OPINION: When the Taxpayers' Union launched itself as a body that would give Kiwi taxpayers a stronger voice in the corridors of power, its founders described it as a politically independent grassroots campaign to lower the tax burden by exposing and (hopefully) reducing wasteful government spending.
New Zealanders were invited to chip in by reporting government waste via a "tip line" on the union's website. Thanks to the union, the high costs of getting and renewing passports became a matter for public debate last month.
Its executive director, Jordan Williams, disapproved more recently that $550 or so was spent on Green MP Mojo Mathers' travel from Christchurch to Masterton to take part in a community radio programme for the disabled. He subsequently elaborated on his objections, saying that - when asked by a Sunday newspaper to comment - he would not have criticised the spending if it had been necessary.
He mused on why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint chose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype. Others have asked why Ms Mathers didn't conduct the radio interview by phone.
They forget she is deaf, although it certainly can be argued that she did not have to become involved in the broadcast, and hence the travel was unnecessary.
But if necessity is the critical factor, how necessary was it for Prime Minister John Key, along with his bodyguards and staffers, to fly to Queenstown for the New Zealand golf open? We should look further, too, into the $1543 to hire an SUV for a day to ferry Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee around San Francisco after he had been kept busy watching the America's Cup.
Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser put $18,200 of spending on his credit card between October 2 and November 1, including bills for minibar use. All up, MPs spent more than $3.8m on travel and accommodation in the last quarter of 2013 and their travel costs for the year consumed just over $11m.
Ms Mathers' $550 journey to the Wairarapa is a spit in the bucket. There are bigger rat-holes out there, much more worthy of the yapping from self-appointed watchdogs who claim to be politically independent in promoting the interests of taxpayers.
- Waikato Times