Key OK with ministers’ backdoor perk

Written By: - Date published: 10:58 am, October 30th, 2009 - 26 comments
Categories: john key, national/act government, parliamentary spending - Tags:

I’m sure you noticed Hide’s latest shenanigans – getting his partner taxpayer subsidised international flights despite Key’s directive not to. Key (surprise, surprise) is ‘comfortable’ with this because Hide used Parliamentary not Ministerial funds.

Hide was taking a jaunt around London and Toronto to see other ‘Supercities’ close-up (unfortunately, he ignored the lessons). It was a ministerial trip but we paid $25,000 for his girlfriend via Hide’s MP perks: “I didn’t pay as minister, so this was, if you like, within the rules as an MP” – another bizarre blending of his ministerial and political roles.

Remember, Key’s original line on the policy was: “I’ve told them if they want to take their partner, they can do it, but they pay for it”. But now it turns out that Ministers can get the taxpayer to pay for it through another fund, meaning that the savings to the taxpayer (the point of the policy, remember) mostly disappear into the pockets of Government Ministers.

The more terms a minister has been an MP, the larger the subsidy they can claim. Here are the actual subsidy rates, made clear only after the real policy was outed by Hide:

Taxpayer Subsidy    0%    25%    50%    75%    90%
 No. of Ministers 1 7 4 2 14

So it turns out “they pay for it” actually means “taxpayers pay for 90% of it” for half of all Ministers.

Another example of Key sounding bold but acting weak.
[hat-tip: Rob Salmond]

26 comments on “Key OK with ministers’ backdoor perk”

  1. factchecker 1

    This is hilarious. Under Labour, partners travelled on the Ministerial dime, ie on the taxpayer, funded out of Ministerial Services.

    Key said, that will no longer be the case. Ministers pay for partners themselves.

    One Minister used his Parliamentary perk to bring his partner with him.

    But no no, Key is “sounding bold but acting weak”.

    • snoozer 1.1

      Well, Key set the standard and now he’s not making his ministers live up to it, what else do you call it?

    • Pascal's bookie 1.2

      Key said Rodney’s rort was fine FC, that getting the taxpayer to pay for it fell within his definition of ‘paying for it yourself’.

  2. greenfly 2

    That Yellow Jacket’s got slops all over it!

  3. Craig Glen Eden 3

    Simply outrageous who is worse English, Hide,Key? Sadly all three have set out to deceive the tax payer, mean while they conspire to get their hands on our money either through perks or privatization. A bit of advice for the three of them, resign you are a bloody disgrace.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    There’s a familiar theme here, and perhaps it’s worth a separate post, because it’s a feature of many recent stories.

    Here’s the Herald on Hide:

    “The 10-day trip was a Super City fact-finding visit to London, where Mr Hide met Mayor Boris Johnson, then went on to Toronto, Portland and Los Angeles.”

    Well, that may be fair enough. He can argue he’s the Local Government Minister, doing his job.

    But wait, there’s more:

    “I didn’t pay as minister, so this was, if you like, within the rules as an MP,” the minister said.

    OK, so he was the Minister as soon as he got off the plane, but when he was flying he was just an MP. And Key pretends he believes it, and worse, he expects us to.

    This is yet another example of NZ’s strange new constitution. It’s a farce, and it’s high time we called bullshit on it.

    Hide, Sharples & co NEVER seem to do anything wrong as Ministers. Any time they get a bad headline, they are automatically relegated to “MPs” or “party leaders”. So Key can be “relaxed” about it, but of course they can keep their Ministerial salaries.

    When are they Ministers? When are they not? Who can tell the difference? If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

    For example, how does Tariana Turia represent disabled people as the Minister for Disability Issues, and suddenly stop representing them when she votes to support National on ACC?

    And when are the media going to stop accepting and start challenging this absurd fiction?

    • gobsmacked 4.1

      Just to expand on my point, here’s today’s Herald, on the smokefree Bay of Plenty story:

      Associate Health Minister Health Tariana Turia commended the council on its policy.

      “Banning smoking in public spaces not only makes it harder for smokers to light up but it helps reduce youth uptake of smoking,’ she said.

      1. Associate Health Minister supports the policy.

      2. Therefore, she speaks for the government. It is in her portfolio.

      3. Therefore, this is now government policy.

      4. Therefore, the Prime Minister supports it. He leads the government.

      Doesn’t he?

    • Scribe 4.2

      gobsmacked,

      OK, so he was the Minister as soon as he got off the plane, but when he was flying he was just an MP. And Key pretends he believes it, and worse, he expects us to.

      This is yet another example of NZ’s strange new constitution. It’s a farce, and it’s high time we called bullshit on it.

      I agree. I wish the former PM had put a stop to it during the whole Winston Peters debacle. Maybe then it wouldn’t have become ingrained into the political psyche.

  5. bobo 5

    I wouldn’t have thought 25k was nearly enough to compensate for holiday with Rodney Hide.. Yellow mankini n all by the hotel pool….

  6. lprent 6

    Bloody hell – Key has learnt a new word.

    As well as ‘relaxed’, he also knows ‘comfortable’. It is a pity that he hasn’t learnt what ‘responsible’ means yet.

  7. Nick 7

    Belt.

    Way.

    [lprent: Don’t dup messages between posts. It marks you down as a particularly thick troll. ]

  8. Herbert 8

    I would like to issue a challenge to journalists. Perhaps someone could ask Mr Key what he is not “comfortable” or “relaxed” about?

  9. ghostwhowalksnz 9

    not the first time Hide and his girlfriend have done a quick shuffle with the money.
    remember dancing with the stars. His appearance fee -( while he held a full time job as MP) apparently went to the Remuera Squash Club. Guess who was resident professional at the club. Thats right Hides girlfriend.

    Lets see. Hide travels as a Minister but claims his girlfriends costs as a MP
    Hide gets paid for appearing as an MP on TV, and passes the money to his girlfriend.

  10. Richard 10

    So it’s OK then when Carter and his boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife go away together on the taxpayer, but not OK for Hide. Hypocrite!

    • ghostwhowalksnz 10.1

      Because Key said ‘ you can pay’ , which he did for his own wife recently.
      Thats why Hide , used the rules to his own advanatge

      Of course Hides legal wife didnt go with him. She was dumped not that long ago

  11. Herodotus 11

    What he did was correct he used his ability as a MP from the 1996 benefits. Yet what he did has an extremely bad taste in the mouth (to put it in a mild way. There are a few Acts MP’s who should suffer at the next election. As this minor breech will have a dramatic consequence.
    I am taken back by some comments here has some jhave a very short memory. H1 encouraged partners to accompany on trips.
    Many here are just scoring cheep points. No one has shown any desire to review what entitlements Mp’s should be able to receive.
    Is the standard that as long as the actions are within the rules/laws/guidelines it is OK?
    Or is there a level of behaviour above that certain occupations must adhere to?

    • Pascal's bookie 11.1

      I think that whether it is ok or not is for the most part a political question. Certainly if there are rules they must be followed. However, whatever rules are set in place, some people play them as hard as they can.

      In this case we have a rule set by Key saying that Ministers should pay for their partners travel. This rule was set up to save the crown money. Hide looked at the wording of the ‘rule’ and decided that using his MP perk counted as ‘him paying for it’.

      He is entitled to that perk so he is not breaking any official rules. But I’m not sure how he can considered to have either saved the crown the money (the purpose of Key’s rule) or ‘paid for it himself’. If he had not taken his partner, he would not have been entitled to take the money saved in cash from the crown.

      The level of behaviour acceptable by our politicians above and beyond official rules and legal type things, is entirely up to voters. Whatever the rules get written, they will get played and interpreted. The sanctions for that ‘playing the rules’ can only exist via the ballot. Expressing discontent/outrage/scoring cheap points are a part of that political process.

      In this case, people are pointing out that Hide and Key in particular made a lot of political capital out of this sort of issue. Surely turn about is not only fair play, but necessary? If we cannot hold the ‘perk busters’ TM to the standards that they demand of their political opponents then where are we?

      • Herodotus 11.1.1

        I was not only thinking of politicians, also Police, Doctors Teachers etc. There is in my mind a greater level of responsibility to act above the law in some areas. Politicians are one area, yet as you have said the voter acts as the jury. Yet that will only happen in the last few days before an election. Unless there has been so much minor non descript stuff that builds up to an unstoppable tidal wave, I am doubtful that even such instances will result in a change.
        One thing R Hyde mentioned on TV tonight, as he was elected pre 99 and his perks are included within his package. Does his pay packet suffer say compared to say Tim Grosser?

  12. RedLogix 12

    It’s really very simple.

    If a left wing person had done this it would have been utterly condemned as the most corrupt thing that had ever happened in this country’s history. Loud round of calls for an immediate sacking.

    But because it’s right-wing ‘perk-buster’ hero Hide, it’s fine. Apparently it’s all perfectly within the rules, and will likely increase his popularity in the polls. The left are just a pack of negative hacks for making an issue of it.

  13. Jcw 13

    The newspaper reports seem to be quite misleading, I checked for my self here http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/Expenses/c/b/5/49NZPMPExpenses7920091-Members-expense-disclosure-from-1-July-2009.htm

    So it seems that the newspapers are claiming that all the money from 1 Jully – 30th Septmember by Hide was on this one trip (although I did notice the herald put an * with “may include domestic travel” with its figures). They also seem to be claiming that his gf’s costs that were subsidised for this period were equal to Hide’s (which is silly considering she wont have come on all of his trips, and they would have shared rooms I’m sure). A better guess I think is that his partners subsidy was closer to $5K-10K.

    Not that I support the use of this perk, just the way it was reported.

  14. JCW

    Yes, that would be commonsense analysis…..

    http://asianinvasion2006.blogspot.com/2009/10/bad-rodney-no-biscuit.html

    My conclusion is either the Herald is drawing that $25k figure from their backsides or someone at Parliamentary Services is on the take with travel agencies or airlines to provide bloated airfares.

    I recently did a 2 month trip business class and plenty of $300+ a night hotels and the whole cost was NZ$29k.

    • lprent 14.1

      It was actually a reasonably good analysis (read it this morning during the power cut)…. We’ll keep English. He is almost vaguely competent in a mundane kind of way. God knows there isn’t anyone else in the NACT caucus who shows any competence.

  15. Cactus is right, those figures have been pulled out of thin air.

    Nonetheless I am not here to make excuses for anybody – the whole everybody is doing it arguement is wearing a little thin. I’d hope that you would be exercising the same vocal cords on your MPs expenditure.

    Am worried that you’re giving English a sort of compliment, that kind of backs up the fact that we want him out – the Standard kiss of death even? 🙂

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