Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Calling bullshit

At his press conference yesterday, the Prime Minister claimed that

The higher allowance for ministers compared to MPs reflects their greater needs because of their obligation to spend considerably more time in Wellington.
It's a line repeated in Ministerial Services' briefing paper [PDF] on the subject, and seems to be the basic assumption underlying giving more money to ministers. But it is simply not true - the $24,000 allowance for MPs more than covers the cost of maintaining (but not paying capital costs on) a residence in Wellington, available 365 nights a year. What's really going on here is a status game: ministers are Very Important People, and Much More Important than mere backbench MPs. And therefore - in their own minds, at least - they should get more money to live in a bigger house. In other words, we are paying for ministers' inflated egos - nothing more.

(Why no capital costs? Because we're paying for ministers and MPs to have somewhere to live, not buying them a house. If they want to speculate on the Wellington property market, they already get a very generous salary package, and they can do that on their own dime).

Meanwhile, it looks like we'll also be paying more for those egos. According to that briefing paper, most of the savings from the new policy come from selling off the present crown properties, many of which are historic buildings. In a remarkable bout of sanity, John Key has decided not to do this. Which means we get to pay all the old costs, plus the new ones as well. Again, some "slashing".