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Mike's Editorial: 'Exposé' attempts will put people off politics

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| Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mike's Editorial: 'Exposé' attempts will put people off politics

Have we enjoyed this week the media’s rounding on the politicians and their claims and expenditures and perks and subsidies?

Led by the Herald and helped by TV3, we’ve been treated to a series of stories that seem to have set out to show us the rorts, scandals and rip offs you and I are paying for when it comes to the pay and accommodation of our elected leaders. Sadly, once it all got laid out I really couldn’t see anything.

Part of the story involved the accommodation allowance MPs get to live in Wellington and what they were doing with it. The scandal appeared to be that some of them owned their own houses and were taking their supplement and paying some of the mortgage with it.

It’s important to point out this isn’t against the rules. After all, they have to live somewhere and whether it’s rented or owned doesn’t strike me as being important.

Then there was the story of who owned the most land and the biggest houses. Once again, nothing illegal here. You can own what you like. I assume this was designed to make us green with envy so we could build up a communist-style head of steam and feel aggrieved that some of them had done better than us and it wasn’t fair.

Then there was the story of those who had properties that were in investment funds as opposed to trusts and therefore weren’t declared given MPs are supposed to declare things they own, unless of course they’re in a superannuation fund. Once again none of this broke any laws, but once again presumably it was designed to show some kind of skullduggery was at play when in reality there wasn’t.

And finally we had the Airpoints story. What do the MPs do with their Airpoints given it’s the taxpayer who bought the tickets? The Speaker has suggested they use them to offset business travel, but many had used them for personal use. Once again no rules broken, but once again I assume the aim being that we fume with indignation that they get more Airpoints than us or lead the high life or are out of touch or… actually by this stage I’d given up. You know what, I don’t care what they do with their Airpoints. They’re something for nothing, and good luck to them.

What we already knew before all these stories this week is really you can’t bulletproof the rules to please everyone in a job that involves tremendous amounts of travel and a job that requires you to live in two places. They’ve tried, they’ve tidied it, fiddled with it, and it’s about as good as it’s ever been. And as the various attempts at exposé that have so badly failed have shown this week, everyone  is playing by the rules.

But if this sort of petty scrutiny continues, is it any wonder we struggle to get good talent to run the place? Most of us wouldn’t go within a million miles of the game knowing that every aspect of your privacy and life is open for bizarre and unnecessary investigation, often for no greater reason than titillation.

We might not like a lot of what they do or their policies, but politics is a very hard life and it’s made harder by the nonsense of this week. If we want good representation, we need potential candidates to believe it’s worth their while.

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