Let’s ALL do the Double Dipton

No Right Turn and The Standard both have blogs today on John Key’s announcement of the “reform” of Ministerial accommodation expenses.

So I decided to crunch some numbers – based on the 1 January – 30 June 2009 Ministerial Expenses return, but adjusting for Sir Double Dipton’s agreement to pay back at least part of the money he was rorting for living in his own Wellington home.

The annual expenses for the affected Ministers’ accommodation:

minaccom

Yes, Key’s “reform” will end up costing the taxpayer an additional $55488 a year – and that money will not even be spent on accommodation expenses. It will end up in Ministers’ pockets, and tax free to boot.

Things to do in Dipton when you’re dead

Well, I suppose you could resurect yourself.

As Sir Roger Douglas has done, claiming $44,000 in expenses for an overseas holiday as his “entitlement”.

Oh, and as Don Brash and Christine Rankin have resurrected themselves.

And, yes, when Sir Double Dipton finally “retires” (and it might be sooner rather than later, given his accommodation expenses rort) he too will be eligible for 90% of his overseas travel costs being met by the taxpayer. Forever!

Sir Double Dipton says:

But the minister says Dipton remains his home and he intends to return there when he leaves Parliament.

Better get the house in order, then Bill. Including evicting the current tenants, which you need only 42 days to do under the appalling lack of residential tenure provided by the Residential Tenancies Act.

It might be sooner, rather than later, so better get moving on it Bill.

Doing the Dipton shuffle

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Bill English:

After completing his studies, he returned to Dipton to work as a farmer. In 1987, he returned to Wellington to work as a policy analyst in the New Zealand Treasury, returning to Dipton two years later.

In 1990 he stood as the National candidate in Wallace, the Southland electorate that encompassed Dipton, and won. He has been re-elected from this electorate, now known as Clutha-Southland, at every election since then.

Okay, so it seems that English lived in Wellington in 1987-89, returned to Dipton in 1989, presumably to re-engage with the local National Party organisation with view to gaining the Wallace candidate selection, which he won, and then to campaign for Parliament. He then returned to Wellington as an MP in 1990 following his election.

Then we have National Party MP Jackie Blue’s maiden speech:

I was extremely frustrated. It was John Harman who advised me to attend a Wellington Medical Women’s Conference in July 2001 to specifically lobby Annette King, the then Health Minister, who was opening the conference.

Madam Speaker I even bought a new red jacket to wear so I could be more appealing to Annette King.

I went to Wellington and, as fate would have it, also speaking at the conference was a Wellington general practitioner, Dr Mary English. At the conference dinner that night I spoke with Mary and she introduced me to her husband, Bill, who happened to be the Deputy Leader of the National Party. (my emphasis)

So the English family were well established as Wellington residents by 2001 at the latest, with both Bill and Mary working in Wellington by then.

So, how can Dipton be Sir Double Dipton’s “primary place of residence”? It appears there has been less than two years he has lived primarily there since 1987 (the time during 1989-90 when he moved back there to seek the National Party selection for Wallace and contest the 1990 election), and, on the word of a fellow National MP, he and his family appear to have resided solely in Wellington since at latest 2001.

UPDATE: Update: David Farrar is attempting to raise a defence for English that under section 72(6) of the Electoral Act, an MP does not become a Wellington resident just because they spend most of their time in Wellington.

The problem with that defence is that the provision is specifically for the purposes of the Electoral Act. Parliamentary accommodation expenses are not paid under the Electoral Act. They are paid from parliamentary appropriations pursuant to the Parliamentary Service Act and the Public Finance Act.

(6) The place where, for the purposes of this Act, a person resides shall not change by reason only of the fact that the person—

(a) is occasionally or temporarily absent from that place; or
(b) is absent from that place for any period because of his or her service or that of his or her spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner as a member of Parliament; or
(c) is absent from that place for any period because of his or her occupation or employment or that of his or her spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner; or
(d) is absent from that place for any period because he or she, or his or her spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner, is a student,—

even if such absence involves occasional or regular residence at another place or other places. (my emphasis)

Could he be Sir Triple Dipton?

So Bill English has offerred to pay back about half of the money he has rorted from the taxpayer for living in his own home in Wellington.

John A at The Standard did a company search on his company that owns his Dipton farm. It revealed his registered address as in Wellington, not Dipton.

But what John A missed is that it actually reveals two different addresses for English in Wellington – one as a Director of the company and another as a shareholder of it:

Company Number 1879429 View Certificate Of Incorporation

Company RESOLUTION FARMS LIMITED

Incorporated 30-OCT-2006

Current Status REGISTERED

Entity Type Company

Constitution Filed No

Annual Return Filing Month June

Previous Names

No Previous Names on record

Address Details
Registered Office
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Rd
Karori
Wellington

Address for Service
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Road
Karori
Wellington

Directors
Name Date Appointed:

ENGLISH, Mary Agnes 30-OCT-2006
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Road, Karori, Wellington
ENGLISH, Simon William 30-OCT-2006
[*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Messines Road, Karori, Wellington

Share Parcels

Total Number of shares 100

Number of Shares 50
Shareholder(s) ENGLISH, Mary Agnes [*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Monaghan Ave, Karori, Wellington

Number of Shares 50
Shareholder(s) ENGLISH, Simon William [*** – Deleted for privacy reasons] Monaghan Ave, Karori, Wellington

So which address does he actually live at? And what is the status of the other one? Does he own it? Does he rent it out, and if so, is it to another National Party MP? Or has he just been sloppy with the paperwork, and failed to keep up?

It seems particularly curious that he could have a different address as a Director of a company to that he has as a shareholder of it. Wasn’t it sloppiness with the paperwork of this sort that saw David Parker stood down as a Minister for a period until it was sorted out?

John Key, take note.

Sir Double Dipton pays it back

So Bill English is going to pay back his accommodation allowance – well, at least some of it. According to Sir Double Dipton, it is all about “perception”:

But he said today he accepted there was a perception that he was claiming more than ordinary MPs who live in homes they have an interest in, and though he had done nothing wrong, there was only one way to change that perception.

“The fact is no amount of detail will change the perception that in some way I’m gaining a bigger allowance than other members of Parliament, so I’ve decided to deal with that perception.

“I’m the Minister of Finance. It’s my job to lead by example, so I’ll be getting in touch with the Ministerial Services to pay back the difference between the rate I’m on and the other rate going back to the election.”

Let’s see if other Ministers, particularly those like Phil Heatley and Wayne Mapp, who have been collecting accommodation allowance for both the homes they live in and theones they own and rent out to other MPs, make similar offers.

Can I have one with a moat please?

Well, seems it’s not just Bill English rorting the system. The NZ Herald reports a number of Cabinet Ministers own residential property in Wellington, most of which are rented out, but choose to live in Ministerial homes.

I don’t begrudge Ministers the opportunity to move their families to Wellington so they can spend more time with them, and a small apartment may not provide adequately for that.

But renting out their own properties in Wellington, while the taxpayer is paying for the full cost of their Ministerial homes, is scamming it. Even though it is within the rules, surely Ministers should have exercised the restraint they are expect from the citizens they govern and offered to offset the rent they receive from their own properties against the costs of the Ministerial homes they occupy.

Here’s the list of those with their snouts in the trough:

Tim Groser: Ministerial Services paid $8937 January-June. Also owns $540,000 apartment in central Wellington, which is being used as an investment property.

Tariana Turia: Lives in a Ministerial home. Also own $520,000 property in Wellington suburb of Broadmeadows [surely that would be suitable for her family to live in]. Refuses to say if she rents it out.

Phil Heatley: Ministerial Services paid $24,607 January-June. Also owns $360,000 Wellington apartment that is being rented out.

Anne Tolley: Ministerial Services paid $22,045 January-June. Also owns $295,000 one-bedroom Wellington apartment, which is currently rented out.

Wayne Mapp: Ministerial Services paid $18,878 January-June. Also owns $285,000 Wellington apartment and rents it out.

Murray McCully: Ministerial Services paid $12,865 January-June. Owns a Wellington flat and rents it out.

Then, of course, there is Bill English, who is in a category of his own, receiving $23,673 from Ministerial Services between January and June this year to live with his wife and family in their own home.

Perhaps they should consider following this precedent – its not too late to pay back the money they have scammed.

You can’t have it both ways Bill

The regular Parliamentary Register of Percuniary Interests was published in January of this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English’s pecuniary interests were declared in that register as:

Hon Bill ENGLISH (National, Clutha-Southland)
1. Company directorships and controlling interests
Resolution Farms Limited – farming

6. Real property
Family home, Dipton
Farm, Dipton

But earlier this week the first ever MP’s expenses register was published. It revealed, in relation to Bill English and a property in Karori, Wellington, that he was claiming from the Government almost $1000 a week expenses to live in:

A search of the title by the Dominion Post showed the Karori home was bought by Mr English and his wife, Mary, for $800,000 in 2003. However, in March this year the title was transferred to Mrs English alone.

A spokesman for Mr English said the home, now worth an estimated $1.2 million, was always owned by a family trust.

They show he claimed $23,763 for Wellington accommodation costs in the first six months of the year for living in the Karori house.

A spokesman for Mr English told the newspaper the ownership of the house had remained with a family trust.

The transfer of title in March was caused by “changes in the trustee arrangements for personal and family reasons”.

Okay, so a couple of questions:

    Question 1: Why does the home in Karori, which was in the joint title of Bill and Mary English from 2003 until March of this year, not appear in Bill English’s register of pecuniary interests published in January of this year?

    Question 2: Is it lawful, and if so, is it ethical, for a Minister to claim almost $1000 a week to live in a house in Wellington that is owned by his wife, who also works as a medical practitioner in Wellington, together with the younger of his kids, who also live and go to school in Wellington.

English is the MP for Clutha Southland. As the Register of Pecuniary Interests reveals, he owns property there, but I understand it is or was either leased or rented out. So where does he stay when he is in his electorate overnight on constituency matters. In a motel or hotel perhaps, with the costs of that being charged back too.

Do I see another Ministerial resignation coming on?

Pity for me personally if it is English, because I have a bet with someone that Nick Smith will be the next to go (and Paula Bennett must already be on shakey ground too).

English: “…there still needs to be someone willing to pull the trigger.”

Just disgusting! And very revealing!

A recording featuring National Party Deputy Leader Bill English shown on TV3 tonight revealed that the National Party are really warmongers who would tag along on any US-led resource (read oil) war, and expressing his concern that Barak Obama, if elected President of the US as expected, might not play to the National Party agenda of leading foreign wars National could tag along with and get young New Zealanders killed in.

And as Irish Bill has just said over at The Standard, “It was also interesting to see that Bill English refused an interview to explain himself.”

This is revolting warmongering from English, and totally vindicates the Green Party’s position to not support National to lead a Government.

And given Obama’s likely election tomorrow, how much harm will English’s “cocktail party” comments do to NZ’s relations with the US if National leads the Government here.

You silly dork Bill, you might be a warmongering Tory, but for New Zealand’s sake if you are on the piss at least have the sense to keep your gob shut.

David and Goliath? Why not!

Letter to the Editor, Southland Times, Thursday.

Farmers in Southland need good representation in Parliament.

With Bill English no longer farming and no longer living in Southland, rural voters will be looking to cast their votes with someone who farms in the region and understands farming issues here. If the choice is between a Wellingtonian in a suit and a farmer working here in Southland, Tim Gow,
Clutha/Southland Green Party candidate, will do well.