member of parliament

MP Expenses – A comparison between two MPs and a hippycrite

Gareth Hughes

The Media Party are going for the headlines in who spent the most where…but they are missing the comparisons when it comes to MP expenses.

Sure it makes for great headlines that Tim Groser had his sleeves shortened, or Gerry Brownlee staying in a hotel that cost $2100 a night. Most of those expenses are in the course of trade related visits. They certainly aren’t in the league of Clayton Cosgrove miraculously losing three items of luggage and having to get new suits each time. Whilst he might be the world’s most unluckiest Business Class traveller where they managed to lose priority luggage several times he certainly didn’t need to trough it up and get new suits…luggage turns up eventually.

However if you look at comparisons between similar MPs you get to see where the real troughing is.

Take National’s List and Wellington based MP Chris Bishop. Now I’m no big fan of Chris Bishop, but look at his expenses for the 91 days between 1 July and 30 September 2015.

His out of Wellington accommodation is $889 and his air travel is $4333 and his land travel costs were $2813 for a total of $8,036. This is $88 a day for accomodation and travel.

Sounds large, but let’s look at some other Wellington based MPs.   Read more »

The land of the free?

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First they came for our dogs and I said nothing because I didn’t have a dog.
Then they came for our cats and I said nothing because I didn’t like cats.
Then they came for our education system and I said nothing because I didn’t have children.
Then they imposed Sharia Law and I said nothing because I was a woman and my place was under a Burqa.

 

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Face of the Day

Hugh Carleton

Hugh Carleton

Before Pam Corkery and before Alistair Thompson there was another journalist who thought it was a good idea to go into politics and his name was Hugh Carleton. He was famous for being New Zealand’s first ever Member of Parliament. Unlike Pam and Alistair his political career was not short lived and he spent 17 years as a Politician. Interestingly he managed to be Both a Politician and a Journalist at the same time as he became the Editor of the Southern Cross while still a Member of Parliament in 1856. Before that he was a journalist in Auckland and edited the New Zealander and then established the Anglo-Maori Warder, which followed an editorial policy in opposition to Governor Grey.

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Who is Parliament’s Most Useless MP?

Parliament has a lot of vacant minds, and I’m going to highlight them.

It is not looking for the most obnoxious, or offensive or stupid, just the most useless. MPs who will not be missed, and have never achieved anything during their time in parliament. Some will not even be noticed because they are that useless. This will be a tough challenge because some are so dead set useless that not even their electorate knows who they are.  Read more »

Why Ethics in Government Matters

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.

Corrupt Labour MP fails on appeal

Good job. The man that Michael Cullen said was guilty of nothing more than being helpful to his constituents and the man that Labour only sacked from the party when he hinted he might go independent has had his appeal chucked out.

Disgraced former politician Phillip Field has failed to overturn his conviction on fraud charges or have his six-year jail sentence reduced.

Field was jailed in October last year after being convicted by a jury in the High Court in Auckland of 11 charges of bribery and corruption as a Member of Parliament and 15 charges of perverting the course of justice.

Labour still hasn’t apologoised for his actions as a minister and as an MP that lead to his corruption charges.

All they have ever done is acknowledge the verdict.

At the time of the incredibly rigged Ingram Report Michael Cullen had this to say about the situation;

If that is what he is guilty of, then I am sure he is happy to plead guilty to working hard on behalf of his constituents.

Michael Cullen, of course, went on to obstruct the Privileges Committee to help out Winston Raymond Peters, 65, unemployed of Herne Bay. He certainly knows his corruption.

Axed

The MPs travel perk is gone. Lockwood Smith has finally done what he told me he would never do.

Speaker Lockwood Smith has axed the international travel perk MPs and their spouses have used since the 1970s, saying it was clear the tide had turned on the perks.

Dr Smith announced his decision tonight after meeting with the representatives for all political parties on the Parliamentary Service Commission.

The decision will not take formal effect until he changes the official rules for Parliament. However, he said he had made it clear to Parliamentarians what his decision was to ward off any last-chance uses of it.

Dr Smith said he intended to set up another scheme to allow politicians to go on parliamentary-related travel, which would have strict rules. However, taxpayer subsidies for international flights for private travel would no longer apply.

There is warning though. The trough pigs may still get it through the back-door by getting a pay ride to compensate them for the loss of the perk.

He will advise Inland Revenue and the Remuneration Authority of his decision – the Remuneration Authority makes decisions on MPs’ base salaries and could increase that to compensate for the loss of the perk.

How about NO.

They trough plenty big enough already and the poor little diddums want the taxpayer to compensate them for the loss of their taxpayer subsidised holidays. No way. they can join the rest of the country in NOT having taxpayer subsidies for their holidays.

Dr Smith said he had not addressed the question of former MPs, who are still entitled to the allowance.

Why not. It’s not like they can complain, they are all ex-MPs, scum mostly, voted out or retired. Axe their perk too.

Newspapers Agree. Lockwood is a tool

Now Lockwood is going to be list only, I am considering rejoining National so I can rank him last at regional list ranking next year.

His dumb approach to trying to put the genie back in the bottle on the travel perk has bought him the distain of the editorial pages.

The Press says:

All of what MPs receive is public money and as such should be subject to the greatest transparency possible. Instead of a murky mish-mash that may or may not be subject to misuse, it should be clear what MPs are being paid without resort to trade-offs or any other such potentially mystifying devices.

The Herald also kicks him square in the nuts

Parliament has done a disservice to itself and to the public interest with a decision to conceal the costs of each member’s subsidised holidays overseas. The new rules announced by the Speaker, Lockwood Smith, can only lessen Parliament’s standing in public estimation and feed the suspicions of those ever ready to believe the worst of politicians.

The Dominion points out the obvious to all those that don’t live in the parallel universe Lockwood lives in;

The ongoing furore over MPs’ travel expenses is the price MPs pay for refusing to surrender control of their pay and perks. It is a price successive Speakers have been happy to pay, but it is not one the public should tolerate.

MPs’ pay and perks should be set by an independent body that takes account of comparable pay rates here and overseas, the state of the economy and workloads.

Someone needs to take Lockwood out the back and hit him hard with a bit of four by two until he sees sense.

Reason number 43763 why Parliamentary Services should be subject to the OIA

A former MP has taken $9000 in travel perks he was not entitled to after a blunder by the Parliamentary Service.

The service’s annual report has revealed it incorrectly advised an ex-MP he was entitled to the perk. He claimed $9000 in domestic and international travel for himself and his spouse before the service belatedly realised he had not served the minimum time in Parliament to qualify.

MPs must have served more than three terms, and only those elected before the 1999 election qualify for it.

The Parliamentary Service funds the running costs of MPs, including their offices, travel, salaries and other allowances.

It is unclear who the ex-politician is – the service is not open to public scrutiny because it is exempt from the Official Information Act.

A spokesman said the service would not release the name of the former MP or the circumstances under which its error was made. It does not appear the politician was asked to repay the money.

And why haven’t they been asked to repay the money? Try arguing the error argument with the bank when they make a mistake.

This guy is just a trougher trying it on, name him and shame him into paying back the taxpayers money.

People in Wellington…you know how to whisper quietly to the Whale…whisper away. For the ex-MP it would just be better to out himself before I find out who he is. Write the cheque and pay us back before I find out.

Better still let’s remove the perks altogether.

Thanks Matt

A big heart felt thanks goes out to Matt McCarten for telling everyone just exactly how it is about our parliamentarians.

Greedy Little Piggies

But politicians live in a parallel universe in which they see no hypocrisy in telling us to tighten our belts while gorging on the indefensible benefits they award themselves. Most New Zealanders who are paying for these swanky holidays have never had the opportunity to travel abroad and the expectation they foot the bill is beyond grotesque.

To avoid all this public exposure our MPs agreed they were willing to forgo some of their dodgy perks, such as personal air travel or tax free allowances for renting their own properties. It seems the price they are asking us to stump up is a minimum of $50,000 for the three-year term for a backbench MP, and almost twice as much for ministers.

How about get stuffed. Why should they get personal air travel and tax free allowances, no one else in New Zelaand does. Even a scum list MP these days is paid in the top 5% of all New Zealanders.

The NZ Herald estimates the suggested 10 per cent increase in their salary, in compensation for losing their travel, is three times more than the price of the perks under consideration.

Have they no shame? They should never have given themselves personal air travel or allowances for their mortgages. They should not only give them back but apologise for allowing themselves to get it in the first place.

There’s nowhere in the real world that a group of employees can set unjustifiable privileges then expect to be paid off to give them up.

The argument for MPs and former MPs to have generous overseas travel entitlements until their death is justified on the basis that it rewarded their long service on less than market remuneration. This is nonsense.

Complete nonsense. The farce is that the fox gets to set the rules in the hen-house. One glaring omission from all of these reviews about spending is that MPs still lobby to refuse the application of the best disinfectant we have, that of the Official Information Act to the goings on in Parliamentary Services.

Even better for our MPs, almost half of them don’t have to win their seats. And even when electorate MPs lose, they get to regain their jobs, via the party list.

Our MPs have a pretty cushy number, with little accountability compared to other countries.

In our country we now have a self-perpetuating political elite with a lifestyle and a sense of entitlement that is alien to the people they purport to represent. The idea that public service is a privilege, not a tenured career with unearned and immoral perks, doesn’t seem to occur to them.

Once, an MP’s salary was linked to a primary school principal’s rate. This was established to allow ordinary citizens to serve in parliament with a modest income linked to their constituents’ reality. The earlier parliamentarians who built our democratic institutions wouldn’t recognise the greedy, spoiled successors who now sit in their place.

So when our MPs consider their appropriations review report they might like to remember they are servants, not beneficiaries, of the people.

Matt alerts us to the biggest single problem of MMP, scum List MPs. Elected by the party, answerable to no-one but their own venality, they are a scourge upon the taxpayer. Scum List MPs should all be forced to live in Wellington. There is no other place that deserves them more. We could even convert Avalon Studios in to MP accommodation for them to live in. It would certainly be a hell of a lot cheaper than the present arrangements.

If one wants to look for an example of Matt’s described “self-perpetuating political elite with a lifestyle and sense of entitlement” then from National you need look no further than FIGJAM Power, allegedly National’s next leader if you listen to his bullshit, and from Labour the perfect example of the description is “Three Suits” Cosgrove, man who once famously sacked Corporate Cabs from ever picking him up again because they didn’t recognise him.