Friday, October 29, 2010

Earning that reputation VI

This year, pushed by scandals overseas, we've seen an unprecedented opening of Parliament's books, with MP's accommodation and travel expenses being revealed for the first time. This has been uncomfortable for several MPs, as the public has raised questions about their level of spending, or the discrepancies between their public statements and their private behaviour. So Lockwood Smith has stepped in to spare them such discomfort in the future, by slamming the door on transparency:

Parliament's Speaker has introduced new rules preventing public disclosure of individual MPs' spending on tax-payer funded overseas jaunts.

The change mean trips like those taken by Rodney Hide and his partner to Hawaii and through Europe last year are now secret.

Mr Hide admitted at the time that he made a mistake, but Speaker Lockwood Smith today said the matter was private and should never have been made known to the public.

"It is taken out of members' salaries and it is private," Dr Smith said.

"It is not a public expense, it is a private matter."

Bullshit. This is our money they're spending, and we have a right to know how it is spent so that we can judge whether it is spent well. And what we've seen in the past is that it is often not spent well. Keeping it secret seems to be exactly the wrong solution to this - unless you're an MP wanting a taxpayer-funded overseas holiday, I guess.

With this move, Smith has done his bit to ensure that MPs continue to be held in contempt by the public. If MPs don't want to be tarred as corrupt and self-serving, then they need to speak up for transparency and denounce him. Otherwise, they will have again earned their reputation, and have no-one to blame but themselves.