Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another perk myth

There are several myths floating around about the "justification" for former MP's international travel perk. One - wheeled out by Doug Graham last year - is that the perk was in lieu of a pay rise. But as I've showed, MPs have never been poorly paid, and their salaries have risen at twice the rate of inflation, even in years when those of ordinary kiwis was remaining stagnant. Besides which, the perk was instituted, and the pay rise forgone, in 1972, long before most current beneficiaries of it entered the House. If that's the justification, then there is only one current MP who can claim any sort of moral right to it: Roger Douglas, who was first elected in 1969. And even then, you'd think that subsequent pay increases had made up for it, and that (in his case) 50 years of subsidised travel was worth far more than the amount he didn't get back then.

Today, on Morning Report [audio], Lockwood Smith trotted out another myth: the perk

relates back to the days when there was no taxpayer-funded support for members of Parliament.
In other words, its compensation for MPs and their families having to do electorate business out of their own homes, lick their own stamps etc. But again, we're talking about the distant past. IIRC electorate offices have been fully funded since the mid 80's, thanks to Geoffrey Palmer. And if that's correct, then only a handful of sitting MPs dating from before that era have any sort of moral right to the perk: Phil Goff, Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne, Lockwood Smith, and Roger Douglas. And even then, their entitlement should be capped at the level they would have received when those offices were funded - which except for Douglas means nothing.

We've been rorted for 20 years on the basis of these myths, passed down from MP to MP as justification for their self-interested behaviour. Its time it stopped.