Hames resigns Tourism over allowance

DAN EMERSON
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Hames resigns Tourism over allowance

Health Minister Kim Hames, has resigned as Tourism Minister.

Update 3.30pm: Kim Hames has resigned as Tourism Minister in the wake of revelations he wrongly claimed an accommodation allowance of more than $1000.

In his first day back after leave, Premier Colin Barnett today called a press conference to make the announcement.

Mr Barnett said that Dr Hames, who will remain as Health Minister, was honest and had done a good job but that there was a mistake and there must be consequences.

Mr Barnett said Dr Hames had “paid a high price” for making “innocent but serious mistakes”.

“As a response, there had to be a consequence,” he said.

“When you hold public office, the standards are high and for good reason. It is up to members of Parliament, ministers, senior ministers set an example to the whole community.”

Mr Barnett said that Dr Hames had taken the need to resign "graciously".

"He clearly made a mistake and there needed to be consequences," Mr Barnett said.

He said the higher and MP was in the ministry, the higher the standard required.

Mr Barnett said he would also review the process by which country MPs claimed the accommodation allowance.

He said there was no suggestion that country MPs should not be entitled to a living away from home allowance.

The Premier said it was a complicated system but that was no excuse for Dr Hames' mistake.

Country MPs are able to claim $266 a night on the nights they are in Perth on parliamentary business, to a maximum of 129 days a year.

“I accept that there has to be a consequence for making mistakes like that. It is disappointing to me, I do really enjoy tourism,” Dr Hames said.

Dr Hames said he accepted the penalty, despite not seeing it coming.

“I’m the Deputy Premier of the State and I have a responsibility to get things right and clearly I didn’t,” he said.

“I hadn’t thought that this might be a possibility but thinking back, I probably should have.

“I’m happy to accept the penalty from the Premier. It’s harder for him. We are not just colleagues – we are friends – and he’s had to make this tough decision and I support it.”

Dr Hames yesterday denied "milking the sytem" after it was revealed he had wrongly claimed $1013 for the accommodation allowance.

He said he repaid the money when the error was made apparent to him.

“I just didn't go through my records enough or missed the fact that I was leaving on that day for those four claims,” Mr Hames said.

“If I wanted to milk the system I would have had a lot of opportunities over four-and-a-half years to do it - and here we've found I've made clear mistakes on three or four occasions.”

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said it was appropriate Dr Hames lost a portfolio but said it should have been Health.

“Health in crisis, if Dr Hames was to lost a portfolio surely it was in the Health portfolio,” he said.

“We have record ambulance ramping, we have the problems in Princess Margaret Hospital, we have record wait-lists and on top of that we have Fiona Stanley Hospital … that isn’t fully functioning but is being paid for by the taxpayers.

He said the “wheels were falling off the Government” because too many ministers were “cruising to retirement”.

The Opposition said yesterday that Dr Hames was incapable of managing his financies and his two portfolios so Mr Barnett had to set the standard for his Government and "pull the minister out of one of those portfolios".

Mr Barnett today said Dr Hames' resignation was immediate.

"He got it wrong, he's paid a high price," Mr Barnett said.