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English owes us disclosure

Written By: - Date published: 7:27 am, September 21st, 2009 - 13 comments
Categories: bill english - Tags: , ,

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.

13 comments on “English owes us disclosure ”

  1. Stever 1

    Yes…but perhaps we’re seeing a battle in the Nats going on in public.

    So, it’s not The Herald coming over all intelligent and thoughtful for a bare millisecond, but the Auckland-based, PR-centred, smarmy John Key-axis of the party putting the boot into the conservative heartland.

    This sort of editorial is, nowadays, so uncharacteristic of The Herald that I don’t really see anything other than a nasty, cowardly (because anonymous) attack by the oily faction in The Party.

  2. jcuknz 2

    Your opening sentance is amusing …. anonymity? Which ‘robert’ are you or which edward is eddie etc. Believe me, jcuknz is as unique as my legal name, more so in fact. So this is not the kettle calling the pot black, just an expression of amusement. 🙂

    • Marty G 2.1

      Robin and Edwin isn’t it?

      • r0b 2.1.1

        I’ve commented once or twice that my pseudonym / handle is a “tribute” to the person who was so formative of my political opinions and activism, the late Mr Muldoon.

        I think jcuknz’s comment should get some kind of award though!

    • lprent 2.2

      In major papers (and even minor ones), it is one of many people writing for the ‘paper’ as an editorial. Which is why it it is often quite inconsistent.

      Writers here are pseudonymous which means you can see a body or work by a single author to compare against.

      I think that rOb was referring to the Heralds editorials being anonymous because you have no idea if the piece was written by the same person who had a completely different viewpoint last week.

      Of course we do a few anonymous pieces as well. “The Standard” does announcements that writers aren’t adding significant commentary to. People sending pieces in get posted under “Guest Post” which may or many not have a psuedonym.

  3. gobsmacked 3

    Duncan Garner doesn’t hold back:


    Note that Garner refers to Bill English’s angry outbursts and abusive language, a story the media knew all about last week but largely kept under wraps.

    • Tigger 3.1

      I think Garner nails the point here but I find it hard to believe this would be acceptable to anyone.

      “Labour will claim he owes $400,000, because he has claimed the out of town allowance for years. So Labour should accept any move that for what it is – and leave him alone if he does it.”

      If this was most people in their jobs and they’d received an entitlement they were not meant to receive they would be expected to pay it back. Over time and bit by bit I’m sure given the circumstances, perhaps all at once if the employer was less forgiving, but the obligation would be to return the money. Why should he be any different?

  4. Red Rosa 4

    Intriguing tangle – but a Nat Spat? That is a conspiracy theory to beat all.

    Nothing to add – the Herald and Duncan Garner do it well. Except to suggest ‘Bungalow Bill’ by the Fab Four as a second theme song, with the closing credits….

    (security word ‘excess’ – now don’t tell me they are randomly generated!)

    • SteveR 4.1

      No, I’m not proposing a conspiracy!

      Surely it’s just normal politics, and if you have a rag like The Herald in your PR grip then why not use it to advance your side?

      Or perhaps The Herald already knows which side it supports and is simply saying what it thinks.

      Business as usual, either way.

  5. jcuknz 5

    My understanding of editorials is that they are written by various individuals with the approval of the editorial “committee” . When there is variation it illustrates that it is being written by an individual member rather than by the committee. [Note. the camel is a horse created by a committee]
    Whether it is edwin or edward doesn’t really alter my point.
    As far as the rest of the thread is concerned I think it is foolish and petty political twaddle. The parliamentary guys particularly cabinet have a hell of a job and irrespective of the criteria the argumernt is currently being argued on, the correct criteria IMO is that he is the Member for Clutha [whatever] and required to largely live in Wellington. Having been successful in his job he has spent a long time and fortunately he has his family with him. So Clutha is his home and it is part of the cost of running Parliament that his Wellington expenses are covered properly.

    • lprent 5.1

      Ummm That wasn’t what you were saying last year. I seem to remember that it was pretty much that politicians should live to a higher standard than everyone else. I seem to remember that you were part of the lynch mob.

      He may be required to spend a lot of time in Wellington. He isn’t required to live there with his family (that is after all what the discussion is about). There is no particular reason why the taxpayers should fund that decision. We do fund the air-travel that is required to go back and forward to electorates. From Wellington it is hard to think of part of NZ that isn’t within 2 hours.

      Helen usually used to come back to Auckland on Saturday and usually spent Sunday and often Monday working from home. Originally that was on fax and land lines, more recently using secure logins to parliament and excessive txting.

      Incidentally and off the top of my head, I can’t think of another electorate MP who is a permanent resident of Wellington whose seat isn’t in the Wellington area. It seems a bit weird to me.

      • jcuknz 5.1.1

        The wise person is prepared to change their mind, it shows a certain level of intelligence as opposed to blind adherance. That comment assumes that your memory is correct on what I said last year, I have no idea what you are refering to. I used to be an enthusiastic supporter of ACT as a varient of socialism, like Labour Progressive Muldoonism and Alliance but over the past decade parties have changed and I have no allegences to any party just my beliefs of what is right. In this case it makes sense for English to have his family with him for his sanity, that of the family, and the country. Helen Clark only has a husband so the example quoted is hardly relevant to the discussion. It is also much easier and quicker to jump on a plane between Wellington and Auckland than to commute between Wellington and Clutha by a rather neglected airport like Dunedin. Or should the country pay for a special extra flights to and from Dunedin and then Clutha to suit the Minister’s timetable? .. I suspect the cost of that would be far more that the sums now being questioned. I’m sure he would much prefer to spend time in Southland/ Otago [?] than stuck in Wellington if the job and airline permitted.. I’m sure your two hour suggestion is quite wrong, Clutha is an easy example of your error.

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