Greens Super Fund sells houses

Press release is here. I’ve hoped the party would do this for a while; not because I think it was a rort, but because I think it looks suspiciously like one even when MPs are at pains to make sure they’re not ripping off the taxpayer. This should set everything straight, I hope. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Greens Super Fund sells houses

  1. Yep, Ari – unfortunately Jeanette and Catherine stuffed up. When Catherine moved into Jeanette’s flat, they didn’t pay sufficient attention to the detail of the Parliamentary Service rules re the claiming arrangement.

    An innocent mistake, but nevertheless one that had potential for political harm – even though it was corrected after 4 months when discovered and the overpayment has been repaid.

    So a good call for the Green Futures Superannuation Fund to decide to divest all their Wellington property and for the out of town MPs to rent from landlords with no perceived pecuniary connection to the Green Party or its superannuation fund.

    There was potential for this to go on and on, as it will do with Double Dipton.

    At least now the perception, as well as the reality, of the Greens’ integrity will be intact.

  2. I think selling the place is an over-reaction. It also does not buy back integrity.

    This is something all the MP’s are doing, and I include their offices in this. Labour has a 20 million dollar property portfolio for goodness sake (ans cried poor when paying back their election over-spending)

    Equally, when flat mates move in, don’t they ever discuss sharing costs like rent and so forth? This was not a case of double-dipping, it was triple dipping.

    Parliamentary Service pays the double high rent into your own trust to maximise super.

    Not that any of that is likely to be illegal (except for claiming above market rates). The issue comes down to the degree of personal gain from a salary arrangement.

    So back to reclaiming integrity – I don’t see anything wrong with what the Greens and all MP’s are doing other than this element of unfair personal gain, compared to how other employees are typically treated. If that was costed into the equation, via a small tax component on that gain, it would be balanced out to be just as unfair as the tax system politicians have designed for all of us.

    AFAIK, the average citizen does not also have the same kind of access to planning super schemes in the same way politicians do. Another issue. Want to cancel your super fund then?

    Except that canceling your super fund and selling your properties would not reclaim your integrity, it just makes you look silly. Fixing the system of payments and benefits to Political Parties and their MP’s is the long term solution. Parity for the citizen.

  3. I’m also not impressed with the implied petulant threat I heard, when someone from the Greens (Turei?) said that selling the properties and paying market rents will ultimately cost the tax payer more.

    So why do it? Oh yes, to buy back integrity? Not working for me.

  4. I don’t see anything wrong with what the Greens and all MP’s are doing other than this element of unfair personal gain, compared to how other employees are typically treated. If that was costed into the equation, via a small tax component on that gain, it would be balanced out to be just as unfair as the tax system politicians have designed for all of us.

    Okay, I’m going to assume this is what you’re talking about when you refer to loss of integrity elsewhere, and that it’s your outstanding grievance with this situation.

    If you’re complaining that MPs should pay tax on their entitlements, I agree. This is not something that the Green Party currently has anything approaching a degree of control over, however.

    If you’re suggesting that Green MPs send a cheque to IRD voluntarily in order to claim a degree of moral superiority, go ahead and email that to the relevant address.

    AFAIK, the average citizen does not also have the same kind of access to planning super schemes in the same way politicians do. Another issue. Want to cancel your super fund then?

    Are you implying that the Greens don’t want to try and solve this issue? Because we do. Better that we try to pull everyone up to the employment standards that MPs enjoy, at least in this case.

    Except that canceling your super fund and selling your properties would not reclaim your integrity, it just makes you look silly. Fixing the system of payments and benefits to Political Parties and their MP’s is the long term solution. Parity for the citizen.

    The super fund isn’t cancelled, it’s simply divested itself of its property investments in order to clear up that there is nothing unfair or untoward going on in its management.

    I’m also not impressed with the implied petulant threat I heard, when someone from the Greens (Turei?) said that selling the properties and paying market rents will ultimately cost the tax payer more.

    The closest the Party ever got to threatening was making our support conditional on a GE moratorium extension.

    The super fund owning those properties did in fact make the accomodation claims of out-of-town Green MPs cheaper than otherwise. The necessity of clearing up the super arrangement costs the taxpayer money, which we naturally regret- it would have been nice to be able to save New Zealand’s money for something more productive, don’t you agree?

  5. Ari, I’m not implying the Greens don’t want to solve the issue. I agree with and support their call for a full review. I don’t think selling their property solves the issue.

    I also think this issue is bigger than the Greens, and the outcome of that review should be a process for valuing the personal gain aspect. So I don’t expect them to send cheques anywhere in the meantime, nor sell their property in the meantime.

    I know the super fund isnt cancelled. I was arguing that the imbalance extended to the Super Fund system as well. The media placed attention on the homes, so the Greens sell them. Should the media place attention on the Super Fund, I was showing it would be equally stupid to sell off the super fund. Get my point?

    Finally, I’m pretty sure it was Turei on the radio yesterday that said it would cost more to the tax payer after selling off the property. Sounded petulant to me.

    The super fund owning those properties did in fact make the accommodation claims of out-of-town Green MPs cheaper than otherwise.

    No, but now Turei is apparently suggesting the Greens will not bother to share rental accommodation given they are “forced” to sell their property.

    I agree it didn’t cost the tax payer extra money (other than the double rent issue), so I reiterate, selling the homes in reaction is foolish, and doesn’t address the issue of transparency. Pushing for and getting a review will.

  6. Ari, I’m not implying the Greens don’t want to solve the issue. I agree with and support their call for a full review. I don’t think selling their property solves the issue.

    Selling the houses is not about solving problems, it’s about being open, honest, and being clear that we’re not abusing the expenses system. It’s as important to be seen to be honest as it is to actually be honest.

    I also think this issue is bigger than the Greens, and the outcome of that review should be a process for valuing the personal gain aspect. So I don’t expect them to send cheques anywhere in the meantime, nor sell their property in the meantime.

    Awesome, but keep in mind this is a bit of a “don’t hold your breath” change. At best parties like the Greens who support reform can unilaterally adopt measures to try and shame other parties into making better rules or following suit. As long as expenses remain in government hands, only controversy will inspire any sort of reform. And even then the reform will only go as far as to avert further controversy.

    I know the super fund isnt cancelled. I was arguing that the imbalance extended to the Super Fund system as well. The media placed attention on the homes, so the Greens sell them. Should the media place attention on the Super Fund, I was showing it would be equally stupid to sell off the super fund. Get my point?

    This is a problem with the media really, not a problem with the Party. I get your point, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Our perception with the public is more important, especially as a small list party.

    Finally, I’m pretty sure it was Turei on the radio yesterday that said it would cost more to the tax payer after selling off the property. Sounded petulant to me.

    […]

    No, but now Turei is apparently suggesting the Greens will not bother to share rental accommodation given they are “forced” to sell their property.

    I agree it didn’t cost the tax payer extra money (other than the double rent issue), so I reiterate, selling the homes in reaction is foolish, and doesn’t address the issue of transparency. Pushing for and getting a review will.

    Well, that’s a matter of how you interpret things. I’m pretty sure it was nothing more than just regretting that a situation that was good for Green MPs and taxpayers had to be ended because of a media/rightwing pundit beat-up. That sort of regret often sounds petulant.

    Even if we continue to split rental properties between MPs, it will still cost the taxpayer more for our MPs’ accommodation, as the super fund was charging below market rents for its properties.

    I think if the party can find properties that MPs can share for a good price, it will continue to try to get the taxpayer a good deal. MPs have a responsibility to the public not to be extravagant with expenses money- especially as it leaves more money to be spent on policy. I don’t know anyone in the Party who would suggest what you were hearing Metiria suggest- there is absolutely no reason to cost the taxpayer more money just because we had to end the super fund renting to MPs.

  7. I find it very strange the Green Party feel compelled to sell their properties. The issue apparently was that they rented these properties to themselves.

    Moving out and renting them on the open market should be more than sufficient to create an “arms length” investment.

    So why sell? It seems an over-reaction unless:

    1. The house isn’t worth $500 per week that was being charged to the Green MPs, and you don’t want this fact highlighted.

    2. The Greens have inside information about a CGT and want to sell before being hit with extra tax.

    3. The Greens really are totally illogical.

  8. 3. The Greens really are totally illogical.

    Public perception does not follow the rules of logic. This was a move to make sure we were seen to be being above board and ethical, even though we felt there was nothing wrong with the situation to our minds, it’s far more important that the public has trust in its MPs.

    You can take it up with all the people who thought the situation was shady. 😉

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