Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Wongs Don't Make A Right

Yea, I know - the story was just crying out for that headline!Dui bu qi!
Pansy Wong resigns from cabinet, over hubby using her parliamentary travel perk last year for business. Spankings all round, and a revival of calls to overhaul the rules surrounding MPs' holiday travel. The wheels have been very shaky on this particular wagon for some time (think Rodney Hide, Chris Carter, Hone Harawira...) and Pansy must have been quaking in her kimono for months! This is what happens when you make an ex-game show host the Speaker!
However Speaker of The House Lockwood Smith seems intent on blocking any overhaul. He's long defended the discount because it's now taken into account when MPs' salaries are set, and also because it is one of the few measures that recognises years of experience.
I don't have a problem with MPs getting cheap flights as long as it's directly work-related ie: the public work that we taxpayers get done for us, by our elected public servants. But they must never forget that they work - for - us. There is no excuse for abuse of the system. At least Pansy was fully aware she was wong and ceremonially fell on her chopsticks.
As for MPs getting ridiculously cheap travel for long servitude, I'd suggest they're paid well enough during our employment of them, so why should they get endless freebees once they are no longer benefiting the voters? That may sound uncharitable but this is an age of cost-cutting. When teachers, nurses, the military don't get enough money to fulfill their roles, why should MPs swan around the globe at our expense?
Further, today we demand transparency in public expenditure. So why is Parliamentary Service and its spending( discounts) not subject to the Official Information Act? It's a cliche, I know...but it's our money being spent: we'd like to know how.
What's needed is some sort of independent body to develop a more transparent system that clearly separates personal expenses from remuneration and legitimate work expenses. Of course that'll mean even more expense...but an independent system is the only way to restore public confidence.
As it stands currently:
* After a term in Parliament, MPs and their spouses qualify for 25% discount on any trip, rising to 90% after four terms.
* Ex-MPs get between 50-90% discount depending on their service.
* Ex-MPs elected after 1999 do not get it after they retire, but can get it as sitting MPs.
* It can't be used for business, but can be used by MPs for parliamentary-related work.
PS: 17 Nov.2010 - Thanks for listening, Lockwood! MPs' travel perks have finally got the chop!

No comments: