if Peters's entourage flew with him to Las Vegas, who picked up the tab? Winston Peters? The taxpayer? The Spencer Trust? Could this be one of the reasons why Peters and Michael Cullen were so dismissive of the SFO this week - has the SFO found some interesting entries in the financial journals of the Spencer Trust?