How about per­for­mance pay for MPs?


Judg­ing by the re­ac­tions to last week’s huge pay rise for politi­cians, the public seem to be equally an­gered by (a) the money in­volved and (b) some MPs’ claims that they are help­less to do any­thing about the riches be­ing heaped upon them.

Given that pre­vi­ously MPs moved at light­ning speed to change cer­tain laws – lit­er­ally overnight, when it came to gold­plat­ing their hand­some su­per­an­nu­a­tion packages – there’s lit­tle doubt that if they so wished, they could read­ily change the mech­a­nism by which their pay is set.

Mean­while, the op­tions ex­ist of giv­ing the money back, or do­nat­ing it to char­ity.

It was a par­tic­u­larly bad week for this mas­sive pay rise to sur­face.

Back­bench MPs stand to re­ceive an $8200 an­nual pay rise, tak­ing their base salary to $ 156,000 be­fore perks.

Cabi­net min­is­ters will $283,400, up from $268,500.

The min­is­te­rial perks – also re­cently raised – in­clude free hous­ing and ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion, and sub­stan­tial free travel en­ti­tle­ments for spouses, part­ners and chil­dren.

Cer­tainly, the small rise in the

get over­all cost of living can­not be used to jus­tify this back­dated 5.5 per cent in­crease.

Last week, the Re­serve Bank re­duced its in­fla­tion fore­casts for the next two years to a mere 1.8 per cent.

The pay and perks bo­nanza for MPs stands in stark con­trast to the miserly treat­ment of oth­ers.

Days be­fore­hand, the min­i­mum wage was raised by only 50 cents, to $14.75 – a telling in­di­ca­tion of how lit­tle we value the min­i­mum wage work­ers who care for the el­derly.

Dur­ing the same week, stu­dents and oth­ers on state sup­port re­ceived only a tiny 0.51 per cent cost of living ad­just­ment to their al­lowances.

That will boost the max­i­mum stu­dent al­lowance by 89 cents to $175.10 per week – a to­tal weekly in­come con­sid­er­ably less than the $192 a week that some MPs will be pock­et­ing from their pay rise alone.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the hous­ing al­lowance for stu­dents living away from home was kept frozen at $40 a week.

‘‘While MPs are giv­ing them­selves an ex­tra $192 a week,’’ New Zealand Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tions pres­i­dent Rory McCourt said last week, ‘‘stu­dents in Auck­land are ex­pected to pay their av­er­age rent of $220 a week with a $40 ac­com­mo­da­tion grant ...

‘‘Trade Me re­vealed a 9 per cent hike in av­er­age New Zealand rents for the year to Jan­uary.’’ [On Jan­uary’s Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment hous­ing data fig­ures, the av­er­age stu­dent rent in a three-bed­room flat in Auck­land rose to $218.16 last year, up from $ 209.90 in 2013.]

So while the hous­ing cri­sis in Auck­land es­ca­lates, MPs are be­ing hand­somely re­warded for their fail­ure to ad­dress it in any mean­ing­ful way.

Is there any fea­si­ble way of chang­ing the rules by which MPs are con­stantly en­riched, at tax­payer ex­pense?

Last week, Greens co- leader Russel Nor­man sug­gested a law change by which any in­crease in MP salaries would be in­dexed to the per­cent­age rise in the me­dian in­come. Sounds like a good idea. It would func­tion, in ef­fect, as a kind of per­for­mance pay in­cen­tive to MPs.

Only if they in­crease the wealth of us all, would they get to share in the bounty, equally.

Given that the Gov­ern­ment seems keen on per­for­mance pay for school­teach­ers, per­haps it should lead by ex­am­ple, and ap­ply sim­i­lar in­cen­tives to the work of Par­lia­ment.

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