(as dictated to Mrs Grumble)
Nothing like the whiff of a politician with his nose in the trough to get the news media in a lather of excitement.
The buggers have been banging on about Bill English’s housing allowance for several weeks.
If he had been born and bred in the splendid town of Eketahuna, Alf muses, would things be different? If you’ve ever been to Dipton, he contends, it’s understandable why Bill spends more time in Wellington.
But today, he has today action intended to remove doubts about his ministerial housing allowance.
He announced that:
• He has elected not to take up any housing allowance.
• He has not received any housing allowance since July 28, when he paid back the difference between his previous ministerial allowance and the allowance for ordinary MPs.
• In addition, he has today reimbursed Ministerial Services for all of the outstanding housing allowance he received since the election last November.
• He has received an opinion from Stephen Kos, QC, confirming that changes to his family trust arrangements did not affect his eligibility for the previous ministerial housing allowance.
“What I’m announcing today reflects a set of personal decisions I have made about my own situation. It is in no way setting a precedent for others although I make the point here that I believe Parliament does have to think how it can accommodate the families of long-term politicians.
“At all times my decisions have been driven by my desire to keep my family together and provide them with as much stability as possible. It’s now clear that the system has struggled to deal with my circumstances.
“This has been an unnecessary distraction. I now want to move on and focus on building our economy and ensuring that New Zealanders have jobs.”
At much the same time, Justice Minister Simon Power was announcing another step toward a new electoral finance regime with the release of a proposal document.
“The proposal document gives the public an opportunity to express their views on the Government’s proposed electoral finance regime,” Mr Power said.
“The aim at this stage is to gain broad consensus on the core elements of electoral finance law.
“We’ve put the finer details of the regime to one side until the public’s submissions on these core elements have been assessed.
“I’m confident the Government’s proposals set the foundation for a fair, enduring and workable legislative framework for electoral finance.
“We must return democracy to our electoral finance laws.”
The review of electoral finance is being carried out in three stages, each providing opportunities for the public to have a say.
The first stage was an issues paper which was released in May. Views received on that paper informed the development of the proposal document.
This proposal document is the second stage of the review, and comments are now sought from the public
The final stage will be the parliamentary process, where a bill will be drafted and introduced to Parliament. The public will have a further opportunity to have a say at the select committee phase.
Consultation on the proposal document closes on October 30.
The document and further information about the consultation process and how to make a submission can be found at http://www.justice.govt.nz/electoralfinancereform.
Power also announced proposals for a new Electoral Commission, which will be given overarching responsibility for electoral administration.
The Electoral Commission will be an independent Crown entity that is separate from executive government.
Responsibility for electoral administration is currently split between the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Commission, and the Chief Registrar of Electors through the Electoral Enrolment Centre.
Mr Power said having one agency would remove duplication between the agencies, confusion over responsibilities, and increased costs and complexity for political parties, constituency candidates, and the public.
This is fundamentally important stuff for the rigour and effectiveness of our democratic system.
But as Alf dictates these observations to Mrs Grumble at 6.25pm, there has been no mention of these plans on TV3’s News.
Sure enough, they kicked off with yet another attempt to throw muck at Bill English .
Then on to the Morrison tangi for much too long…mention of a tornado …blah, blah, blah.
All sorts of crap – including the burning of an iconic doughnut in Springfield – have taken precedence.
Actually, Alf bets the electoral reforms won’t get a mention.