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Chris Ford: Greens Get Caught Up In Accomodation Rort

Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Last week Meteria Turei was quizzed on TV One's Q and A about two Green MP's claiming the same parliamentary accomodation perk that has gotten Bill English (or the 'Double Dipper from Dipton' as Winston Peters has labelled him) into heaps of trouble.

While I applaud Turei's honesty in spilling the beans on her two colleagues, Catherine Delahunty and Sue Kedgely, who both flatted together in a villa owned by the Green Party superannuation fund and then claimed back on their rent from Parliamentary Services, it still is not a good look for them and especially at a time when they are beginning to flounder in the polls.

In stating this, I do acknowledge that the Greens are the first party to opt to come clean on how they spend their parliamentary entitlements. And as part of this campaign, this disclosure (albeit a somewhat forced one that came about due to Guyon Espiner's interrogatory interviewing of Turei) has exposed the Greens to a potential charge of hypocrisy, especially given that they have signed an agreement with the Labour Party-affiliated Service and Food Worker's Union (SFWU) in the last week to defend the rights of their mainly low paid members in the House.

Just today, the Greens have sought to limit this possibility by agreeing to sell the property that Kedgley and Delahunty had rented. Furthermore, Turei somewhat apologised for their actions in last week's interview.

While the Greens have been rather mitigatory in terms of their behaviour, it is Labour and Jim Anderton who will really have to watch how the wider issue of parliamentary perk abuse plays out. As I have argued in a previous blog, the National Party's research unit will have been working overtime during the recess of the past two weeks to dig up as much dirt as possible on the potential misuse of perks by former Labour ministers during their time in office. If Trevor Mallard, Pete Hodgson and Jim Anderton seek to take the issue any further during this coming week's parliamentary sitting, then National could seek to table embarrassing revelations (if any exist) in the House to put them off the scent.

What needs to happen, as I have continually stated, is to further regulate the perks of MPs and have them decided through binding referenda held in conjunction with each general election. This will be the only way to force every elected politician to come clean and stay that way on this issue.

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