MPs are self serving pricks at the best of times, but when you seek to rein in their rorts and allowances they really go feral.
They seem to believe that they have the unfettered right to trough it up on the taxpayer. They are wrong.
MPs on all sides are joining forces to defend the right to set their own unlimited travel perks – despite a Government promise to transfer them to an independent body.
Prime Minister John Key pledged three years ago that the Government would strip MPs of the power to set their own perks. It introduced a bill last year to change the system, under which Parliament’s Speaker determines the widely criticised allowances that give MPs unlimited free travel within New Zealand.
However, MPs on the government administration select committee have gutted the Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill – and returned control of travel and accommodation perks to the Speaker. The U-turn has received cross-party support.
Mr Key has accepted the changes and says National MPs will vote for the amended bill when it came before Parliament again.
Labour leader David Shearer’s office said his MPs would not oppose the changes, and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said her party had agreed to them.
The Speaker’s power to set the allowances has long been criticised as a case of MPs determining their own perks. A Law Commission report recommending switching control of the perks to the Remuneration Authority was accepted by Mr Key in 2010.
Former Law Commission head Sir Geoffrey Palmer said he was “sad” the recommendations had been overturned.
Political scientist Bryce Edwards said he was surprised by the U-turn, because MPs had made such a “big deal” of the proposed switch to an independent body.
“It’s a bad look for it to be coming back to the MPs,” he said.