What is it with our politicians?

The Leader of the Opposition – I had to Google to recall his name — Simon Bridges spent $113,973 on travel between April to June. This is a lot of taxpayer's money.

The cost was one thing, but the fact that he was surprised when the total was tallied shows how MPs are out of touch with the real world.

These are the same politicians who often demand the public sector manage its budgets carefully.

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Most organisations, including government departments, insists business travel is within a set budget and needs to be approved before it is booked.

There are forms to be filled, boxes to be ticked, a reasoned case given for travel to ABC for the purposes of XYZ. A senior manager then decides whether this is an effective use of the budget or not.

As is noted in the Simon Bridges travel costs, there is no budget, there is no approval mechanism and it is only totalled after it has already been spent. In Parliament's case this is taxpayer-funded.

Why are they allowed to spend so much and add it up afterwards?

Many politicians talk about the need for people — and the country — to live within our means, but ignore their own advice when it comes to travel expenses.

There should, like most organisations, be a capped budget for travel. Spend it and its gone — no more limos across the hinterland, no more trips to overseas conferences. Talk to people using video conferencing or simply read the conference papers.

Do the sums — it is cheaper to travel a day earlier and get a good night's sleep in a hotel than it is to fly First Class.

It is interesting the current Government has decided to end bonus payments to state service chief executives.

It has always been a puzzle why incentives in the form of bonuses seem to be needed for chief executives and senior staff when, for some reason, they do not work for those on lower salaries.

If giving workers more money for being productive really worked, then it would apply to everyone from the janitor and the secretaries up to the chief executive.

In business there has always been a suspicion paying a chief executive a bonus for cutting costs often means they will get one if they simply sack half the staff.

While beating the drum about politicians throwing taxpayers' money about, it is worth noting that part of the Government's coalition agreement made with NZ First included paving the racetracks so the horses don't get their hoofs muddy.

The talk is this work will be supported by $30 million of taxpayers' cash. Part of the reasoning is that horse racing employs a lot of people and race meetings are called off if the track is too wet; the flaw in this argument is that the horse racing industry is not just race day.

The $30 million would fund the charity Riding for the Disabled forever but, of course, it lacks the glamour of thoroughbred racing.

The $30 million could create more paediatric beds in every health board or provide a new pair of winter shoes for every child living in a low-income household — instead it will be used to lay down synthetic tracks so that horse races won't be cancelled when it rains.

If I was a gambler, I'd put my money on the future of children as a better bet than a rainy day at the racetrack.

*Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician and social worker — feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz