English haunted by housing allowance arrangement
Thu, 17 Sep 2009 6:07p.m.
By Sia Aston
Finanace Minister Bill English is struggling to shake the perception he milked the taxpayer for hefty housing allowances until it all became public.
Labour’s Trevor Mallard claims that despite living in Wellington since around 1996, English has claimed an out of town allowance by saying his primary place of residence is in Southland, which the Speaker has cleared.
“Trevor Mallard doesn’t decide about the parliamentary rules, the speaker does,” argues English.
Those rules saw Ministerial Services pay $700 a week rent into a trust, for English to live in a million-dollar Karori home.
English was a trustee, but after the election he changed the trust arrangements, effectively putting himself at arms length from it.
With no pecuniary interest or financial benefit in the trust, he was legally eligible for the full allowance.
“There was a perception problem around the arrangements I previously had as a minister. Because of those perception problems I paid the money back, what else can I do?” he said.
English paid back around $12,000, so right now he gets just $24,000 a year, the same as ordinary MPs.
But the rules were changed last month and from next year that goes up to $30,000 – the new limit for ministers who own their own homes.
Ministers who rent will get $37,500, which is down from $48,000.
“Ministers are expected to act lawfully and behave in a way that upholds and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards,” says Labour MP Pete Hodgson.
English says this has all been dealt with and wants to move on. The Prime Minister agrees, saying his deputy has met the legal test.
But the continued battle for English is the lingering perception of extravagant use of taxpayer money by a finance minister calling for public restraint in a recession.
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18/09/2009 9:18:37 a.m.
I am disappointed that John Key once again has failed to show leadership and common sense. English is ripping off tax payers. He can put whatever spin on it that he likes. Key lied about reversing the smacking legislation, I expect that the next stuff up will come with a name spelling change to Whanganui. The Europeans should have copied the Maori and eaten them. The Maori were smart enough to realise that the Mariori were good eating and that once eaten they would no longer be a problem. This country is going to hell in a handcart. It's time all this Maori crap is shoved down a long drop where it belongs.
18/09/2009 9:03:38 a.m.
Will the labour ministers, including Helen Clark pay back the money they got over the past nine years for having the same arrangements as Bill English has? Not likely because they don't want you to know that English has just done what the Labour PM and other Labour members did under that 9 years. And not to forget that it was clark that constantly put down a tax on investment property because of her vast investment. Labur need to look in the mirror at all the money their ministers took over the past 9 years before pointing the finger.
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