In November 2009 John Key argued that MPs and Ministers need to lead by example when it came to tightening our belts:
“As I said in January when I raised the issue with the [Remuneration] Authority, it is only right that in these changing economic times, as ordinary New Zealanders tighten their belts, MPs and Ministers must also play their part”.
However despite the rhetoric, a few weeks before Christmas, four of his ministers got a pay rise thanks to Key’s new funding regime for ministerial residences, with more of them set to benefit as they enter the new system over the next 12 months.
Based on a comparison of their previous claims and their new allowances, all four of the first ministers to enter the new regime get a tax free pay increase. Pita Sharples gets $173 per week, David Carter $204 per week, and Maurice Williamson $84 per week. It’s harder to calculate the fourth minister, Nathan Guy, because he only recently seems to have started claiming.
All of them are in the same residence that they were in as MPs and in the early part of their ministerial tenures. They previously got a parliamentary allowance based on receipts to a maximum of $24,000. They now get $30,000 with no need for receipts.
Even more ridiculous, if any of them wants to really pump up their allownace all they need to do is move house. Then their new tax-free allowance increases from $30,000 to $37,500, even if they moved into a house that was actually cheaper than their present one!
At a time when John Key and his colleagues have frozen wages for others, it’s a bit rich for them to then grant themselves a new housing allowance that amounts to more than some ordinary Kiwis would earn in a year.