The Dim-Post

October 30, 2010

The travel perks thing

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 5:56 am

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.

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5 Comments »

  1. Just a coincidence that Smith got very interested in “transparency” shortly after the opposing party left office – but now that the media’s finished having a field day with that previous govt’s spending, suddenly “transparency” is actually not such a good idea any more?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — October 30, 2010 @ 6:22 am

  2. Lockwoods gets points for anti-populist courage, but not logic. It can only remain a “private matter” if journalists don’t ask questions.

    “Was that trip to Bermuda subsidised by the taxpayer?”

    “That’s a private matter, I am no longer required to tell you.”

    “OK, so I’ll run the story with innuendo instead of information. And I’ll say ‘cover-up’ a lot.”

    “Thanks, that will make me look much better.”

    Comment by sammy — October 30, 2010 @ 9:27 am

  3. “Just a coincidence that Smith got very interested in “transparency” shortly after the opposing party left office – but now that the media’s finished having a field day with that previous govt’s spending, suddenly “transparency” is actually not such a good idea any more?”

    Ministerial spending will remain transparent and all the “private” spending by MPs will be hidden The latter would seem to benefit all parties equally not just the government.

    Comment by Tinakori — October 30, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  4. Just a coincidence that Smith got very interested in “transparency” shortly after the opposing party left office – but now that the media’s finished having a field day with that previous govt’s spending, suddenly “transparency” is actually not such a good idea any more?

    The Chris-Carter-flowers-for-his-husband, and Shane-Jones-pornography type expenditure and had nothing to do with the Speaker’s transparency push. It came after the media requested credit card expenditure details for current ministers, and got more information than they got for previous ministers (where they got totals, but not breakdowns). When they got that information from the PM, they decided to ask for historic information as well.

    This does not change.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — October 30, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

  5. Everyone with a job gets a private discretionary travel fund – it’s called their *salary*. The difference is everyone else can spend their “discretionary travel fund” on whatever they like.

    Comment by JD — October 31, 2010 @ 10:44 pm


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