1 Mar 2024

Luxon's criticisms of profligate spending come back to bite

12:46 pm on 1 March 2024
Christopher Luxon

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Analysis - National's Tama Potaka could have been mistaken for giving advice to his own leader when he told Newshub on Friday morning "the New Zealand taxpayer is not a free ATM card".

The Māori Development Minister, speaking on a panel with Labour MP Willie Jackson on Newshub's AM show, made the remark when discussing whether the government will help bail Newshub out.

The show is one of many set to be axed in June after Warner Brothers Discovery told staff on Wednesday it planned to close Newshub due to insurmountable business losses.

Potaka's comments came on the same morning Newsroom revealed Christopher Luxon is claiming a $52,000 accommodation supplement despite owning a mortgage-free home in Wellington.

Luxon owns seven properties including his apartment in the capital, all of which are mortgage-free according to Parliament's pecuniary interests register.

A $31,000 allowance is able to be claimed by MPs who are living away from home when they're in Wellington, but the prime minister's subsidy is higher and is a top-up of his $471,000 salary.

The prime minister will have an opportunity to defend his decision for claiming the allowance when he faces questions from media this afternoon in Queenstown.

Luxon campaigned on wasteful public spending and a need for cost cutting across the public service, and under the coalition government ministries have been asked to find at least 6.5 percent in savings.

Pressure is now mounting on Luxon as to why he is collecting the subsidy at the same time he's spearheading a programme of widespread cuts.

The same pressure Luxon is facing was mounted on Bill English when he collected the accommodation supplement to live in his family home in Wellington.

English ended up paying it back and Luxon will need to decide whether the backlash is worth the 11 percent top-up of his salary.

It won't be lost on New Zealanders the subsidy is more than what those earning the minimum wage take home each year.

Prime ministers have Premier House to live in when they're in Wellington, but Luxon told media this week he was continuing to stay in his apartment because of long-standing maintenance issues at the official residence.

He has received a report about the problems with Premier House but is yet to make a decision about whether to push ahead with renovations.

Spending taxpayer money on tidying up the dated home at the same time the coalition is instructing the public service to tighten up would be a difficult sell for the prime minister.

For that reason, Luxon has put off any decisions about whether to renovate or not.

It was only 10 days ago the prime minister declared on social media "the days of taxpayers being treated like a bottomless ATM are over".

Luxon now needs to explain why collecting taxpayer cash to live in his own home is perfectly acceptable.

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