Sir Douglas Graham: Travel perks part of the deal

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Sir Douglas Graham explains why he has a clear conscience about the travel perks he receives as a former Cabinet minister.

Sir Douglas Graham. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Sir Douglas Graham. Photo / Sarah Ivey

I was elected to Parliament in 1984 and spent the first six years in Opposition. I was paid the independently set going rate which was less than half my previous earnings.

I was given an allowance towards the rent of a flat and lived alone in a number of rather run down flats the last of which was a garage in Wadestown infested with slaters.

My airfares to Wellington and back and taxi fees were paid and I could charge up a rental if need be when on Parliamentary duties. My wife could come to Wellington for functions on the taxpayer too.

I paid a compulsory 11 per cent of my salary to a superannuation fund which was subsidised. I was also aware my wife and I would become entitled to airline discounts depending on my service in Parliament and that that ran on after I finally left.

I didn't complain then and I am not complaining now. That was the deal and if I didn't like it I didn't have to stand.

In Opposition I went on a couple of trips overseas - one to London as Chairman of a Select Committee and then on a Speaker's 7 day tour to China.

This latter trip waved the flag and hopefully made a handful of Chinese politicians aware New Zealand existed but otherwise was really a junket. Recent claims that valuable friendships are made on such trips which might benefit the country are in my opinion utter nonsense.

I then was appointed to Cabinet. My pay went up to the going rate and Cabinet set an example by turning down every subsequent increase.

I moved into Vogel House which was certainly a vast improvement on the garage. I had a self drive car in Auckland and the use of a driver and a VIP car. My superannuation contribution continued at the old rate. I worked as hard as I could 7 days a week for nine years on electorate or Ministerial duties.

During that time I went overseas on a number of occasions to discuss prison reform, indigenous peoples' rights etc and represented the Government at Hiroshima. I flew to Paris to complain about French nuclear testing and returned 24 hours later. None of these trips was a junket including the travel to the study centre at Bellagio where I recorded the methodology the Government had adopted to settle Treaty claims.

In 1999 I retired extremely tired. I cashed up some of my 'gold plated' superannuation entitlement to buy a modest car and have lived on the rest which then produced about $350 a week.

But I had by then earned the 90 per cent discount on 12 internal flights and one business class trip to London and return for my long suffering wife and me.

I did not complain then and I am not complaining now. That was the deal. I did not negotiate it. I believe I fulfilled my part of the bargain and find it strange when people suggest the Government should renege on its part of the bargain.

My conscience is clear and I see no reason whatever to run for cover simply because some criticise a bargain struck 20 years ago.

- NZ Herald

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