Min Accom Review TOR out and to be done by Sep

August 5th, 2009 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

Well is not wasting time. The Govt has just announced the terms of reference of the review of Ministerial accommodation, and the review will identify:

  • how to ensure criteria for ministerial accommodation were simple, easy to understand, transparent and cost effective to administer;

  • how to ensure value for taxpayer money;

  • ensure ministers and their families get suitable accommodation in Wellington.

It will consider

  • keeping the current model

  • amending the current model giving options;

  • replacing it all together or in part;

I can think of several possible models off the top of my head

  1. Ministers just get an accommodation allowance (as MPs get an expense allowance) of $xx,000 a year and totally up to them where they stay or live in Wellington. That is one extreme option.
  2. increases it housing stock to 25 houses, owning them all. Ministers have a choice of a owned house or they stay privately at their own expense. The PM gets 1st choice of Ministerial House, DPM 2nd and so down until the bottom ranked Ministers get the one left over. This is another extreme. No more renting.
  3. You allow Ministers to lived in a rented house, as is the case currently, but the house can not be associated with any Minister or MP in any way – including superannuation funds and trusts.  This will not save money (may in fact cost more) but would mean any perception of “gain” from having a Ministerial House provided is removed. This is my preferred option (at this stage).
  4. If a Ministers own a house in Wellington and rents it out, that rent is credited against the cost of their Ministerial House. That makes little sense to me as Ministers with money to invest will simply invest in properties in Auckland or Christchurch. It is worth remembering a house is simply a form of investment if you are not living in it.
  5. DIA converts the basement of the Beehive from a carpark into a dormitory for Ministers, where all 28 Ministers and their families can live in a big commune. This is the cheapest option and would probably win a public referenda.
  6. You have a mixture of maximum rent levels for Ministerial accommodation, based on family size. So for example a Minister with no partner or dependent children may only qualify for $550 a week place, while a Minister with a partner and six dependent children could qualify for say $750 a week.

One complicating factor will be what happens to MPs accommodation allowances. If my option (3) is adopted, then that should also apply to MPs. So that means the Greens Super Fund would no longer be able to rent its houses out to Green MPs etc. I think many MPs would be affected by such a change.

The Herald praises Key for his quick action:

The Prime Minister is commendably quick to order a review of ministers’ accommodation grants after the disclosure that some have gone to unseemly trouble to maximise their income. …

These arrangements have probably been common practice for as long as anyone in Parliament can remember. They have come to light now because the recent expenses scandal in Britain has forced greater disclosure from other parliaments. It is a pity it should have taken public exposure to awaken the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to the hypocrisy of their private arrangements. …

John Key has many more important problems on his plate but this one needs to be fixed. Good example matters.

Another Herald story talks of there being a rule change that lets Bill English claim more than previously. I tend to follow these things quite closely and this was news to me, so I have made some inquiries.

My understanding is that there was no rule change in May 2008 that changed the level of entitlement. There was a clarification that if a Minister did live in a home owned by themselves (limiting them to the $24,000 a year) that expense was still an expense paid for out of Ministerial Services, not The Parliamentary Services, despite being at the level for an MP. This was already the practice, but it was not explicit.

I have asked for copies of the old and new determinations, and will blog copies of them if I get them. Until I have seen the actual determinations I can’t say for sure whether the clarification did in any way affect entitlements.

I welcome feedback on the options for reform I have outlined above, plus any other options people identify. I’m not sure if the DIA review will take public submissions, but if I have the time I’ll make an unsolicited submission anyway.

UPDATE: I now have the two determinations – the 2003 and 2009 ones. Executive Travel, Accommodation, Attendance, and Communications Services Determination 2009 and Executive Travel, Accommodation, Attendance, and Communications Services Determination 2003.

My reading of the documents is the Herald has misunderstood the change. All the new clause 4.3 says is i you do not take up a Ministerial Residence, you are still entitled to an MPs accommodation supplement but it will be paid for by Ministerial Services. The implication that this change in any way allowed Bill English to claim more money is quite wrong.

UPDATE2: All academic now anyway as Bill English has announced he is going to reduce his accommodation allowance from the level he is entitled as a Minister, to that of an MP. This means he will repay around $12,000 and receive around $25,000 less contribution towards his Wellington accommodation. NZPA quotes him:

“The fact is that no amount of detail will change the perception that in some way I am gaining a bigger allowance than other members of Parliament.

“So I have decided to deal with that perception. I’m a minister of Finance. It is my job to lead by example so I will be getting in touch with Ministerial Services to pay back the difference between the rate I am on and the other rate going back to the election.”

I wonder what hurt more – this decision or having to fund the cycleway :-)

I do hope that the review of the rules is covered in a less sensationalistic fashion now.

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89 Responses to “Min Accom Review TOR out and to be done by Sep”

  1. Pmoney (13 comments) says:

    Why don’t they just fold accommodation costs into Minsters’ salaries? The fewer subsidies/allowances MPs get, the better. This will allow more meaningful comparisons to be made between their salaries and those of ordinary citizens, especially people in business.

    If this won’t fly, I vote for a parliamentary dormitory in the basement of the Beehive.

    [DPF: That is a variation of No 1, but I disagree that would allow a better comparison. In the private sector an employer is obliged to pay for the costs of your accom if they require you to stay overnight away from your normal home. I think it is useful to distinguish between salary for the job and allowances to cover expenses incurred as a result of doing the job. So does the IRD!]

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  2. big bruv (14,211 comments) says:

    Option 7. Tell the bastards that they can pay for their own accommodation, if they need to entertain they can use Premier house.

    All list MP’s must live in Wellington or pay for their own transport to and from their place of work.

    [DPF: That is basically Option 1. The Remuneration Authority would beyond doubt increase Ministers salaries by $40K or so if the job now required them to fund their own accommodation in Wellington.

    Out of interest if your work requires you to be in another city overnight, do they force you to pay for your own accom?]

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  3. annie (539 comments) says:

    big bruv #2 – I don’t think electorate MPs should have to pay for their own accommodation – after all, they are based in their electorate and have electorate work to do – they effectively have to work in two places.

    Now list MPs of course, are full-time in Wellington, and I do think their housing allowances could be looked at – after all, they effectively move here for work. Anyone else would have transfer expenses paid and then be on their own.

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  4. big bruv (14,211 comments) says:

    Yeah all right Annie, but I do like the sound of Cactus Kate’s idea re making them stay in a mid level hotel.

    But list MP’s can get stuffed, find your own accommodation.

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  5. annie (539 comments) says:

    And Ministers have to have somewhere mildly decent to entertain, esp overseas types who have something to offer NZ and who equate flash with credibility. And if the cooking is being done onsite by the partner for instance, then you can’t transport food to a central location like Premier house, not without catering resources.

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  6. Repton (769 comments) says:

    What about:

    MPs that don’t live in Wellington can, on election, choose to move there.

    If they do, they get a lump-sum from Parliamentary Services to help them move, and another lump sum upon exiting parliament to move back (if they say they want to go back).

    If they don’t choose to move to Wellington, they get taxpayer funded accommodation at a hotel or serviced apartment for those days when they need to be in town.

    These rules apply to ministers and MPs equally.

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  7. dimmocrazy (286 comments) says:

    I’m with cactus on this for electorate MP’s.
    List and MP’s and ministers simply have a job in W’ton, so they can sort out their own arrangements and pay for it out of their wages like anybody else. Maybe a small difference for the PM, premier house and all. That’s it.

    [DPF: So you think all 120 MPs and their families should move permanently to Wellington as that is where their job now is, and stay in hotels when they visit their electorate? That is a valid view, but sorts of defeats the points of having local MPs. Might as well have 120 List MPs only]

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  8. GPT1 (2,019 comments) says:

    The media have gone to great lengths to make it look scandalous and I agree it looks a bit iffy but, of course, there would be nothing stopping a Minister renting a house to a non-MP. It still wouldn’t save the taxpayer any money. I guess it just looks a bit off that the taxpayer is directly paying for (albiet at market rates) a minister’s investment property.

    For all those that suggest MPs move to Wellington I assume that they will support an allowance for the MPs to stay, you know, in their electorate.

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  9. llew (1,286 comments) says:

    DIA converts the basement of the Beehive from a carpark into a dormitory for Ministers, where all 28 Ministers and their families can live in a big commune. This is the cheapest option and would probably win a public referenda.

    Duh, the civil defence bunker there would be even cheaper! Just need a few more dozen bunk beds.

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  10. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    dimmocrazy>List and MP’s and ministers simply have a job in W’ton, so they can sort out their own arrangements and pay for it out of their wages like anybody else.

    Which means that MPs (and especially List MPs) will spend their WHOLE lives in Wellington Central. They’ll socialise pretty much entirely with people connected with government and with Wellington Central voters. They’ll only have first hand knowledge of the issues that effect Wellington. Great news for Wellington. But tough luck for the rest of the country, unless you’re really so hard up that you need the $1 per head that the current arrangement costs you.

    I like the idea of MPs interacting with real people. Keeping them together in a way that is reminiscent of Soviet-era Moscow isn’t healthy.

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  11. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    I see Sir Double Dipton is now proposing to pay back at least some of his accommodation allowance. All about “perception” apparently.

    Wonder if other Ministers will follow.

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  12. Aye Aye (4 comments) says:

    You have forgotten the Civil Defence bunker under the Beehive which would certainly meet any desire to punish Ministers.

    Really though, Ministers and MPs need a home in their electorate/base and one in Wellington and for that reason their accomodation needs are very different from most jobs.

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  13. big bruv (14,211 comments) says:

    Toad

    Is Red Russ going to give us back the money he used for electioneering given that he abused the system to get into the house prior to the last election?

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  14. big bruv (14,211 comments) says:

    DPF

    “Out of interest if your work requires you to be in another city overnight, do they force you to pay for your own accom?”

    What does that have to do with it?, my point is that list MP’s should have to move to Wellington, the tax payer should pay for the initial relocation expenses but that is is.

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  15. PaulL (5,446 comments) says:

    I think option 1 is the easiest and cleanest. No incentive to inflate rental costs, no arguing about who has what house, no ownership of houses by Ministerial Services, which usually means either:
    – they are shabby as the government is too tight to keep them up to spec, or
    – they are grossly over renovated, because when they do renovate them they are pathologically unable to do it in a cost controlled manner

    I’d still keep some of the current Ministerial houses (particularly for the PM), if you take a Ministerial house then you don’t get the allowance.

    The main anomaly / rort that this will leave is Wellington-based MPs claiming not to be Wellington-based. One of the Labour MPs got caught out doing this – was it Annette King? The only easy way to deal with that is to just pay them the allowance as well, but that seems a bad idea.

    As for those who are suggesting that all MPs get their own accommodation in Wellington at their own expense….seems a bit silly to me. Would all our parliamentarians then come from Wellington (as the job would then be more attractive to them)? There’s a recipe for a diverse parliament.

    I know lots of people on here have it in for list MPs (and, by extension, for MMP in general), but frankly they need to get over that. Allowances are not a mechanism to force a move back to FPP. Basically they’re saying that if you stand in an electorate and win it, you get an allowance. Lose it and come in on the list, no allowance. Watch all the talented MPs gravitate back to “safe electorates”, watch for the pork barrel spending to start up again. Not for me, thanks.

    Finally, on Bill’s gesture. Anybody looking for a quick resolution of this issue with the result back dated to the election? (i.e. Bill isn’t really giving up anything at all if it were going to be back dated anyway?) Not that that would be a bad thing – good incentive to resolve it quickly.

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  16. andrei (2,653 comments) says:

    The Herald praises Key for his quick action

    And rightly so – Mr Key has shown himself very able in getting in front of issues like this. If he only could put and end to the ETS nonsense so efficiently.

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  17. andrei (2,653 comments) says:

    No system come anybody up with will be completely equatable and fair – we have to accept that but it must be transparent.

    When all is said and done there are many more hopeful MPs than successful candidates so if any potential MP doesn’t like the terms and conditions of employment they don’t have to take the job.

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  18. UpandComer (537 comments) says:

    I like the idea of having MP’s with big families get more. It’s totally unfair to compare Bill English with say Micheal Cullen or Norman Russell. Sure a single MP can live in an apartment they may be able to rent for $500. But how can you expect a family of 8 like Bill’s to find suitable accomodation in Wellington, for $750! Unless you want MPs living in Levin or NaeNae or something, the cost of representation for far flung electorate MP’s has to correspond to reality. The country shouldn’t punish families or people from small towns in all of this hysteria. Good on Bill for taking a big hit in the pocket and paying this money back, I think it transitions him straight back into the moral high ground. It’s galling to think that Labour Ministers spent 9 years blissfully if legitimately using supplements and now the National party and Bill English yet again has to be the honourable party and take the hit for the collective malfeasance of politician’s behaviour, both Left and Right, here and overseas, for the past 50 years. Its will be interesting to see what changes are implemented. The Left has more to lose on this one. Not many of the Labour members would be wealthy outside of Parliament. Most of the National benches would. So the Left should be very careful how they approach this, because you don’t want to get in the situation in America where a factor in political participation of a substantial kind requires substantial finances. Now that English has paid the money back he actually looks good. The public accepts he has been getting the same as all the Labour Ministers and the other National Ministers, but is still paying back cash as he respects the perception the media has created. The Prime Minister looks very very good for his swift and adroit handling of the entire affair. Labour now has to concede yet again that it is the Tories who have instigated ethical and appropriate change in Parliament. They have done so here in the administration of Ministers and MP’s allowances. The Tories promoted and allowed for the publication of expenses whilst in Government, even knowing they were putting their necks and bank accounts on the line to the public. You didn’t see the awful Greens clamouring for transparency in the media consistently while Labour was in government. The Tories placed in the House a speaker who in comparison to Helen’s admirer is fair in the House and demands accountability from Tory Ministers. There are no Parekura diarheaa’s anymore. It was the Tories who are also in the process of bringing back appropriate change to electoral law in NZ after the outrageous Electoral Finance Act. The difference is simple. Taito Phillip Field placed in Lange’s old electorate is going to jail for corruption and bribery. Bill English, having acted squarely within the rules and perfectly legitimately is paying back $25000! to the taxpayer having sat on the opposition benches for 9 years watching Labour Ministers act the same as and worse then him, even though the vast majority don’t have the considerations of a family. Isn’t it great to have a clean party on board that accepts mistakes and respects public perceptions? And to have individuals who take responsibility?

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  19. Bevan (3,232 comments) says:

    I wonder how long we will have to wait until the Herald picks up on the Greens rental activities…..

    I see Sir Double Dipton is now proposing to pay back at least some of his accommodation allowance. All about “perception” apparently.

    Umm Toad, he who laughs last laughs loudest.

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  20. backster (2,194 comments) says:

    I join with UP&Comer in congratulating Bill ENGLISH on doing the honourable thing. The fact that the allowances seem outrageous should never have been made personal to him as the media seemed to delight in doing…I think John KEY should extend the Housing enquiry to include all the perks.

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  21. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    DPF, I’m slightly bemused by your option 6 as in the past you have been totally scathing of any allowance/benefit that gives more to people who decide to have children. Why should MPs be treated any differently than any other taxpayer? MPs know that living in Wellington for at least some of the time is a condition of the job when they take it on.

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  22. Kimble (3,955 comments) says:

    UpandComer, it is called the enter key. It is labelled “Enter” and it has an arrow pointing down and then to the left on it.

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  23. Cactus Kate (536 comments) says:

    Dimmocracy

    I never said that at all. Most MP’s don’t have their families with them in Wton. The ones that do are permanently living in Wton as far as I am concerned so can pay to be there as it is a permanent home (especially list MP’s). The ones who do not can stay in a hotel as their families are not with them during the week so they are the equivalent of businesspeople on business. Not many Bosses allow your whole family to travel with you!

    If English chooses to live in Wton with his family and cannot fit into a hotel, then he can pay for it as a Wton resident MP. Makes a mvlery of being an electorate MP but there you go.

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  24. Rakaia George (313 comments) says:

    Out of interest if your work requires you to be in another city overnight, do they force you to pay for your own accom?

    No they pay for the expense incurred, but if I stay with friends as I occasionally do when in Wellington, I don’t claim the equivalent and pocket it…I’m usually ok to expense a reasonable bottle of wine for dinner though.

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  25. coventry (322 comments) says:

    Propose an addition to 6.0, if rents are going to be paid:

    6.1 If a house is rented, it must not be owned by or associated in any way shape or form with the renter. ie. no family trusts, no renting off the wife/family, no hiding behind your parties super fund, etc

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  26. Cerium (23,793 comments) says:

    The Deputy Prag Matist comes out of this looking good. His approach is a refreshing change.
    And it will make it easier for him to push for cutbacks in other areas of spending.

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  27. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    “Wonder if other Ministers will follow.”

    Ministers over what period Toad? Just post Nov 08?

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  28. david (2,194 comments) says:

    Simple answer is to move Parliament to where nobody lives and start with an even playing field.

    Waiouru is nice in Spring!!

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  29. coolas (115 comments) says:

    Smart move by Bill English.
    Show’s he’s clever enough to know this wouldn’t go away.
    Forgoing 25k as his contribution to the recession looks good.
    Now other Minister’s who are maxing their benefits might reduce too.
    Such action would be huge kudos for National. They care. They share.
    Absolute bullshit of course but perception is powerful in politics

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  30. dimmocrazy (286 comments) says:

    Must have expressed that incorrectly:

    As per cactus for all those that are from out of W’ton, and have their actual job distributed over W’ton and their electorate. (I.e. electorate MP’s).

    All who in fact have their job in W’ton can sort things out for themselves, with some assistance with moving and so on. (To me most list MP’s are effectively in that category).

    Can’t see why all sort of complicated travel/accommodation arrangements should be in place for list MP’s that are apparatchiks anyway. They do not have any business in an electorate as they were not elected for one. If they want to campaign anywhere they can pay for that, or have their party pay for it, as would anyone with political aspirations have to.

    Any Joe Bloggs who takes on a 3-year job in W’ton would have to move there as well, or not take the job. It’s all part and parcel of stepping up to be elected and there’s plenty of takers, no need for all the extras that make it complicated and create too much distractions.

    I don’t buy the ‘elitist’ argument at all. Ideally, people would only be elected for one term, max two. The career politicians are living on a different planet anyway, no matter how much you let them mingle with the ‘rest of the population’. Read the blog posts by Hipkins et al for proof.

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  31. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    I agree coolas – I actually half expected Sir Roger to step up to the plate and repay his airfare, (but too late now)

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  32. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (717 comments) says:

    sorry, no, this is not a good look for Bill English. It looks to me very much like he used his inside knowledge of the system to rort the allowance system. the Minister of finance trying to impose fiscal prudence has just evaporated his credibility.

    Regrettably toad is right, and “double dipton” is a witty and apposite descriptor.

    I take some (small) solace from the knowledge that the Greens are amongst the most egregious and duplicitous rorters of allowances, so their glee will be shortlived as their super fund scam is unwound, and Russ whatsisname is invited to refund the misused parliamentary travel funds.

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  33. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    What a funny world we live in. English is paying back money he was entitled to have under the rules because it is a bad look and Winston still hasn’t paid back money he stole from tax payers….

    I seriously think this expenses debacle justifies a full disclosure from the last 7 years so that the tax payers know who is really taking them for a ride and for how much. The noise surrounding this is hiding the facts and the detail.

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  34. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    Oh I have a suggestion for the terms of this inquiry – something that could almost be fresh from Clark’s office;

    Have any MP’s been claiming living allowances for gold fish. – That should get them all off the hook and exonerate them all – move on.

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  35. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    deity – its not a good look for any of them. Problem is you don’t see the MSM getting stuck into Andertons additional ‘party leader’ $200k allowance – its the biggest rort in the parliamentary system
    English was on hiding to nothing but it’s a good (better) look for him than keeping it and giving taxpayers the finger like the last lot of wankers

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  36. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    But could English be Sir Triple Dipton?

    The companies register reveals that he has provided different respective addresses as each of a Director and a shareholder of his company Resolution Farms Limited. May just be sloppy with the paperwork, but interesting.

    Didn’t David Parker get stood down as a Minister for something like this until it was all cleared up?

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  37. Inky_the_Red (764 comments) says:

    Let’s face it
    Green’s Super House is Dodgy. It is an abuse of what super funds should be used for.
    English getting a subsidy for housing his family Dodgy. If his family chose to live in Wellington then the Wellington house is in reality his house. Any housing funding should relate to his house in his electorate.
    Brownlee living a lone in a six bedroom state (or Ministerial) house is a poor use of resources.
    Maybe the answer for Ministerial house is to sell all the existing houses (except Premier House, that the one Key lives and Anderton used to live in?). Then purchase an apartment block for ministers (who need it to live in)

    Agree with Patrick, Anderton leader allowance is a rort. So would be Dunne if he claimed one.

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  38. Herodotus (12 comments) says:

    Have alook at what the greens have reportedly setup. refer Leighton Smith pre 5:00p.m. broadcast today. When there is self interest the mind can work wonderfully well. Pity that so much effort cannot be put into progressing this countrys fortune, or atleast making the parliamentary system work for the public at large.

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  39. ross (1,414 comments) says:

    > [Out of interest if your work requires you to be in another city overnight, do they force you to pay for your own accom?]

    Another straw man, David. MPs choose their occupation. It’s a full-time job, not the occasional night away. If they choose to commute, that’s their decision and a cost they have to wear. Far better that they relocate. I’m happy to pay MPs’ relocation expenses but I shouldn’t be subsiding their accomodation when they are well paid. Public sector chief executives are well paid too and we don’t pay them to live in Wellington.

    As I’ve said before, someone who is unemployed and married is not entitled to a paltry $190 per week. Yet Ministers can claim about $1000 a week in expenses, on top of their salary. That’s nothing more than a rort. Funny how Bill English is now preparing to pay some money back. I wonder if he came to that conclusion himself or he was ordered to.

    [DPF: Ok let us be clear. You want all 120 MPs to live permanently in Wellington. You don’t want any of them to live in or near the electorates that elect the. You want New Zealand run by 120 Wellingtonians who do not own a home outside Wellington. Your choice, but I think it is absurd]

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  40. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (717 comments) says:

    Oh I totally agree patrick. The problem is that for most MPs this is the most money and power they will ever enjoy, and they will do anything to hold onto it. Of course the truth is that my statement is only true for Labour and Green and Maori MPs. For the Nats, Parliament is a paycut. Bill English would have done far better for his family had he stayed in the commercial world.

    The Greens rort every allowance going, Anderton runs a fake party (as does Dunne) for the extra gravy. And of course Labour is just “guilty of trying to help people”. Perhaps Chris Carter would like to step up to the plate and explain his international travel bill now? No didnt think so.

    I am most disappointed in Sir Roger – imagine the philospical father of the ACT movement defending his “entitlements” like any troughing socialist.

    Oh well, at least John Key isnt claiming for having his moat cleaned, although I do wonder what he charges the DPS for the rent of his pool house- still, the sacrifices one must make for high office…

    Truly though, fiddling the expenses pales into insignificance compared to running a mafia style imigration racket in Mangare, and having your golden MP found guilty of overt corruption and standover tactics doesnt it? Wonder if thats why Labour is so pleased to have the subject changed?

    Listening to the samoan “community leaders” defending Field this morning was indeed an eyeopener about where this country is going.

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  41. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Inky_the_Red said: Green’s Super House is Dodgy. It is an abuse of what super funds should be used for.

    I don’t se it that way ITR. A Super Fund invests in a range of areas, one of which is property. The fact that some of the Green Super Fund’s properties are rented to the out of Wellington Green MPs is irrelevant.

    The MPs would be claiming the accommodation alowance wherever they rented, so there is no pecuniary advantage to them. The Super Fund would be renting out the properties anyway, so there is no pecuniary advantage to the fund, other than the minor one that, unless an MP resigns or dies, there is a guaranteed tenancy for 3 years after each election.

    I really don’t think the contingent advantage to the Green Super Fund of the likely security of tenure for three years on those properties is worth quibbling about.

    Any landlord can rent out any property on a fixed term tenancy in any case – it’s just that MPs, because of the insecurity of their jobs being dependent on election results, are more likely to take a fixed term option than those in permanent employment.

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  42. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    yep – from TV1 “Chris Carter the big spender, clocking up more than $200,000 in six months on 08. His spending, which was twice as much as the average Labour cabinet minister, included $83,000 on international travel, $83,000 travelling in limos, taxis and rental cars, $23,000 on domestic air fares and about $20,000 on accommodation”

    was there any outrage from Toad ? – no you say? But Labour were their buddies, next coalition partners. In Clarks words “I think their time has come.” …

    (but alas – it went as fast as it came)

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  43. ross (1,414 comments) says:

    > You want New Zealand run by 120 Wellingtonians who do not own a home outside Wellington.

    MPs can own properties outside of Wellington if they wish to. Whether they do or don’t is irrelevant. The main issue is that Bill English and his wife – a doctor – are not in need of any taxpayer assistance. They are both well paid. As for having a property in their electorates, please tell me how much time Bill English spends in his electorate. Bugger all.

    English says that: “I’m a Minister of Finance. It is my job to lead by example”. Yes, it is. So where was the leadership? John Key defended English from the get-go. English himself said he was only claiming what he was entitled to. Yeah, that’s leadership.

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  44. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    “The main issue is that Bill English and his wife – a doctor – are not in need of any taxpayer assistance”

    By that statement any salary, wage or payment made to any state servant, SOE employee or MP should be means tested? So do we only pay those a salary and benefits who really really need the money?

    Sorry, this is about whether English chose to hand back the money he was entitled to receive. As it turns out he has – and its a shame more MP’s in similar positions dont follow his example. – (but its their choice)

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  45. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    and toad..how much do they charge themselves to live in them..?

    market rents..not the ‘max’..we would hope..

    ..eh..?

    i said before that you (the greens) had a tiger by the tail on this one..

    ..and that it may well bite you..

    ..before this is out/over..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  46. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    labour..national..and act .. all stand naked on this one..

    ..the troughing…

    ..careful you don’t lose your ‘gear’ too..eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  47. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    deitythingy’s speculation that Key charges for the use of his pool house when he has more money than a bull can shit and has publicly expressed disinterest in his PM’s salary (SFA to him) is yet another indicator of how well Helen Elizabeth Clark and her sleazy gang of creeps and lowlifes have reduced public expectations of politicians to subterranean levels. Not exactly helped by the great accomodation debacle either.

    It will be all very well for the rules to change, but the notion that whatever is brought in can adequately provide a safe set of railway tracks upon which all may travel without concern is not realistic. At the end of the day, when it comes to issues central to public trust and standards of behaviour, politicians (not just Ministers) need to stand back from all they are about to do and ask themselves: “forget about what the rules say, and whether not doing this is unfair on me and mine, is this a good thing that I’m about to do? Even though I think its OK, could it be misconstrued and if it were to be, how would that reflect on my party and what we are trying to achieve?”

    Of course, Liabore and ‘melons members need not concern themselves with this minor procedural formality.

    The answer might not be fair, but it comes with the territory in politics, just like the real world.

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  48. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    Oh hello Phil. Welcome back to the troughing debate. I suppose you’re a bit weary after a tough day couching.

    What’s up in Days of Our Lives these days?

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  49. ross (1,414 comments) says:

    > By that statement any salary, wage or payment made to any state servant, SOE employee or MP should be means tested?

    Excuse me? State servants don’t claim $1000 a week in accomodation allowances, unless their name is Bill English. Remember that MPs are meant to be serving us, not themselves. They’re not in the job to line their pockets.

    Bill English has a million-dollar-plus property in Wellington which he will live in but only if the taxpayer pays him! How extraordinary. So what happens to this property’s value over time? It will appreciate. So not only does Bill get taxpayer assistance for living in his own house but he also benefits from an increase in his house’s value when he decides to sell it. Talk about having your cake and eating it.

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  50. Kapital (120 comments) says:

    If he needed all the money to keep his family together and is now paying half back
    Is he now going to split the family up?

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  51. big bruv (14,211 comments) says:

    I note that prize wanker Toad thinks that it is fair game to publish Bill English’s home (Wellington home) address on a few blogs.
    Personally I think English is a cock but that is not the issue, his kids live at that address yet this does not seem to worry or concern Toad at all, this is just so topical of the low life behaviour of those on the left.

    I wonder what the gutless prick would say if we started to post the addresses of Green party MP’s.

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  52. andrei (2,653 comments) says:

    “The fact is that no amount of detail will change the perception that in some way I am gaining a bigger allowance than other members of Parliament.

    “So I have decided to deal with that perception. I’m a minister of Finance. It is my job to lead by example so I will be getting in touch with Ministerial Services to pay back the difference between the rate I am on and the other rate going back to the election.”

    Its a bit damn late for all of that – this is dishonesty maybe legal, but never-the-less dishonest certainly not the behavior of a man of integrity.

    Who remembers Phillida Bunkle and what happened to her?

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  53. Tauhei Notts (1,687 comments) says:

    My gripe is that;
    If a farmer provides a free house to an employee the rental value of that house is taxable income. That is, it is subject to income tax, ACC, student loan repayments and Child Support payments. And, Inland Revenue Department PAYE inspectors police it in an avaricious manner.
    If us mug taxpayers provide our employees (cabinet ministers) with a free house the rental value thereof is NOT counted as taxable income. That is a pity because if the rental value of that free house was classified as taxable income the Labour Party ministers would have been able to feel in their own pockets the pernicious nature of that envy tax (39%) that Cullen introduced.

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  54. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    @ Ross

    “Excuse me? State servants don’t claim $1000 a week in accomodation allowances, unless their name is Bill English’

    problem is, that is not what you originally said was the main issue. What you said was;

    “The main issue is that Bill English and his wife – a doctor – are not in need of any taxpayer assistance. They are both well paid”

    What they own, or are paid is irrelevant as to whether they claim what they are entitled to. The issue is the size of the entitlement

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  55. getstaffed (8,040 comments) says:

    Meh, I’m *so* over this issue. Either MP’s are allowed accomodation allowances or they’re not. They are, and have been for ages. And loads of current and former MP’s have investment properties. So if English wanted to rent his Wgtn home out to a third party and claim an allowance to live in another then there would be no MSM-concocted scandal (helps their flagging advertising revenues you know).

    And on another matter, would all those who are claiming the moral high-ground on the entitlements of others please step forward and renounce their entitlements to welfare, acc etc. Or are you a ‘special case’ where entitlement is justified? If so the let’s means test everyone… just to be sure.

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  56. PaulL (5,446 comments) says:

    Toad, how is what you described any different than Bill English.

    Let me replay it:
    A Family Trust invests in a range of areas, one of which is property. The fact that some of the English Family Trust’s properties are rented to the out of Wellington English Family is irrelevant.

    Bill English would be claiming the accommodation allowance wherever he rented, so there is no pecuniary advantage to him. The Family Trust would be renting out the property anyway, so there is no pecuniary advantage to the Trust, other than the minor one that, unless Bill English resigns or dies, there is a guaranteed tenancy for 3 years after each election. And the minor advantage to the English family that they didn’t have to move home once again.

    I really don’t think the contingent advantage to the English Family Trust of the likely security of tenure for three years on this property is worth quibbling about.

    Any landlord can rent out any property on a fixed term tenancy in any case – it’s just that MPs, because of the insecurity of their jobs being dependent on election results, are more likely to take a fixed term option than those in permanent employment.

    And, the house is clearly being rented to Parliamentary Services at far less than the actual market rate. This is saving money to Parliamentary Services as compared to the alternative of Parliamentary Services finding and renting equivalent accommodation.

    I’m not sure why you’re so worked up about this – glass houses and all that.

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  57. calendar girl (1,256 comments) says:

    “Bill English has a million-dollar-plus property in Wellington which he will live in but only if the taxpayer pays him! How extraordinary. …….. So not only does Bill get taxpayer assistance for living in his own house but he also benefits from an increase in his house’s value when he decides to sell it.”

    Ross, sorry to be rather blunt with you, but that reasoning is pathetic. You take no account of that alleged “million-dollars-plus” of value that English has in the property, whether in the form of equity, debt or a combination of both. You’re talking as if the property was gifted to him by the tooth fairy rather than examining, dispassionately, what sort of rental return he or his family trust should be able to earn on their investment.

    Market gross rental returns at the moment are likely be around 4-5% p.a. for that type of property – well below the cost of mortgage money even in this benign interest environment. So you should conclude that annual rentals on a $1m+ property value should be in the range $40,000+ to $50,000+. Tax depreciation advantages of ownership will be offset (wholly or substantially) by the cash costs of maintenance, rates, insurance and other ownership responsibilities. Don’t count on a capital gain, either, when half the market experts are still warning of a further downturn to come in housing resale values.

    I don’t pick you as being financially illiterate, Ross. Which suggests to me that you are skirting around some pretty obvious facts on this one in order to support a pre-determined position of moral (political?) indignation.

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  58. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    PaulL said: Bill English would be claiming the accommodation allowance wherever he rented, so there is no pecuniary advantage to him.

    Um, yes there is. If he were renting from a non-associated landlord the pecuniary advantage would be to his landlord. But because it is his own home (or actually that of his family trust that he recently disentitled himself, but not his wife or children,) to a beneficial interest in), the pecuniary advantage is to his family trust.

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  59. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    no calendar girl..it is all about ‘double-dip dipton’..and all the rest of them..

    ..and troughing..

    ..and it’s also a big whoar..!..

    ..for the expenses chris carter racked up..

    ..they are all at it..

    ..an independent inquiry should mandate a new/totally transparent/un-scammable regime..

    ..just papering over a couple of cracks..

    ..and an ‘aw shucks!/shuffle-foot return of some monies..

    ..isn’t enough..

    ..and both national and labour are dreaming if they think the people will be denied their chance to roast politicians’ gonads..

    ..over a slow-burning fire..

    ..they are usually so slippery..

    ..and this is a real ‘gotcha!’..

    ..and the tumbrils must roll..

    ..before the peasants will be sated..

    ..key is smart enough to realise this..

    ..which is why he has tried to move fast on it..

    ..hoping to squash/kill it..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  60. andrei (2,653 comments) says:

    Let me replay it: Paul

    See Bill English as a non Wellington MP is entitled to $24,000 accommodation grant PA which he has been collecting for many years

    And now he is a Cabinet Minister he has the option of a Ministerial Home but no grant. But if he took up this option he could of course rent out his home.

    Or he could, after transferring the title of his home to his wife lease it to the Government have it declared a Ministerial home and move into it with his family – except they all live there already and have for some years now so no move required.

    And ergo with some fancy footwork $24,000 accommodation grant is doubled overnight.

    All very slick.

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  61. getstaffed (8,040 comments) says:

    So toad, if the English trust rented their house to another public servant would that be ok? What about to another MP? And if the trust did that while English claimed an accommodation allowance for his family to live in the house next door would that be ok? Or is it only not ok because he’s a National MP? All of this just feels like a partisan beat-up to me.

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  62. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    Toad – what you have done over at the Standard is just hypocrisy of the highest order – considering your outcry at John Mintos house photo published on WOBH and then your faux outrage at Paula Bennet disclosing the huge welfare payments paid to that bludging Natasha Fuller
    Publishing the residential address of Bill English and other personal details will leave you little sympathy when you are finally outed

    and before yo say it was public information, so was Minto and Fuller

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  63. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    toad

    Can you explain how the pecuniary advantage is different between the beneficiaries of the English trust and a share holder/beneficiary in a super trust leasing properties to parliamentary services?

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  64. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    and this is an occaison when keys’ personal wealth is of advantage..

    ..in that he has no financial imperatives on this..

    ..and so is freer to make the required sweeping changes..

    ..and yep..!

    governments/politcians change things at will..all the time..

    ..either ..or not..citing the imperatives to do so..

    ..so this post-election troughing can/must also end..

    ..these people have already awarded themselves a superannuation scheme so generous it whimpers..

    ..is is too much to ask/expect them to pay for their hols..?

    ..just as the perks-scandal has irrevocably changed the political culture in england..

    ..so it will here..

    ..i think key is smart enough to know this must happen here..

    ..and that if he dosen’t..

    ..that this will colour/define/disempower this government..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  65. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    four days can be quite a long time in politics..eh..?

    ..and really..the highlight to date..

    ..has to be englishs’ ‘won’t someone think of the children?’ routine yesterday..

    ..they screeened it again tonight..

    ..and it just gets’ funnier..with subsequent viewings..

    ..(esp. the ‘pathos-drenched faux-indignation’ ..from english..

    ..that coloured/defined the piece..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  66. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    “..so this post-election troughing can/must also end..”

    “..so it will here..”

    oooooooooh

    Gosh Phil, has the Great Magpie turned soothsayer?

    For some curious reason I read those lines and thought of the wizened old croan in Blackadder I.

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  67. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    burt – dont forget, apparently its okay when they do it!

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  68. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Patrick Starr said: …and before yo say it was public information, so was Minto and Fuller

    It was in Minto’s. It was not in Fuller’s.

    I posted something that was available to you, me, and anybody else, from the Companies Office, had you chosen to look. No crime in that.

    But just to show that I’m, although acting quite lawfully, a person who is aware of the sensitivities of others, I have edited my post on g.blog on this to remove the street numbers, while not detracting from the substance of the post.

    I have also given permission for The Standard via their comments thread to similarly edit my comment there, but don’t have editing rights there, so it is up to them.

    Funny how privacy suddenly becomes an issue when it is Bill English’s family’s privacy, but didn’t seem to be when it was Natasha Fuller’s or Jennifer Johnston’s families’ privacy.

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  69. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    it’s ‘crone’..

    ..but ‘croan’..is quite funny..

    having a bit of a ‘croan’..eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  70. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    “Funny how privacy suddenly becomes an issue when it is Bill English’s family’s privacy, but didn’t seem to be when it was Natasha Fuller’s or Jennifer Johnston’s families’ privacy.”

    no Toad – its not the privacy thats the issue as I said “is just hypocrisy of the highest order – considering your outcry ”

    You Greens have such huge double standards it’s frightening

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  71. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    No, Patrick. I understand the law, and you obviously don’t.

    Information on Work and Income’s beneficiary database is personal information subject to Privacy Act restrictions regarding its use and release.

    Information on the Companies Register, regardless of whether it relates to individual persons or not, is public register information, and is freely available for anyone to access and publish elsewhere.

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  72. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    Patrick Star

    Absolutely it’s OK when they do it. I don’t recall all the addresses of the properties in the Green party super trust being listed on a blog before, seems like toad would condone such a thing if it were to happen.

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  73. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    Toad

    so you understand the law do you. So If Fuller had been publishing all her financial circumstances on a web site prior to this entire blowup – then it wouldn’t already be in the public domain, or not Toad. ?? (you being such a legal expert and all)

    besides, I seem to recall Prof Hodge (or the like) commenting that as Fuller had put so much in the public domain already then further relevant details were no longer private. In other words your talking shit

    and Mintos house is available on both QV and LINZ database – again, public domain, which didnt stop you and the rest of the Sue Bradfords squealing like stuck pigs when the details were published.

    As Burt mentions, you should have no objection to the same green party MPs details been published? – or will you and Bradford squeal like piggies again?

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  74. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    toad

    Perhaps you missed my previous question, I think it is very relevant to this debate.

    Can you explain how the pecuniary advantage is different between the beneficiaries of the English trust and a share holder/beneficiary in a super trust leasing properties to parliamentary services?

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  75. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    I’m very glad that these expenses are being looked into. Tax law for normal tax payers pretty quickly sorts out the concept of the prime family home and it’s usage in a trust. I can’t see why it’s so different for MP’s – they are special I guess.

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  76. burt (7,423 comments) says:

    toad

    As you are anon, which I respect, I’ll make an assumption that you have a vested interest in the Green party super scheme and this is why you defend it. If so, then by you own definition of the Dipton Double Dipper (or other © toad names) then we could call you the two faced toad ( © burt )

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  77. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    Option 5 sounds good.

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  78. Pat (76 comments) says:

    Please don’t pick on Chris Credit Card Carter. The former Education Minister’s travel costs can be entirely explained by his trialing of a revolutionary anti-truancy policy, where he was using the limo to pick the little blighters up.

    And don’t play the Gay card, you Tory bastards. The whole affair has left him a little pink faced, and driven him underground – so much so he is too afraid to come out.

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  79. John Ansell (832 comments) says:

    In politics, as in retailing, it’s the putting right that counts.

    When the Nats get things wrong, they quickly put them right. That’s smart politics, designed to show up the Clarxists’ four-phase troubleshooting system of 1. Ignore our own wrongdoing. 2. Deny we’ve done it. 3. Defend it as fair because we’ve always done it that way. 4. Attack the accuser.

    Because it really is the putting right that counts, National profit every time they do wrong then quickly put it right.

    Lefties take note!

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  80. fatman43us (163 comments) says:

    Get the Ministry of Works to design one of their Green Modern Wonders – see the Science Laboratories in Mt Albert, Wakari Hospital in Dunedin – and let them have a ballot for rooms. The Greens should control the light switches, Act the porridge ration, Dunne the visitor facilities, hairdressers etc, and Anderton the bar. It could be surrounded with razor wire against the mob, and to point out possible future job options, and have a moat for fishing and so on. Such a building gets rid of the need for any further arguments on Housing in Wellington, improves the Wellington Sky line, and keeps all the buggers where we know they are.

    If it were built up the Hutt, it would fit in brilliantly with the architecture supported by former Labour Statists.

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  81. ross (1,414 comments) says:

    > Ross, sorry to be rather blunt with you, but that reasoning is pathetic…you should conclude that annual rentals on a $1m+ property value should be in the range $40,000+ to $50,000+.

    I’m sure they are, Calendargirl. So Bill could rent out his property for 40k or 50k and then accommodate himself elsewere for 40k or 50k or whetever he wants to pay. The net effect for the taxpayer? Zero. Compare that with the current situation. I wouldn’t take you for being financially illiterate, so I’m surprised you didn’t mention that Bill could house himself (and his family) quite comfortably at no cost to the the taxpayer…if he wanted to. The fact he prefers to scam the taxpayer says a lot about him.

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  82. ross (1,414 comments) says:

    One further point, Calendargirl. If Bill has a large mortgage on his Messines Road property and is finding it difficult to pay the bills without receiving taxpayer handouts, he could just sell the property and live within his means. Like the rest of us are expected to do.

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  83. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    Looks like the Big Magpie has a problem with his shitlistometer.

    So much for technology! Sheesh!!

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  84. getstaffed (8,040 comments) says:

    The fact he prefers to scam the taxpayer says a lot about him.

    Signing a painting you didn’t paint and then passing it off as you own is a scam. It’s uncommon and illegal.

    Using an accomodation allowance to provide accomodation is not a scam. It’s very common and quite legal.

    That you pretend not to understand the difference says a lot about you.

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  85. getstaffed (8,040 comments) says:

    … and live within his means. Like the rest of us are expected to do

    And his ‘means’, like all other electorate MP’s includes an accomodation allowance. You seem to struggle with this concept.

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  86. first time caller (370 comments) says:

    At the risk of being shot down with negative karma…I for one would not begrudge our Deputy Prime Minister
    /Finance Minister a larger salary that included another 50,000 so he could stay in his house and carry out his large responsibilities without distraction and disruption.

    I appreciate it’s always good sport to bash a poli, but our senior portfolio holders earn far less than the (often useless) bureaucrats that work for them, and work for them without responsibility and accountability.

    Being a politician at this level is not as easy as it may look, just look at the failure of the likes of Pam Corkery and Deborah
    Coddington who couldn’t even pass as credible backbenchers.

    We must be mindful that if the package available for such positions is so unattractive for candidates we risk only having applicants that are either very wealthy or the likes that would never achieve this level of salary by any other means…

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  87. Richard Hurst (885 comments) says:

    “We must be mindful that if the package available for such positions is so unattractive for candidates we risk only having applicants that are either very wealthy or the likes that would never achieve this level of salary by any other means…”

    I disagree. What is it that attracts a person to stand for parliament? The money or a genuine commitment to public service, principles or ideological cause (Left or Right)? As long as a poli’s expenses are meet such as travel, accommodation for both them and their family and yes even food and drink then all they actually need is the minimum wage (currently $12.50 an hour) or a little bit above. Parliament does after all officially consider the minimum wage sufficient to live off because it decides that rate and entering parliament is a voluntary decision because in theory a person feels strongly enough about politics to make the sacrifice to enter parliament. No one holds a gun to their head. Being a politician also requires no formal qualifications or employment experience just like most minimum wage jobs and being a politician is not a profession, it is as I said a voluntary act born of (or should be born of) a genuine commitment to a cause, principle or belief not a decision based on an earnings comparison with what they might make, in many cases, in theory in the private sector.
    Putting Poli’s on the minimum wage would make being a poli a genuine act of public service and utterly change the public’s current negative perception of politics as a whole, restoring dignity and respect to the office.

    Take the historical U.S example of Robert McNamara.

    When President John F. Kennedy tapped McNamara in 1961 to serve as secretary of defense, just a little more than a month after he became president at Ford, McNamara reportedly gave up a $400,000 yearly salary for $25,000. Moreover, McNamara’s career swop would cost him additional earnings in stock. In a December 14, 1960 Ann Arbor News article, McNamara said his decision to accept the position as secretary of defense and forego his post at Ford cost him about $3 million in profits over the first three to four years, which is the amount he thought he would have earned from Ford stock.

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  88. first time caller (370 comments) says:

    Richard, public service, principles or ideology it may be to a degree for all. But the job of legislating and running the country must also be able to be respected. Politicians get no praise for any good they may do, but plenty of criticism. Like a lawyer or accountant, they’re all bastards except your own!

    With a review and transparency, hopefully we can return to respecting the people we elect to represent us.

    I guess my point is the heavy workloaded Cabinet Ministers don’t get paid nearly enough in my view, for the difficult job they do. It is up to them if they feel they can afford to donate to charity if they do not feel worthy of the salary. I do want to make sure we have the calibre we need there.

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  89. calendar girl (1,256 comments) says:

    @ Ross 7.46am: “So Bill could rent out his property for 40k or 50k and then accommodate himself elsewere for 40k or 50k or whetever he wants to pay. The net effect for the taxpayer? Zero.”

    No, Ross, you’ve got the basic math quite wrong. Do the calculations again. Under your scenario, the net effect for the taxpayer is plus $40k or $50k, not zero, and the net effect for English is minus $40k or $50k. That’s because you have arbitrarily cut English’s allowance for ministerial housing in Wellington to zero, with the taxpayer (re-)pocketing all the money. (You would scream a little, I suspect, if your employer cut your agreed income package by 10 or 15% in this way.)

    Meanwhile, other MPs would have retained their accommodation allowances in Wellington, and Ministers would have retained their right to Ministerial homes owned / leased by the state for that specific purpose. But you will have had a great time clobbering English selectively to make your partisan political statement.

    As I said, the reasoning used is pathetic. If you want to advocate cutting all parliamentary incomes and fringe benefits in a fair and logical way, set out your case and methodology, and mount your arguments in a balanced way – much as Richard Hurst has done above. (I say that although I wouldn’t support his particular approach).

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