Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ministers troughing it

While everyone is watching the slow crucifixion of Pansy Wong and the government's squirming over trying to protect her future travel entitlements, another rort has gone unnoticed. Last year, we learned that John Key's right-hand man, Bill English, had structured his affairs so he could be paid $36,000 a year to live in his own home. John Key's response, as Minister for Ministerial Service was to legalise the rort, and pay "out of Wellington" Ministers $37,500 a year in accommodation expenses, no questions asked.

This would supposedly "save thousands". It hasn't turned out that way. Ministerial accommodation expenses have risen 8% since the change was announced.

Previously accommodation expenses were actual, reasonable, and necessary. The fact that almost all MPs have increased their claims since (while living in exactly the same houses) shows us that the new level is neither reasonable nor necessary. Its just a stealth pay rise, another rort by self-interested Ministers intent on lining their own pockets at taxpayer expense. And because its a block grant, there's no transparency anymore, so if others are doing the Double Dipton, we'll never know.

Just to make this clear, I support paying MPs their actual, reasonable and necessary expenses, so that they can do a good job as legislators and democratic representatives. But this is just Ministers troughing it, while covering up their greed. And we shouldn't put up with it.