Brian Edwards Media

An Open Letter to Sir Douglas Graham

Herald on Sunday

Herald on Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Sir Douglas

In more than 40 years observing New Zealand politics there have been few Ministers of the Crown I could say I truly admired, and fewer still in the National Party. You were one of those very few.

Your comments, reported in this morning’s Herald, on the international travel subsidy granted in perpetuity to retired long-term members of parliament, caused me for the first time to question my assessment. They were, in a word, shameless.

We are talking here of a $10,000 a year perk to allow you and your wife to holiday overseas, the greater part of a business class return for two to Europe. Most New Zealanders will struggle to afford one such trip. Among pensioners the number will be even smaller.

This was your reported response to the public outcry over this perk, as you prepared to set off on your next taxpayer-subsidised jaunt, to Boston:

“I have no qualms whatsoever. Most years we have gone somewhere. … I worked extremely hard down there in Parliament. This was part of the deal, and as long as I can use it, I will use it…. You better keep paying your taxes.”

Well, if working hard were the criterion for qualifying for a $10,000 a year bonus for life, most New Zealanders would qualify. And if, after all those years as a Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister,  “the deal”, as you call it,  left you with “hardly any money” you must have lived well.

What is missing from all of this is any sense of vocation. No-one forced you to go into politics. Like most members of parliament you traded your career – in your case in the highly paid profession of the law –  for the power and influence that most candidates for political office really seek. You used that power and influence well. You made a difference to New Zealand society. But you also relished the power, the influence, the plaudits when you retired, and the highest honour which this nation can bestow – your knighthood.  Those, and a reasonable pension, should be your rewards, not free junkets overseas for the rest of your life.

In the end, those who seek political office offer themselves as public servants in the truest meaning of the term. They are there to serve the public, not to enrich themselves or live privileged lives on the public purse.

You should have stayed out of this unseemly squabble, Sir Douglas. You have done yourself no favours.

Brian Edwards

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27 Comments:

  1. Well Said summaritve of ‘choice’ of vocation not expecting to recieved paid vacations for life as a reward for services to the people of the electorate, and of NZ. Civil service has its own rewards of a job well done. Perks of the job are few and hard earned, but many politicians forget whom puth them ther and how easily they took the privileged office away.

    Retirement is for the elderly and travel a pleasure for few, but an OE is for those of youthful vigor.

    Are The politicians still chasing that dream of youth and being the good ambassadors expected of them when on taxpayer funded overseas trips, whether in office current or post when elected out ??

    After all the travel perks are a reward for services past and future to the peple of New Zealand.

    Ambassadors of goodwill are many, who take office unexpectant of wealthy rewards.
    What does that make the Politicians ??

    • Well Said summaritve of ‘choice’ of vocation not expecting to recieved paid vacations for life as a reward for services to the people of the electorate…

      Not sure I entirely follow all of that, RangerRorry, but I’m reasonably sure you agree with me.

  2. Is the concern you express here that Graham and others like him get travel? If the pension for retired long-serving MPs like Sir Douglas was $10k higher a year, would you (or anyone) be complaining in this way.

    I quite like the argument that it was the deal at the time. I understand that the deal has been publicly-known for some time – probably since its inception. Why did people vote for MPs who created/maintained this perk? Why did you (assuming you did, of course)?

    If people didn’t like it, they should have voted someone in to change it. It seems somewhat late to change it now. Perhaps the deal was part of the deal :-)

    • Is the concern you express here that Graham and others like him get travel?

      I’d still object if it was 10 grand higher than the rest of us get.

      You have a point about it having been a deal at the time. No doubt Sir Douglas’s future financial planning included the saving on travel. Retrospective legislation is always tricky. But he would scarcely suffer from the loss of the perk and his comments were a provocative invitation to a response.

      As to voting, very few people vote on a single issue like this. And, since the rules applied equally to all parties, no one party would have a preferable advantage over the others. (The Greens being the possible exception.)

      Fiinally, all of this has only recently come to light thanks to Lockwood Smith and his decision to release the detail of the politicians’ expense claims. At the next election it may well be an issue.

  3. When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
    P. J. O’Rourke

    • When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
      P. J. O’Rourke

      Wonderful!

  4. think you’re being a bit hard on Sir Doug.

    If I had worked hard and been given an allowance or perk as part of my package, I’d be pretty pissed off if someone criticised my entitlement.

    And it would be unfair to retrospectively change someone’s entitlement.

    Sir Doug may have been careless in the way he expressed himself, but I can understand his frustration and annoyance at the constant attacks on politicians and their perks.

    • think you’re being a bit hard on Sir Doug.

      Maybe, but he invited it. His comments were more than careless, they were provocative. If he wants to throw his taxpayer funded jaunt to Boston in the face of people considerably less wealthy than himself, he better be prepared for a response.

  5. Finally, all of this has only recently come to light thanks to Lockwood Smith and his decision to release the detail of the politicians’ expense claims. At the next election it may well be an issue.

    I’m quite sure I was aware of it. Certainly not when Graham became an MP (I was 4), but well before he left.

    The phrase “gold-plated superannuation scheme” isn’t one we invented following their getting rid of it. The perks have been known about for some time. I’d hazard that this was among the reasons they were finally gotten rid of.

    I’d still object if it was 10 grand higher than the rest of us get.

    I’m pretty sure the rest of us don’t get a parliamentary pension. I don’t anyway :-)

    My argument was that Doug got a parliamentary pension of $29,050 a year on his retirement from Parliament. If it had been set at $39,050 instead it would just be something that was there that we don’t do any more. I doubt you’d have written a post like this one.

    • Finally, all of this has only recently come to light thanks to Lockwood Smith and his decision to release the detail of the politicians’ expense claims. At the next election it may well be an issue.

      I return to my earlier point – he brought this on himself by making a series of statements that amounted to saying “Up yours!” to the rest of us. This is a very wealthy man crying poverty while jetting round the world at our expense. He will get little sympathy from me, and a great deal less, I suspect, from those who did their dough in Lombard Finance.

      By the way, I think if you read my original blog, you’ll find that I was very generous indeed with regard to his time in parliament.

  6. My enduring memory of this guy, was how he shed tears when announcing Treaty settlements from the Crown. Honestly, I thought he was relinquishing his own inheritance, to Maori, the way he blubbered on.

    • My enduring memory of this guy, was how he shed tears when announcing Treaty settlements from the Crown.

      Or maybe he was just moved at what was a seminal moment in our history.

  7. That pic encapsulates the wanton avarice of Dougie-boy to a T, redolent of Christopher Lee in the 1958 film: Dracula. You know the plot, about this bloodsucking vampire.

  8. My parents, myself, my siblings , all of us have worked extremely hard, myself at one stage working two cleaning jobs back to back, starting at 3 am and finishing at 6 pm.
    I had a few “deals” when I started, like a telecommunications company and power companies which ensured us telephone and power at REASONABLE prices but you , SIR , and your co-workers , took these away from me.
    I don’t get a gold plated pension, in fact i’ll be lucky to get ANY pension at the rate we’re going.

    YOU”RE entitled, your mate Roger Douglas is ENTITLED and we’re just the schmucks who work hard all of our lives and pay for your entitlements.

    • My parents, myself, my siblings , all of us have worked extremely hard, myself at one stage working two cleaning jobs back to back, starting at 3 am and finishing at 6 pm.

      Well said, W.S.

  9. The knighthood was quite a perk as well…

  10. “Or maybe he was just moved at what was a seminal moment in our history”.

    Really? You thought that? More like being overcome by his own conceit.

  11. The difference is the unconditional guarantee of retirement income. Many golden handshakes and private superannuation schemes have come to nothing partly due to the action (or inaction) of various government ministers.

    Ever the politician, Sir Doug may be unable to stop himself stimulating discussion or inspection of such guarantees.

  12. … a seminal moment in our history.

    That it was, Brian.
    And Doug Graham did us proud — all the more so because of the ‘Tory’ that he so primely represented as he acknowledged the history of the settler government’s disenfranchisement of Maori (by hook or by crook over generations).

    As one who observed something of the ‘resistance’ from the Nats’ constituency that he (and Bolger) had to deal with through those historic days, I did and do applaud his moral courage.

    The former MP’s travel perk? Yes, let it die out quietly. (Enough said.) Graham has no more reason to be ashamed of the arrangement than any of the other former MPs getting it.

    But I agree with you, there was no advantage ever to come to him from his ‘better keep paying your taxes’ smartarse comment.

    PS With respect, Brian, that’s a pretty low blow bringing up Lombard. You could start a very long list.
    What about John Luxton, Jock Irvine and Wyatt Creech and Blue Chip NZ? These guys, it could be said, rented out their reputations for window dressing (just like Ian Fraser [BNZ] and Richard Long [Hanover]) … and have had those thoroughly depreciated’ as a result. Ghastly all around.

  13. Gawd, we have an apologist – for a guy who makes the utterance: ‘better keep paying your taxes’ Someone whom Theodor Adorno describes by way of: “Above, they bow; below, they kick”. He exists in a parallel universe entirely of his own construct, where the air is so rarefied that he can’t imagine who could possibly be above him. Today, it might not be fashionable to kick, but he’s certainly adept with his supercilious patronising of those he perceives as being “below” him. Hence, his self-reverential smugness ‘better keep paying your taxes.’ Can you just envisage him at the Auckland Club, haughtily strutting around like a peacock on heat? He’s the consummate anachronistic ponce – makes Prince Charles look like a rag ‘n’ bone man – bloated with this insufferable sense of self-worth. Pass me a sharp pin.

    [Slightly edited for reasons of taste and potential defamation.]

  14. Ummm …I know this is way off the track, but can anyone tell me what these people really do to justify getting a knighthood/dame-ification (?)
    Or is it a ‘virtual parachute’ (as opposed to a golden one)? Should the criteria be tightened up perhaps?
    Somehow, I wouldn’t have expected a ‘knight’ to be so off-hand and flippant, there wasn’t a skerrick of chivalry about the man and now one is inclined to suspect that he may have other nastier skeletons hidden under his armour.
    Chivalry – the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, esp. courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and readiness to help the weak. (Concise Oxford)
    Hmmm … am I missing something?

    • Ummm …I know this is way off the track, but can anyone tell me what these people really do to justify getting a knighthood/dame-ification (?)

      Hmmm. Don’t think chivalry has much to do with knighthoods these days. I once interviewed David Lange for a documentary on the honours system. His view was that governments only gave honours to people if they thought the voters would approve and their action proved popular. Self interest at work.

  15. Brian, I’m surprised at your comments here. It seems you cannot help but show great delight at hitting out at a Tory. everyone knows you true colours and unsurpassed support for Helen Clark. Never once did I see a comment from you about how Labour ripped off the taxpayer for their election expense fraud. And then to top it off, their complete undemocratice attempt to stifle free comment with that Bill which should be relegated to the depths of hell. But, what the hell aye Brian – lash out at the tories.

    • Brian, I’m surprised at your comments here. It seems you cannot help but show great delight at hitting out at a Tory.

      Well, that doesn’t really reflect the tone of my piece which began: “In more than 40 years observing New Zealand politics there have been few Ministers of the Crown I could say I truly admired, and fewer still in the National Party. You were one of those very few.” And I would have taken precisely the same position on any former Minister, National or Labour, who had taken such a contemptuous view of the taxpayers who were funding his and his wife’s overseas jaunts.

  16. I would love to be able to travel like Sir Doug does, but alas I invested my money in Lombard Finance! As Chairman of that company he is “comfortable in his role” in that debacle as well. Is this the type we need in charge of our “Cullen Fund”? I think not!!