The Greens have a superannuation fund. That’s fine.
It has investments in a couple of houses. That’s fine.
The Green MPs have to rent somewhere to live when they’re in Wellington. They claim the out of town allowance to cover those costs, which is what the allowance is for. So, that’s fine.
Three of the MPs rent the houses from the Greens’ superannuation fund. The MPs need to rent from someone, the fund needs to rent to someone, makes sense. That’s fine (and this is important) as long as the rent that they pay is market rate – if it weren’t it would be a rort because the rent is covered by public money.
How do the Greens make sure their superannuation fund is only charging market rent and they’re not taking more public money than they’re entitled to? Be having an annual independent valuation of the properties for rent. Based on that valuation, the Greens set a rent under market value – to be on the safe side.
The latest independent review decided that the rent being charged was above market value. Not only did the Greens lower the rent at that point, they lowered it retrospectively as well and the fund paid back the additional money to the Parliamentary Service. That was all off the Greens’ own volition, not due any other body or the media.
Despite trying his best to somehow equate this to Bill English’s housing rort on Q+A this morning, the best criticism that Guyon could up with was that the Greens didn’t put out a press release announcing the correction.
Contrast the Greens’ behaviour to English’s. They didn’t try to insist that they were entitled to the money. They didn’t try to play a false family pity card. They didn’t alter their financial situation to exploit a loophole or claim money they weren’t entitled to. When they discovered that the rent they were claiming was above market rates they gave the money back, freely, without any pressure, not grudgingly and still claiming to have nothing wrong. They didn’t claim it was merely a ‘perception’ problem.
The Greens never set out to take more money they were entitled to. They had an internal system to ensure they didn’t. They repaid because they themselves discovered they had claimed too much and they knew it would be wrong to keep it. Would that English could claim the same.