Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not just Cabinet

Media attention on Parliamentary travel perks has so far focused on Cabinet - primarily because of their hypocritical behaviour in using Parliamentary discounts for their partners while publicly adopting a face of financial probity. Half of Cabinet is feeding from this trough, and while public attention has caused some embarrassment, there seems to be no way of stopping them. But they're not the only ones. The travel perks they are abusing are those for ordinary MPs. And a kindly reader has sent me a table of exactly who gets what [XLS].

At first glance, it seems I'm being a little harsh in my suggestion that self-interested MPs won't vote to end their own perks - after all, there are 40 with no entitlement whatsoever, and another 26 who only get 25%, so a majority of the House has nothing much to lose by doing so. Except of course that every one of those MPs has the expectation that with time, they too can enjoy 90% taxpayer-subsidised holidays. If that expectation triumphs over decency, then it will just be another example of MPs earning that reputation.

Its worth pointing out too that this perk is unlimited; former MPs are capped at 12 domestic return trips plus the equivalent of a business-class trip to London every year. Sitting MPs are subject to no such limits. They could theoretically piss off to Paris every parliamentary recess - and if a senior MP like Bill English did it, we'd be left footing the bill for $200,000 a year.

There is absolutely no justification for this perk. It serves no parliamentary purpose, and MPs are well-remunerated enough to be able to afford to pay for their own holidays. It should be abolished immediately.

Correction: Clarified the international travel entitlement for former MPs; it's the equivalent of a business-class return trip to London.