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Editorial: $5000 for the emperor’s new clothes

Friday 13 September 2019 | Written by Jonathan Milne | Published in Editorials


Editorial: $5000 for the emperor’s new clothes
From left: minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa, New Zealand Police minister Stuart Nash, prime minister Henry Puna, New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston Peters, deputy prime minister Mark Brown, NZ Parliamentary under secretary Fletcher Tabuteau and minister Robert Tapaitau in Aitutaki last week. 19052602

I bought a nice new shirt from Tuki’s the other week. I’m wearing it right now. It’s purple. It cost me $30.

Of course, the community’s expectations of journalists’ dress standards are generally low, but I think this is a fine-looking shirt and I’d be proud to sling a blazer over it and turn up to the press gallery at Parliament.

Expectations of MPs’ attire are higher – but even so, it will have come as a shock for many people to discover our representatives are paid a $5000 a year clothing allowance, on top of their salaries and houses and cars.

This emerged after the Demos rapidly back-pedalled on talk of using their clothing allowances to fund a court appeal in endless dispute over the Atiu by-election result.

I could buy a lot of $30 shirts with $5000. And I suspect deputy prime minister Mark Brown could buy a lot of pairs of shorts, for when his New Zealand counterpart Winston Peters next visits. (That’s what he controversially wore last time!)

A cynic (and I am not one) might question whether the clothing allowance is evidence of MPs’ fascination with form, over function.

There is a story of another political leader who paraded through town in his fancy new threads. Too scared to speak out of turn, everybody oohed and ahhed at this leader’s self-proclaimed style.

Until eventually, a young boy in crowd piped up: “The emperor has no clothes!”