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Nation In Crisis While Politicians Get A Raise

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

In the midst of a recession and a cost of living crisis, rising unemployment rates, and
businesses collapsing like dominoes, the news that New Zealand MPs are about to receive
fatter pay packets comes as a slap in the face to struggling citizens. It begs the question: is
this a wise move in the current climate, where every dollar counts and trust in politicians is
at an all-time low?
Politics stands alone as a profession where qualifications are not prerequisites for positions
of immense responsibility, which affect people of an entire nation. Yet, paradoxically, it is
one of the most lucratively compensated fields. This dissonance is glaring, especially when
juxtaposed against the backdrop of the everyday struggles of ordinary Kiwis.
Let’s confront the uncomfortable truth: trust in politicians is eroding, and for good reason.
Recent headlines have been rife with stories of MPs embroiled in controversies ranging
from shoplifting convictions and driving and crashing vehicles under the influence to
threatening behaviour towards fellow elected members on the floor of parliament, to
mention only a few. Such behaviour not only undermines public confidence but also raises
serious doubts about the judgment and integrity of those elected to serve the nation.
In addition to the concerning behaviour of individual MPs, the broader actions of the
coalition government have exacerbated the challenges faced by ordinary citizens. Their
binge on cutting government funding and jobs will likely have a devastating impact,
particularly in essential services like childcare, education, and healthcare—pillars of
wellbeing for the people. These cuts have not only resulted in job losses but have also
compromised the quality and accessibility of crucial services, leaving vulnerable populations
without the support they desperately need. At a time when access to healthcare and
education should be safeguarded, the government's short-sighted austerity measures have
only deepened the sense of insecurity and despair among New Zealanders.
The ruling coalition government’s popularity has plummeted just five months into their
tenure—a telling sign of widespread disillusionment with their performance. From failing to
tackle the law and order crisis, particularly concerning retail crime and youth offending, to
implementing austerity measures that have decimated government funding and jobs, the
government’s track record is marred by missteps and what are beginning to be perceived as
broken promises.


In the face of such glaring inadequacies, rewarding MPs with salary increases sends the
wrong message. It sends a message of detachment from the harsh realities faced by
ordinary citizens. It sends a message of indifference to the struggles of those who elected
them into power. It sends a message that accountability and performance are secondary
concerns when it comes to remuneration.
The argument could be made that competitive salaries are necessary to attract talent to
politics. However, if talent is measured by the ability to enact meaningful change and serve
the best interests of the people, then it’s clear that the current system is failing miserably.

Pay raises should be contingent upon demonstrable achievements and effective
governance, not merely the act of holding office.
The timing of these pay increases could not be worse. With families struggling to make ends
meet, businesses teetering on the brink of collapse, and the spectre of unemployment
looming large, now is not the time for politicians to line their pockets. Now is the time for
empathy, solidarity, and decisive action to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable in
It’s imperative that our elected representatives earn the trust and respect of the electorate
through their actions, not just their words. This means prioritising the needs of the people
over self-interest and party politics. It means upholding the highest standards of ethical
conduct and accountability. It means acknowledging and rectifying past mistakes instead of
repeating them.
The decision to increase MPs’ salaries in the midst of a crisis is not just tone-deaf. It erodes
public trust in the political establishment and underscores the urgent need for meaningful
reform. New Zealanders deserve better than a government that prioritises its own interests
over the well-being of its citizens. It’s time for our elected representatives to listen, to
empathise, and to act in the best interests of all New Zealanders, not just a privileged few.

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