Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Moving targets

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    REDACTED FOR GRATUITOUS IRRITABILITY

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11850 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    It's nice that the heads of parties are calling for this pork to be stopped, but the problem will remain for a long time given how many past MPs remain eligible. How many other jobs come with subsidised travel once you leave? Or even while you're employed?! Even those in the airline industry don't get subsidies, they merely get very hefty discounts.

    Given the messages we've been getting from our elected overlords about sucking it up in these tough times, I think they should just be stripped of the perk and not remunerated for the "inconvenience". They're paid, at a minimum, over three times the median wage (or four times the median income), and in the case of Double-Dipton at least ten times the median income. How much more money do they need to be able to afford their overseas holidays? Other people manage it on far smaller incomes!

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    It's OK Craig, we know that your message was a verbose, and probably profane, version of "A pox on all their houses. Including the media."

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I admit to a large amount of ignorance as to how the travel perk scheme works. Is Taito Philip Field still entitled to it?

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • barnaclebarnes, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Why should former MP’s be stripped of their perks? They signed up for the job (well ran the race to win the job) and accepted it based partially on the remuneration package which included subsidised travel. If I was a former MP I would be pissed that they wanted to take that away and be demanding I was compensated for what is essentially a loss of income.

    We signed a deal with the MP’s when they took the job. We need to honour the agreement unless they agree to a give that up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 84 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Maybe MPs should just be given a lump sum to spend on travel, constituency expenses, campaigning, or hookers and blow as they and their party see fit. If they wanted to be reelected, they might want to spend it wisely and produce accounts, but at the end of the day, it's between member, party and electorate.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4409 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I admit to a large amount of ignorance as to how the travel perk scheme works. Is Taito Philip Field still entitled to it?

    No. The privilege is stripped from MPs who commit offences such as his.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18654 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    Transparency works then. What? Only because Pete looked hard. Oh.
    Never mind. John Key acted promptly and decisively in removing Pansy from her Ministerial posts. What? She resigned! Oh.
    Well John Key acted promptly to get perks banished. What? He can't do it himself. That's Lockwood's job. But what about the PM's image?
    And you mean that Pansy will get her 75% travel perks and so will Sammy - for ever? Bummer!
    Well how about some Law reform?

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    @Andre, no, Field and Roger McClay lost their entitlement when convicted. Awatere Huata wasn't in Parliament long enough to get the perk.

    @barnacle, no there has never been anything to say that the travel perk for former MPs would continue forever. As Russell notes, it started in 1972. The perk, along with other expenses and allowances, is provided for in the Speakers Determination, a document which is regularly amended. And just as it can be amended to increase things, so it can be amended to decrease or remove them.

    MPs have been well paid while in office. We don't need any more people like Dean Eyre.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Actually, Matthew, it was a terse, ungentlemanly and spectacularly unhelpful suggestion that Russell should take his “in context” and stick it in the shade. In the context of teachers and nurses being told to show “wage restraint” and “fiscal discipline” year after year, $400K a year isn’t chump change at all. I’d also like to list civil servants who’ve had their reputations shredded by their political lords and masters (including dear Phil Goff), for sums that are petty cash by comparison – seen in the proper context, of course.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11850 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    I would also like there to be some sort of mechanism in place whereby MP’s and ex-MP’s can lose their right to any on-going privileges as a response to certain behaviours.

    Russell’s post highlights an anomaly… if someone resigns in shame from being caught defrauding the perks… they should not be able to continue accessing those same perks.

    Similarly, Taito Philip Feild who was found guilty in court of abusing his position should also not be able to draw on any perks he “earned” access to in his time in that position.

    Obviously, both draughting such a rule, and making it retrospective, are fraught with issues of fairness, etc. You’d also have to set some sort of “level” of transgression to trigger it…. you shouldn’t lose your superannuation for a speeding ticket.

    (edit) ah, I see in the time it took to write my comment that Russell's now addressed this is already the case in some circumstances

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 789 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Field and Roger McClay lost their entitlement when convicted.

    It took a ruling from the Speaker for that to happen, though. Field initially stood to retain the perk despite his conviction.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to FletcherB,

    Taito Philip Feild who was found guilty in court of abusing his position should also not be able to draw on any perks he “earned” access to in his time in that position.

    He can't. The Speaker ruled that conviction for dishonesty offences related to the office of MP or the perks themselves (I think it was that narrow) is grounds for the perks to be revoked. Which is how Field and McClay were stripped of their travel entitlements.

    Obviously, both draughting such a rule, and making it retrospective, are fraught with issues of fairness, etc. You’d also have to set some sort of “level” of transgression to trigger it…. you shouldn’t lose your superannuation for a speeding ticket.

    You shouldn't lose your superannuation for anything other than defrauding the superannuation system. I don't consider any other offence to justify interfering with someone's pension, no matter how excessive I may consider that system to be. Travel porks, though, are a whole different story and are totally fair game IMO if you abuse them or abuse the office of MP.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Actually, Matthew, it was a terse, ungentlemanly and spectacularly unhelpful suggestion that Russell should take his “in context” and stick it in the shade. In the context of teachers and nurses being told to show “wage restraint” and “fiscal discipline” year after year, $400K a year isn’t chump change at all.

    My suggestion was simply that we examine costs and benefits, rather than embarking on knee-jerk actions to make unhappy headlines go away.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18654 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    As Phil Goff notes in Claire Trevett’s story in the Herald today, there are legitimate uses for the travel rebate beyond a strict definition of Parliamentary business, or what leaders’ budgets are able to cover. I do want MPs to have contact with the world.

    Would that include the taxpayer picking up the tab for MPs-slash-election strategists to "observe" party political electioneering in Sydney, London and the United States over the last couple of years? And, no, I'm not just picking on Labour here.

    I'd also love to know how many public sector PASers out there, have had to pay for their professionally relevant "contact with the world" out of their own pockets or constrained and tightly audited budgets?

    Look, Russell, I know what you're getting at there and don't totally disagree. But if someone like Goff -- who hasn't exactly been on minimum wage the last thirty years -- can't save up enough for the occasional tiki tour, who could?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11850 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    My suggestion was simply that we examine costs and benefits, rather than embarking on knee-jerk actions to make unhappy headlines go away.

    The chances of any calm, reasoned, careful debate which takes in all sides are basically nil this week, as we're a year out from an election and both sides see votes in play. Thanks for playing though!

    Since Nov 2006 • 6155 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    If the international travel perk was instituted in lieu of a pay increase in 1972, then there is exactly one sitting MP who has any sort of moral right to it: Roger Douglas. As for the rest of them, who weren't around at the time, and whose salaries have increased at double the rate on everyone elses' since 1987 (which is as far back as I can find a Determination without resorting to hardcopy), sorry, but they can piss off.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1627 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I can't process sentences which have "Roger Douglas" and "moral right" in them.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6155 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I haven't posted for a while but now we have this big writing I don't have to go a hunting for my glasses.
    Anypoo. Like the disparagement of the Indians for the Commonwealth games preperations and the mutterings over the sale of the Crayfar farms I can't help feeling the ingrained racism of NZ in this. Sure, she done wrong (resists urge to spout "Wong was just plain Wrong" for that is also racist in my book) but who is without some "Sin"?.
    Until we see the likes of Briers and Hotchin pilloried for their blatant theft of old folks savings I will reserve my judgement on the culpability of Pansy Wong (much as I despise what she and her National ilk stand for).
    On the subject of travel perks in general I think they should stop, even employees of Air New Zealand lost that right years ago.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4629 posts Report Reply

  • Anonymous Author,

    International travel perks do not exhilarate so much with their possession as torment with their loss, to paraphrase Epicurus.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • jeremy gray,

    If the government can retrospectively add on a yearly "administration fee" to my student loan, I don't see why we can't retrospectively end past members travel perks.

    point chev • Since Apr 2008 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I support sitting and former MPs having this sort of travel benefit as I think that on the whole this benefits the country. Some MPs might just have a holiday or do a bit of business but it's a small price to pay and setting up some vetting process for worthiness would inevitably be cumbersome and arbitrary.

    But this system is a sitting duck for partisan scandal mongering so it's probably not going to last. What politician is going to want to be seen to be in favour of "perks" for politicians.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Fly my petties...

    ...we, as taxpayers, will cover 75% of the cost of her business class travel anywhere in the world for the rest of her life.

    This, I'm assuming, is on top of whatever pension, superannuation / kiwi saver scheme they may be part of...

    The only ceiling or limitation I can find in that linked document is:

    **6.17** Limitations on rebates for former members’ international air travel
    (1) The total amount paid to a former member by way of rebates for international air travel in each year must not exceed the amount of rebate to which the former member would have been entitled if he or she had flown between Auckland and London using an Air New Zealand Online Business Class return air fare as at 1 July in the relevant year.

    an esoteric benchmark, and a moveable figure perhaps, but does seem to indicate that they can't just travel all year, but they can do it
    every year!

    It does seem a ludicrous perk on the face of it.

    Not to forget rebates on 12 domestic flights
    and travel on ferries and trains - why not just give them a Gold Card and leave it at that?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4621 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    I remember Jonathon Hunt came to speak to us at school in the 80's (he was an old boy I think) and he had great delight in telling us about the free travel that MP's were allowed. I don't recall the specifics but I'm pretty sure he was allowed free bus, train and maybe airline travel, anywhere/anytime sort of thing.

    He had some sort of lapel pin he claimed showed he was allowed this privilege.

    Thing was he took the pin off and passed it round so we could have a look and then walked off without it. I think we hung on to it for a couple of days before handing it back.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    I can’t help feeling the ingrained racism of NZ in this

    Nonsense, this is very equal pillorying and blowtorch application. Think back to Rodney Hide, Roger Douglas and Chris Carter.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 443 posts Report Reply

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