National are spinning the message voters don’t care about Pansy Wong’s travel scandal, or minor things like this. They are right on the smaller issue of the travel scandal, but wrong about how this matters.
John Key talked extensively through 2008 about mood and feeling and how important that was to change a government. This mood and feeling does not come about by accident, unless the opposition is useless and cant smack up the government.
What changes momentum rapidly is a view that a government is unethical. It is a mood swing that is hard to reverse, and a good opposition bashes away with seemingly small scandals that build this mood.
National may think that guys like Hodgson are total arseholes going on about stuff that doesn’t matter. This is insular thinking that will bite National, as there will come a time when there are enough scandals to make the swinging voter think National are unethical, and they might as well give someone else a chance. The next lot will suffer from the same process, essentially because politicians are stupid and do dumb things.
Richard Worth, Pansy Wong and Phil Heatley have all eroded a little of National’s credibility. So will the next scandal, and the one after that. Then comes the tipping point when voters think it is time for change.
In line with that I see that the Law Commission has recommended and John Key has agreed that an independent body should be set up to administer MPs salaries, perks and entitlements.
Prime Minister John Key has moved to give the Remuneration Authority more control over setting MPs’ perks and entitlements after a further call for an end to the days of MPs having control over their own entitlements.
Mr Key announced the government would introduce a law change to give the Remuneration Authority control over setting MPs’ entitlements beyond the base salary.
This will go some way to alleviating the fox in charge of the hen-house arrangement that currently exists. Predictably, since he is totally out of touch and too full of his own importance, Lockwood Smith hasn’t taken kindly to the loss of control.
The report says Parliament’s Speaker, Lockwood Smith, has “real reservations” about an independent body setting MPs’ entitlements.
“He is particularly concerned that an independent body would not understand the needs of Parliament,” it says.
“His strong preference would be to continue to use the mechanism of the Speaker’s Directions which are flexible, easy to amend and draw on the experience of the Speaker.”
Sir Geoffrey said the report carefully reflected Dr Smith’s view “but we don’t agree with it”.
Sometimes I despair at Lockwood’s pomposity, talking about the “needs of Parliament” like they are “special needs”. Given some MPs are indeed challenged maybe he is a little bit right on that. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a man i seldom have any time for, though, has another little surprise for Lockwood Smith.
The commission also says the Parliamentary Service, which makes payments to MPs, should be opened to the Official Information Act (OIA).
This has been previously rejected as well, although parties have started voluntarily issuing details of their MPs’ expenses.
“While the move to greater transparency is commendable, and provides more information about the total spending of MPs, in some respects the disclosure still lacks transparency,” it says.
“The figures do not distinguish between domestic and international flights, or separately identify travel paid for an MP’s spouse or partner and dependant children…clearly, a voluntary regime is not the same as a statutory requirement.”
What a splendid idea. Pity Lockwood Smith didn’t listen to me in the Koru Club a couple of months back when I suggested that if he wanted to become a great Speaker he would do exactly that. He didn’t listen and now he won’t be a great Speaker. Now it is Sir Geoffrey Palmer that will take the kudos and the credit for the suggestion of opening up Parliamentary Services to the OIA.
These are all steps in the right direction, even though old troughers like Lockwood Smith have opposed them tooth and nail. The bring greater clarity and greater transparency to parliament. But none yet have taken up the suggestion to have an Independent Commission Against Corruption. This would be the ultimate step in cleaning up parliament of troughers and rorters. it is a step that needs to be taken. here in New Zealand we have the Speaker handling an inquiry into rorts like Chris Carter, three suits Clayton Cosgrove, Richard Worth, Pansy Wong and Phil Heatley. In Australia they have the ICAC.
The Labor MP for Drummoyne, Angela D’Amore, has been sacked as a parliamentary secretary, but the Premier is refusing to call for her resignation from Parliament after the corruption watchdog found she acted corruptly in falsely claiming thousands of dollars in entitlements for two staff members.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is also recommending that the Director of Public Prosecutions consider bringing charges against Ms D’Amore, who served as parliamentary secretary to the minister for police and the minister for environment, for two offences of misconduct in public office.
The commission found Ms D’Amore and a staff member Agatha La Manna “engaged in corrupt conduct by falsely claiming sitting day relief payments”.
It recommends “action be taken against Ms La Manna as a public official with a view to dismissing, dispensing with or otherwise terminating her services”.
There is a huge difference between how our parliament handles rorters and how Australia handles them. We seriously needs such a commission here, and we need its purview to be over Parliament and all local bodies and the state sector. I’d relish an ICAC looking into Len Brown’s appointments processes for CCO boards. If John Key can move that which was previously under the control of parliament and the Speaker to an independent body then why not this step? If the Law Commission can see merit in opening up Parliamentary Services to the OIA then why not an ICAC?
Clarity, transparency and sunlight will give us a much better democracy.