Greens caught lying, lazy journalists buy the spin

The  Green party has managed to get their spin bought by one of the better gallery journalists.

They basically lied in a  press release and Tracy Watkins picked it up in an opinion piece on parliamentary expenses.

The ARC [Appropriations Review Committee] is a panel convened once every parliamentary term to review funding for Parliament and MPs. It usually comprises former MPs (on this occasion John Carter and Rick Barker, who have respect across the political spectrum) and an accountant or similar to lend it the air of independence. Its job is to poke into every aspect of parliamentary and state funding for political parties represented in Parliament and decide whether more money, or any other tweaks, are required.

These areas include the costs of running electorate offices, staff pay rates, support staff funding and political party funding, which largely comprises the leader’s budget. Controversially,the leader’s budget is one area where the ARC proposes a boost in funding – controversially because “leader’s budget” is really just a euphemism for slush fund. Millions of dollars in taxpayer funding disappear into these slush funds every year with little public accountability.

The ARC points out that these budgets have not been increased since 2007, so have fallen in real terms thanks to inflation.

“Cry me a river” might be the stock response to this plight, given that this has also been a period of real belt tightening for many government departments.   

But a breakdown of how the funding is divvied up between the parties shines a light on the problem .

National gets by far the biggest cut, receiving $3.7 million in leader’s budget funding. Labour trails by $800,000 on $2.9 million. Parliament’s third biggest party, the Greens, get $1.3 million.

The reason for the disparity is obvious – National got easily the most seats at the last election so qualifies for the most funding as it’s on a per-MP basis.

But that’s not where the the problem is, according to the Greens and ARC.

As the governing party, National also has a large number of staffers funded by Ministerial Services. And that budget has not been squeezed to anywhere near the same extent.

Figures supplied to the Greens by the Parliamentary Library show support funding for ministerial offices has risen from $26 million in 2007/2008 to about $38 million now.

Except the figure the Greens quote is a deliberate lie.

David Farrar, in recovery mode from his little run in Queenstown, slays them.

This is incorrect. Totally incorrect. In fact funding for ministerial office has fallen.

The 2007 Budget allocated $26.72 million for Support Services to Ministers (M47). It came in slightly over that at $26.84 million.

In the 2008 Budget, $27.28 million was allocated. So that was Labour’s last Budget.

Now we turn to the 2015 Budget. And here is where the Greens have made a mistake. There is a total called Services supporting the Executive which is $38.22 million but that includes VIP Transport and Official Visits. The actual comparable line item is Support Services to Ministers and in 2015 is $25.84 million. If you look back at the 2007 and 2008 estimates, you will see VIP Transport and Official Visits are separate items there also. The Greens have compared a sub-total to a line item. This is a basic fail.

So in fact National’s latest Budget has support services for Ministers $1.44 million less than in Labour’s last budget – a 5.3% reduction in nominal terms. I think most taxpayers would be pleased that they have reduced their own support budget by 5.3%.

So the Greens has misled the media with their press release. I look forward to their apology.

If David Farrar managed to find the information then it was freely available for the journalist to find it too.

All too often journalists take what a politician says at face value and never dig beneath their spin. This time it caught out one of the better journalists. Tracy Watkins won’t be so quick to believe the Greens next time around.

It also destroys the claims that the Greens would be responsible fiscal managers.

 

– Fairfax


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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