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English could learn from the Greens

Written By: - Date published: 5:18 pm, October 4th, 2009 - 116 comments
Categories: greens, parliamentary spending - Tags:

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.

116 comments on “English could learn from the Greens ”

  1. Herodotus 1

    As long as someone in “OUR” team doens’t abide by the rules we can justify it, if “THEY” do it then all heel breaks out. As I have stated before within this blog, ALL political parties have the same DNA, if there is a rort BUT legal it is OK. Sham on you for trying to justify this. Pity about the timing of this. Why not stand up against all apparent rorts. Just to kick things of the entertainment allowance of $12k?

    [No. No rort is OK. The Greens weren’t rorting. In fact, as I tried to explain to you above, it was the Greens’ own internal, voluntary system to ensure they weren’t rorting even accidentally, that resulted in them finding they had accidentally claimed too much and paying the extra back. Sigh]

    • SPC 1.1

      There is nothing wrong about the way the Greens have gone about managing their allowance claims.

  2. If , in the case of Mr English, it is as much about perception as anything else, I fear that the Greens are in difficulty here. And it was not helped by a modest performance on Q&A this morning.

  3. FFS

    Typical double standard from the Standard.

    Your writers seem to have gone to the same school as Karl Rove.

    • So what you’re saying is that the Greens’ retirement fund should rent the houses to somebody else, making more revenue and costing the taxpayer more money?

      • Jared 3.1.1

        Phil Goff has been doing this for quite some time, and still does.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1.2

        Same device is used by National Mps

        eg Craig Heatley

        His private super fund owns the flat he rented while a backbench MP. It is now rented to another National MP , while Heatley gets a rent free Ministerial House.
        Meanwhile back in his electorate ( Whangarei) Heatley also owns a house ( may be his super fund) which the government leases as his electorate office. Basically the MP gets to choose his office .
        Key also uses this device to enrich himself with his office in Kumeu

        • Jared 3.1.2.1

          Its a common situation, whats your point?
          MP’s have to rent from someone, what does it matter who owns it.

          • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1.2.1.1

            Its the hypocrisy of Farrar who points the finger while his own MPs are playing the same fiddle

            • Swampy 3.1.2.1.1.1

              It’s not hypocrisy to point out English has been targeted whilst there are plenty of others drinking from the same trough in other parties.

              Oops, look, another of Labour’s petty little campaigns just blew up in their faces.

              [lprent: So there are other MP’s who are getting the state to pay for their family to live in Wellington, while claiming they live in another city? You can of course demonstrate this using the released parliamentary services numbers? ]

            • Maynard J 3.1.2.1.1.2

              It is the Greens, not Labour, you tool.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2.1.2

            Actually, if the government owned the houses/electorate office that the MPs presently rent they wouldn’t have to and we’d save money.

            It’s funny that the political right complain about the Greens retirement fund in this because to do so means that they’re complaining about capitalism.

            • Lanthanide 3.1.2.1.2.1

              We’d save money if the government owned the houses/MPs offices instead of having to rent them from private tenants? So the government could pay a large up-front cost, as well as all maintenance etc going foward, and we’d somehow save money over renting them? Sorry, but it doesn’t really work like that. The money has to be paid one way or another – in rent, or by buying the property and keeping it maintained. Renting is the far more flexible option.

              Remember that the large savings that the review into ministerial housing was to make was by selling off the 13 government owned properties in Wellington to reduce maintenance and overhead costs and instead give MPs a lump sum of money to spend on accomodation. Key chose to take the latter recommendation without the former, resulting in negligable, if any, savings.

            • Swampy 3.1.2.1.2.2

              It’s funny that a hard left party believes in capitalism.

              [lprent: It is funny how a hard-right party MP believes in his right to be a state beneficiary – ask Roger Douglas about his sucking on the parliamentary teat. I’m sure you have a point in there somewhere? Eventually I’m sure you’ll be able to cut through your confusion and actually manage to make it intelligible. ]

            • SPC 3.1.2.1.2.3

              Its not a complaint about capitalism its a complaint about co-operatives bypassing capitalist middle men.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2.1.2.4

              @ Lanthanide

              The large upfront and maintenance costs need to be made either way but if the government owned them they wouldn’t have to pay the dead weight loss of profit and so, ergo, we’d save money.

              @ Swampy
              Which hard left party are you talking about? The Greens are a centre left party. National and Labour are centre right. I’m fairly certain that there isn’t a hard left party in NZ. If there was I’d probably belong to it.

      • Swampy 3.1.3

        No, the Greens rent houses off something that is not going to result in a personal benefit to them. The super fund, funded by the taxpayer, is going to pay out a personal benefit of superannuation to the Green MPs in years to come, isn’t it.

        [lprent: You have something against landlords? That is all that the Green super fund is… Perhaps we should abolish all superannuation investment companies that do the same thing. Of course there could be a shortage of available office space in Wellington for the public service. You really are a confused little twerp. ]

        • SPC 3.1.3.1

          Well doh, the Super Fund will make the same amount of money whether it rents houses to people not MP’s.

  4. gitmo 4

    What a surprise more politicians rorting the system……..add their names to the long list including English, Winnie …… and let’s face it just about every MP that’s drawn breath.

    I still think the biggest rorters are the ‘party leaders’ Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne – how much extra have they troughed over the years ?

  5. Outofbed 5

    Well I am an active Green Party member and I am pissed
    I am not going to defend the Green party like most of the Tory hacks here defend Bill English for rorting
    If we want to be the party with integrity we should bloody well be holier then thou
    i expect a whole lot more from the Green party leadership then this
    If its a mistake then why isn’t someone micro manging shit like this

    I don’t want to watch TVNZ and see that Tory Tosser Espiner just about coming in his pants with a story like this.

    yes I know what you are saying Marty but perception is everything

    Still at least Met got some air time 🙂

    • gitmo 5.1

      “I don’t want to watch TVNZ and see that Tory Tosser Espiner just about coming in his pants with a story like this.”

      That’s not very “green speak” …… but fair call.

    • Marty G 5.2

      Yeah, I’m pissed they made a mistake too but it’s not a hanging offence.

      I would encourage you not to fall into the ‘politics is all about perception’ meme. That’s a Tory line.

      Bill’s not in trouble because of perception. He’s in trouble for unrepentantly and intentionally ripping us off.

      • Swampy 5.2.1

        The main thing Bill has done is to display political incompetence. He hasn’t done anything in terms of expenses claims that any other party or MP has not done now or in the past.

        [lprent: It is the first time that I’ve heard of anything quite as blatant. Most of the MP’s are careful to stay within the financial constraints. However as a past and present minister of finance, Bill obviously didn’t think that those financial constraints applied to him. Just to everyone else. ]

  6. SPC 6

    How is there any rorting of the system here? Cannot say?

  7. Seaforth McKenzie 7

    The two situations (English and the Green’s pension plan) are similar insofar as they simply involve MP’s housing.

    In detail, they are actually quite different and it is crazy to try and compare them. A better comparison to the English situation would be a small but high profile company that has been caught avoiding/evading (whichever is legally sanctioned) tax while the Greens situation is more like

    I am suspicious of the Green Party co-leader when she says it was a mistake.

    I am suspicious because I have read that the Green Party’s residential portfolio consists of two houses. I think anyone with an iota of common sense (and the inclination to actually care about this sort of thing) would say that it is extremely unlikely that an all-of-a-sudden doubling of rental income from 50% of the portfolio would go unnoticed as a ‘mistake’

    • Outofbed 7.1

      Maybe they were just too busy drafting private members bills

    • SPC 7.2

      Apparently it was something quite innocent.

      An oversight in assessing the amount for an MP’s claim – they forgot to note two were sharing the same place – and they should have halved the amount for the residence for each MP.

      • Outofbed 7.2.1

        I’m sure it was an innocent mistake
        But its not a good look and so easy to avoid

        • Herman Poole 7.2.1.1

          The Greens had a pre-existing market valuation for the property which was well below $1000. They knowingly went over the market value for 3 months until either having second thoughts, or being pulled up on it. Jeanette and Catherine at least clearly had knowledge of the situation and approved the $1000 per week rental amount.

          • Maynard J 7.2.1.1.1

            How can you prove it was not a mistake? The media would love access to the information you have. Especially where you can prove that the two MPs in question colluded.

            • Herman Poole 7.2.1.1.1.1

              Maynard,

              Your reply simply does not warrant a response.

            • Maynard J 7.2.1.1.1.2

              Neither do your assertions. At least I decided to humour you though.

              Why is it only you that has access to this information? Such a big deal, and the best line from Q & A was “where was the press release?” If Espiner had half of what you had, the Greens would be toast.

  8. mike 8

    What a joke – you need an “annual independent valuation” to show you that $1000 a week in way too much rent to charge for a 3 bed cottage – who are you trying to kid?

    The Greens have been caught out snout donkey deep in the tax payers pocket. Bloody hypcrites

    • Outofbed 8.1

      The Greens have been caught out snout donkey deep in the tax payers pocket.

      That is the perception
      which is why i am pissed

    • SPC 8.2

      The $1000 claim was based on making the market rent claim twice because two MP’s lived at the property. They forgot to halve the amount for each tenant.

      They shouldhave been more transparent at the time and released the explanation when they paid the over-claimed money back.

    • Swampy 8.3

      The rent is set at the maximum amount that can be claimed. Doesn’t have much to do with ‘market value’.

      [lprent: Looks like you are even more confused than I thought. You just contradicted yourself in your comment here. 12k is not 24k.
      You really should see competent treatment. ]

  9. ghostwhowalksnz 9

    From NZ Herald

    Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said his previous apartment had been very small and was not suitable for him and his wife, now he was spending more time in Wellington as a minister.

    He confirmed the apartment was owned by his superannuation trust and was rented to National MP Bakshi Singh, for $400 a week.

    • mike 9.1

      The old – it’s OK if they do it line eh

      • SPC 9.1.1

        The Greens made a mistake (they forgot to note in assessing the rent claim of an MP that they were sharing with another MP and only a half a claim for the market rent for the property was possible in each case) and corrected it themselves and paid back the money (without the knowledge or pressure of anyone else).

        Can you name one thing they did (apart from the mistake) which was wrong?

        • Herman Poole 9.1.1.1

          Knowingly approving of the payment of $1000 per week, well above market rental, for a period of 3 months.

          When an MP moves into a flat, that is when all the checks and balances are done on their accommodation arrangement. This situation obviously passed muster for the Green Party.

          • Pascal's bookie 9.1.1.1.1

            Timmeh would totally call you out for defamation here Herman. (‘cept he’s hack.)

            I’m just going to ask if you have any evidence that your claims of fact here, are in fact, fact.

            • Herman Poole 9.1.1.1.1.1

              So your assumption is that when a Green MP joins Parliament and moves to Wellington, they simply don’t confirm if the arrangments are kosher in anyway?

              When Catherine signs the lease agreement with the Greens Super Trust and authorises payments to proceed from Parliamentary Services nobody checks the rules?

              This property undergoes independant evaluations of the market rent and sets their rents accordingly (even below market say the Greens so they are well aware of the assigned market rent for the property), the Greens Super Trust signed a lease and accepted payments that exceeded the market valuations. Do you think they conveniently forgot what the market rent set the previous year was?

              The party leader was a co-tenant in this house and would have been well aware of the money being paid by Parliamentary services to the Green Super Trust on behalf of both tenants. She obviously allowed the arrangement to proceed and never asked Parliamentary services to reduce her payments by the amount brought in by Catherine. Why would she accept having to share a house she previously had to herself for no benefit to herself and no cost to the other party?

            • Maynard J 9.1.1.1.1.2

              PB, short answer is a “no”. A big, fat one. “surely this would have ahppened” Surely this would have happened”

              Surely, Herman, if they were going to rip off the taxpayer they would not be so blatant about it, and then stop the rort months before it was discovered? But you keep playing with your little assumptions, I know you will.

            • Pascal's bookie 9.1.1.1.1.3

              Like MJ says, you got nuttin there, poole, but a big ol mess of assumptions an fuck all else.

              Firstly, I don’t imagine an MP authorises payments from PS.

        • burt 9.1.1.2

          The Green’s made a mistake – see the rules are confusing – others were doing it too… Not fair to just punish one party when others thought they were not breaking the rules as well….. Here we go again….

          • Maynard J 9.1.1.2.1

            Every situation is exactly the same as the others…if they look vaguely similar, they are exactly the same…hypocricy…here we go again…

      • Thats the one, but there doing it wrong aren’t they mike?

        Its: “Its ok for National to do it because Labour did it too”, not, “Its ok for Labour\Greens to do it, because National did it too”

  10. SPC 10

    One can note a pre-emptive strike launched by National in a Kiwiblog post today (and it has nothing to do with the failure to disclose the repayment of some allowance money by the Greens).

    1. David Farrar is attacking the Greens (Super Fund) for renting property to Green MP’s.

    He tries to see the Fund as somehow akin to ownership by the MP’s themselves and insinuating they claim rent for property that the MP’s own. He is trying to draw a comparison between English’s (and other MP’s no doubt) Trust arrangements (the Trust of Bill and wife, now transferred to just his wife – possibly to claim the higher allowance as a Minister).

    An attempt to defend Bill English/other MP’s by associating his with the Greens and their practices – an attempt to cleanse Bill by association.

    2. He also takes issue with the Greens for claiming market rent rather than the mortgage interest for the housing (ignoring the obvious the MP’s don’t pay any mortgage interest and the Super Fund possibly does not either – depending on its means of ownership).

    Why?

    Because some MP’s own property (which they pay little or no mortgage interest on and thus could claim little allowance for) they rent out to others – so they can claim the full allowance for another property they rent to live in.

    He is rather ridiculously trying to imply that a link between what a lot of MP’s in National and Labour are doing is what the Greens are doing.

    Again to a theme (as with Bill – see 1) of establishing some semblance of moral compass connection to the Greens, all to defend the rorts.

    David Farrar is desperately trying to Green associate fig leaf the rorting of the system by other MP’s.

    I am not sure if the Green Party should be flattered or offended.

  11. Herodotus 11

    All the appologists comming out from ALL sides. Nice to know the the right & left have something in common.
    From where I stand The Maori & Act are comming out of this with no lose of face. Surprising giving Acts previous history!

    • Pascal's bookie 11.1

      JFTR are you saying that what the greens are doing is:

      a) bad
      b) as bad as english
      c) being criticised; so best for lefties to condemn it, whatever the facts with regard to ‘a’ or ‘b’.

  12. TightyRighty 12

    Accusations that bill deliberately rorted the system from every lefty on this sites mouth, then the greens do it, and it’s all a mistake, nothing intentional, despite the fact that the system the greens set up is deliberate, therefore there can be no mistake. if bills guilty, so are the greens. If the greens are innocent, so is bill.

    • Herodotus 12.1

      I disagree with you re that both could be innocient. All have their share of crap on their hands, Bill at least with his cleaning claim (Even if he is within the rules re allowances) my perception BAD, Greens for we are admiting guilt publically TODAY, evan though we have known about it for 4 months, Perception BAD, Labour & Progressives for (Perhaps justified) attaching Bill then allowing the squeeky clean greens to go without mention, very selective in who they attach re rorts BAD as the attach is not on the principle of the matter just where the accused site on the political spectrum.

      • SPC 12.1.1

        What have the Greens been guilty of Herodotus? Making a mistake and correcting it when they realised it.

        If people made a mistake but fiixed it before it was released in declared accounts or report, would they be “guilty” of something too?

        • Herman Poole 12.1.1.1

          The Greens gave back $6000 of what they nicked last week, coincidentally around the time TVNZ started asking questions about it. They ‘uncovered’ and corrected the situation in June, but neglected to return the money until last week.

      • Swampy 12.1.2

        What was wrong with the cleaning claim? I read Ministerial Services already pays most of the cleaning costs (as they do for all Ministerial properties) and all this is about is that it takes longer than they thought to clean the house.

        [lprent: Probably cleaning up all of the bullshit the Bill has been dropping perhaps? ]

    • SPC 12.2

      Yeah right, the system was set up for the MP to claim the allowance claim based on the market rent for the property they lived in.

      So someone must have claimed on this basis without realising that as 2 MP’s shared the property concerned. Once someone realised the amount each was paying was not the same as that was being claimed some of what was claimed was paid back.

      The matter was sorted before the Greens had to declare their MP expense claims (which may have been the reconciliation in the bookkeeeping system date which found the error?).

  13. r0b 13

    the system the greens set up is deliberate, therefore there can be no mistake.

    Deliberate systems don’t make mistakes? You’re so cute!

    if bills guilty, so are the greens. If the greens are innocent, so is bill.

    111. Police please. Hello officer? I wish to report a crime against logic, reason and punctuation…

  14. PaulL 14

    Sorry, Bill English’s rent was also below market value. Didn’t stop everyone piling on.

    Bottom line, all sorts of MPs rent property from associated entities – electorate offices, accommodation etc etc.

    I think Farrar’s point is that he didn’t think that what Bill had done was wrong – the system specifically allows it. But, if people think that what Bill did was wrong, then clearly what the Greens are doing must also be wrong. The situations are almost identical, except that the Greens broke the rules as well as manipulating their situation to maximise allowances.

    • SPC 14.1

      What rule did the Greens break?

      How have the Greens manipulated their situation to maximise allowances?

      I can tell you that some MP”s rent out the homes they have bought via taxpayer funded allowances and now rent so they can continue to claim the allowance (and use the rent from the house they own to deposit money into their investments).

      Others just buy more expensive properities so there is still a mortgage interest claim (or via a Trust a rent claim).

      • Herman Poole 14.1.1

        They accepted $1000 per week for a very modest 3 bedroom house in Thorndon. Well above the market rental.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.2

      Blinglish claimed an allowance he wasn’t entitled to. The Greens, apparently, made a simple bookkeeping mistake which they corrected when they discovered it.

      • Herman Poole 14.2.1

        No, Catherine, Jeanette, their advisors, and the Greens, knew the situation entirely, including having a pre-determined market rental valuation for the property, BEFORE Catherine moved in. They took a look at the situation and accepted the payments for Catherine and Jeanette.

        • felix 14.2.1.1

          Source please?

          • Herman Poole 14.2.1.1.1

            Again, Metirea Turei claims that the Greens get independant valuations done on their properties to set the rental amounts, therefore they had a valuation done on the property prior to Catherine moving in that set the rent that Jeanette was paying.

            Is simple logic beyond you felix, do you think it is plausible that Jeanette did not notice an extra person staying down the hall? Do you think Catherine answered a flatmates wanted add that coincidentally was for a house with the Green Party co-leader owned by the Green Super Trust? Do you think that when Catherine applies for her supplement that there is no onus on her to confirm that it is legit? Do you think that the Green Super Trust who were accepting payments on behalf of Jeanette at the market rent of the valuation they had sought would sign a lease and accept payments from Parliamentary Services that take them over the market rental that they have on hand and matches Jeanettes payments without knowing? And that no-one had any obligation to follow the rules that they clearly were aware of?

            Is the decision by Catherine and Jeanette to pay $500 for a room in a modest 3 bedroom house in Thorndon a wise and rigorous decision on the use of tax-payer money? Because they did make that decision and started making payments towards it.

      • Rob 14.2.2

        Honestly, you have to laugh, ” a simple book keeping mistake” , almost Enron-esque.

  15. SPC 15

    PaulL the issue was not whether English was claiming the full market rate or not – it was a million dollar home and that claim would be well over the maximum claim allowable, so that is a total red herring and you must know that.

    The issue was the change in Trust arrangments so the home he was living with his family in would not seem like his primary residence in Wellington. The system specifically excludes MP’s who live primarily in Wellington.

    Bill English is actually right when he said the system failed him. Out of Wellington electorate MP’s should be able to qualify even though there families live with them in Wellington.

    But rather then seek an overdue change in the rules he chose to rort the system. Whether he did that in a way that was legal is for another to determine.

    • Swampy 15.1

      Isn’t it the case that English has had the Speakers for years sign off on the forms he has filled in concerneing his primary place of residence?

      [lprent: Since that required a statement that Dipton was his primary residence, it would appear that Bill may be a serial liar. Good point. ]

      • SPC 15.1.1

        It is the practice of Speakers to accept the declaration made by MP’s. They make no decision as such. The MP’s word is accepted until found otherwise.

    • Draco T Bastard 15.2

      Bill English is actually right when he said the system failed him. Out of Wellington electorate MP’s should be able to qualify even though there families live with them in Wellington.

      Wrong, very, very wrong. If the entire family moves to Wellington then the obvious conclusion is that the MP now lives in Wellington.

  16. PaulL 16

    I very much doubt that the AG will find that Bill English did anything wrong. I don’t believe that he meets the definition of living primarily in Wellington, nor did he before he changed the trust arrangements. We’ll see I guess.

    The suggestion is that English changed his arrangements so as to maximise the amount claimed. As Farrar points out, the Greens are doing exactly the same. If they owned those properties directly they would be able to claim less. By owning them through the Greens super fund, they increase the amount they can claim. Directly comparable.

    Sorry, this is real double standards.

    Personally, I’d leave them all alone. There is an allowance, none of them are exceeding the allowance. How they spend it, and where, I don’t think we should care. It is basically panty sniffing so far as I am concerned – it is gossip but has no bearing on how much money is being spent by the govt. But once someone starts something like this, it has to ripple through all the parties. Labour will be next – are they all squeaky clean?? Electorate offices – why are they different than housing allowances? Anyone profiting from them? How sure are we on market rents?

    • lprent 16.1

      If they have to have a accommodation allowance (and I don’t think that they should – raise the damn salaries for back-bench MP’s) , then it should be set to a flat rate accommodation allowance for MP’s who don’t reside in Wellington. What they can rent a modest 1 bedroom apartment for outside of the central CBD.

      Based on Auckland prices that would be about what? $350 per week.

      As a taxpayer, I’m uninterested in paying for spouses or children. We don’t employ them

  17. SPC 17

    PaulL

    What you overlook is that if the Green Super Fund rented out to other tenants and the MP’s rented from other landlords, the same result would occur for the Super Fund and for taxpayers paying the allowances.

    Thus there is nothing in this for them whatsover (all they get is tenants/landlords they know – a form of social capital if you will).

    It seems they are being attacked for their co-op form of Super and housing – for bypassing the capitalist middle man.

    Whereas MP’s

    1 Can buy more and more expensive property to maintain a full allowance entitlement (keeping the mortgage interest cost up especially as OCR falls)

    2. Can rent out property they own in full if they own it outright and claim rent for another property.

    These both cost the taxpayer.

    So I see no comparison and I reject the double standards line that is being used (but MP’s like Goff and others are as vulnerable as Eglish to pressure to end their allowance claims).

    As to the future.

    I favour all out of Wellington electorate MP’s getting an allowance for the cost of two houses – a second house allowance (same rate for MP’s and Ministers, no matter whether their families live in the electorate or Wellington).

    I favour all list MP”s getting an allowance for travel and accommodation for their nationwide work as list MP’s.

    I favour the allowance being restricted to out of Wellington electorate MP’s who own their electorate and Wellington house – a maximum 10 year claim over the lifetime of a 20 year mortgage (only up to the maximum allowance).

    • Swampy 17.1

      There is one question that you have not covered. The MPs Super Fund can set the amount of rental to be equivalent to the maximum amount the housing allowance can pay, and the taxpayer pays it. I read somewhere that this is $24,000 per year. This might happen to be above market rental for the properties concerned. So it might be possible for the super fund to get more money this way than if the property was rented on the open market. If two MPs live in one house are they eligible for $24,000 each?

      [lprent: You really do have a problem with reality don’t you? Just trying to read that utterly confused comment was mind-twisting. ]

      • toad 17.1.1

        But they don’t, Swampy. They set it at below market rent. And when they realised they had made a mistake, and one of properties was receiving above market rent, they corrected it at tehir own initiative.

        • Herodotus 17.1.1.1

          The timeline (According to Q&A) does not look good, especially with the way it was disclosed, as it tookl a TV program to get this mistake out! If nothing else poor perception. With all this English stuff, perhaps as others have invovled themselves the discussion may evolve towards appropiateness of allowances. From where I sit “ALL pigs in a trough” are becomming very difficult to defend otherwise.

        • felix 17.1.1.2

          It didn’t take a tv program to get the issue corrected.

          It took a tv program to tell us all, well after the fact, that the Greens had moved quickly to correct their mistake themselves with zero prodding from anyone.

          Don’t try to equate this to Bling’s situation – he lied and said he lived in Dipton to claim an allowance he wasn’t entitled to.

        • Herman Poole 17.1.1.3

          Toad, they realised the day before Catherine moved in and made her first payment. Any MP would confirm their living arrangements comply for their allowance before they apply for and receive the funds.

          They accepted the situation and took the money. They paid the money back after TVNZ started asking questions 8 months later.

          • felix 17.1.1.3.1

            Sauce for these claims please?

            You keep repeating them as fact so you must have a sauce.

            • Herman Poole 17.1.1.3.1.1

              You did watch that painful display by Metirea Turei on Q&A didn’t you felix?

              Ignorance is no defence for breaking the rules. And they weren’t ignorant.

            • felix 17.1.1.3.1.2

              I ask because you seem to be making a lot of assumptions which go well beyond what was said on q+a, and you state them as fact.

  18. Swampy 18

    Nice whitewash. The super fund just happens to rent to MPs whose costs just happen to be paid for by the taxpayer at the maximum amount, then they just happen to get overpaid, they just happen to decide not to tell anyone about it until they are found out. Turei says the public has a right to know but it still took six months until someone leaked the information before she admitted it.

    Truth is, the Greens have got something to hide. Which in part is that the public will perceive the system has been set up to their own advantage and that therefore on the face of it are likely to be judged in the same light as Bill English.

    And in such circumstance, I would have expected this blog to have been silent, publishing this post just makes it look like you have to whitewash. Why not spend your effort on something worthwhile like Steven Joyce’s plan to cut Kiwirail’s subsidy?

    [lprent: Because with a few constraints by me and the moderators, authors here write about what they feel is important. If you want to raise the issue in a post, start you own blog. ]

    • SPC 18.1

      No the Greens rent to their MP’s for less than the market rent for their properties. Thus they get a little less than they would from other tenants – this is balanced out by secure tenure with the MP’s.

      As for MP’s, yes they can only claim up to $24,000 each.

      In the case of 2 Green MP’s in 1 house – they could only be charged up to half the market rate rent. Thus because they lived in the one property they would be claiming less in allowances not more.

  19. Swampy 19

    “Contrast the Greens’ behaviour to English’s. They didn’t try to insist that they were entitled to the money.

    Wrong. The whole scheme is set up to ensure the money goes to the Green MPs through their super fund. They could rent houses from unconnected third parties. But no. They set up their own personal super fund, which buys the houses and rents them with the taxpayer paying. The funds go to the super fund which in time results in a personal benefit to the Green MPs.

    It’s hard to equate this with a claim that the Greens “didn’t try to insist that they were entitled to the money”. It’s also hard to deny a pecuniary interest.

    [lprent: So on the same basis, either Bill’s trust should be disbanded, or he should dissociate himself from his family. The trust is there for the benefit of his family, which reduces the expenditure from Bill, therefore giving him personal benefit from the state… You have a very very confused sense of reality. ]

    • felix 19.1

      A big night of lying for you, Swampy.

      One big lie I see you repeating over and over is that the Greens paid back their overpayment because they somehow got caught out.

      The Greens paid the money back when they found out about it themselves. No media pressure. No public pressure. They realised it was amiss and they corrected it. No-one else even knew.

      Prove me wrong – link to a media story, a blog post – anything at all showing the Greens being caught out.

      • Herman Poole 19.1.1

        Watch and listen to Metiria a bit more closely felix.

        The situation was brought back in line in June, Metiria clearly says in her Q&A interview that they paid the stolen money back last week. TVNZ began asking them questions last week and as Metiria implies in the interview, she had foreknowledge that the issue would be discussed.

  20. SPC 20

    The profit to the MP’s would be no less if the Super Fund rented to other tenants.

    Their allowance claims and costs to the taxpayer would be no less if they rented from other landlords.

  21. Tim Ellis 21

    This is very amusing. The same people who were screaming corruption at Bill English and saying his motives were to enrich himself and defraud the taxpayer, and leaping to the Greens’ defence. “It was just an innocent mistake”. “It’s perfectly legal”. “They are working within the rules”.

    • Maynard J 21.1

      This is very amusing indeed, humour derived from ignorance. They are claiming an allowance they are entitled to. Apart from the over valuation, they are breaking neither the letter nor the spirit of the law.

    • gitmo 21.2

      I don’t know if I’d call it amusing more like depressing – hardly any wonder that politicians of all ilks are held in such disregard but all except their cheer leaders on political blogs – it’s bizarre and disconcerting but the large oily chap at least vents his rage almost equally upon his own team when they trough at the taxpayers expense which is more they can be said of many of the political blogs, kudos also to no right turn who I recall went after the EFA with a vengeance.

      • snoozer 21.2.1

        but how are we meant to damn the Greens when they’ve done nothing wrong intentionally and cleaned up their own mistake when they discovered it?

        It seems to that reach your standard of fairness we would have to disregard the facts.

    • lprent 21.3

      There are some significant differences.

      Firstly the greens found and fixed the problem themselves (appears to have been a double up on the value claimed because of 2 MP’s living in the house), ie it looks like a accounting stuffup. On the other hand Bill appears to have deliberately shifted his financial affairs to maximize the benefit to himself, ie deliberately rorting the system.

      Secondly the greens did their fixes without carping about how it was all legal and being forced by public pressure. They had a mistake, fixed it, and when confronted with it said it was a mistake. Basically Bill looked and still looks like he thinks he has a right to rip off taxpayers.

      Thirdly Bill even now wants an excessive accommodation allowance for a single MP (and basically I don’t want to pay for his damn family – so don’t give me any of that crap). The greens are charging for 2 MP’s at about $550 per week, ie about $225 per week. Which is less than what I’d expect an accommodation allowance in Wellington to be.

      So frankly your attempt to paint the two things to be the same is crap – but that is what we have come to expect from your comments on anything that has any hint of putting a stain on the nats…

      • Tim Ellis 21.3.1

        LP, Mr Anderton lived at Vogel House. The value of that property is in the millions. The capital cost of Mr Anderton residing in that property is a multiple of the cost of Mr English’s accommodation allowance and is significantly less than the capital cost of any other government-owned ministerial home.

        I’m afraid your attempts to dance on the head of a pin on this don’t wash. Is it true that Mr Goff has had a similar arrangement renting out his apartment to another Labour MP while living in a ministerial home?

        • Pascal's bookie 21.3.1.1

          “I’m afraid your attempts to dance on the head of a pin on this don’t wash.”

          Self aware much?

        • lprent 21.3.1.2

          From memory Vogel House is owned by the government, previously used by Muldoon and other PM’s rather than Premier house. There were no accommodation claims for that… Next you’ll be claiming that the Governor General should also claim an accommodation allowance for living in Vogel House while Government House is getting revamped…

          What are you blathering about? Don’t you ever get tired of spinning these pathetic lines. You do seem to specialize in inaccurate spinning.

          • Tim Ellis 21.3.1.2.1

            LP, Vogel House has been a ministerial house since Premier House was reestablished as the prime ministerial residence. It was Mr Anderton’s ministerial home when he was a Minister.

            Let’s say conservatively the cost of Vogel House is $3 million. The capital cost of that property is $3,000 per week. Three times the allowance paid to Mr English.

            Is it correct that Mr Goff rented his Wellington flat out to another Labour MP, while he was living in a Ministerial house?

        • lprent 21.3.1.3

          BTW: Why don’t you ask Goff? Why in the hell would I know?

          However based on your usual level of crap spinning, I’d expect that whatever you say will just turn out to be pure bullshit.

          • Tim Ellis 21.3.1.3.1

            The facts as we know them LP are that Mr Goff has owned an apartment in Wellington for a long time. The facts that we also know LP are that Mr Goff lived in a Ministerial house while he rented out his own apartment. It would be interesting to find out if Mr Goff rented his apartment to another Labour MP.

            • felix 21.3.1.3.1.1

              The facts as we know them are:

              Bill English lied about where he lives so he could claim an allowance he is not entitled to.

              Blather on all you like but no other MP from any party has been shown to do that. If you know of such a case, lay it on us Alice.

            • snoozer 21.3.1.3.1.2

              Tim. At least three or four National ministers currently do that. Remember, it was exposed at the beginning of this issue but the concensus was that owning a rental property in Wellington was not itself a reason not to take the ministerial housing allowance.

              English lied about his primary place of residence to claim an allowance that wasn’t intended for him. Don’t you think that’s a problem?

            • Tim Ellis 21.3.1.3.1.3

              snoozer given that 3 speakers approved Mr English’s claims you don’t have much evidence that he lied. All the evidence is that the primary place of residence test as upheld by previous speakers was met. The auditor general might have a different view in which case I’m quite happy to go with what the auditor general determines. Since you don’t have evidence to assert this you just show yourself to be a partisan hack.

            • snoozer 21.3.1.3.1.4

              Tim, we’ve been through this. Speakers took his word and every MP’s word automatically.

              English claimed his primary place of residence was Dipton. It’s Wellington.

              See that bit where what he said wasn’t the same as reality? That’s the lie.

            • Tigger 21.3.1.3.1.5

              TE – “The auditor general might have a different view in which case I’m quite happy to go with what the auditor general determines.”

              So you have a personal stake in the AG’s report? Are you Bill English? You’re taking this awfully personally Tim.

            • felix 21.3.1.3.1.6

              So Bill English lied to 3 speakers, not just one.

              Thanks for pointing that out, Alice.

            • Pascal's bookie 21.3.1.3.1.7

              Nah Tig. It’s Tim’s bold position on the English business that if the AG finds against him, Key should probably stand him down.

            • Tim Ellis 21.3.1.3.1.8

              That’s right PB, as the AG will have access to far more evidence than we have seen just from labour party agents here and at red alert. I don’t doubt the AG will make a fair determination.

              When the AG reaches that view, and if it goes against Mr English, then Mr Key should stand him down. If it doesn’t go against Mr English, then those who say Mr ENglish lied should apologise.

  22. ghostwhowalksnz 22

    Tim based on the last time an independent public servant ruled against an MP , the solicitor general, then national will attack the messenger and dig in. This occurred when Nick Smith was convicted by two high court judges

    • Tim Ellis 22.1

      Ghost the auditor general has never been attacked by the national party. A number of Labour politicians have attacked the AG for rulings in the past however. As for public servants being attacked by politicians I understand the last time it happened was when Dr Cullen attacked the director of the serious fraud office publicly.

  23. ghostwhowalksnz 23

    Stwo words. Tim SolicItor General , who recommended Nick Smith for prosection ( and he was convicted)

    From NZ herald may 08 2006
    The legal profession has rallied around former Solicitor-General Terence Arnold, after National MP Murray McCully launched a scathing attack on the newly appointed Court of Appeal judge.

    Mr McCully, a lawyer, accused Mr Arnold of partisanship during his tenure as Solicitor-General.

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