By Don Franks
It was a normal start up on our job the other day, cleaners hurrying in to dump coats and sort out gear for the early morning shift.
Our supervisor cast an eagle eye around the crew.
“Ok, everyone’s all here - anyone need any stuff?”
” Yes, couple of things”
“Can we have a minibar and a masseur in our cubby hole?”
Everyone laughed a bit including the boss.
“There’s no bloody credit cards on this job and you’re not MPs with time to fiddle them. Ok, lets get on with it.”
Media focus on MPs credit cards has largely centred on “misuse”. The Dominion Post campaigned: “Keep the MPs honest”; ie, use the cards “properly” and then all will be well.
From a different view point, Unite leader Matt McCarten noted:
“Several of them bought booze and flowers for either their spouse or someone else. But given it appears they had, in the main, reimbursed their personal items it’s hardly a scandal that should keep us outraged for more than a day.
I’m sure many employees with company cards have rung up the occasional personal item. Provided they explain the circumstances with a quick reimbursement then most employers will accept it.”
It’s the nature of the MP’s “occasional personal item” that needs exposure to daylight.
Such as the $6000 spent on limousines by Chris Carter during a four-day trip to Adelaide in April 2004.
Or the $466 mini-bar bill racked up in the space of one week by Trade Minister Tim Groser during the Copenhagen climate change conference.
Which was moderate compared to the $509.90 bar bill racked up by Murray McCully across two days in Tokyo last year.
McCully’s efforts were topped by former Arts, Culture and Heritage minister Judith Tizard. She blew $200 on two bottles of wine at a dinner in downtown Auckland. A $155 bottle of Bollinger and a $55 bottle of Allan Scott wine went on the former Central Auckland MP’s credit card to wash down a feed of roast salmon, grilled tuna and fresh figs.
Not to be outdone at the table was former Labour minister Parekura Horomia.
His $1816.62 credit card bill for June 2005 included $1613.54 in restaurant expenses.
Some may say, well, good luck to them, critics are just envious.
Envy is the resentment of a more fortunate person. As it’s our toil which made those wastrel MPs more fortunate than us, any resentment is fully justified. The half a million workers in New Zealand on less than $15 an hour don’t ever experience the luxuries that some MPs take as their daily due.
The cross party MP’s credit card scandal is a parade of capitalist values.
One such value is the Labour party leaders attitude to women. When Labour list MP Shane Jones was questioned about the cost of renting 50 movies while staying at hotels, he at first denied recalling if they’d been pornography. Then, when confronted with the fact he blustered that he was a “red blooded adult”. Jones sexism was defended by Labour leader Phil Goff who said “What people do in the privacy of their own room is up to them. I’m not about to judge people’s behaviour.”
After the fuss has died down MPs will probably be a bit more discrete about the acquisition of their luxuries, but any promises of “keeping our representatives honest” are just empty talk.
The credit card pigout reminds us that capitalism’s inbuilt exploitation and privilege can’t sustain a political system representing workers’ interests.