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Chris Luxon: ‘Entitlement’ or just entitled?

Hypocrisy appears to reign in the house of Christopher Luxon as the new prime minister vows that beneficiaries will no longer receive a “free ride” and that “the days of taxpayers being treated like a bottomless ATM are over” – all while receiving $52,000 of taxpayer money to top-up his already handsome salary.

A spokesperson for Luxon confirmed he will be claiming the optional accommodation supplement on top of his $471,000 salary despite living in a Wellington apartment that he owns mortgage-free.

Luxon fronted media yesterday and justified his decision to take the supplement, saying it is an “entitlement” for MPs based out of the Greater Wellington region and that while he wishes to live in Premier House, he can’t due to required maintenance and renovations so he is “forced” to live in his Wellington apartment.

Many might expect that his annual salary would have been enough to keep the lights on in his home, especially while much of the rest of the country scrapes their pay together week to week to stay afloat.

The accommodation supplement hadn’t been accepted by a Prime Minister in at least 34 years since the Premier House became the official prime ministerial residence in 1990.

A significant portion of the population would consider $52,000 a substantial amount of money, given that over a quarter of New Zealanders earn $50,000 or less per year.

Bill English faced the ire of many when he accepted the accommodation supplement while only a minister and, in response, he paid the money back – in stark contrast to the current prime minister.

Luxon comes from a background of corporate senior management where salary packages, benefits, and bonuses are all par for the course, and perhaps he’s imported this attitude into parliament.

One could’ve easily predicted that accepting a monetary top-up for accommodation owned outright while the rest of the country is in a housing crisis wasn’t going to be a good look, but alas, Luxon doesn’t seem to have had that foresight.

Does this indicate a level of disconnect on his part?

It’s almost reminiscent of Scott Morrison abandoning Australia while it burned for a holiday in Hawaii – while people struggle to pay the bills, Luxon is happily putting his hand out for more.

Sure, the supplement is there, and it is available, but his apparent lack of self-awareness when he chooses to criticise the previous Labour government for their “waste of taxpayer money” seems quite extraordinary.

Luxon hasn’t been in the role of PM long, nor has he been in the political game for a substantial amount of time, so maybe this misstep highlights his status as a political novice.

Or perhaps the income from his four investment properties isn’t able to fund his lifestyle – although that would then raise even more questions about the man we’re supposed to trust to improve our failing economy and education and health systems.

Isn’t it in bad taste to take more taxpayer money while an axe looms over hundreds of public servant jobs nationwide?

Given Finance Minister Nicola Willis has asked all public sector departments to shave 6.5 per cent from their budgets, what would she have to say about this additional $52,000 being claimed?

Luxon’s campaign relied heavily on promises of reducing public expenditure and ensuring taxpayers get value for money.

Where’s the value for taxpayers in this?

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