Key on travel perk

November 15th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

MPs across the political spectrum are calling for their private travel perks to be scrapped after the resignation of Cabinet minister Pansy Wong.

Prime Minister said yesterday there was “a time and a place” for looking at the travel perks.

Speaking from Japan, where he was attending the Apec summit, he said: “It’s possible there may need to be some change but today’s not the day to make those comments.

“It’s tripped up a number of MPs and that’s very unfortunate. It looks somewhat like a relic of the past but in the end that’s not solely my decision. That’s something we need to discuss [and] in due course we will.”

Raising MPs’ salary in place of the perks was contentious.

“It’s not so much getting rid of it, the question is would there be any salary adjustment.”

That sounds like a move towards scrapping it.

The issue though, is that it will mean an increase in the salaries for MPs, as the currently deducts it from the level at which it judges their remuneration should be, to set base salary.

This increase would basically be automatic – it would not be requested by MPs. You would probably have to change the law, to stop there being an increase if the travel perk is removed.

But that is what should happen. The international travel perk should go, as I have blogged previously. And MPs should get paid what the RA determines is appropriate.

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18 Responses to “Key on travel perk”

  1. BeaB (1,948 comments) says:

    Set a fair base salary, generous enough to attract good people even if it means we over-pay a few timeservers. (That happens in any organisation.)
    Allow an amount for office, secretarial help etc in their electorate and pay on actual expenses only.
    Have a fund for travel domestically and overseas only for official business and pay actual expenses only. Plenty of best practice to guide this.
    Remove all perks and entitlements.
    It is time to clean up what has become a mess and it’s not entirely the MPs fault if the rules are complex and arcane.
    Fair and transparent should be the watchwords.

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  2. YesWeDid (1,002 comments) says:

    It’s sad that we can’t trust the people we elect to run this country with a ‘travel perk’ or a credit card.

    What does that say about our MP’s (from all political parties)?

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  3. Bryce Edwards (248 comments) says:

    I’d say that the international holiday perk is definitely heading for the scrap heap. There’s just about a consensus on this now.

    But the big question is whether or not compensation should be given for the perk – i.e. should they get an offsetting pay rise. Most MPs are noticeably silent on this issue when they call for the perk to be scraped. It’s very easy – and maybe even rather *disingenuous* – for numerous MPs like Goff or Turei to say it should be abolished but then to avoid the issue of whether they want MPs to get a 10% pay rise or not. It’d be nice if the media would actually challenge MPs to give a serious answer to this question whenever they loftily talk about abolishing the perk. The answer to the question is the important thing – not whether or not the perk should remain.

    At least Key usually raises that thorny question whenever he comments on the future of the perk (such as in this case when he says: “It’s not so much getting rid of it, the question is would there be any salary adjustment.”) That’s admirably honest, I guess, even if he doesn’t actually answer that question.

    My two cents is that MPs are already overpaid and that the perk was always a duplicitous perk, and so that there definitely should be NO COMPENSATION for the axing of this perk.

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  4. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,668 comments) says:

    Well Mr Edwards I, for one, do NOT think MPs are overpaid. You seem to attribute to yourself more intelligence than the Remuneration Authority.

    It is easy to forget that MPs are required to spend significant time away from home, have no more security than a three year contract and are pretty much on call to their constituents 24/7.

    I’ll bet you would not take on those conditions, Mr Edwards, for less than at least $150k per annum.

    Yes, by all means abolish the travel perk but at least have the honesty to admit that it was always prepaid by MPs and they never collectively used even half the amount which was prepaid – even including all the rorts and gratuitous overuse by a few.

    End the perk and end the salary deduction. Then tell the public how much you foolish shouters from academe and the media have cost us all by way of additional nest costs.

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  5. tvb (3,939 comments) says:

    The pm is getting more skillful at not being caught out by journalists into making off the cuff remarks. Journalists have a habit of forcing out comment before the facts are known and they can be quite a pest.

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  6. Pongo (356 comments) says:

    In these times when the pollies are asking for restraint why not make a bold statement and scrap it with no salary increase, might give the Nats the moral authority to start getting their expenditure under control rather than the tinkering we have seen so far.
    To be honest 30% of them are overpaid anyway.

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  7. Chris2 (704 comments) says:

    These travel perks for MP’s first started out as a free rail pass on the good ‘ol NZ Railways. That was a perfectly manageable expense borne by a Government Department at a time when we had less than 84 MP’s.

    Now we have 121 MP’s and they would all rather travel overseas than take “The Limited” overnight train from Auckland to Wellington. So the expenses have got quite out of hand.

    In addition to the 50% increase in our MP population, the real problem with this travel perk is that so many MP’s qualify for it at a far earlier age and get to keep it for the rest of their lives.

    Forty years ago there wouldn’t have been an MP under about 45 years old, most were in their 50-60′s, so when they did qualify for the perk they didn’t have very many years left ahead of them to use it, so the cost to the taxpayer was minimal. Also any children they had were all grown up and so paying for children’s travel was not an issue either.

    Now we have MP’s in their early 20′s who do a few terms in the House and then for the next 40-50 years get a very generous taxpayer-funded perk until they die.

    Better to scrap the perk altogether and bung all MP’s an extra $10,000 on their salary – Total cost $1.2 million, and peace of mind for all.

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  8. GPT1 (2,042 comments) says:

    Take the legal aid approach. Cut the over all salary, provide overseas and domestic travel on a strict rotation basis (regardless of whether they need to go anywhere) and set up an entire new bureaucracy costing millions. That should save about $100k a year.

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  9. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    Scrap the perk and reduce the salaries significantly. Too many MPs are only there because they can’t get a better job and they’ve long since ceases to had anything to offer. Alternatively have a term limit – say 4 terms.

    @BeaB

    Set a fair base salary, generous enough to attract good people even if it means we over-pay a few timeservers. (That happens in any organisation.)

    I agree with the sentiment, but unfortunately it’s more than just a few. I’d say it’s the majority – just look at the opposition.

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  10. kowtow (6,701 comments) says:

    Travel porks should be the terminology.:)

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  11. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    “To be honest 30% of them are overpaid anyway.

    And 30% are underpaid. John Key for one would have been earning tens of millions pa if he’d stayed in the private sector.

    And contrary to popular belief, being an MP is not a life of ease and luxury. The great majority (even the ones who I disagree with politically) work enormously hard, and long hours too. If you work out the hourly rate they are not paid obscenely at all.

    In the context of the overall cost of the state, the cost of MPs salaries, and perks is small bikkies. ‘But it has become a political minefiels that is blowing people up unnecessarily. So yes, get rid of it.

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  12. Dave Mann (1,126 comments) says:

    This fucking bloody bastard Key makes my blood boil! He claims that it is ‘not his decision’ to do the commonsense thing on a simple thing like MP’s travel perks – and yet he is quite happy to steal the people’s beaches and seabed off the crown and open them up to endless claims (and eventual control) by the Maoris! Is there no end to this man’s stupidity and arrogance?

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  13. tvb (3,939 comments) says:

    The perk is crude way of rewarding longer term mps with a “pay” increase for longer service, but it is unmanageable in practice. It is basically a threat to the career of mps, especially as they are all prone to human frailties of grreed. Also the rules on business activity are probably too vague to be fairly enforceable. Does it permit taking a phone call, seeing a business contact?

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  14. Jeremy Harris (323 comments) says:

    F**k the RA and f**k MP’s salaries…

    MPs salaries should be tied to that of a public servant, say an army captain, with no perks whatsoever…

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  15. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    “MPs salaries should be tied to that of a public servant, say an army captain, with no perks whatsoever…”

    Actually why not just dispense with politicians and get the public servants and army to run the place. No better still, lets become another set of islands in the Fiji nation. Who needs governance anyway.

    And Jeremy Harris FYI I am being sarcastic because that is all your comment demands.

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  16. Manolo (12,624 comments) says:

    “Is there no end to this man’s (Key) stupidity and arrogance?”

    Not really. You can also add his indecisiveness and his paramount ability to lie with an inane grin on his face.

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  17. starboard (2,447 comments) says:

    ..we are overstocked with the bludgers anyway..why the fuck does a banana republic like nz need 121 parasites on the public tit. 12 good directors is all we need. Pay ‘em a million each per year. Job done.

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  18. Jeremy Harris (323 comments) says:

    @poliwatch, your comment has nothing to do with mine, I’m not saying the army should run the government – of course not, only MPs are paid far too much and their salaries should be tied to that of a reasonably well paid public servant…

    Parliament should not be a place where people can enrich themselves and bludge for decades off the taxpayer…

    Go and take a reading comprehension class…

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