Editorial: Politicians accountable for salaries and perks

Friday June 14, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
CI News Editor Jonathan Milne. CI News Editor Jonathan Milne.

There is something uniquely leveling about the government houses of the Cook Islands. They may be occupied by ministers of the Crown. Or they may be occupied by low-income families who cannot afford homes of their own.

In what other country is a ministerial mansion indistinguishable from humble state housing?

It is this endearing egalitarianism that has allowed deputy prime minister Mark Brown to plead privacy as his reason for not naming the tenants of these houses: “Transparency doesn’t mean pulling your pants down in public,” he declared colourfully. “There are some things that should be kept private.”

And indeed, most people would agree with him that struggling families should not have their plight dragged through Question Time in Parliament.

But is health minister Rose Brown’s family struggling and impoverished? No. The reason she has a house is because she represents the electorate of Teenui-Mapumai on the island of Atiu.

She and her husband also have their own homes on Rarotonga.

Allowing her a government house may be legal – but is it right? Does she actually live in the government house?

Or Toka Hagai, ousted from Parliament in a police investigation into vote-buying. He too has a government house.

It is right to protect the privacy of needy families – but politicians are accountable for their taxpayer-funded salaries and perks.

Mark Brown acknowledges there are 45 names on the waiting list for these houses. Many will be far more deserving than these politicians. 

Jonathan Milne

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