Need to know if your MP is giving you value for money? Just ask Jordan.

A chill wind of fear will have blown through the corridors of power in Wellington with the publication of this Sunday Herald story about Green MP Mojo Mathers' decision to travel to take part in a radio show about people with disabilities.

I mean, you may very well think that this is something that New Zealand's sole deaf MP might have a special interest in participating in. And while the show in question, on a Wiararapa community access station, probably won't change the world, I have no doubt it is an important  resouce for a group that is shut out of most mainstream conversations.

But then again, you're not a gimlit eyed crusader for the taxpayer, like Jordan Williams of the "Taxpayers' Union" (and note to Patrice Dougan and the subeditors at the Sunday Herald - they aren't so stingy that they've abandoned the possessive apostrophe). Because he's on the hunt for elected representatives who are frittering way public cash with expensive, yet pointless, jaunts around the nation.

Which creates something of a dilemma for our leaders in government.

I mean, how is John Key meant to know whether it is "value for money" for him to travel on the comparatively expensive Wellington-Dunedin route (bringing with him his staff and Diplomatic Protection Squad minders, of course), take a Crown limo the 70-odd kilometer round-trip into Dunedin city from the airport and tie up police time to deal with the inevitable protestors who turn out at his appearances, just so that he can meet a few children at a kindergarten and visit a brewery?

Much less work out if he's doing right by the taxpayer to bring his entourage to Queenstown (and how did they manage to get there from Dunedin - not by bus, I'm sure!) in order that he can give a speech to a small group of business folk and have a round of golf at the Hills course in Queenstown. I mean, exactly where did they all stay while they were in that holiday resort? How much did it cost? How fluffy were the towels? Did anyone order anything on room service? Because it's us that's paying for all this!

Fortunately, our political overlords may rest easy. For the Taxpayers' Union has issued a simple and handy formula for determining whether such rambles are acceptable. Applying this formula will in all cases determine the matter.

First, calculate the total cost of the exercise.

Then, calculate the benefits in terms of the number of people engaged with and the quality of that engagement.

Finally, apply the partisan discount factor to each of these variables. If the representative in question is from a party for which you are a thinly disguised front organisation, you should both down play any expenses ("of course it's going to cost money for the PM to do his job!") and puff up any outcomes ("it's the PM's role to be out-and-about in the community! The extra attention brought to the NZ Open will help establish it as a world-class event!").

However, if the representative is from a party with which you have deep ideological disagreements and so are doing your best to keep out of government at the next election, you both maximise the expense ("flights could have been as much as $199 each way!") and down grade the result ("there were probably only five people listening!"). Of couse, you don't need to prove that this was the case - you just know it was because, well, you've set up an organisation and given it a name and have some members (but you won't say how many) and so whatever you choose to say is "news".

Because that's what speaking up for "the taxpayer" is all about.

Comments (22)

by Eszett on March 02, 2014
Eszett

Yep, that was a nasty and petty piece of work, indeed. What a scoop, I am sure they must be very proud. How can anyone take them seriously if they think this is a big issue?

They couldn't have shown their true colours any better even if they wanted to. 

by Andrew Osborn on March 02, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Two points:

Firstly John Key isn't grandstanding on a platform of energy frugality but the Greens are. A truly Green MP should be 'walking the talk'. Or are pigs more equal than other animals?

Secondly, it was a RADIO show. She could've just as easily phoned it in.

 

by Ian MacKay on March 02, 2014
Ian MacKay

It is not that it is pity because she has a disability. It is awful because the attack is so petty! Who are these miserable beggars, and how come  they have access to the Herald?

Pleased to hear that there has been a storm of protest from the social media and that Williams has said their "comments were taken out of context and he (Williams ) will make no further comment". Coward!

by Morgan Jones on March 02, 2014
Morgan Jones

Andrew Osborn:  "Secondly, it was a RADIO show. She could've just as easily phoned it in."

 

She is deaf. So no she couldn't.

by Andrew Osborn on March 02, 2014
Andrew Osborn

But she could - try to keep up with the technology

 

by Andrew Geddis on March 02, 2014
Andrew Geddis

Firstly John Key isn't grandstanding on a platform of energy frugality but the Greens are. A truly Green MP should be 'walking the talk'.

And John Key talks endlessly about the need for entreprenuerialism and export-led growth. Yet there he sits, in Parliament, doing nothing personally to create the kind of vibrant, dynamic private businesses we so desperately need. Tsk, tsk.

As long as we have an economy and society that is predicated on carbon-based fuels, then you have to emit it if you want to be a part of it (and, also, changing it). To argue otherwise is to say that Green MPs shouldn't do anything at all. Which might be what you mean, but is a pretty weak criticism, really.

Secondly, it was a RADIO show. She could've just as easily phoned it in.

Really? You know more about the accessibility of various forms of media, and what works best, than does a profoundly deaf MP? That is impressive!

Perhaps you could share this knowledge with Ms Mathers, because I'm betting that having to sacrafice an entire day to travelling to participate in this sort of activity really isn't at the top of her list of preferences.

by DeepRed on March 02, 2014
DeepRed

Andrew Osborn:

But she could - try to keep up with the technology

If it's there, it doesn't come cheap. And she could have Skyped, but it's not reliable enough for lip-reading. What you just said might as well have been, "HTFU and get the hell over it!" Do you park in disability spaces without a permit too?

This cartoon, though originally about education systems, still neatly sums up the ableist worldview:

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/08/c...

 

by Nick Gibbs on March 02, 2014
Nick Gibbs

Is it a thinly disguised front for the National Party? The Taxpayers' Union says no and that it'll will hold all parties to account. We three more years on National Govt due to start at the end of Oct, I guess we'll find out if that's true.

by Andrew Geddis on March 02, 2014
Andrew Geddis

Is it a thinly disguised front for the National Party?

I'd say it's more of a mix of attack vehicle for National/ACT lines that those parties wouldn't want to come from its MPs direct and ginger group that wants to push Key's Government in a further-right direction.

Or, of course, it could really "represent the common interests of all taxpayers" like it says it does. Have a look at the people who run it, and decide for yourself.

by Nick Gibbs on March 02, 2014
Nick Gibbs

After reading the site you link to I note that the Union state it was the Herald who came to them for comment. And it was the Herald that drove the story, not the Union. Contrary to what appears in the Herald itself.

 

The Union seem to be stating that the Herald set them up.

by Andrew Geddis on March 02, 2014
Andrew Geddis

The Union seem to be stating that the Herald set them up.

Because the alternative is that Williams condemned Ms Mathers actions without bothering to find out what they actually were, purely on the basis that whatever Green Party MPs do is bad.

Yeah - I could see why the Union would seem to be stating that.

by william blake on March 02, 2014
william blake

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

"It's amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand," director Jordan Williams said.

 So for Jordan that would be six listeners.
by stuart munro on March 02, 2014
stuart munro

In principle all it needs is a balancing set of members ready to scrutinise Gnat/ACT improprieties. There will be plenty to obect to, if only because parties in government do a great deal more. I imagine the costs of Joyce's folly, the pursuit of the TPPA, run to a fair bit more than a couple of local airfares.

Joyce could use Skype too...

by Frank Macskasy on March 02, 2014
Frank Macskasy

I wonder if this counts as a waste of tax payer's money;

"Minister's $1400 Sydney limo ride revealed"

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10744988

Or this lot;

  • $1,400 spent on a limousine hire for two days (Source)
  • $2,000 per day spent on a “Special advisor” to Bill English (Source)
  • $453,450  (conservative estimate)  spent on parties, welcomes, farewells, and other booze-ups  (Source)
  • $500,000 from this Government’s Major Events Development Fund spent on a  NZPGA Pro-Am Championship tournament held earlier this year  (Source)
  • $3.1 million spent by members of Parliament on airfare and accomodation in just three months,  (Source)
  • $4 million spent by Tourism New Zealand  to attract China Southern Airlines to New Zealand (Source)
  • $20 million spent on advertising by the NZ Defence Force (Source)
  • $21.9 million spent by  Treasury on consultants in 2012-13  (compared to $2 million in 2007-08), including  $20,000 paid to Cato Partners NZ to redesign the Treasury website and  $37,000 paid to Bill Ralston and Janet Wilson for media training  (Source)
  • $54 million spent by state owned enterprises  on “performance bonuses” to their employees (Source)
  • $75 million spent from 2009-11 to movie studios in taxpayer funded subsidies (Source)
  • $120 million in  subsidies paid to Warner Bros to produce “The Hobbit” in NZ (Source)
  • $220 million spent on the Rugby World Cup (Source)
  • $300 million subsidies spent on the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Source)
  • $910.5 million spent from 2008 to September 2012,  on consultants (Source)

Investigating that lot should keep Mr Jordan off the streets and out of mischief for a while...

 

 

by Frank Macskasy on March 02, 2014
Frank Macskasy

@ Andrew Osborn

 

Are you seriously telling us that a flight to the Wairarapa was a "junket"?!

The f*****g Wairarapa?!?!

*facepalm*

Thor protect me from National's fanbois...

 

by Ian MacKay on March 03, 2014
Ian MacKay

Last night on TV 3 there was a brief moment/clip showing Mr Key stepping out of a helicopter followed by a brief clip of Mr Key on a raised platform and about to hit a demo golfball at that Michael Hill golfcourse. The clips were 1-2 seconds long but did not seem to appear in the News that followed. Andrew Giddis wondered how Mr Key and his team travelled from Dunedin to Queenstown. Cost probably thousands. Taxpayers Union. Where are you?

by Fentex on March 03, 2014
Fentex

I followed that link, perused the "Join Us" page and noticed it claimed that joining them required one to agree with their Terms And Conditions. 

One agrees to Terms And Conditions to join a union? Aren't they usually osmething to do with someone selling you something?

Their Terms And Conditions by the way do not seem to appear anywhere on their site, nor at any point in the process of buyi... er, joining, before handing over dosh. One wonders what they mean to hide.

by Rich on March 03, 2014
Rich

just so that he can meet a few children at a kindergarten

He probably had to go to Dunedin to find a kindergarten where they would agree to host him. Certainly most of the ones in Wellington would decline.

by Mike Osborne on March 05, 2014
Mike Osborne

On a brighter note, the Royal visit is shaping up to be really good value.

by Andrew Osborn on March 06, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Frank: Are you seriously telling us that a flight to the Wairarapa was a "junket"?!

Fair point! I withdraw my post :-)

by Scott Chris on March 11, 2014
Scott Chris

Was the trip important enough to justify its carbon footprint?

by Scott Chris on March 11, 2014
Scott Chris
Let's all pick on the deaf girl!

No, I'm picking on her because she's purportedly a Greenie - though most Green Party members seem to be primarily concerned with issues of social equity rather than trying to save the planet so perhaps I'm holding her to the wrong standard.

 

 

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