Hide says he'll take girlfriend away again

By Bernard Orsman

Rodney Hide believes he's giving the taxpayers good value for their money. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Rodney Hide believes he's giving the taxpayers good value for their money. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Lapsed perkbuster Rodney Hide says he will use his MP's travel expenses again to take his partner overseas.

The Act leader was making no apologies yesterday for the public purse paying $25,163 for his partner, Louise Crome, to accompany him as Local Government Minister on a Super City fact-finding visit to Britain, Canada and the United States, and some domestic travel.

Mr Hide is the second Act MP to run up a big globetrotting bill on the taxpayer by using a travel perk for longstanding MPs.

In July, it was revealed that Act's Sir Roger Douglas, Parliament's most vocal campaigner against wasteful spending of taxpayers' money, had spent $44,411 on travel - most of it on a trip he and his wife took to London to see their son and grandchildren. The figures emerged under a new quarterly reporting regime of transparency for parliamentary spending.

Mr Hide's own flights and the accommodation on last month's trip to London, Toronto, Portland and Los Angeles cost $26,872 - a total bill for him and Ms Crome of up to $52,000 for the taxpayer.

He said Ms Crome - a national squash representative - was there to "be with me" and he would use the perk again to travel overseas and "no doubt on the odd trip around New Zealand".

Mr Hide said he checked twice with the Prime Minster's office about a directive from John Key to ministers to leave their partners at home or pay for the trip themselves and was cleared to use his MP's perk of 90 per cent subsidised international travel for partners.

He said he opposed the 90 per cent subsidy but was not prepared to become a martyr and sacrifice his personal life, saying the Remuneration Authority took the subsidy into account when deciding MPs' salaries.

Asked if his credibility as a perkbuster had taken a knock, Mr Hide said he stood on his record to get a more transparent and accountable process for MPs' allowances.

"Does that mean that because I'm against unjustified spending that I shouldn't spend any money. That's not the case.

"I didn't go into this trip lightly. I thought long and hard about it and knew I would have to justify it.

"I hope that people will look at my job as MP and minister and say, 'Actually, that guy did a good job and he was good value for money overall'," Mr Hide said.

A spokesman for Mr Key said that ministers using the MPs' perk met the definition of paying for partners' travel.

- NZ Herald

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