Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Neither reasonable nor necessary

I said the other day that I strongly supported MPs getting paid for the reasonable and necessary expenses required for them to do their jobs properly. But I have to say that Bill English's state housing rort seems neither reasonable nor necessary. Getting paid to live somewhere where you'd live anyway? Manipulating your corporate structure to lease your own home to Ministerial Services so you can get paid more money for living there? That simply stinks. So I'm more than glad to see he'll be repaying some of the money (and OTOH, wouldn't it be nice to be able to whip out a cheque for $12,000? That's more than half of taxpayers even earned in the six month period it covers). Unfortunately, he's not repaying enough.

The fundamental problem here is caused by using the electorate an MP represents as a proxy for where they live. But as we've seen in the case of John Key, that's not really tenable. For electoral purposes, people live where they say they live, even if they spend almost all of their time somewhere else. Any assessment of expenses should therefore be based on MP's actual situations, not on their electorate. Which means that as a Minister who actually lives in Wellington, Bill English should not be receiving any accommodation assistance at all, and should be repaying all of what he has rorted.