Tuesday, September 08, 2009


The government is trying to spin its new ministerial housing allowance as a cost-cutting measure, and its spin the media have bought hook, line and sinker. One News reported it as Ministers' housing allowances slashed while over on Three they were declaring Key slashes Ministerial housing allowances. But neither headline bears any resemblance to reality. The new ministerial housing allowance is $37,500 a year, or $18,750 for six months. Meanwhile, according to the official figures [PDF], the fifteen ministers not in official residences cost $254,333 for six months, or an average of $16,955 each. So, the government is planning to spend almost $2,000 more per minister on average. Some "slashing".

But it gets worse. Some of those ministers are very cheap indeed. Georgina te Heuheu, for example, claimed just under $8,000 in Wellington accommodation expenses, or around $16,000 a year. So, she'll effectively be getting a $21,000 pay rise for nothing. Tim Groser spent just under $9,000 for six months, so $18,000 annually - which means $19,500 free money for him! Jonathan Coleman spent $12,400 (or $25,000 to round it off) - so he gets an extra $12,500 for living in exactly the same house, under exactly the same conditions. Even Bill English - who in response to the exposure of his rort decided to claim "only" $24,000 a year for living in his own home - will be getting an effective pay rise. He won't be getting as much as he was stealing from the taxpayer under his previous scam, but it will be a significant increase ($13,500!) on his present entitlement. This is not "slashing" in any sense of the word - its just another rorting of the system by greedy politicians with a massive sense of entitlement.

Again, I have no objection to paying ministers their actual, reasonable and necessary expenses to do their jobs properly (which necessarily involves living in Wellington). But I see no reason why we should be paying them $20,000 more than it actually costs them. If an employee inflated their expenses claim in such a way in the private sector, they'd be fired or prosecuted or both. We should apply the same standard to our politicians.