Rush hour in Dipton.

Although the Minister of Finance has, after a long howl of public outrage, paid back half of the money he has received this year as a 'accommodation allowance', he should also be paying back the other $24,000 as well.

Bill English can only receive any accommodation allowance if his primary residence is outside of Wellington.

English is still maintaining the fiction that his primary home is in Dipton, - Radio Live's Marcus Lush called Dipton a 'ghost town' this morning - but he and his family haven't lived there for some years.

In fact English and his family shifted to Wellington over ten years ago. English concedes he spends little time in Dipton so how can justify receiving any accommodation allowance?

He can't - not really.

Of course while the focus has been on the first six months of this year, the expenses fiddling of English and other MP's looks like it stretches back a fair number of years. Since its been the taxpayer who has been picking up the tab, the taxpayer has the right to see the 'back catalogue' of MPs expenses - not just the abbreviated details that were released for the first six months of this year.

Meanwhile Labour's Chris Carter, who has been 'unavailable' for media interviews this week, has found time in his busy schedule to do some blogging.

On Labour's Red Alert blog, Carter sobs that he is being picked on!

Writes the Invisible Man:

'I’ve never been reluctant to front up on hard issues; from my sexuality, to declining consent for the Whangamata Marina.'

If Carter isn't 'reluctant to front up to the hard issues' why has he avoided the media all this week? He has left it to Labour whip Darren Hughes to squirm in front of the television cameras. As I mentioned in a previous post Hughes record on expense claims is hardly exemplary either.

Chris Carter goes on to say:

'Journalists were told that last year I went on eight international trips. Shock horror! Of course it’s not much fun visiting a country for two days, with back to back meetings and speeches – especially with flight times sometimes as long as 17 hours!

I stand by my record as an active, and I hope hardworking, Government minister.'

Carter's record is that he spent in excess of $200,000 during the first half of 2008. This included $83,000 on international travel, $83,000 travelling in limos, taxis and rental cars, $23,000 on domestic air fares and about $20,000 on accommodation.

This included paying for all the expenses of his partner.

The parliamentary MPs hoped that releasing a very edited and sanitised list of their expenses for the first half of this year would make this issue just go away. Unfortunately for them it has blown up in their faces and many MP's are now ducking for cover and trying to stay out of the media spotlight.

To borrow Bill English's phrase, it's not 'a good look' that MPs have been caught with their snouts in the trough in the midst of a deep and worsening recession.

The official unemployment rate has hit a 10-year high of 6 percent, new figures showed yesterday.

Statistics New Zealand said that during the last 12 months the number of unemployed rose by 48,000 to 138,000.


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