Thursday, October 22, 2015

IN DEFENSE OF THE INDEFENSIBLE

David Farrar over at Kiwiblog has published a piece here detailing the value of the 'travel perk' claimed by ex MPs and their spouses for the year to 30 June 2015.   The rather predictable howls of outrage issued forth.

MPs who entered parliament before 1999 and who had served a minimum of three terms by then are entitled to claim the equivalent of a return business class airfare to London plus up twelve domestic return airfares per year on retirement.   Same for spouses.    Someone will correct me if I am wrong but, as I understand it, MPs with less than 9 years service received a reduced entitlement with no provision for o'seas travel.

Far be it for me to defend that long gone entitlement but it may be useful to remind ourselves of the context that led to the perk in the first place.   The entitlement had its genesis in the days when MPs set their own salaries and long before the concept of a 'total remuneration package' saw the light of day.    The pressure on MPs to be seen as toeing the line in keeping salary adjustments to the absolute minimum was huge and a large gap appeared between MPs salaries and what might be seen as comparable salaries in both the public and private sectors.   MPs are human (well mostly) and they looked around for under-the-counter ways to enhance their remuneration.   The so called travel perk was one of those initiatives.   Don't excuse it ... that's how it was.

I first became aware of the issue when, early on in my military career, I was seconded from 1 RNZIR in Singapore and appointed Military Assistant to the Hon Arthur Faulkner, Minister of Defence in the Kirk Government.   I developed huge respect for AF.   He had been a fighter pilot during the war and, before becoming Minister was President of the Labour Party.    He understood where my sympathies lay and respected that but we had some great discussions over a jar or two.   In one of those discussions the matter of MPs salaries came up and he looked at me and said asked me what I was getting (as a relatively senior Captain).   Told him and his response was to point out that a back-bench MP received just over $2,500 more than that.

Was gobsmacked.   I can fully understand how the travel perk came about.

AF and I remained friends long after he left office.   Did some interesting things together.   The story behind our dinner with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos can wait for another day.


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't excuse it ... that's how it was.

Maybe but the really old politicians like Alfred Saunders would cringe that the job became a lifestyle choice because it paid well. We pay way more than peanuts today but still get power tripping monkeys most of the time.

Stuff them - its just welfare.

3:16

The Veteran said...

Anon 2.47. That's my point, back 'then' we paid them peanuts and they reacted accordingly.

Agreed we pay them more today but I wouldn't call it over the top in any way shape or form. BBs get somewhere between what a Lt Col and and Col receives.

Not going to argue the power tripping monkeys bit. Some surely are, some would be virtually unemployable in the real world while others (from all sides) enter politics with the very best of intentions not often realized unless they make it into cabinet and then they find themselves subject to cabinet collective responsibility..

With very few exceptions there is nothing so 'ex' as an ex MP.

Howie said...

So the reason Roger Douglas rorts taxpayer with freebie business class trips to Europe each year is because, despite his extreme wealth, he was so tremendously underpaid when he was a Cabinet Minister lecturing us all about how evil government was. Oh well that's OK then! Fuckwit much?

The Veteran said...

Howie ... get a life. An entitlement is not a rort. You are welcome to the politics of envy though.

Anonymous said...

There is nowt like a hypocrite and Douglas is a big one. Because you can doesn't mean you should and knowing the difference is the key to behaving in a civilised manner.

3:16

The Veteran said...

Anon 3.16 ... don't need to defend Douglas. Not my mob anyway. But you pose an interesting argument. Are you suggesting that any 'rich prick' who picks up NZ Super (an entitlement) is a hypocrite bereft of any idea what behaving in a civilised manner means?

Gueeez .... not even ACT is suggesting that.

Shelldrake said...

What about Gary Knap. Social Credit is alive and claiming

The Veteran said...

Shelldrake ... what about it. If he's entitled, he can claim. Don't think he served 3 terms so he has a reduced entitlement. What's your point?

For the record I never quite mastered the A + B theorem. Preferred Walter Nash's analysis ... 'if Social Credit works, no-one else will have to".

Shelldrake said...

Gary Knapp apparently did'nt complete three terms. The speaker is investigating

The Veteran said...

Shelldrake ... Knapp came into parliament in 1980 by way of winning the ECB bi-election 2/3 through the term. He retained his seat through the next two elections. He didn't serve three full terms but, as I said, my understanding is that he qualified for a reduced entitlement.

Anyways, that 'entitlement' has long been consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs. Far better that remuneration is calculated as a package. That way payments are up front rather than 'below the line'.

Two current MPs, Phil Goff and Winston Peters, will also qualify for the 'perk' when they leave parliament. In Peters case it will be after someone drives a wooden stake through his heart.