The Green Party’s announcement of a policy to link MP’s pay to the median income in New Zealand ‘to be a part of the solution to inequality’ has provided reactions that show how deep seated inequality is now ingrained.
Are MPs representatives or CEOs of their electorates?
The current basic pay for a back bencher is $ 147,800.00, which puts MPs in the top 3% or 4% of New Zealander’s income earners. In yesterday’s editorial the NZ Herald gave all of the usual arguments associated with justifying exorbitant CEO salaries and included one of its concerns that ‘many MPs accept that their salaries will decrease when they enter Parliament’. Labour leader, David Cunliffe, said much the same about reduced pay.
If many our representatives are made up from such a small pool, then it should come as no surprise that politicians are out of touch with the reality of life for the majority of New Zealanders, and particularly the lives of our poorest.
Not good enough for me
They will find it very hard to understand the sentiments expressed by Michael Joseph Savage:
‘It is just as well for us to turn around and have a look at ourselves sometimes. What is not good enough for me is not good enough for the fellow I am representing in this House, whether it is a house or an income. There is enough of the best for all of us, and I want to bring about security for everyone during illness, whether it be temporary incapacity due to accident, or anything else. I should think it was the inalienable right of every person to be secured against distress of any form. That is only common sense. I so not know whether I would call it ‘sound economics’ or not … I do not think it is any use talking about national wealth unless we can use it for national purposes … In a word or two, I would say that is applied Christianity.’
(Hansard of debate on the Social Security Bill 1938)
Less of us might call it applied Christianity, today, but however we would phrase it, we need to get Michael Savage’s sentiments out on the streets again during the election campaign.