Paula Bennett – to those of whom know her well – is probably a warm hearted, generous person with a gentle demeanour and great sense of humour. To the rest of us she’s a cold-hearted troglodyte whose sole skill is to conduct beneficiary-bashing exercises, aimed at distracting the populace from the failed economic policies of a government full of deadbeats.
Her latest tactic is to ask a bunch of Australian accountants to come up with the “lifetime cost” of beneficiaries … $78 billion, they reckon. Which we’re prepared to take at face value because, after all, we certainly trust Australian accountants.
It’s always important to get some balance into the debate though, so we thought we’d fire up our patented cost-o-matic lifetime calculator algorithm (actually a Microsoft Excel macro dreamed up by Bob, our office cleaner and head research analyst) to find out how much Paula Bennett was likely to cost the NZ taxpayer.
Our assumptions were that she remains as an MP, effectively bludging her way through life, until she’s 65. During that time she’ s a Cabinet Minister when National are in power (50% of the time remaining until she retires) and for the rest of the time is the National Party Spokesperson on Privacy Breaches. She was born in 1969, so she takes a hard-earned rest from sticking her hand in the taxpayer’s pocket a cool 22 years from now.
A Cabinet Minister’s salary is an impressive $257,800, and a common-or-garden backbencher pulls down a lesser (but still significant) $141,800. To make the maths easy we’ve ignored all the rest of the allowances … it’s the equivalent of the Australian accountants ignoring the extra $11 per week in hardship allowance that a solo mother in South Auckland might get if her rent makes up more than half her benefit – we know it exists, we just can’t be bothered calculating it.
Given Paula Bennett entered Parliament in 2005, we therefore need to account for 29 years of taxpayer-funded largesse. If half of this is spent on the back benches and the other half around the Cabinet table, the hard-working Paula will have sponged a full $5,620,200 … or a good-sized Lotto win, courtesy of the PAYE in your pay packet.
But wait, there’s more. We’ve yet to take into account the benefits Paula received as a solo mum, prior to coming into Parliament, or the training subsidies she enjoyed (but which her government has subsequently cancelled), or the subsidised health care for her family, or any of the other social benefits she’s enjoyed. Not because the information doesn’t exist, but frankly we have the work ethic of a bunch of Australian accountants and can’t be bothered calculating it.
But if we were going to take a stab at it – in a headline-generating, truth-fudging kinda fashion – we’d say Paula is our very own $6 million woman. Now that’s value for money, people!