Parliamentary expenses: Here are ours, where are the rest?

The last few days have resulted in a renewed focus on Parliamentary expenses.  Here’s Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn:

So, what’s the latest way MPs are conspiring to earn their bad reputation? Removing any factual test on where they live, allowing them to claim “out of town” accommodation expenses, even if they actually live in Wellington:

Members of Parliament are secretly planning to change the rules around their $24,000-a-year accommodation allowance to make it easier for those who make Wellington their home to still be counted as out-of-towners.

Under the new rules, MPs will be able to nominate a “home base” where they normally live when not doing parliamentary business in Wellington.

If that is outside Wellington, they will qualify for the accommodation allowance.

In recognition of the requirement for them to be in Wellington for longer periods than backbenchers, ministers, the leader of the opposition, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker would be exempt from even the loose test for a “home base”.

MPs have resolved that for senior members “their non-Wellington home would remain their `home base’ regardless of the amount of time they are able to spend there (thereby also preventing the perception that the member is no longer based in their constituency)”.

An ordinary MP’s home base would be deemed to be in Wellington only if their electorate was within its commuting area or they lived “permanently” in the area.

So, their response to Bill English’s appalling ethical failure in charging the taxpayer $700 a week for living in his own home is to legalise it. And then they wonder why we think they’re dogshit.

But it gets better! That change to transparency around international travel perks, that almost all party leaders have now denounced? It turns out that their representatives on the Parliamentary Services Commission all agreed to it:

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key confirmed he would be asking his MPs next week to consider voluntarily disclosing their travel expenses, effectively flouting the Speaker’s ruling. But this appears to cut across the position National took behind closed doors. Its representative on the PSC, Napier MP Chris Tremain, is understood to have raised no objections when Dr Smith outlined his plan.

ACT leader Rodney Hide also called for transparency but his party’s representative, John Boscawen, is also believed to have raised no objections.

The sole exception to this was the Greens. As for the rest, they have only themselves to blame when we regard them as lying, self-interested hypocrites.

It seems some want to protect privilege and impose greater secrecy over what MPs spend public money on.

So, in the interests of transparency and accountability, Metiria Turei this afternoon released the Green MPs’ expenses for the last quarter:

Party

Member

Wel Accomm

Non Wel Accomm

Air Travel

Surface Travel

Grand Total

Green

Clendon, David

5,086

1,173

8,997

4,622

19,878

Delahunty, Catherine

4,969

120

5,029

3,926

14,044

Graham, Kennedy

3,975

218

9,779

1,674

15,645

Hague, Kevin

5,586

810

12,960

3,790

23,147

Hughes, Gareth

376

8,499

4,750

13,625

Kedgley, Sue

747

3,579

1,621

5,947

Locke, Keith

4,121

253

10,094

3,673

18,142

Norman, Russel

1,176

6,439

3,189

10,804

Turei, Metiria

3,548

791

11,751

4,871

20,961

Green Total

27,285

5,664

77,127

32,116

142,192

Let’s see which other parties front with theirs!

Update: Labour has released theirs too.

Update 2: The Speaker has reversed his decision and will be releasing individual MPs’ travel expenses.  That didn’t take long.  Well done, Greens and Labour.

Party     Member     Wel Accomm      Non Wel Accomm     Domestic Air Travel    Surface Trave     Grand Total
Green     Clendon, David         5,086          1,173          8,997          4,622         19,878
Delahunty, Catherine         4,969             120          5,029          3,926         14,044
Graham, Kennedy         3,975             218          9,779          1,674         15,645
Hague, Kevin         5,586             810         12,960          3,790         23,147
Hughes, Gareth                 376          8,499          4,750         13,625
Kedgley, Sue                 747          3,579          1,621          5,947
Locke, Keith         4,121             253         10,094          3,673         18,142
Norman, Russel              1,176          6,439          3,189         10,804
Turei, Metiria         3,548             791         11,751          4,871         20,961
Green Total              27,285          5,664         77,127         32,116       142,192

24 thoughts on “Parliamentary expenses: Here are ours, where are the rest?

  1. I do apologise Kevin. I confess that since you say you have a Parliamentary office in Nelson I assumed that you lived there.
    I also thought that Keith Locke lived in Marlborough.
    Is there anywhere on your website that identifies the electorates for which each of you is the “guest MP”. I am quite unable to find anything.
    Valis. What on earth do you mean by a “conspiracy theory”. Don’t be so silly.

  2. I do have an objection to them claiming that they should be allowed to decide that they can claim they live anywhere other than Wellington.

    I think where an MP lives has always been seen as a personal choice. Also, that it’s better for Parliament to represent a diversity of experiences and views that wouldn’t so much be the case if more than half lived in Wellington. There’s also the issues of families, schools, etc. We we do object to is an MP who claims to live elsewhere when they really don’t.

    I am also intrigued that list MPs generally decide that they live in the more pleasant and easy to access areas of the country.

    You’d have to show that they shifted there after becoming an MP and even that wouldn’t be enough to prove your conspiracy theory.

    If list MPs were really serving electorates, or groups of electorates, they would surely be rather more evenly spread.

    To my knowledge, few parties take geography into account when ranking their lists. The Greens do, but only so far as regions, not specific locations.

  3. @ Alwyn The Green MPs all live in our hometowns. That means 2 of us currently live in Auckland (Keith and Dave), Catherine lives on the Coromandel (while she hasn’t always lived there, she’s been strongly associated with the place for many years), 3 of us live in Wellington (Russel, Sue and Gareth), Kennedy lives in Christchurch, Metiria lives in Dunedin, and I live in a rural area just south of Greymouth. Your suggestion of arbitrariness and deceit simply doesn’t hold water. I have lived in my house for 7 years, and worked on the West Coast before I became an MP. If you were to visit my house you would see it is filled with my stuff, the garage has my bikes in it, the garden has our fruit trees and veges and the surrounding bush has my rat traps (!) Sure I rent a flat in Wellington for the time I’m there, but there is no doubt that my actual home is on the Coast.

    By the way, you will note that neither Keith nor I lives in Nelson/Marlborough, though I do agree it’s stunning.

  4. Toad says “You don’t often get thumbs up here photonz1. Good to see you don’t disagree with everything the Greens say and do.”

    It’s good to see Metiria leading the charge on this.

    However the issue that I think has huge potential benefits for NZ is Gareth’s idea for national standards for rental housing.

  5. None of you, and none of the other List MPs, have electorates

    So? The way I see it, List MPs have an electorate covering the entire country and most of them choose to remain in their “hometowns” to service the needs of the people.

  6. Kevin.
    I have no objection at all to the cost of MPs travelling around the country to carry out parliamentary duties. I may think it unnecessary for partners to accompany them but that is a different matter.
    I do have an objection to them claiming that they should be allowed to decide that they can claim they live anywhere other than Wellington.
    I am also intrigued that list MPs generally decide that they live in the more pleasant and easy to access areas of the country. If list MPs were really serving electorates, or groups of electorates, they would surely be rather more evenly spread. Do not you and Keith Locke both live in the rather pleasant Nelson/Marlborough area?
    In the last parliament did not both Fitzsimmons and Delahunty both live on the Coromandal? And how many MPs claim to represent Tauranga? It may be better than it was but there were about five in the last parliament.

  7. Alwyn, your idea about the expenses list MPs should claim has nothing to do with honesty but rather differing views of the role of a list MP. When people all around New Zealand cast their votes for the Green Party list in 2008, I’m fairly sure that most of them expected that we would be working on issues and with communities right around the country. Wellington is certainly my workplace while Parliament is in session, but the rest of New Zealand is my workplace at other times as I do my best to represent Green values and policies in my portfolio areas right around the country. On average I guess I spend 2 nights per week at home, 3 nights in Wellington and the remainder around the country on portfolio work.

    Of course it’s true that no list MP has an electorate to represent, and there are strict rules around the exact descriptors that we can use. Nonetheless there is an expectation from many voters (especially those who voted Green) that we will also take up issues on their behalf in the same way that an electorate MP would. For example, people in West Coast Tasman will say to me “Yes I know Chris Auchinvole is the electorate MP, but I didn’t vote for him and I think you will understand and represent my interests better on this issue”. In fact WCT people seem quite pleased to have 3 MPs who live locally to whom they can take their concerns. I try to maintain these geographic relationships across the WCT, Nelson and Kaikoura electorates, though I’ve been terrible at spending enough time in Kaikoura (sorry Kaikoura!)So the Out of Parliament office I have in Nelson doesn’t perform exactly the same function as an electorate office, but is an important base for this work.

    With regard to your last question (which, if I amy say, seems a little closed-minded and malicious in intent) every travel choice is made based on taking the cheapest alternative in the time that is available, and the time that is available reflects the opportunity cost (so using the time for travel means it isn’t used for something else). For travel to/fro Wellington airport this means that I usually take a taxi, but sometimes the bus if I have the luxury of a little more time. I usually travel within Wellington on foot or by bike.

  8. hi Alwyn. Do you really think that only electorate MPs deal with constituents or local issues? Look at the work, for example, that Catherine has done in her region – the coromandel/East Coast on issues such as mining, New Chums Beach, caged fish fin farming and off-shore oil drilling.

    Parliament only sits for 3 days/week and it doesn’t sit every week of the year. All good list MPs live outside Wellington for the majority of their time and do a lot of work in their local region.

  9. What is the speaker really saying about MPs expenses ? sounds like, its OK to cut other public services/expenditure.. but in the same breath, he’s telling us that MPs can go ahead & use their perks ‘to the max’ & the public will never know ?! “time for a change of Govt.. HELL YES !!!”
    kia-ora koutou

  10. The perk for taxpayer paid travel for ex-MPs was brought in by Norman Kirk. His MPs wanted a pay increase but the Labour Government wanted to hide it so they introduced what I believe was a free first class air fare, each year to London for each ex-MP.
    They also brought in the extra allowance for ex-Prime Ministers. This was set up in such a way that Jack Marshall wasn’t eligble. I believe you had to be in office for two years to get it. After Kirk died Labour passed retrospective changes to include his widow in the scheme They didn’t want to miss out on anything in the way of perks, even in those days.
    If you were truly honest, of course, no Green MP would claim ANY accomodation allowance in Wellington. None of you, and none of the other List MPs, have electorates. None of you should receive anything other than the actual costs incured in moving to Wellington after being elected. That is where the job is and rubbish like claiming to be such thigs as the Green MP for Christchurh or such other places is simply rubbish. Equally of course no “electorate” allowances should be paid.
    I woudl be curious about one other thing. Do you all travel to and from Wellington Airport by public transport? Can you please confirm that none of you ever takes a taxpyer funded taxi?

  11. I’ve never heard a good reason (or any reason at all) why MPs and partners deserve to get lifetime travel paid by taxpayers because they served 9 years.

    The reason that I heard was that perk was given in lieu of a pay increase sometime in the 1970s. While it might have been valid back then, I do not see it being valid today.

    Good to see you don’t disagree with everything the Greens say and do.

    In this instance, the Greens are proposing something that is common sense and is consistent with what Conservatives such as myself believe in.

  12. @photonz1 12:35 AM

    Nor do I.

    You don’t often get thumbs up here photonz1. Good to see you don’t disagree with everything the Greens say and do.

  13. Nandor says “I declare that I haven’t used any ex-MP perks at all since I left Parliament. Of course I don’t get any,…”

    Now we just need to end travel perks for ALL ex-MPs.

    I’ve never heard a good reason (or any reason at all) why MPs and partners deserve to get lifetime travel paid by taxpayers because they served 9 years.

  14. What are you doing at the moment Nandor? Wanna plant a tree some time? I propose Metrosideros robusta somewhere on the West Coast.

    And good on you for not spending what you don’t have (now if we can only convince the rest of the western world to do the same).

  15. And in the interests of ex-MP transparency, I declare that I haven’t used any ex-MP perks at all since I left Parliament. Of course I don’t get any, but hey, we can probably thank Rod Donald for ending THAT rort.

  16. Great comment QoT. I wish I had found the time to comment positively on your one I have just discovered re Stephen Fry’s dickhead comments on sexuality.

    As a bi man, I feel completely left out of his paradigm, and I can understand how straight and lesbian women would also feel alienated by it – not to mention those gay men who are sexually satisfied in long-term relationships and have no sexual needs to go cruising.

    Anyway, well done over there at your blog.

    And sorry, frog, I don’t want to start a threadjack here. So please all post comments in response to that issue over at QoT’s blog thread I linked to, not here.

  17. IT’S TIME TO DOWN TOOLS!!!!!!

    Well if NAT/ACT get their way on this they have absolutely no grounds to argue that workers all over NZ should not ask for more pay.

    No it’s absolute bullsh!t I don’t think that we should be tolerating this any more 10,000,000 workers on strike in Spain similar scene in France with the retiring age issue.

    And we now have less rights than they do. So I say it is time to down tools and picket all the work places throughout NZ.

  18. Very pleased to see the Greens take a principled stand on this. It is absolute rubbish that “senior MPs” get to inflate their already-generous wages by saying “Oh, but my heart is in Dipton/Helensville/etc”. And all so electorate MPs don’t have to fess up about not really having sweet FA to do with the areas they supposedly represent! You’ve got to laugh or you’d cry.

  19. Agree with Metiria here. Great the Greens are taking the lead in this. All MPs need to be held to account publicly for their expenses. There has been far to much rorting going on in the past.

    Hide’s one taking his new partner on an international bonkathon was the worst.

    Agreed, we need greater accountability here, not less as being proposed by the Speaker and other parties.

Comments are closed.