I’ve posted before on “mainstream” media editorials, their variable quality and the paradox (in this world of blogging) of their anonymity. Every now and then it means that even The Herald can come up with a scorcher. And the Saturday Editorial on Bill English is certainly that. Usually I would try to “add value” (don’t laugh!) to stuff I quote, but there really is nothing to add here (except perhaps to suggest a theme song for Bill). Extracts from the editorial:
…English remained in a unique position: the $1.2 million Karori house, owned by the family’s Endeavour Trust, in which he lives with his wife and six children, is deemed an official ministerial residence and leased back to the Crown. Until English, under pressure, changed the arrangements, this cost taxpayers – and, by any sensible assessment, benefited English – $47,000 a year.
If these arrangements complied with the letter of the law, English should explain why he changed them when the heat came on. He also needs to explain the trust arrangements. He declared a “beneficial interest” in the trust last year and “no pecuniary interest” this year. What changed, and why? The inescapable suspicion lingers that he was arranging his affairs to maximise his entitlements. That may be legal, but in the middle of a recession when, as Finance Minister, he is calling for restraint in public expectations of state spending, it remains deeply questionable.
The least that English owes the country now is that disclosure. He – and Key – should remember the odium that was heaped on British MPs over their often-grotesque claims and manipulation of the rules: all were within the letter of the law but the public was no less disgusted. As the man in charge of the public purse, English is subject to far higher expectations than strict legality. It is time he answered those expectations. The cost to his and the Government’s credibility is already far too high.