I've never been one to whinge about MPs' so-called high salaries. They are not high by many standards but most MPs come off the back of relatively lucrative careers in business and the law and don't need the dough.

The number who have made the journey straight from the factory floor is lower than it was. And as for the job - to be a politician you have to endure endless meetings about issues you don't understand or don't care about; you have to vote frequently against your principles to please your party; and whenever you go out in public you're liable to be accosted by every loony with a bright idea.

When it comes to family life, the ideal MP's spouse is one who doesn't like them but is willing to be photographed with them once every three years.

For this your reward is a salary that a medium-level television executive would spurn. As some small compensation you get to throw your weight around, have nonentities kowtow to you, and enjoy the delusion that you're making a difference.


So it was lamentable but not surprising to learn that many MPs have property tucked away where it's hard for people to see it, in the interests of improving their superannuation status. At least that deal had the charms of financial ingenuity to earn it some respect.

But when it was revealed that a large number of MPs have been husbanding the air points they acquire as they make their dreary journeys around the country in our service and use them for personal travel when the rules discourage them from doing so, it became clear that no trough will be left unbothered by these snouts.

Leaving aside the rich irony of an MP being involved in a "loyalty scheme" to begin with, this petty penny-pinching makes them look like a bunch of coupon clippers. And somehow it's all too easy to imagine Stephen Franks standing at the supermarket checkout insisting that the number of stamps he has amassed qualifies him for the dessert spoons, not the teaspoons. Or Annette King at the petrol pump, rifling through her handbag to find she has the receipt that will give her 4c a litre off.

MPs need to make that hay while the sun is shining because every three years they are judged on their performances, possibly voted out and left with nothing but a generous superannuation which may or may not take into account properties they have long owned without declaring.

A lot of people outside politics who do get high salaries are judged on their performance and get paid according to how much money they create for their enterprises and shareholders. Imagine if MPs had to prove they had provided an economic benefit to the country before receiving any kind of bonus when the reality is that instead of making money they cost us billions because of economic mismanagement and doctrinaire decision-making, not to mention the high cost of shattered dreams, lost opportunities and national self-respect.

National pride of course, is not what it used to be.

It used to be about social justice and taking unpopular stands on principle.

A country that took pride in itself would not have allowed the cynical, socially reckless SkyCity sellout bill to pass last week. It reflects no credit on our politicians that not even two of them could be found to summon up enough courage and concern for their country to break party ranks and vote against the bill, thus ensuring its failure, if possibly risking their airpoints.