Jake Quinn on Bill English

October 1st, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m surprised and impressed. Former Labour Press Secretary has done a fair and balanced post on Bill English. He has just gone up hugely in my estimation.

It’s time to leave alone. Labour and the press gallery have had a good run with it. Bill’s been embarrassed, he’s paid some money back and the issue will always slightly affect his credibility as Finance Minister. But enough is enough.

Bill’s home in Dipton has been in his family for 120 years. It’s on English Rd. It’s full of his stuff and he is the local MP. Some time ago he decided to have his family reside in Wellington so they could be closer together – his kids go to school there and his wife practices medicine there – it’s an honourable thing to do for someone planning a life in politics.

Bill has to maintain two residences because he has two homes, two rates bills, and everything else that goes with it.

Exactly. The regime is meant to neither advantage or disadvantage MPs. It would be different if Bill had sold or rented out his Dipton home, but he has not – as he says it has been his family home for 120 years, and will continue to be so once he leaves Parliament.

MP’s need to be ultra careful and conservative when it comes to what benefits and kickbacks they receive. The public mood for lynchings is high, especially after the British MPs’ expenses scandal which led to numerous resignations.

Labour does need to be careful. For example a (very) senior Labour MP has his adult daughter live with him in Wellington. Does than mean he should lose his Wellington accommodation allowance? I don’t think so, but if you apply the standards Labour has applied to Bill, then maybe there are some double standards.

And again, if Labour and the media think it would be a bad thing if Bill had changed his trust arrangements to get a bigger taxpayer subsidy (something a QC has said did not happen), then where is the scruutiny over the practice of (at least) the Green MPs to have their superannuation fund purchase Welllington property on their behalf, as this increases what they can claim from the taxpayer from merely interest on a mortgage to full rent of up to $24,000 a year.

How much of a difference does this make. Well if the property has $150,000 on the mortgage and interest rates are 6%, the maximum you could claim off the taxpayer is $9,000. But by vesting the property in their superannuation fund, they can claim up to $24,000 in rent.

Now this is quite legal, but has escaped the same scrutiny.

Bill should have been more careful so deserves some of the criticism he has received. However, successive Speakers of the House, from both major parties, have signed off on his arrangements and the legal buck stops with them.

Indeed, Hunt, Wilson and Smith have all agreed he qualifies.

What’s more, his being in breach, if he is, is a technicality. He’s only in trouble because the allowance is called an ‘out of town MP’ allowance. If it was called the ‘MP’s who have a home in their electorate but choose to spend pretty much all of their time in Wellington’ allowance then there wouldn’t be an issue.

This has been the problem for Bill. Because the rules use the term “primary residence” he has been arguing Dipton is his primary residence, and the public have rejected the notion that the primary residence can possibly be a place you and your family don’t live in most of the time. It does not matter that under the rules, it can be – it fails the common meaning test.

At some stage in future the rule should probably be amended to just asking whether or not the MP resided outside of Wellington before they became an MP, and whether or not they still own a property outside Wellington, which is not rented out or used by others.

A very fair post by Jake. His co-blogger Jeremy Greenbrook-Held balances it up by doing the normal partisan rant. He hysterically demands Bill must resign or be sacked and also gets numerous facts wrong. Not even worth fisking it is so puerile.

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20 Responses to “Jake Quinn on Bill English”

  1. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    DPF said: the public have rejected the notion that the primary residence can possibly be a place you and your family don’t live in most of the time.

    Ahhh, the public. What do they know!

    Poor Bill. It’s the public’s fault.

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  2. Jeff83 (771 comments) says:

    Misses the whole point. Most of the electorate are reasonable and realise that a) an MPs position is reasonably uncertain and b) it requires them to spend allot of time in Wellington. That is fine and most of the electorate do not mind paying to having an MP have a residence in Wellington suberdised, as it would be in a private scernario. However there has to be some kind of limit, Bill has been in Wellington for ages, he lives there, its not like some new development, he has been in Wellington for 12 years, further under MMP, and even more so under FPP he isnt going to lose his seat any time soon, so its not like a lack of job security. If he wants to houses that is cool, but the time has passed when one can really say he is not living in Wellington, and that is an equal flaw with renaming the allowance.

    It would be simplier if the allowances were done away with and just reflected in pay (although less tax effective!).

    Time to move on, but there is reason towards to the annoyance by the public.

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  3. Rodney (12 comments) says:

    What a load of tripe ‘DPF’.

    Trust this national party blog to choose this blogpost (who?) in support of Blinglish and ignore the 99% other publiushed opinions.

    Blinglish is a rorter of the worst order. As Pete Hodgson said on Campbell live… nobody in Parliament has rearranged their trusts to take advantage like this. Nobody except Blinglish.

    But he must stay, as a lesson to the voters next time.

    [DPF: You are wrong on both counts. A QC has stated that the changes to the trust did not affect eligibility, and many MPs including the Green Caucus has rearranged their trusts and super funds to maximise their income from the accom payments]

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  4. Johnboy (15,596 comments) says:

    “But he must stay, as a lesson to the voters next time.”

    Still smarting over the trouncing of Aunty then eh Rodney.

    Just can’t believe that we had all had a gutsful of her rotten administration.

    Well all I can say is “We won you lost eat that”

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  5. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Time for the same scrutiny of the Labour Party members living arrangements – back date the investigation until election night 2005.

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  6. peterwn (3,215 comments) says:

    Re the Greens house business. They are getting away with it because John key is a nice guy. Rob Muldoon would have been in there boots and all.

    Rob Muldoon destroyed Colin Moyle’s political career (he was apparently in the running for the Labour leadership) by disclosing the police had questioned him concerning alleged homosexual behaviour. At the time male (but not female) homosexual behavioir was a crime. He sure would have thought up some way of clobbering the Greens. Rob also destroyed Sue Wood’s (Nat President or just ex-President) 1987 political ambitions because he accused her is letting the party machine run down (the faithful were leaving in droves because they were fed up with Rob, and the party is only in the last few years recovering from this).

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  7. unaha-closp (1,141 comments) says:

    Exactly. The regime is meant to neither advantage or disadvantage MPs. It would be different if Bill had sold or rented out his Dipton home, but he has not – as he says it has been his family home for 120 years, and will continue to be so once he leaves Parliament.

    It is in Dipton, which perhaps does not experience as high a rate of property price growth or rental demand as Wellington City. If an MP were to cynically manipulate a parliamentary privilege to get the taxpayers to finance a venture into investment property it would end up being indistinguishable from what Bill English has done.

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  8. RightNow (6,844 comments) says:

    Likewise: if a party were to cynically manipulate a parliamentary privilege to get the taxpayers to finance that party’s superannuation fund’s investment in investment property it would end up being indistinguishable from what the greens have done

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  9. Rodney (12 comments) says:

    ooh look! over there!

    GREENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    you Nact rentboys crack me up.

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  10. Whaleoil (766 comments) says:

    Good grief, everyone know I can’t stand the sight of Bill English but nobody should ever trust someone with two fathers and hyphenated names.

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  11. JakeQuinn (15 comments) says:

    Naturally i’m taking some flack from some of my left blogging brethren over this post. So I want to make a couple of points clear. Firstly, I have not, “taken Bill’s spin hook, line and sinker”.

    If i was blogging during painter-gate or speed-gate i would have made the same comment; that the issue has had its mileage and that it’s time to move on to more important ones – I just don’t think these things are sacking offences (any of them). I’m not excusing Bill’s behaviour, i just think issues like this, which in the broad scheme of things are trivial, have a limited shelf life.

    New Zealand has a tendency to exert huge wads of energy into issues like this that are embarrassing for politicians, painter gate, benson-pope-tennis-balls etc, all while we pass legislation that will subsidise polluting farmers and emitters for the next half century and send combat troops into wars that are being lost in regions that we probably should never have even been meddled with.

    And, It annoys me how bloggers of the left or right scream high treason when someone from the other side does something mildly questionable, but when their fella does it they defend him no matter what. Its childish.

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  12. Inventory2 (10,181 comments) says:

    You’re right Jake – it IS childish. Big ups for you for calling it as you see it, instead of blindly following the Labour Party’s “hit Bill” campaign as others on the left have done.

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  13. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Really Jake? ‘paintergate’ and ‘speedgate’ were trivial?

    Wash your mouth out with soap! Those were critically important issues!!! Why, I heard Bill English himself call Helen Clark on them in each and every one of his campaign meetings in Clutha/Southland!! He didn’t regard them as ‘trivial’. I’ll bet he’s not considering ‘housegate’ trivial either. Too much fun to be had all round, I say! Why stop now, there’s lots of mileage left in this, in fact it’ll run all the way through to the next election, I’m sure!!

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  14. jabba (280 comments) says:

    it’s amazing how a couple of bored out of a job MP’s can keep something as boring as this last so long.
    When the Goff became leader, I thought he would stop such attacks and focus on the issues .. that thought came crashing down with his input into the Worth honey trap.
    They tried to attack Key, then Westie Bennett, then Collins, then the indian guy and now going for Tolley, Wilkinson and English at once .. if you must engage in gutter politics then attacking on 3 fronts is poor strategy .. Time for Mr Little to become more in play.

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  15. UpandComer (525 comments) says:

    Yes Labour does need to be very careful. Bill has not done anything wrong, and been applied the same standards as everybody else. I have no doubt that Labour will likely have failed the standards they themselves seem to be applying here. Mallard says ‘the opinion of a QC is only an opinion’. Unfortunately Mr Mallard the opinion of a QC holds more substantive weight then you. For all sorts of reasons including personal integrity. For the sake of NZ I hope that the AG exonerates Bill. Based on all of the circumstances and evidence that should happen. It makes my blood boil when the stains on the standard call him a corrupt prick. This is in no way comparable to what Labour has done. What Labour has done is do illegal things. Or retrospectively make what was illegal, legal.

    Bill is a damn good man and a damn good MP and like aroud the leadership he will come thru this a little poorer financially and probably more cynical about politics. But he will also be more hardened and more resilient.

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  16. Viking2 (11,283 comments) says:

    I’d suggest the the house in Dipton is not the family home at all but belongs to a family trust that also owns the attached farm assets. If that is so the Trust rents the house to Bill and family even at no cost, It is still rented to him for his use and he does not live there. If indeed it is not used by the family for 11 months of the year then the Trust is carrying a loss on its assets unless Bill pays some rent. Now methinks (though I’m not sure,) that there will be other tax issues around this arrangement.

    So his place of residence is indeed Wgtn. Which also happens to be his and her place of work.

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  17. Monty (966 comments) says:

    Viking – from previous reports here understand the Dipton House is indeed in the name of Bill and Mary English as owners (not a trust). The Farm surrounds the property is not owned by Bill or Mary but owned by a company. Bill and Mary , nor a family trust own shhares in the comapny that owns the farm. So it does appear your facts are incorrect.

    Three speakers (including two Labour Speakers) have no had a problem with the arrangement in the past. Labour have now had failed attacks on several National MPs. All have failed. This is and remains a complete beat-up. In a couple of weeks the Auditor General will clear Bill English and this whole saga will have become yesterday’s Fish and Chip paper. It is also a be;ltway issue, and will not have any impact on National’s poll ratings.

    In fact Labour will be very pissed. Last week there was the death and funeral of Sir Howard Morison, and this week the Tsunami has stolen the headlines. In fact English has looked very Prime Ministerial. You can just hear Gollum and The Muss Mallard cursing. This is a dead issue. Who will Labour target next??

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  18. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Bill.

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  19. Dirty Rat (504 comments) says:

    Nice, ethics and morality have nothing to with taking money becasue there is an ‘entitlement’.

    Just because it’s legal, don’t make it right, thanks DF, I now have sympathy with solo mothers, I didnt before I read this scribble for this piece of shit.

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  20. Dirty Rat (504 comments) says:

    BTW Jakes blog has

    “Jake Quinn, the blog’s founder, has been described as “just another empty careerist, and not even a particularly talented one.” – so please don’t take too much notice of him.”

    I’m surprised you did.

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