Editorials 8 April 2010

April 8th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald calls for transparency over MPs legal expenses:

Taxpayers have a right to know how their dollars are being spent. That includes the allowances paid to the country’s parliamentarians for accommodation or travel, as some MPs have learned to their discomfort over the past year or so. It should also include the use of public money to cover legal costs when parliamentarians are sued. …

Clearly, there are occasions when it is legitimate for MPs’ legal bills to be paid with public money. Parliamentarians should act vigorously on behalf of their constituents. …

Yet but for the publication of documents by the New Zealand Herald and an admission by Dr Smith of the use of some public funding, taxpayers would have been none the wiser about either of the requests for reimbursement or their granting or denial.

The Prime Minister, John Key, said yesterday that taxpayers were entitled to know that money from the public kitty was being used for MPs’ legal costs, and that he would be open to such information being made public. That is a refreshing outlook, and one that indicates Mr Key is fully aware of the harsh spotlight on MPs’ expenses and allowances, both here and in Britain.

As I blogged, I’d include it in the six monthly expense reports.

The Dominion Post also wants more transparency, but around a health spending scandal:

Unacceptable. There is no other word for the situation that police claim has developed with Waikanae’s Te Runanga O Te Ati Awa Ki Whakarongotai, its health-provider arm Hora Te Pai and Capital & Coast District Health Board.

Stripped to its essentials, the police allege that money that was meant to be spent improving health has been siphoned off into other areas.

Regardless of the final outcome of the police inquiries, that is no way to manage $590,000 of taxpayers’ money. It is public money, and the handling of it should be transparent, with the details of where it is or what it has been spent on readily available.

I agree. Phil Kitchin does an invaluable job in expsoing their spending scandals. But we should not have to rely on him.

As I have said previously, I’d do what some US states do and have the entire cheque register for the Government put online. People could then file OIAs about spending that looks dodgy.

The Press says the dam decision is a close call:

The benefits from building a hydro dam on the Mokihinui River, north of Westport, are obvious.

It would, by using a resource that on the West Coast is endlessly renewable, give the region enough electricity to power 45,000 homes.

The dam would not only supply most of the region’s electricity needs in an undeniably carbon-zero way, it would also end the reliance on a long and vulnerable transmission line that brings the area’s present power supply from the Waitaki. Supply would not only be more secure, it would be more efficient and West Coast electricity prices, at present some of the highest in the country, would be lower.

Which is why many locals support it.

The proposal would require a 85-metre high, 300m wide dam across the river that would create a narrow, 14 kilometre long lake covering 340 hectares. Meridian says that the impact would be minor and it has made a considerable effort to make sure they are kept to a minimum. No endangered species are threatened, it says. In addition, the resource consents Meridian has received have more than 200 conditions attached to them to further reduce the impact. Nonetheless, according to the objectors, a precious, irreplaceable part of the landscape will be irretrievably changed. …

But the country cannot afford to have decisions like this one made on emotion and sentiment. Electricity demand is growing by 2 per cent a year, equivalent to the needs of a city the size of Dunedin. The two-to-one vote on this scheme shows that the commissioners’ approval was not easily arrived at but it was made, as it must be under the Resource Management Act, after rigorously detached consideration of all the arguments. In this case the commissioners decided the development’s impact on the environment are not bad enough to block the project.

I’ve blogged on this separately also.

And the ODT looks at trading:

Parliament, as it so often does, tried to design a horse with its legislative provisions controlling private enterprise during Easter, and instead produced a camel.

A particulary stupid camel, that has a limp.

There is nothing about the regulations that can in 2010 be considered just and necessary, let alone reflective of contemporary society.

The creation of geographic exemptions to trading on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, meaning some places can open their doors while others must close – backed by farcically small penalties – is simply unjustly partial. …

The Muldoon National government passed the legislation in 1980 which provided for shops to be open on Saturdays, and also broadened the range of heavily restricted goods able to be sold on Sundays.

The world did not come to a halt as a result; indeed, apart from the predictable complaints from the unions, the public in general welcomed the measure, which also signalled the decade’s major social change – the end of the five-day, 40-hour working week.

And one day when we have sensible laws around Easter, we will look back with bemusement over how long it took us to do it.

It is time for the matter to be settled and the only way that will happen is to abandon the so-called “personal vote” in Parliament and achieve suitable legislation by way of a Government Bill.

Whether John Key’s administration has the fortitude to do so, or is prepared to risk the undoubted wrath of church and union, is arguable: Mr Key agrees the present regulations are a shambles and would like them to be liberalised, and he has voted accordingly in the past.

It is time for a national solution: declaring Easter Sunday to be a public holiday would protect workers’ wage levels, and sending a Bill to a select committee would ensure public opinion – more accurately reflecting the times in which we live rather than electorate pressure on individual MPs – could be canvassed.

I’m a big supporter of change, and have myself mooted a trade off of making all of Easter public holidays in exchange for removign the trading restrictions.

But I am reluctant to have this become a party whipped issue. I think MPs should have freedom of choice on this.

Having said that, I note that Labour have almost adoped a party line on the issue, so maybe in time National will also.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Editorials 8 April 2010”

  1. Murray (8,835 comments) says:

    If nothing else we can now see how much previous goverments kept hidden.

    So much for Clarks proclaiming open and transparent goverment.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. homepaddock (429 comments) says:

    ” a trade off of making all of Easter public holidays in exchange for removing the trading restrictions.”

    This would impose huge costs on all businesses which operate 24/7 – hopsitals, rest homes, farms . . . We already have 11 stat days plus four weeks annual leave.

    It’s not just the time and a half for staff who work on the day, it’s the day off in lieu and replacement staff for that day plus holiday pay for staff who don’t work.

    The mess affects only retailers. Fixing it – however that’s done, shouldn’t have a negative impact on other businesses.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    The Press says:

    The dam would not only supply most of the region’s electricity needs in an undeniably carbon-zero way

    The Press should do some homework, like this: Hydroelectric power’s dirty secret revealed

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. gravedodger (1,426 comments) says:

    @ Pete you are onto something here.
    We should drain all the swamps/wetlands as the are generators of methane
    There are arguments that the renewable aspects of hydro power are vastly overstated.
    Unless Meridian can come up with a plan to mitigate all the carbon being released by the Waitaki scheme we must let all those lakes go.
    Now you go and turn of your computor, move out of your house and dont use a tent made from manmade fiber. eat root and leaves and bury your sh@t deep please.
    Me, I am comfortable that my lifestyle is on balance not doing irreparable harm to the planet so it is business as usual here.
    I wonder if the Press was really concentrating on the renewable aspect of Hydro and used the wrong language to make their point,not an uncommon occurrence.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Anthony (737 comments) says:

    I talked to my brother on Easter Friday who is living in the bible belt in the US – and was surprised to learn he was going to work that Friday as the bible bashing Yanks don’t have any stat days off over Easter!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    Mr Key is fully aware of the harsh spotlight on MPs’ expenses and allowances.
    The Herald calls for transparency over MPs legal expenses:
    Keep the pressure on..

    If this keeps up.. know one in their right mind will want to be an MP.. and the people will be left to govern themselves.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. kiki (425 comments) says:

    85-metre high, 300m wide dam across the river that would create a narrow, 14 kilometre long lake covering 340 hectares

    Meridian says that the impact would be minor

    But the country cannot afford to have decisions like this one made on emotion and sentiment.

    Electricity demand is growing by 2 per cent a year, equivalent to the needs of a city the size of Dunedin.

    commissioners decided the development’s impact on the environment are not bad enough to block the project

    I found these comments interesting at what point would they consider the impacts major, I would have thought that a dam across a river that totally destroys the river would be at least slightly above minor. And if we cannot make decisions on emotion and sentiment will the national party increase the age of national super and reduce the pay out? would they stop funding money holes like Te papa? do tax payers still fund the NZ symphony?

    Also as our population continues to grow and our consumption goes up where will it be safe? if a pristine river is not above destruction surely no other river is safe in fact no part of our environment is safe.

    Why is it that we build museums and galleries to put supposed works of art or culture in to protect but just piss all over something we can not create again?

    I would also question the fervour that some people are pursuing the destruction of the environment and i think there is emotion and sentiment involved. Finally they can turn the tables on those people they despise, those horrible greenies, and take the axe to those things they know others hold precious.

    as we must consume like ravenous beasts all things around us the very least we could do is build a great nuclear power station to supply power then at the very least our children’s children could have a choice to save or destroy our rivers.

    I find it distinctly odd that, especially, the older generation are on a path to destroy all those things that were held up as being New Zealand. Clean rivers, untamed wilderness, fish in the sea and freedom, all these things are being sacrificed for one greedy generation.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.