Who is treating taxpayers as an ATM?

Written By: - Date published: 12:16 pm, March 1st, 2024 - 51 comments
Categories: Christopher Luxon, national, Parliament, parliamentary spending, Politics, same old national - Tags:

Remember when Christopher Luxon said:

I know how hard you work to pay your taxes – and under my government the culture of treating taxpayers like an ATM is over.”

Or when he claimed about excessive spending by the last Government? From OneNews:

Luxon said Labour’s “excessive spending” was driving economic pain and there was nothing to show for the additional spending.

“It’s not just about the numbers.

“Behind all the data… are Kiwi families [who] are facing tough choices every day.”

Or when he said that the economy is in bad shape because of a huge amount of “wasteful government spending” that has driven inflation up, increased interest rates and seen the economy start to contract?

Or when he said this about Public Servants being paid for Te Reo proficiency?

“In the real world, outside of Wellington and outside the bubble of Parliament, people who want to learn te reo or want to learn any other education actually pay for it themselves. It’s quite normal”.

Well it appears that there is a rather large exception to his expectations.  One that involves his personal finances.  From Radio New Zealand:

The prime minister will receive a $52,000 top-up to his $471,000 salary to cover his accommodation expenses since he is not living in Premier House.

A spokesperson for Christopher Luxon confirmed he will claim the optional accommodation payment, despite living in an apartment in Wellington that he owns mortgage-free.

It makes Luxon the first prime minister in at least 34 years to claim the payment. Since Premier House became the official prime ministerial residence in 1990, previous titleholders have either lived there or, in the case of Wellington-based leaders Bill English and Chris Hipkins, stayed in their own homes.

All this talk about wasteful spending and strained middle and ending the culture of treating the taxpayer as an ATM is hot air.  It appears that when it comes to the crunch Christopher Luxon prefers self help to looking after the country’s finances.

Update:

According to Chris it is his entitlement.  There must be a media minder in a Koru Lounge at Queenstown drinking large amounts of spirits right now …

Update 2:

That was fast.  Chris has performed a complete blackflip and said he will pay the money back.

51 comments on “Who is treating taxpayers as an ATM? ”

  1. Reality 1

    This disgusts me and is inexcusable. It would be bad enough in prosperous times but in these straightened times it is the pits. Given his personal vast wealth I can't understand how he could be so venal and stupid. Luxon's lecturing about government ATMs not being there for the bottom feeders, only the rich apparently, is unbelievable.

  2. bwaghorn 2

    The problem is most national act voters would do exactly the same given the opportunity

  3. Anker 3

    So not ok!

  4. observer 4

    Luxon has given the classic justification … it's "within the rules".

    Luxon claiming $52,000 accommodation allowance for his apartment | The Post (thepress.co.nz)

    As so many times before, his political judgement is hopeless. We can predict what will happen: like Bill English, he will insist that it's not an issue, and then after public pressure, he will later pay it back. How can he or his advisers not know how this story looks?

    He's made a big deal out of performance reviews for Ministers, but consistently fails his own.

    • Mike the Lefty 4.1

      I vaguely remember that in the previous government Labour ministers were roasted by National for claiming allowances in similar circumstances. It appears that all the rules change for National when they are in government.

    • Rodel 4.2

      Newflash….He's agreed to pay it back as 'it's becoming a distraction.'Thand ending with there are other words for it also beginning with the prefix 'dis' …..Insert your own root word ('honest' graceful, ingenuous, graceful?)
      Perhaps Premier house could accomodate a lot of homeless people.

    • newsense 4.3

      And miracle of miracles…

  5. Kay 5

    Accommodation Supplement means testing for thee (Superannuitants and beneficiaries) but of course not for me…

    The ultimate definition of wealthy privilege.

  6. We all know about Luxon's faith. The church he used to publicly say he belonged to is one of the so-called Prosperity Churches.

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/prosperity-gospel

    and this from

    https://rpl.hds.harvard.edu/faq/prosperity-gospel#:~:text=The%20Prosperity%20Gospel%20(PG)%20is,through%20devotion%20and%20positive%20confession.

    The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is a fast-growing theologically conservative movement frequently associated with Pentecostalism, evangelicalism, and charismatic Christianity that emphasizes believers’ abilities to transcend poverty and/or illness through devotion and positive confession. The PG is popular among impoverished communities, where at best it is considered to offer the poor a means of imagining and reaching for better lives (at times accompanied by sound financial advice), and at worst is criticized as predatory and manipulative, particularly when churches or pastors require heavy tithing. Members of the socioeconomic elite may also be drawn to PG messages, which affirm the religious and spiritual legitimacy of wealth accumulation and reinforce a worldview in which financial success is an indicator of moral soundness. (my bolding)

    So 'bottom feeders' and those 'treating NZ as an ATM' fall into the category, to members of these churches, of not being of moral soundness. He is not one of the 'there but for the grace of God go I' or others who treat the Gospel as guiding to treat all 'as we would treat ourselves', sort of old fashioned liberal/biblical.

    I see a cruel streak, whether this comes from ignorance or adherence I don't know. He still seems to be electioneering and not governing for all the people of NZ.

    When I worked in a Minister's office he told me once that having affirmed as being a member of the Executive Council, as Ministers are, it made it clear that he worked for all NZers and not the party political anymore in his day to day work. It didn't mean he was not a member of, or support, the Labour Party but he took it as a positive duty to work all for all NZers not just doing basic things as avoiding Conflicts of Interest etc.

    "I, [name], being chosen and admitted of the Executive Council of New Zealand, swear that I will to the best of my judgement, at all times, when thereto required, freely give my counsel and advice to the Governor-General for the time being, for the good management of the affairs of New Zealand. That I will not directly nor indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will in all things be a true and faithful Councillor. So help me God". My bolding

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_(New_Zealand)

    • Ad 6.1

      This is very strong both in Brian Tamaki's Destiny Church but also in many of the large-scale charismatic churches in Auckland's North Shore and west Auckland. It works as an attraction both for the poor as well as the rich.

    • Muttonbird 6.2

      What's really disturbing is that this forms the basis of his judgement. His first reaction in business life is to seek profit as a form of god's work. Everybody should be doing this and we'd all be rich. The lord provides.

      This episode shows his judgement is very poor, politically and ethically. And it is this same judgement which he brings to cabinet and his coalition government.

  7. observer 7

    How can he be so tone-deaf? Of all the possible responses, he chooses "I'm entitled!". Does he really not understand how that will look?

    Live: PM answers questions on $52k accommodation allowance | Stuff

    "it's an entitlement and I'm well within the rules … I have the entitlement to the payment like everyone else in the parliament who's living outside of Wellington".

    (And if anyone thinks it's only lefties who will criticise, that's not true. Kerre Woodham and Jordan Williams, to name but two (Newstalk ZB and RNZ respectively).

    What a stupid hill to fight on. Not a government policy, just his own wallet.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 7.1

      When people accuse me of being entitled, I quickly point out that it is an entitlement, that I am entitled to…

    • newsense 7.2

      Was he ever poor or is life just a money grabbing computer game you must win? How does he get so dead keen on whatever he can grab, but simultaneously so tone deaf?

  8. SPC 8

    Prime Ministers not in Premier House and Ministers can claim $52,000 for their away from home housing cost. MP's $36,400.

    A simple no wasteful government spending rule, it cannot be claimed if they are not paying rent, or making mortgage payments, on the Wellington property.

  9. SPC 9

    Landlord in Chief, setting the rules and claiming all that he can … under the rules.

    It would appear the prosperity religion cult makes people shameless – raptured on high to their upper room on their own private airline, to lord it over the rest of us and from their oh so whiter than white cloud (those unilever products), judging anyone who questions this .. with the, how dare you.

    William English, the high born sith of Treasury, refunded the accommodation allowance he was able to claim as a Minister but did not need (his family lived in Wellington and he had a farm in his electorate).

    The $52,000 allowance will cover his costs while living in the apartment.

    His costs "insurance, rates, power, broadband … surely he could also get a live in cook/housekeeper/personal attendant for that.

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/politics/pm-christopher-luxon-says-hes-entitled-to-52k-accommodation-allowance/RHF2L5U45ZFTXM5JK5PI7EENRU/

  10. ianmac 10

    Thanks Shanreagh. Illuminating. Your words help explain a lot of Luxon's apparent disdain for the workers and we the people.

  11. UncookedSelachimorpha 11

    This allowance alone is equal to the payment for 3 single adults on a "Job Seeker's" benefit.

    On top of his $471k salary and huge existing personal wealth.

    Luxo needs some tough love, I think – no more sucking on society’s titty.

  12. Anne 12

    The next round of polls could be quite interesting. My prediction:

    David Farrar's Curia poll, which tends to favour the right, will be first out of the stalls in the hope it might dampen down some of the negativity.

    • Anne 12.1

      Wow. That must be the quickest turn-around in NZ parliamentary history. Null and voids my comment @ 12 :

      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/politics/pm-christopher-luxon-says-hes-entitled-to-52k-accommodation-allowance/RHF2L5U45ZFTXM5JK5PI7EENRU/

      • SPC 12.1.1

        Apparently it is not criticism from the left that had any impact.

        Luxon said he then listened to Newstalk ZB and heard the discussion on talkback.

        He then changed his mind about the allowance.

        “For me, I’m well within the rights, and well within the rules, but frankly it’s a distraction- I will live on my own costs,” Luxon told du Plessis-Allan.

        Luxon said it would cost “millions and millions” of dollars to bring Premier House up to spec for him to live in.

        “We’re trying to find a way to avoid spending millions and millions at Premier House. Obviously, it’s very difficult for us to think about how we spend that money, but we’re working through that.

        “We know the house has long-standing maintenance and repair issues – It’s a 160-year-old house,” he said.

        Yes it has.

        In 2018 the house was upgraded, with repairs and maintenance undertaken, at a cost of NZ$3 million.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_House

        But not to the taste of GR (“1980’s hotel” vibe) or to CL “spec” standards – millionaire property owner …

        • Incognito 12.1.1.1

          Luxon’s luxury obviously has mile-high specs that come at Sky-high cost. It would indeed be a waste to spend that much money for less than one term.

        • Anne 12.1.1.2

          As I came away [from a press conference] I thought ‘Wow, people are pretty fixated on the allowance’. I thought ‘what’s going on’

          Luxon said he then listened to Newstalk ZB and heard the discussion on talkback.

          He then changed his mind about the allowance.

          He didn't understand what was going on. Doesn't that say it all. He is not a prime minister who has any understanding of the lives of ordinary people nor the compassion that goes with that understanding. He is a hard headed corporate businessman who sees everything in terms of dollars and cents.

          Only yesterday he was attending the funeral of a revered Samoan man whose ability to be compassionate towards all people was without peer. Yet he never learnt a thing from the experience.

        • alwyn 12.1.1.3

          "In 2018 the house was upgraded, with repairs and maintenance undertaken, at a cost of NZ$3 million."

          I fear that that upgrade must have been as bad, and as expensive, as most of the things that the Labour Government attempted. Why does it seem that every investment attempt by that benighted Government appeared to fail?

          Two years after that it was reported that "While the properties meet minimum building and residential tenancy requirements, the condition of the residences, and of the state reception areas at Premier House, remains dated and basic,”

          They also said "Officials from Ministerial Services, which operates the properties, wrote in their briefing that “further significant investment” was needed for the residence and they were keen on a decision in November 2020."

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/300184366/premier-house-dated-and-basic-and-in-need-of-upgrade-prime-ministers-officials-warn

      • Drowsy M. Kram 12.1.2

        Wow. That must be the quickest turn-around in NZ parliamentary history.

        Turn again, Luxon,
        Septuple landLord of Zealand!

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Whittington#Dick_Whittington%E2%80%94stage_character

  13. observer 13

    My comment at 1.02 pm:

    "As so many times before, his political judgement is hopeless. We can predict what will happen: like Bill English, he will insist that it's not an issue, and then after public pressure, he will later pay it back. How can he or his advisers not know how this story looks?"

    Of course that's exactly what happened. Everybody except Luxon (and dear old Alwyn!) knew what would happen.

    As so often before, it all comes back to the same old Luxon problem. He seriously lacks self-awareness, more so than any PM in modern history. That is a fatal flaw and will keep repeating, because policies can change, but characters don't.

  14. Vivie 14

    This is a very odd press conference by Christopher Luxon. While answering questions in Queenstown, about claiming the accommodation allowance to live in his mortgage-free Wellington apartment, he appears, by insinuation, to be blaming Chris Hipkins for he, Luxon, claiming the $52,000 p.a. allowance. He referenced Hipkins several times and claimed Premier House is not suitable to live in. He seemed to have no embarrassment about repeatedly stating he has an entitlement to the allowance.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/510604/watch-prime-minister-christopher-luxon-speaks-from-queenstown

    He has since advised he will repay what allowance he has received.

    • Incognito 14.1

      Prime Minister Bill English (2016–2017) did not live at Premier House during his term because New Zealand law prohibits Wellington-based MPs from claiming taxpayer-funded accommodation in the capital. His successor, Ardern, who is based in Auckland, moved into the official residence. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (January – November 2023) did not live at Premier House during his term. As a Wellington-based MP, he had the same legal restrictions as English. Hipkins used Premier House for official functions. [refs. removed]

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_House#Exclusions

  15. UncookedSelachimorpha 15

    Great, so 3x the amount that the beneficiaries he despises get to live on, is a mere distraction for Luxon.

    Living on a cloud.

    • Incognito 15.1

      No, not a distraction for Luxon – the good man has a Big Brain – but for the small-minded people who are fixated and obsess about a measly $52k allowance.

  16. Grey Area 16

    Exactly, Anne. He backed the truck up because a media adviser said "this looks bad, chief".

    One can imagine Conehead throwing a tanty, screaming "but I'm entitled to it!" And then: "Well all right then".

    Luxon has no moral compass. He is an empty vessel. He is a puppet.

    We are in deep shit.

  17. Muttonbird 17

    • Mike the Lefty 17.1

      Maybe, just maybe John Key is the "John Frum" that people on the Vanuatuan Island of Tanna believe will one day come and lead them to salvation.

      On second thoughts, nah!

  18. "Govt demands 6.5% cuts across the public sector".

    Meanwhile, HypoChris is looking to cash in.

  19. Mike the Lefty 19

    I heard TU's Jordan Williams on a Newstalk ZB news bulletin this morning being uncharacteristically gentlemanly, almost apologetic, about Chris Luxon's faux pas, describing it as "an administrative oversight" or similar words.

    You can be sure he wouldn't have been so restrained had it been Chris Hipkins or any other Labour member in the same situation.

  20. Georgecom 20

    Double dip Luxon

    Another Clutxon

    A cluxter fk

  21. Ad 21

    We should make politicians repay benefits in the same proportion as a sickness beneficiary or unemployment beneficiary.

    If politicians get caught, their entire salary should be withheld, because that's what their policies do to the weakest and poorest in New Zealand.

  22. CharlieB 22

    My 10 cents on the matter..

    He isn't a public servant.. he's a CEO.

    He wouldn't have understood why this is an issue because he doesn't see him self in our service, he sees himself as the boss of NZ and as such he's entitled to be paid for any expenses he incurs as a work expense. This is how it worked when he was CEO of his last two companies, why wouldn't it be the same while he's the CEO/PM of NZ?

    The guy is a vacuous lump that has made it clear on any number of occasions that he would approach the job of PM as though he were running a company and would apply his business acumen to the role..

    • Kat 22.1

      Worryingly also is that approximately 38% of the electorate just few months back proved to be as vacuous and lumpy by voting for him.

      • Kay 22.1.1

        The only thing I have to look forward to currently is watching with great pleasure, the wailing and whining of said lumps when they find themselves personally affected by nasty policies that should only be hurting poor people (not them!), and when the penny finally hits them on the head about trade-offs to get their precious tax cuts…

  23. Grey Area 23

    I want to see a receipt or screenshot of the repayment. We never saw any evidence Shonkey actually donated salary as he claimed he would.

  24. thinker 24

    I don't think Luxon is the first PM to claim the benefit in 34 years.

    Bill English claimed it too, as far as I know, but paid it back like Luzon.

    What a fool! He owns 7 or 8 investment properties, gets half a million paycheck and still risks his reputation on $52k allowance.

    Now the public get to choose between Luxon who got found out for having bad morals or Luxon who will forego $52k rather than stand up for his rights.

    And he saw what happened to Bill English in exactly the same circumstances.

  25. Taken on it's own, this would be quickly forgotten as the clickbait-driven 24-hour news cycle overwhelms the public with ongoing headlines…

    But it's a pattern and inevitably this sort of stuff inevitably sticks in the public consciousness. If this continues, Luxon will become a liability. He's alreadfy rating LOWER in Preferred PM polling than when Key and Ardern stepped down from their roles.

    Any lower, and National MPs will start to get nervous.

    And if NZF begins to slide in the polls, I'm predicting a snap election by the end of the year.

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