Declaring expenses is admirable (in principle)

Gotta say Alf is a tad perplexed by Greenie Russel Norman and Act’s John Boscowen.

The buggers have broken ranks with the rest of us in Parliament during the heat of the Mt Albert by-election battle and disclosed their Parliamentary expenses.

News media and the public at large will be apt to applaud this gesture, thereby encouraging a bloody avalanche of disclosures.

Three cheers, then for our candidate, Melissa Lee, who has refused to reveal what she spends her $14,800 annual expenses top-up on, and how much she claims for accommodation in Wellington, and on taxis, rental cars and airfares.

As the Herald on Sunday reports, if she was to disclose her expenses, it would put pressure on other National MPs to do the same.

But –

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman and Act’s John Boscawen have fronted up to answer a series of questions disclosing their Parliamentary expenses – questions that all 121 MPs refused to answer last week. No other issue has, until now, inspired such unity across the different Parliamentary factions as protecting the secrecy around their expenses.

In Britain, a similar “conspiracy of silence” has dramatically disintegrated with the leaking of MPs’ expenses rorts, costing the Westminster Speaker and at least a dozen other MPs their jobs.

It began when one MP voluntarily disclosed his expenses spending to London’s Sunday Times last year, putting pressure on others to do the same.

The infectious nature of this urge to front up can be seen in the SoH’s recording that other Green MPs have agreed to disclose their expenses and Act Party leader Rodney Hide has promised to disclose his expenses.

What’s more, he “is expected to talk to the other three Act MPs about doing the same.”

Because he is not an MP, Labour’s Mt Albert candidate David Shearer has no Parliamentary expenses to declare, but he obviously has caught the candour bug and has said: “I absolutely support transparency.”

The SoH’s on-line story will give you the details of the spending declarations by Norman and Boscowen.

But Alf notes that Norman’s list shows nothing about spending on alcohol.

That might mean Norman is an admirable bloke (in respects other than his daft party allegiance) who dips into his own pocket for his booze. Or it might mean he is a bloody wowser who doesn’t touch the stuff.

When it comes to alcohol bought for Parliamentary business, Boscowen says: “I do not drink alcohol.”

Except for any eschewal of booze, Alf finds all this highly commendable.

But he approves of it only in principle. When it comes to the practice of fessing up, he’s staying with the herd – somewhere in the centre, where he can’t get picked off by media predators.

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