You’d be forgiven if you imagined our MPs lived in a different world, writes Rob Stock.
That’s the opening statement of a Sunday Star Times story (not online) headlined A peek at how the other half lives.
It looks at likely policy initiatives this year and then says:
Examples of that kind of whack in the wallet came last year when working parents of young chidlren were told they would have to absorb the rising costs of pre-school childcare after the government cut funding to the sector by $449 million, and many feel that GST hikes left them worse off.
Whack in the wallet is a wonderfully emotive term and Stock makes no mention of the tax cuts and one-off increases to benefits which offset the GST increase.
While it would be foolish to expect the average MP to be on a par financially with the average person, the average man or woman in the street could be forgiven for thinking the parliamentarians making the decisions that hit their wallets live in a different world when it comes to personal finances.
And certainly, the 122 men and women occupying seats in parliament have a different financial profile from the average man or woman.
Stock then takes the 2010 register of parliamentarians pecuniary interests as a guide and says:
Though the register is now dated, it provides a view into the personal wealth themes among MPs, and allows readers to contrast parliamentarians fortunes with their own.
Passing over wealth themes whatever they might be, the inference from all this is that there is something wrong, on the contrary it shows there is something right.
It indicates that many of the people who govern us had successful careers before entering parliament and that they invested wisely. Rather than being something to envy, it’s something which ought to give us reassurance. If they know how to earn, and look after, their own money they are more likely to take a responsible attitude to policies which impact on ours.
It is meaningless to compare MPs’ salaries and assets with those of the average working-age person because the average person doesn’t have the work load and responsibilities of most MPs. (I say most because there could be the odd list MP who does little to earn his/her salary and I specify list because any electorate MP who doesn’t more than earn his/her salary loses his/her seat).
Stock has made the wrong comparison and missed the real story.
A more meaningful comparison would be between MPs and people who run their own businesses or have senior management or governance roles.
A much more interesting, and useful, story would compare what MPs earned before they got into parliament with what they get as an MP.
An even more fascinating story would show how many, and from which party, took an income hit when they entered parliament; how many earn more as an MP than they did before and how many earn more afterwards.
Those comparisons would give us the real story.