Alf was disappointed to learn taxpayers are paying more than $900 a week for Bill English’s $1.2 million family home in Wellington and of his defending the deal.
Forget about it being legal, and being within the rules, and Bill’s entitlement, and all that stuff.
It’s a bad look and it erodes Bill’s authority as Minister of Finance when he calls for more efficient spending of public money.
It also gives the wretched newspapers something to focus on other than the stuff that matters, such as Bill’s economic policy thinking and the Government’s economic plans, and the reasons underpinning these.
The two big parties had come under pressure to disclose their expenses after Green and Act MPs disclosed theirs through the pages of this newspaper.
National and Labour said that MPs would come under intense political scrutiny over the spending, to the detriment of bigger issues of public policy.
And yesterday English found his speech to the National Party’s annual conference in Christchurch overshadowed by questions about his accommodation costs.
If the speech was overshadowed, it’s because the bloody newspaper opted to pay more attention to the expenses than to the speech.
It goes on to tell us –
His taxpayer subsidy this year is double what he was able to claim last year as an opposition MP, and comes as he calls for spending restraint and value for money in the public service.
National says the payments are within the rules. “You get the same amount whether you have a minister by themselves or with six kids and it’s all transparent,” English said.
English and his wife, Mary, bought their Karori home for $800,000 in 2003, but in March this year the title was transferred to Mary English alone.
Bill English said the home, now worth an estimated $1.2 million, was always owned by a family trust. The figures show English claimed $23,763 for Wellington accommodation costs in the first six months of the year. As deputy prime minister, his salary is $276,700.
No, the problem is not that Bill has got the taxpayer to build him a bloody moat or anything.
It’s that he should lead by example when he champions the trimming of our public service and slowing of the growth in public spending.
Here’s what he said in the House in a recent debate –
It is important to remember that surpluses give us positive choices; deficits tend to give us more difficult choices. The Government has started out on a process that reflects the reality that fiscal constraint is now a permanent part of the Government’s plans.
That is not a matter of ideological conviction or the democratic choices that the public make about Governments; it is the way the world has changed, and it is a product of past misdirected policy under the previous Government.
But Alf reckons the public would be more sympathetic if fiscal constraint – like charity – began at home.