The annual list that tells us what NZ's politicians own, where they got to go and what cool presents they received is out. Here are some of the bleakest, strangest and most inscrutable.
Last week, Parliament published its Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests for 2013 (or rather, a snapshot of what our politicians have picked up to the year ending 31 January). From the armchair it seems like the right and natural thing to do, but the idea that New Zealand’s MP’s should have to publicly declare who pays for their trips, what their moneymaking interests are, and where they go to get wined and dined is a relatively new one.
It was introduced to the House in 2003 by the Deputy PM at the time, Michael Cullen. Ever the perkbusters in the name of public accountability, Act called it “a nosy parker’s bill” and “the politics of envy” – a laughably dated view in 2013, when most of our television and existing print media is dedicated to seeing how over people live, and most of the Internet is predicated on the assumption that other people want to constantly see what we’re eating, seeing and doing. “It would probably stop good people trying to become MPs”, New Zealand First warned – an impediment they subsequently strove to overcome, arguably successfully!
While there could be some serious musing on the role of money, gifts and influence on the process on government (the Register remains the product of voluntary declarations – a moral, rather than legislative force. Similarly, let’s not even get into the matter of declaring tax returns) it’s important to retain some perspective and remember that New Zealand is kind of the Springfield of the world. Even its most venal politicians are still a strain of hapless smalltown eccentric, which these highlights from this year’s Register should hopefully prove:
John Banks(ACT, Epsom)
Travel Voucher from Christopher & Banks Private Equity Limited
Correct me if I’m wrong, but given that this is John Banks’ seventh (and presumably last) term as an MP, he should be receiving some pretty extraordinary travel subsidies by now. He should also be rich as hell, so the vision of him springing for a travel voucher conjures up nothing less than the CEO of a confectionary company going “Wow, free candy!” at a child’s 5thbirthday party.
Christopher & Banks, of course, is Banks’s private equity firm – which he doesn’t currently appear to hold a directorship or controlling interest in. Perhaps it’s a really big travel voucher, then, as some sort of temporary exit package. Or at least one to somewhere good, like Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast or Slough.
Dr Cam Calder(National, List)
Boules To You – importing and consulting
Restoration project of ruin, Gers, France
Three things you may not have know about Cam Calder:
“Boules to You was the first NZ business to be on the internet on Telecom Xtra all those years ago. After an absence of some years it is good to be back. We have a CELEBRATORY SPECIAL starting today, anyone purchasing a set of competition boules will receive a FREE telescopic measure with their purchase . Very useful!
Try it for yourself - you may well be "bouled over".”
If this wasn’t amazing enough, there’s also the fact that Cam Calder is working on ‘a restoration project of ruin’ in Gers, the gateway to the Pyrenees. Dying to know more, I emailed Cam’s office for information:
Cam has been a Francophile for some years, but has a real passion for ancient history too, as well as a good puzzle. The area of ruins outside Gers covers about a quarter of a square kilometer, and has been steadfastly avoided by superstitious locals. Surveying equipment is always found broken and bent by some massive and inexplicable force only hours after it’s been set down – pegs are simply sucked into the earth itself! Cam was a bit perturbed by the stories of mass disappearances in the area, but when he came back from the ruins after being unreachable for several days he had a new lease on life, and two asynchronous pulses. More excitingly, he encountered what he believes to be a rudimentary telepathic field at the epicenter of the site and he has committed its whispered phrases to heart.
These thought waves have formed part of our ape-mind collective unconscious. I feel their rhythm in the same way my primate ancestors sensed threats, loss or companionship in the early Eocene. Your flesh has a limit, but not so the flight-or-fight mechanism that evolved, that rose to form a droning, spectral hymn of command from generation to generation. What do you think the lines on a petanque ball represent? Teams? Such linear, matter-bound minds. Look again. Each night Cam awakes screaming, aware of something closer now, closer every day but He is still tantalizingly beyond the limits of the human condition. Of humanity itself. He is - we are calling. We seek a response – so fractured, so mortal. Weak. Primates. We are waiting….we are waiting….we are waiting…..
Hope this helps – Cam is always happy to have questions, queries, and even the odd constructive bit of criticism passed on! J”
David Carter (National, Speaker of the House)
Fuck it, every agricultural company in New Zealand basically.
Meat exporters, fertilizer, rural supply, wool, PGG Wrightson. Eleven companies or business interests, two farms.
Which is fine, and happy for him – but he’s basically got the NZ agricultural sector on some sort of supply chain lockdown, so why would you have made him Minister of Agriculture (and later, Primary Industries) from 2008 to 2013? Even assuming he was too upstanding to ever abuse the portfolio for direct personal gain, how did he make important decisions that affect the sector with the intimate knowledge of how dozens of his colleagues and employees stood to prosper or lose out, flourish or fail? It may be that everything panned out much the way it would’ve under any National Minister of Agriculture. Then again, it may not. Admittedly, this isn't that funny - but it's not really meant to be. Politicians need to act above the fray, but they also need to be seen to act above the fray to give the public peace of mind. In this case, it just seems like the government couldn't really be that bothered about how it might look.
Need someone with the sector knowhow? Give it to one of your less successful farmers, then. David Bennett only has a paltry two farming businesses, for example – and he’s done it all with what looks like severe hypotension if the blood pressure monitor in this photo is accurate.
David Clendon (Green, List)
He Waka Eke Noa Charitable Trust – theatre in schools (Ugly Shakespeare Company)
For some reason, Dave Clendon of the Greens isn’t too keen on having his involvement with He Waka Eke Noa Charitable Trust and their flagship project, the Ugly Shakespeare Company, aired to the public. Each year, the USC “offers thousands of secondary students across the country access to contemporary comedy theatre exploring the themes and language of Shakespeare’s plays”.
Whether it’s a mainstream publication with a well-established web presence or the crowd-sourced product of a pack of angry illiterates, we hear a lot about the risks of a Labour-Green coalition after the next election, but not many people (or should that be sheeple?) have asked what will happen when we wake up one morning in November 2014 to discover that Shakespeare has become a core text in the curriculum of many New Zealand high school English classes. We will only have ourselves to blame.
Peter Dunne (United Future, Ohariu-Belmont)
Premiere, The Hobbit movie, Warner Bros
Mainly because not one other MP bothered to disclose that they got a free pass to the premiere of The Hobbit, leading to the rather wonderful image of Peter Dunne swanning around the red carpet outside the Embassy, smiling beatifically at onlookers, and assuming that the whole shebang had been put on for him as guest of honour.
Paul Goldsmith (National, List)
NZ Authors Fund, Creative New Zealand – for books published in New Zealand
Paul Goldsmith and the Pantograph Punch – both proud recipients of Creative NZ money! Look at this fucking hipster.
Honourable mention to Richard Prosser, for “Royalties from book sales (not yet received)”. Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.
John Hayes (National, Wairarapa)
We The People Foundation (United Nations-related activity)
I’m none the wiser as to what Hayes’ ‘We The People Foundation’ does, because the entire first few pages of Google results are dedicated to the We The People Foundation in Queensbury, New York. They’re a group that promotes the view that:
...Despite common misconceptions, there is actually no law that requires most Americans to pay income taxes or most companies to withhold taxes from employees' paychecks. WTP also espouses the view that the Sixteenth Amendment was fraudulently declared to have been ratified.
We The People Foundation placed a full-page advertisement in the December 1 and 3, 2008 Chicago Tribune newspaper in the form of an open letter addressed to Barack Obama's presidential transition office in Chicago, in which the Foundation disputes Obama's status as a "natural born citizen" of the United States. The letter asserts that Obama cannot assume the office of President, and that the state electors cannot vote for his candidacy, unless Obama provides "documentary evidence before December 15, that conclusively establishes his eligibility.
If you think John Hayes is concerned about the misunderstanding, put yourself in these guys’ shoes for a moment and imagine how they feel when they’re referred to as a “United Nations-related activity”.
Brendan Horan (Independent)
Goldbuyers Waibop Limited – buying gold
My surprise to learn that a business named Goldbuyers is in the unsalutary work of buying gold aside, I can’t get past the vision of Brendan Horan, resplendent in neon pink swimsuit, jumping into a vault of gold a la Scrooge McDuck. #momoneymoproblems
Nikki Kaye (National, Auckland Central)
– has nothing. Nothing. She got a trip to the States with a few other MPs and she has a superannuation scheme. That’s it. She’s basically a hologram. Could someone give her a couple months’ leave to sort out a wee apartment somewhere and a modest croquet import business?
John Key (National, Helensville)
Annual membership – Omaha Golf Club
Golf club, Champions 460 driver – Trade Minister Gita Wejuaran of Indonesia
Set of Srixon golf clubs – Dunlop Sport Japan Limited
Round of gold with Greg Norman – Duco Events Limitecd
Annual membership – Clearwater Golf Club
Laugh if you want, but when have we actually been told that John Key likes golf? Recast this as a narrative of a dude who fucking hates walking around a massive manicured lawn all day in idiot pants with world leaders, and this is an almost unbearably poignant list. I think I’m going to have go outside and take a walk.
-Pita Sharples (Maori, Tamaki Makarau) has something called ‘Sharples Productions Limited’ which is supporting development of a film script!
- Nicky Wagner (National, Christchurch Central) has a beneficial interest or trusteeship in something called Timelord Trust. It remains to be seen whether Ms. Wagner regenerates in time for the 2014 election.
- A full half of our MPs have Kiwisaver now – just like me! Over a quarter of them own multiple residential properties or plots of land, where people who can’t afford houses will inevitably live forever – just like me!
- Jonathan Young (National, New Plymouth) has a beneficial interest/trusteeship in something called ‘Young Two Trust’, which sounds like a Southern rap label.
- Finally and crushingly, Maggie Barry’s personal business – the awesomely-named Maggie Unlimited Limited – is no more. The Companies Register tells me it was dissolved on 19 November 2012. With it die our hopes for a new season of Maggie’s Garden Show, or even a series of TV tie-in interactive VCR board games - the only real kind of footprint a politician can hope to leave on the shore of history's rising tide.
The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.
The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.