MPs can change Act


One man I approached to see if he’d be interested in seeking selection as a candidate for National last year said he couldn’t afford to.

He was at a stage in his life where the drop in pay would be too big a hit for him and his family .

That could well be the reason some people don’t stand but many who do enter parliament get a pay rise and few leave to go on to higher paying careers.

That is one of the reasons the news of MPs’ pay rises are met with such outrage although pay should be for what they are actually doing rather than what they did before, or might do after they leave, parliament.

On that basis some are underpaid.

My MP Jacqui Dean, for example serves and services well the country’s third largest general electorate, Waitaki. She is a select committee chair (for which she is paid a little more) and a parliamentary private secretary (which attracts no extra pay) and she’s also co-chair of the Rules Reduction Taskforce.

There is no question that she works hard and substantial increased majorities in successive elections indicate her constituents recognise this.

That can’t be said for all MPs.

Can anyone name more than one or two of the sycophants who are in parliament on New Zealand First’s list let alone provide evidence they do much to earn their salary?

Remuneration Authority members aren’t tasked with what individual MPs do. Salaries are set not on individual performance but the positions they hold so a hard working and effective MP gets the same as a slacker.

In announcing increased pay rates for MPs the Authority said:

The Authority continues to use a total remuneration approach in setting the base salary for members, as it does for other groups for whom it sets pay. The Authority takes as its starting point its payline for public servants undertaking jobs with broadly similar complexity and responsibility. That enables it to identify a total remuneration package, based on market rates, for ordinary members. The Authority then deducts from that total package the value of the employer superannuation subsidy to members (20% of an ordinary member’s salary) and the personal benefit of entitlements to members and their families (as assessed by the Authority). The figure remaining after these deductions from the total package becomes the base salary. If an individual member chooses not to take advantage of one or both of the entitlement and superannuation payments, his or her base salary is not increased.

1.5 The same approach is not taken with senior positions in Parliament, including the Prime Minister, Ministers, the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, Party Leaders, and so on.

1.6 In recognition of the significant element of public service given by those serving in the Executive and in senior roles in Parliament, democracies like our own have traditionally significantly discounted the rate at which their leaders have been materially rewarded, and those aspiring to those positions have accepted such a discount. The rates for these positions are not set based on market rates or the Authority’s general payline, but maintain previous relativities established over many years and reinforced when parliamentary remuneration was fully reviewed in 2001/02. . .

In 2014, the Authority’s payline at the level for ordinary members increased by 3.3%. For this year, the personal benefit of the travel entitlement to members and their families has been assessed at $3,200 per member, a reduction in the amount assessed in previous years, which takes into account tightened provisions around the personal use of travel by family members. Taking into account the change in value of the travel entitlement, this produces a package increase of 3.56% and a salary increase for ordinary members of 5.5%. . .

Which market rates the Authority took account of to get a package increase of 3.5%, and a salary increase for ordinary members of 5.5%, which takes into account the decrease in travel allowances, when inflation is so low isn’t clear, especially when the PM wrote requesting no increase at all:

. . . He told reporters this morning that he wrote to the Remuneration Authority early this year urging it not to give MPs a pay rise at all this year, but the authority had given them a pay rise anyway.  . .

He wants the Authority to review its system:

“What I think the Remuneration Authority should do, if they are going to give a pay increase to MPs, is I think they should point to the law and tell us what in the law is driving the sort of increases that they want to give MPs, and then we should go away and consider whether we think that law is appropriately set,” he said.

“In my view it’s quite clear that inflation is low, that MPs are by any measure well recompensed, and against that the Remuneration Authority has had the view that ministers are a long way away from chief executives and to other senior people in the private sector.

“But you don’t go into politics and become either a minister or a prime minister, or even a backbencher, because you are there for the money. If you do you are there for completely the wrong motivation, so I just don’t think that’s a relevant comparison in my view.” . . .

An Act of Parliament governs how MPs’ remuneration is set and therefore it is in MPs’ power to change it.

David Farrar has been suggesting sensible change for some time:

. . .On multiple occasions I have submitted that the law should be changed so that the sets salaries for an entire parliamentary term, rather than annually. There is no need for annual adjustments in a low inflation environment. They should be set three months before each election and apply for the whole term. . .

That wouldn’t change the howls of outrage every time there is a pay increase.

But it would set a good example when inflation is low and provide an incentive for keeping it low.

Who do you trust?


Duncan Garner critique’s Prime Minister John Key of the fifth anniversary of his government.

He gives him 7.5/10 and concludes:

Your choice is between John Key and Bill English with a few rag-tag minor right wing parties – or David Cunliffe and Russel Norman – with perhaps Winston Peters in tow.

Who do you trust?

To which a commenter answers:

Let’s not forget his development into a well respected leader in the region as the last APEC conference in Bali showed. And he’s the only Commonwealth leader to ever have been invited to Balmoral – surely that’s worth an extra point 🙂

Given all the challenges that have been thrown at Key over the past 5 years, easily a 9.5 out of 10. The answer to your last question is a no-brainer, Cunliffe and Norman in charge is a very scary prospect and when voters enter the booth in November 2014 I think in their hearts they’ll know Key and English are the people to trust. Key to win by a nose next year.

The outcome of next year’s election is very finely balanced.

Labour has more potential coalition partners but it’s still not very strong itself and the prospective of  its possible partners in government may well put off more voters who might be considering voting for Labour.

National has fewer potential partners but is stronger itself.

A still weakened Labour with a strong (for a wee party) Green Party plus  any or all of New Zealand First, Mana, the Maori Party and possibly Peter Dunne is a much more radical and less stable option than a strong National Party with two or three partners.

#gigatownoamaru is backing itself but welcomes support from anywhere to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.

Mana vs Maori


The announcement that the Mana Party will contest all seven Maori seats wasn’t surprising.

Attempts to repair the gulf that separates Mana from the Maori Party failed after the Te Tai Tokerau by-election making this decision inevitable.

The likely beneficiary of vote splitting between these two parties is Labour which might win back at least one of the Maori seats.

The party will also contest as many general seats as it can and no doubt there will be people who are wooed by this:

The party has outlined its key draft policies: abolishing GST, compulsory te reo in schools and establishing an independent Treaty of Waitangi commissioner to oversee historic claims . . .

However, it takes several thousand votes to win general seats.

Would it be too much to hope there wouldn’t be that many in each electorate who would be taken in by the economic lunacy of removing GST, especially when some who are might vote for New Zealand First instead?

Mayday for Labour on May Day


Mayday is the international distress call and it’s what Labour might well be calling on this May Day which is celebrated by the left as International Workers Day.

The formation of the Mana Party yesterday made Labour look an even less attractive option for voters.

If Labour propped up by the Greens, Maori Party, New Zealand First and Peter Dunne was a recipe for instability with little electoral appeal, how much worse would it be with the addition of the Mana Party with these policies :

 . . . nationalising assets such as power, water and housing and ending state asset sales. He said it would campaign on the so-called ‘Hone Heke’ tax – a financial transaction tax of one cent in the dollar.

The party also wants to nationalise monopolies and duopolies.

State owned supermarkets anyone?

Labour was quick to say that a Don Brash-led Act Party would drag National to the right. But National is in a much stronger position to withstand extreme demands from potential coalition partners than Labour which will be further weakened by the spectre of the Mana Party on its left-flank.

The only way is . . . ?


Any hopes Labour might have taken from last week’s One News Colmar Brunton poll which showed a slight increase in support will have been dashed by last night’s 3 News Reid poll which shows they’ve dropped 3.8 to just 27.1%.

That would mean they’d get just 34 seats. Several sitting MPs would lose their jobs and only one new MP would come in on the list – former party president Andrew Little.

If, as often happens, loss of party support leads to fewer votes for individual MPs the party could also lose some electorate seats. That wouldn’t affect the overall number of MPs they get but it would further weaken the party.

The only way to go from 27% ought to be up  which is what happened last time Labour was there and it could happen again. But this poll shows not just Labour but left as a whole is less popular.

The two coalition supporters Labour could rely on also lost support. The Green Party dropped .5 to 7.7%. New Zealand First had a similar drop to 2.8% which is only just over half way to the 5% threshold needed to get into parliament without winning an electorate.

The Maori Party which could choose to go with Labour or National, or stay out of government had a slight increase in support – up .2% to 2.5% and Act which would go with National or stay on the cross benches was up 1.1 t0 1.7%.

National went up 2.9 to 57.5% and dearly as I would like that sort of result on election night it would be virtually impossible to translate that level of support into votes.

Although Kiwiblog says the TV3 poll was the most accurate one in the last two elections it’s still seven and a bit months until election day and anything could happen before then.

Labour might be in despair about their lack of traction but National can’t afford to be complacent when the only likely way to go from these poll heights is down.

However, those of us on the centre right can take heart that the public does appear to realise that borrow and spend policies won’t help and policies which lead to more savings, investment and export growth is what we need.

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