Poor Chris Bishop. He is clearly smarting the loss of the Hutt South seat to Labour’s Ginny Andersen and is trying to manufacture scandals.
The essence of the latest scandal he has manufactured is as follows.
The New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union owns an office in the Hutt. It used to be owned by the Labour Party.
There is some sort of ancient sweetheart deal whereby the Union leases office space to the Labour Party. The Party then leases the office to Parliamentary Services so that Andersen and her staff have somewhere to perform their duties. The amount paid is much less than market rates.
The Parliamentary Services deal with Labour is considered favourable to the taxpayer. In fact:
The arrangement you mention has been brought to our attention before. We can confirm that the rent paid for the member’s office is substantially below market value and represents a very good deal for the taxpayer,” said a Parliamentary Service spokesman.
On the face of it the deal is a bit cute. The KISS principle applies. The union should rent the office to Andersen ar market rates and then, if it thinks this is in the interests of its members, it may then decide to donate some of the rental money to the Labour Party.
Should political parties own an office and then rent it to an electorate MP?
Why not. Surely the only relevant consideration is if the taxpayer is receiving value for money.
And, as Bishop is hinting, is this unfair to National?
Well for the year ending April 30, 2019, which until the 2020 financial year was the best year I can recall for the left, Labour received $783,919.64 in donations and National received $1,221,867.08. It used to be that National’s donations were dominated by restauranteurs who would host expensive dinners and then declare the proceeds in the restauranteur’s name. More recently donors to National appear to have partitioned donations to avoid disclosure although ensuring that feng shue was observed. There are a myriad of techniques used by National. Labour’s are more straight forward with donations of art by well known progressive artists being a significant contributor.
Bishop’s proposition is crazy. Why shouldn’t a generous benefactor, be they left wing or right wing, hire out their premises to an MP and their staff, and then if they feel motivated, make a donation of some of the proceeds?
Bishop knows this. He just took the opportunity to scratch some reactionary anti politician itches amongst the public.
The ability to smear a union was a bonus.
The National Party has shown how they have moved away from more straight forward donation techniques to more obtuse and difficult to understand methods. As an example in 2020 Bishop declared $39,549.87 in donations for his electorate campaign all from one source, the New Zealand National Party. If it wants true transparency it should show where local donations are coming from, rather than centralising them so that larger donation disclosure rules apply.
This “scandal” really is much ado about nothing.
I can understand the ultra cautious Labour Party hierarchy ending the arrangement but in legal terms all that National has done is cost the taxpayer a lot more money.