Change of tune

Written By: - Date published: 12:15 pm, June 25th, 2009 - 30 comments
Categories: blogs - Tags: ,

A couple of weeks ago, David Farrar was all for investigating MPs’ expenses here. He was covering the UK scandal in depth. He tired to make a mountain out of a molehill when the Greens released their expenses.

Now his tune has suddenly changed. Now he’s going to great lengths to explain the system isn’t really ‘perks’ just an alternative to more base pay, with the implication that MPs should be able to use expenses for whatever they want.

I wonder why he suddenly changed his tune.
-Marty G

30 comments on “Change of tune”

  1. Pj 1

    I’ve actually found his latest series on MP’s expenses to be fair, balanced and informative. It seems a bit precious to complain about him trying to make useful and accurate posts.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage and applaud him for making some good points (for a change) rather than trying to criticise him for it?

  2. coolas 2

    My guess is Farrar found out that many MP’s, predominantly National, have bought property in the name of ‘family’ trusts and are maxing the $24,000 accommodation allowance to pay the rent/mortgage, perhaps a paper mortgage loaned by another ‘family’ trust. Nothing illegal but milking the system to the max.

  3. Pat 3

    I join Marty the Mathemagician in applauding DPF for explaining how the MP salary and expense system works in such great detail. A greater understanding of how the current system works helps give the debate more clarity.

    The debate seems to be a call for more transparency versus a “Nothing to see here” defense. When Labour suddenly becomes best buddies with National on the debate, one cannot help to feel a little skeptical.

  4. Marty G 4

    I suspect there’s something else going on. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and the tune from National’s star blogger just changed.

    • gingercrush 4.1

      What you mean National Party people told DPF no more pork pies until you sort this out?

    • Tim Ellis 4.2

      Marty, it is very rich for you as an anonymous blogger to criticise somebody who is open about their affiliations about those affiliations. The Standard does not comment on the political or professional affiliations of its bloggers, so trying to make that connection with Mr Farrar when he is upfront about his connections is just sickening.

      Mr Farrar to my knowledge hasn’t criticised the way MPs’ salaries and expenses are set out. As I read his recent comments, they have been about the transparency of non-income related expenses and allowances (travel, office budgets, etc). You seem to be deliberately or ignorantly confusing the two, in an attempt to score cheap political points.

      • Lew 4.2.1

        In fact, DPF has come under come criticism from the real VRWC for his neutral tone.


        • Wendell

          You don’t think he would suddenly adopt that tone without a reason do you?

          • Lew

            Silly me, it’s obviously just a great conspiracy. Nealry had me fooled there into thinking he was just undertaking thorough and detailed policy research, almost like something a former parliamentary service staffer might do.


  5. Marty G 5

    One day talking up an issue, next day talking it down (in fact promising a big long series of talking it down). This from a guy who usually relies on fact free argument and dogwhistle (look at his immigration post)

  6. Chris G 6

    I too thought it was strange.

    Although ‘balanced’ as you say Pat. It seems to have the general jist of ‘what they are getting paid is fine and what they spend money on is fine’ – That is where it gets a bit ??? for two reasons among others.

    a) Normally he would be trying to uncover rash spending (…..only if Labour were in power)

    b) His audience is packed full of ACT supporters who hate the very idea that MP’s even get paid. He seems to be downplaying expenses and pay to those nutters. why?

    pre-emptive strike/defence?

  7. Wendell 7

    Sounds juicy. I wonder what the Nats are prepping the ground for.

  8. pete 8

    DPF’s post is sensible and informative. Since this is so very very unlike DPF, we’ve got good reason to be suspicious…

  9. Anita 9

    I don’t see a change of tune in with DPF has written. He has written about expenses from two angles:
    1) Arguing for additional transparency (summary reporting)
    2) Explaining how the expenses are calculated and paid and, implicitly, arguing that it’s a reasonable approach.

    I don’t see any conflict between those two angles: he wants transparency and a reasonable approach to calculation and payment, he says the approach is reasonable, but there is inadequate transparency.

    Now I disagree with him about the level of transparency required (I think it should simply be opened up to the OIA and standard provisions for the protection of privacy etc applied, rather than a special reporting regime), and when he finishes his series of posts about the approach I might disagree with him about the reasonableness, but I don’t see any change of tune or inconsistency.

    I also want to say that the detailed analysis of the approach is great! If this style were to return to kiwiblog I’d go back to reading it.

    • Tim Ellis 9.1

      Good points Anita.

      Pointedly, and the information seems to have been lost in transmission from Marty (I suspect deliberately lost, in a cheap political attack on Mr Farrar), Mr Farrar made it clear that he would discuss MPs’ salaries, allowances, and funding. So far he has made two posts, one each on salaries and allowances respectively. He hasn’t yet posted on funding.

      It was clear that Mr Farrar’s early call for transparency related to MPs’ funding. If he suddenly came out and said: “Actually, I don’t think we need any transparency on funding now,” then there would be an actual change of turn. He hasn’t said anything of the sort. This suggests to me that Marty is simply making things up.

    • Wendell 9.2

      Don’t look at it like an academic. Look at the politics. In the earlier posts, he’s talking up scandal, in the next ones he’s trying to take the wind out of any scandal. You’ve got to wonder why.

      • Lew 9.2.1


        So you’re saying it’s more reasonable and reliable to look at it as a partisan hack than from a rational, neutral perspective? And yet somehow this is a bad thing when DPF does it?


        • gingercrush

          I see Trotter gave you another dig.

          • Lew


            Yeah, bless’m. I guess it’s a response to my latest post on the matter, too. Perhaps I should be flattered but it’s just a bit dull because since I reject his premiss, the whole argument is at cross-purposes.


          • Anita

            It’s an old left wing dance

            Chris Trotter: attacks a KiwiPolitico author for letting identity politics get in the way of a pure class politics analysis.

            KP author: attacks Trotter for letting a pure class politics analysis get in the way of recognition of identity politics

            rinse and repeat

        • Wendell

          Lew. You know that DPF is a political actor and that he runs lines for National. To ignore that when examining his behaviour is weird.

          • Lew

            Wendell, of course he is, and does. But I see no indication that he is doing so here. Do you really think that, because of his politics, he is incapable of legitimate research and analysis? If that’s so, what hope has anyone else?

            As I’ve said before, DPF provides plenty of reasons for criticism – why resort to this sort of thing?


      • Anita 9.2.2


        I actually can’t see him talking up a scandal. In fact the oldest of the posts linked to starts with him pointing out the difference between the UK’s scandal-prone system and NZ’s more conservative system.

        • Wendell

          What about the Greens ones?

          • Anita

            Wasn’t it just a bit of a poke about the fact that the Greens are using the same mechanisms to game the system that all the other MPs are, so shouldn’t get away with acting holier than thou? Pretty typical DPF, hardly scandal mongering.

    • jarbury 9.3

      When DPF’s doing more than just quoting newspaper articles and providing two lines of commentary on them, Kiwiblog can be an interesting read.

      Just don’t delve into the comments if you want to retain your sanity! LOL.

      (note: I do not follow this guidance, and have therefore lost my sanity)

      • gingercrush 9.3.1

        Oh come now. Between Redbaiter, Redbiter, Sonic, Tujia, Philu and Big Bruv one is immediately able to grasp great knowledge from all sides of the political spectrum.

  10. Swampy 10

    The big issue over the Greens as Bryce Edwards (a left wing political lecturer) pointed out was that they made a political stunt by publishing selected expenses but leaving a whole of gaps in the information that they did release. The Greens have tried to make themselves out to be whiter than white on this issue (as they do on a lot of political issues) but have actually refused to comment at all on Edwards’ articles on the subject.

    Now, you can see a lot of self interest in everything that every politician is saying about this subject. Yet you can see the Greens out on their own in claiming to be taking the moral high ground but in fact looking out to milk the system just as much as any of the other parties, maybe more in fact.

    If there is one good thing that could come out of this or any political debate it is that we all learn that the Greens are not the bunch of political outsiders they claim to be. They are in politics for the same reasons as anyone else and have been doing it since the 1970s. All of that rhetoric about political standards etc just doesn’t wash.

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