The taxpayer funded axe the tax bus

The Herald reports:

’s “Axe the Tax” bus trip protesting increases is costing the taxpayer about $30,000 – but Labour leader Phil Goff has defended it as the cheapest way to get around the country on an issue that affects everybody. …

The bus features a red “skin” with Axe the Tax signage and Labour logos.

A spokesman for Mr Goff said the costs were expected to be about $30,000, including for the bus charter, the signage and other material such as signs and balloons.

It was funded out of Mr Goff’s parliamentary leader’s office fund.

He said it was a fraction of the $200,000 bill to the taxpayer for brochures Prime Minister John Key sent out to households last month to defend his party’s new national standards policy for schools.

Now Goff is quite correct that the bus is within the rules for spending from the leader’s fund. Just as the $200,000 on national standards brochures was within the rules.

But there is a danger that the public don’t care much about whether or not it is within the rules, and will judge the spending on the basis of whether it is providing information, or a series of photo ops.

I suspect most voters don’t mind parliamentary budgets being spent on a pamphlet which is sent to individual households, setting out a policy area, and why they are doing it. They may see that as useful communications.

With a bus tour, it is open to a very different perception. Voters know that it is not about communicating with voters – because if it was, it is hugely inefficient. It is about a series of photo ops, and desire to get media coverage.

Now again, this is all within the rules. But as I said, don’t be surprised if the public take a different view of parliamentary funds being spent on a bus tour, compared to direct mailing of pamphlets.

It would cost significantly more for him to use Crown cars to travel around in and for other MPs to use individual forms of transport. The signage was attention-grabbing and ensured people knew exactly what the MPs were there to talk about.

In my experience with bus tours, they cost massively more than the cost fo the bus. You see what they do not tell you is the fact that MPs normally fly in and off the bus to meet up with it.

As for the signage ensuring people know exactly what the MPs were there o talk about, this is not quite the case. Labour are not promising to axe the tax, and in fact they are not even promising to axe any increase in GST. As far as I know their policy is simply we will promise to do something different to whatever National announces, even though we do not know what National will announce.

It would be hilarious, if not rather tragic.

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