Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Maths challenged dimwits doing country's sums

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Solo mum Tania Wysocki gets no change out of a Government minister. Photo / Dean Purcell
Solo mum Tania Wysocki gets no change out of a Government minister. Photo / Dean Purcell

We all know that some of our politicians aren't very bright. That's not a surprise, given that there are no qualifications for becoming a Member of Parliament.

Most party list MPs get into Parliament because they either learn how to suck up to a bunch of backroom hacks sitting on a list selection committee, or just happen to fit a party's criteria for gender, region, ethnicity or age.

Electorate MPs get there by getting on the good side of a few barons in the local branch or are the least-polarising candidate in a factional fight.

I've known a few MPs over the years who are as thick as two short planks. But I console myself that in a representative parliament, even stupid people are entitled to representation.

But the half-wittedness of senior parliamentarians in the past week makes me wonder if LSD was sneaked into Parliament's water system by secret members of a cell of the Tame Iti Urewera freedom-fighters brigade.

Or do I resign myself to the possibility that morons infect even the upper echelons of our political system?

John Key keeps a straight face when he tells us we can get a great price if we sell our power companies. But the guy he's appointed to run our economy, Bill English, tells us this week that we'll get $6 billion for them, even though the book value is $5.2 billion. When questioned on the price, he blithely responds: "It's just a guess."

Astonishingly, he confesses he "just put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right".

Now we know why in his time as Finance Minister none of his Budgets seem to stack up. It seems he just makes up numbers when he's drawing up his forecasts. We can probably get a first-year accountancy student to do his job and save ourselves a bundle.

Then, of course, we have the Speaker, Lockwood Smith, ruling, temporarily at least, that translation services support for Green MP Mojo Mathers, who is deaf, will have to come out of her budget or that of her party's existing budget, rather than the general budget.

Smith seems to be saying that if those with disabilities stand for Parliament, why should they expect additional support to do the same job as their more able-bodied colleagues?

Maybe he should ask the MPs who speak te reo to pay from their personal budgets for their translation services in the debating chamber. And while we're at it, anyone in a wheelchair could be sent an invoice for the ramps in the building.

Then there's Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows saying he finds it hard to believe single mother Tania Wysocki can't make ends meet on the single parent's benefit. If Borrows could read, he would have had his disbelief dispelled, because Wysocki's household budget was splashed prominently in the Herald.

Even the dim-witted could see by her budget that Wysocki can't look after herself and her kids on the DPB if she goes off and studies.

So much for the Government insisting beneficiaries take up study and get off the benefit. They can't.

Burrows' boss, Paula Bennett, who was once on the DPB, hasn't said a word, although, unlike Burrows, she appears to be able to do basic arithmetic.

Finally, what goes on in the head of Labour's Trevor Mallard? When he was a minister, he brought in $5000 fines for scalpers.

On Thursday he was outed for scalping concert tickets for a quick profit - just because he could.

He is so clueless, he made them come to his office just in case they didn't know it was an MP ripping them off.

Maybe I'm wrong and our politicians aren't dumb or hallucinating after drinking terrorist-tainted water. Maybe they are just venal, arrogant and so out of touch that they think everyone else is stupid.

I'm not sure which is worse.

- NZ Herald

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