More evidence that our parliamentarians constitute a “political class” - rather than merely being representatives of the people - is provided by Tim Donoghue writing yesterday about the business and financial activities of Jim Bolger - see: It pays to be a former PM in the Dominion Post. The list of Bolger’s wealthy pursuits indicates how politicians from all colours of parties are afforded the opportunity of an affluent lifestyle after leaving politics. The experience of being a politician in NZ certainly opens doors to lucrative post-politics careers. [Read more below]
The following is a list (summarised by DPF at Kiwiblog) of Bolger’s current financial activities:
- Chair of NZ Post and Kiwibank - $165,144
- Chair Gas Industry Company - $85,708
- Chancellor of Waikato University - $25,350
- Former PMs pension - $40,250
- Former MPs pension - will be large as served from 1972 to 1998
- Chairman of Kiwirail - probably $80,000 or so I estimate
- Chair of Trustees Executors
- Advisory Board of World Agricultural Forum
- NZ-US Council
- Board of Ian Axford Fellowshops in Public Policy
DPF notes that Bolger ‘is getting paid more than when he was PM!’. And while I'm not *necessarily* suggesting that Bolger and others don't ‘earn’ their huge post-politics public and private sector incomes, more importantly it certainly points to the fact that our politicians are able to convert their 'public service' into significant private wealth.
Donoghue also lists the ‘life after politics’ details of some other recent political retirees:
Jim Sutton: Resigned as trade minister in 2006; now chairman of government farmer Landcorp. Dianne Yates: Resigned as a Labour MP this year; on boards of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Trust Waikato, Learning Media and Waikato Institute of Technology. Janet Mackey: Former East Coast Labour MP; retired at 2005 election and now runs a Gisborne cafe. Mark Peck: Retired as Invercargill Labour MP in 2005 after alcohol and gambling problems; now director of the Smokefree Coalition. Roger Sowry: Retired as a National MP 2005; now works for consultants Sanders and Unsworth. Deborah Coddington: Former ACT MP; now runs a Wairarapa vineyard.
Another fascinating insight into the mindset of NZ’s “political class” is given by the recent example of ex-Labour MP Georgina Beyer, who has complained that since leaving politics she had to go on the employment benefit and plan to shift to Australia to find work. The world's first transsexual politician was reported in an August article by Colin Espiner (See: Jobless Beyer eyes Aussie) as saying ‘she was disillusioned with life after politics and upset at the treatment she had received from her former Labour Party colleagues’. Apparently ‘Beyer said that while other former Labour MPs were appointed to boards, she had received nothing and was turned down for a position on the Human Rights Commission’. She is quoted as stating, ‘"I have all this accumulated knowledge and experience and no one wants to employ it, and I'm not sure why’.
Such expectations of the parliamentary elite indicate just how far removed from everyday life such politicians are, as well as the fact that they don’t see their role in politics as a privileged opportunity to represent people but merely as part of a career path. Although obviously some MPs and ex-MPs have more of this amazing sense of entitlement than others, I’d imagine it goes across party lines. Most MPs socialise together, chat in the Koru Club etc and are actually a fairly cohesive group of like-minded people. It’s a reflection that politics today is an elite activity that is part of a career rather than any mass movements of people.
Interestingly, Simon Carr of Act paints a similar picture:
It is a secret society, joined by covert bonds and awful oaths of loyalty (if not to each other). However much they attack their opponents, however different their world view is, however ferociously they represent their constituents’ interests – they have more in common with each other than they have with us. That’s worth unpacking: Jim Anderton has more in common with [Winston] Peters than he does with the homeless, the downtrodden, the huddled masses of Sydenham (Carr, 1997: p.37).
It'd be great if tabs could be kept on the business and financial activities of all ex-PMs, ministers, and even MPs.