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.
Peters had been in Europe on Foreign Affairs business and made the 9000km detour from Berlin to Las Vegas to attend the title fight.
Peters insists he met the cost of his airfares and accommodation in Las Vegas and later reimbursed "an acquaintance" who had supplied him with the boxing tickets.
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."
A spokesperson for Clark said the Prime Minister had been advised that no extra costs were accrued by the Government as a result of the Peters detour and that the trip did not involve Peters being out of the country any longer than originally planned.
Nevertheless, she would use the fact that this issue had become "topical" to "remind all Ministers of requirements in the Cabinet office manual". Hide, however, said that was not good enough and he was seeking assurances that Peters paid for the entire trip, including fight tickets, which could have been anything up to $10,000.
Peters told the Herald on Sunday he was too busy campaigning for a universal student allowance to "waste time responding to Rodney Hide's increasingly desperate attempts to gain publicity".
Peters is already in the fight for his political life over claims he breached parliamentary rules by not disclosing a $100,000 donation from Owen Glenn in 2005. The Serious Fraud Office is also investigating what other undisclosed donations to NZ First were spent on.