I live in Wellington, and so do you.

Bill English is still protesting loudly that because he’s only claiming as much as a backbencher for living somewhere he doesn’t actually live, we cannot expect any more from him. He’s simply and demonstrably wrong.

While I have no issue with him identifying Dipton as his home, (I still feel that way about London to a degree, and I haven’t lived there in over a decade) it is plainly not where he is actually living. Accomodation allowances are designed to offset the costs of MPs who have no residence in Wellington, and would have to rent one.

If Bill English wants the pressure to come off, he should admit he lives in Wellington, and was never entitled to take the allowance in the first place, stop taking the backbencher-level accommodation supplement, and repay the rest of the money he wrongly claimed. If he’d do that, I’d willingly forgive him the lies, the obfuscation, and the blatant attempts to disguise his living arrangements because he made the situation right and made clear that MPs are only entitled to additional pay when they face additional difficulties in serving the country. I’d even defend that he had no need to step down from anything, if he did it very quickly- as far as I’m concerned he’s probably procrastinated more than he has rights to if he expects people to believe he did not intend to rort the taxpayer, but just because I dislike him doesn’t mean I fancy the idea of anyone else in his party trying to be finance minister. (and presumably failing even worse)

Being an MP is not a career. Every term you are re-elected, and it is a privilege every time, as it entitles you to do a great service for the country. MPs do not need competitive pay with the private sector, they need pay that takes into account the stress and expenses of being an MP, and their current remuneration is perfectly adequate, many would say without all the allowances we add on.

This is the disconnect: Bill thinks he’s entitled to the allowance because it is legal for him to take it, and it is legal to take it because MPs like him have set the rules based on the mistaken presumption that being an MP is a career. I think he’s not entitled to it because he lives in a house with his name on the deed, in Wellington, for most of the year, and thus does not need the additional money. The Nat’s “reform” of ministerial allowances does not address this matter, and highlights the need for a truly independent body that sets the pay and allowance rules for MPs in a transparent, fair, and non-partisan way, ensuring MPs can do their jobs if they have additional disadvantages compared to other MPs, but neither excessively punishing nor excessively rewarding them.

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