Screwing the system for personal financial gain is a popular activity among our Parliamentary MPs. While much of the recent focus has been on the dodgy dealings of the Minister of Finance, Bill English isn't the only one who has been busy 'maximising' his bank balance.
Fleecing the taxpayer is rife among all MPs, across all parties. Not content to be on huge salary packages plus generous allowances, 'our representatives' have been working the system to ttheir financial advantage and to our financial cost.
That these MPs are the very same people who expect ordinary New Zealanders to make economic 'sacrifices' in these difficult times makes this situation even more unpalatable. While we're having our belts tightened, the fat cats in Parliament are working out ways to get even more cream for themselves.
The latest 'get even richer quicker' scheme that has come to light is MPs buying the properties they use as out-of-Wellington electoral offices then billing us for the rent. Some properties are owned directly by MPs while other properties are held by pension funds or companies that the MPs own.
This little exercise in self-enrichment has allowed the various MPs to accrue substantial capital gains.
One such MP diligently working this loophole is Minister of Housing Phil Heatley. He charges us $15,000 rent on his Whangarei electoral office through one of several companies he owns. This is on top of $1000 a week he receives to house himself and his family in his ministerial residence. He is also receiving $355 a week on a flat he owns in Wellington which is rented to National MP Louise Upston. The rent is therefore paid for by us.
Other MP's renting back their electoral offices to us are National MP's Gerry Brownlee, Nick Smith, Amy Adams and Aaron Gilmore and Labour MP Stuart Bash
Even the Prime Minister is at it. He is receiving rent for his Helensville electoral offices. The property which was bought in 2002 for $245,000 but was valued in 2007 at $510,00.
Of course we are a stuck with a democracy which allows us to vote once every three years for MPs who then go away and do pretty much what they like. There is no real mechanism available that can hold 'our representatives' to account. We get to pick our oligarchs once every three years, and they get to do whatever they want in the intervening period. Its not much of a deal and it means the buggers can screw the system for everything they can possibly get.
True democracy requires that all elected officials are directly responsible to those they represent. They should be able to be immediately replaced if they go against our wishes. And they should receive an income equal to the average wage nationally.
I can imagine some people saying that this is not 'realistic'. Well, its worth remembering that MPs salaries were once linked to the salary of a deputy school principal. Over time the MPs worked the system to gradually inflate their salaries - and it was rubberstamped every time by the Renumeration Authority.
Of course its all very well saying that MPs need to be held to account but it can be difficult finding out what the MPs are up to in the first place. As Bill English has shown us they can be very evasive when they want to be - which is most of the time.
The machinery of government effectively becomes the private property of each batch of MPs and what they do with it is often hidden behind a veil of secrecy.
While many of us have often called for companies to open their accounts so we can see just where all the money is going, it can equally apply to the state.
We should also be demanding full transparency and we have long way to go before we will ever achieve that.