Joe Hendren

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Silence from Labour on ministerial housing is a mistake

It is most unfortunate the Labour opposition have made the decision to join National's conspiracy of silence over the out-of-town housing allowances issue. Even if Labour had some dirty laundry themselves, it is more important to speak out and differentiate themselves clearly from National, who being in Government would normally take most of the rap.

Instead, Labour look like they are out of touch. When they have reluctantly commented on the issue they have appeared nervous and indecisive.

If Phil Goff was a better opposition leader he would have gained the initiative by immediately demanding an inquiry into the issue, freely admitting there may have been some Labour 'mistakes'. At the same time he could have barraged Key with suggestions on how to do things better. Good use of parliamentary questions and Trevor Mallard may have uncovered information that put ministers under more pressure.

Instead Goff let John Key gain some of the initiative with his soft as Teflon 'review'. Through their actions the right encourage cynicism toward politicians - it just so happens a electorate with less expectations of politicians usually suits their agenda. So in their silence, have Labour helped the right undermine faith in democracy?

Unfortunately, a 'plague on both your houses' has been a common theme this week - in more ways than one.

As for the Greens, IMHO they had nothing to worry about regarding the Green Futures Superannuation Scheme - the fact they have been more open about their arrangements for years should provide enough political cover.

There are reasonable and necessary expenses for being an out-of-Wellington MP. Its only the profit seeking rorts that need to stop.

I was working in Parliament in 2001 when National and Act's campaign against Hobbs and Bunkle was in full swing. It went far beyond just raising issues - it was the right of New Zealand politics at their most nasty, personal and vindictive. I remember thinking at the time there soon must come a point where the public would start feeling sorry for Hobbs and Bunkle - it really was that bad.

Richard Prebble was particularly obnoxious - it might be a small mercy, but the end of his second political career can be traced to his involvement in the Hobbs and Bunkle bashing. Speculation about his replacement as Act leader started soon after the 2002 election.

The memories of that National and Act campaign were a key motivation behind my posts this week.

Not that I am suggesting Labour and the Greens should now run a similar campaign - instead its more important to remind the public how nasty the Nats can be, as well as highlighting their obvious hypocrisy. How easy would it be right now to paint the Nats and Roger Douglas as greedy out of touch bullies? Unfortunately the opposition are failing to be an effective opposition right now.

Many of the National MPs who were frothing at the mouth in 2001 are now claiming, on questionable grounds, higher out-of-town allowances than Bunkle or Hobbs - it just beggars belief.

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