The Speaker is ruining the gallery’s fun:
Parliament’s Speaker has introduced new rules preventing public disclosure of individual MPs’ spending on tax-payer funded overseas jaunts.
The change mean trips like those taken by Rodney Hide and his partner to Hawaii and through Europe last year are now secret.
Mr Hide admitted at the time that he made a mistake, but Speaker Lockwood Smith today said the matter was private and should never have been made known to the public.
“It is taken out of members’ salaries and it is private,” Dr Smith said.
“It is not a public expense, it is a private matter.”
Smith’s argument is that the travel perks are factored into the MPs salary – they granted it to themselves in lieu of a pay-rise at some stage - but because of the media scrutiny and public opprobrium attached to use of the perk they can no longer use it, and so it should remain secret because the way MPs spend their salary is a private matter.
Okay. But there’s a reason there is so much media scrutiny and public opprobrium attached to this perk – it’s that no one else in the entire country gets a private discretionary travel fund and no one (except for our MPs) can understand why they have it. Other VIPs get equivalent high salaries and perks related to their jobs (limos with drivers, say). But the private travel fund for MPs and partners doesn’t have any justification or private sector equivalent, it’s just something nice that MPs gave themselves because they’re the only people in the country who aren’t directly accountable to their employers or shareholders for their remuneration.