The poll result Bill English didn’t want to see

Last Friday, Finance Minister put a poll on capital gains tax up on his website. By sometime on Saturday, 22,687 people had voted. Here’s how the votes were going at that stage:

So the poll was promptly removed from the front page of English’s site, to be replaced by one about infrastructure.  Fortunately, the internet never forgets.

If you are Finance Minister you need to be able to spell your name correctly

This afternoon Finance Minister Bill English set up an unscientific internet poll on capital gains tax on his website. He would have expected resounding opposition, because he tweeted all his Twitter followers, the majority of whom would be Nat supporters, encouraging them to vote.

But they didn’t, at least initially – the reason being that English spelled his name / url wrongly in his tweet:

So at one stage support in English’s poll for a capital gains tax was running at 86% – because Nat supporters didn’t pick up English’s mistake and ran to a dead link but a good number of Green and Labour supporters did pick it up.

Now the Nats have finally got their act together and English has tweeted again with his name spelled correctly, the margin is closing – but it is still 60% in favour of a capital gains tax, with over 1300 votes in.

Metiria has Double Dipton stumbling, stammering, and struggling on inequality

Well done, Metiria Turei. In today’s Parliamentary question time Metiria had Bill English stumbling, stammering, and unable to come up with any answers of substance on her questions about the increasing inequality in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Here’s the video:

For those who have slow internet connections that make videos difficult, a transcript is here (although it doesn’t really reflect how flustered Double Dipton was on the issue).

It was a bad day all round for Double Dipton. He also confirmed yesterday’s revelation that he has no mathematical understanding of what an average (or mean) is:

Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he understand that real average wages go up when high-income earners get massive tax cuts—$1,000 a week, in his case—and low-income workers lose their jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not understand that, because it is not true.

Almost (but not) enough to make me rethink my views about National Standards on numeracy! And this guy used to work for Treasury!!!

Theft is theft

Thought for the day:

If you or I steal money, it is theft. We get taken to court, and get fined or go to prison.

Interesting! As Double Dipton would say, it’s all about perception.

Let’s all pay by phone

Remember the last National Government’s stupid hospital outpatient fees back in the 1990s? The ones that were eventually scrapped because they often cost more to collect than the revenue raised.

Well, it seems the last Labour Government fell into similar folly with its toll charges on the Orewa-Puhoi motorway.

Brian Rudman reveals in the New Zealand Herald that it costs $1.29 in transaction costs to collect each $2.00 car toll.

And for people who pay the toll by phone, it costs $2.70 to collect each $2.00 toll.

If everyone who travels on the Orewa-Puhoi motorway were to pay by phone, the NZ Transport Agency would make a thumping great loss from its tolling regime. And raising the toll to cover the administration costs would be extremely unpopular – remember how Maurice Williamson was shut down so quickly by John Key and Bill English during the election campaign when he suggested a $5 toll on new roads. That statement probably cost Williamson a senior Cabinet position.

So isn’t it time for a bit of people power. Let’s all pay by phone if we use the Orewa-Puhoi motorway, and we’ll soon see the end of the tolling regime.

And let the Orewa-Puhoi motorway debacle be a lesson to the current National Government, who seem to think that tolling and PPPs are a great way to fund its “Roads of National Significance”.

This one goes out to the Minister of Finance

Poor Bill English has been getting a hard time lately. So I thought I’d post a song for him. The first one I thought of was Wilko Johnson’s Doctor Dupree. It’s got the Double D alliteration in the title (as in Double Dipton) and some really appropriate lines like:

You better jump before the blast.

But try as I did, Bill, I couldn’t find a decent quality video of it. So this one, also by Wilko Johnson, will have to do.

It’s called Sneaking Suspicion. Also rather appropriate, in the circumstances. And has anyone, ever, heard a guitar played like a percussion instrument in the way Wilko does on this.

Play it for Bill, Wilko!

What is the test, John?

John Key seems to want to have it both ways as far as confidence in Ministers is concerned. Following Richard Worth’s forced resignation, Key responded:

Asked if he as Prime Minister owed the public an explanation, Mr Key said: “No. The test of whether someone enjoys my confidence is not a legal test and I have never argued that Dr Worth broke any legal test.”

But in video deleted from TVNZ’s website, but recovered by The Standard, Key expresses confidence in Bill English despite his Ministerial expenses rort, stating:

It’s a legal test and I am absolutely satisfied he has met the legal test… Well there is a requirtement that’s around the legal test and I am satisfied he has no pecuniary interest.

So, it’s one rule for one Minister, and a different rule for another. Guess it depends on the expendibility of the Minister concerned, and presumably Key considers sacking the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister is an even worse look that having him continue to perpetrate the accomodation allowance rort.

Hat Tip: Draco T Bastard in The Standard comments thread

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.

The cleaning Bill

The Dominion Post reports:

Finance Minister Bill English appears to have asked for a further $20 a week of taxpayer-funded cleaning at his $1.2 million Karori house after he had it declared a ministerial residence.

An email issued under the Official Information Act, with the sender’s name deleted, asks: “Because this is a large house comparable to Bolton St in size, could I please be accorded 3 hours cleaning instead of 2?”

The request for more cleaning is included in a December 5 email giving details of existing power suppliers, which were to change once Ministerial Services started picking up the tab. The wording suggests someone close to Mr English wrote it.

On the same day, Mr English warned that the Government’s books would get worse before they got better, but that “the National-led Government is bringing responsibility back to fiscal policy”.

I have a disability resulting from an injury I sustained years ago that makes it difficult for me to do some household cleaning tasks – particularly vacuuming. So I employ a cleaner. I could almost certainly get ACC to pay for the cost of my cleaner through their “home help” entitlement that people with injuries can claim.

But I don’t – because I earn enough to be able to pay for the cleaner myself.

Bill English earns almost five times what I do. Yet he has the temerity to ask the state to pay another $20 a week on top of the $40 he was offered – because he has a “big” house.

Oh, and he has six children. Couldn’t they do the cleaning, like mine did when they were still living at home?

The F-word

No, not an expletive or anything to do with Gordon Ramsey. This f-word is fraud.

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Oh dear. It seems that Bill English’s housing rort to scam “expenses” to live in his own home involved telling a few lies:

Finance Minister Bill English qualified for a $700-a-week rent payment from taxpayers after signing a declaration that he had no financial interest in the trust which owned his family home.
It has been revealed that officials took concerns to the prime minister’s office about whether Mr English qualified for the payment, which is double the amount he was entitled to as an ordinary MP.

But documents issued under the Official Information Act show they were told it would be okay as long as Mr English certified that he had no financial interest in the Endeavour Trust, which owns his $1.2 million Karori property.

After he made the declaration on February 1, rent payments totalling $12,133.33 were backdated to December 1. The declaration refers to a legal opinion, which has not been made public.

According to the story, English was a joint owner of the property at the time, and did not transfer ownership of the property to his partner until March. So, at the time he made this declaration, it was false.
There is a name for this sort of thing: fraud. It’s an ugly word, but it seems to apply. And if a beneficiary or someone receiving Working For Families told similar lies to inflate their eligibility, they would unquestionably be prosecuted for it. The same should happen to English. But I forget – it’s one rule for them, another for us

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it fraud – at least yet. But it’s definitely dodgy, and definitely needs investigation.

English may well have a legitimate explanation – like he thought the administrative actions involved in removing him as a beneficiary of the Endeavour Trust and removing his name from the title to the property had been completed when he signed the declaration.

But he made the declaration on February 1 this year, and applied for his additional accommodation allowance to be backdated to December 1 last year, which it was. So to have made a truthful declaration, he would have needed to believe that those administrative actions had been completed before 1 December 2008.

So there is a two month hiatus. Surely, over that time, he would have thought to check whether it had actually happened, and had happened before the 1 December 2008 date he applied to have the allowance backdated to, if he actually even intitiated them before that date.

The actual transfer of the property didn’t occur until March of this year.

So maybe not fraud, but definitely very dodgy. And in my opinion, something that should prompt the Deputy Prime Minister to either put all the evidence in the public domain or tender his resignation.