Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Air travel expenses soar for MPs

Cartoon / Rod Emmerson
Cartoon / Rod Emmerson

The taxpayer-funded air travel expenses of Labour's leadership contenders increased during the campaign period, the latest quarterly expenses disclosures show.

The eventual winner, Auckland-based David Cunliffe, had $14,071 of air travel in the July-to-September quarter, compared with $8538 in the previous quarter.

Rival Shane Jones, based in Northland, clocked up $21,184 in air travel compared with $13,430 the previous quarter.

Wellington-based Grant Robertson spent $9737, compared with $7921 the previous quarter.

Overall the Labour caucus air travel expenses were $14,000 higher in the July-to-September quarter than the previous quarter and $22,000 higher than the same quarter in 2012.

But National's increases are even higher - about $73,000 up on the previous quarter and about $6000 higher than the same quarter in the previous year.

MPs and their partners are entitled to unlimited air travel within New Zealand. MPs are also entitled to a graduated scale of rebate on international travel - previously subject to no conditions but now subject to the Speaker's permission on condition it has a parliamentary purpose.

It is impossible to tell from the expenses disclosures which MPs have used it or not and the expenses are not subject to the Official Information Act. The disclosures, while done regularly, are at the discretion of the Speaker.

The latest ministerial expenses, including credit card spending, were also disclosed yesterday and with ministerial spending being subject to the Official Information Act, more detail is given. Receipts show that:

Police Minister Anne Tolley had to cancel a trip to Darwin in July after her leave from Parliament was cancelled at the last minute. It cost the taxpayer $2161 because the hotel fees were non-refundable.

Finance Minister Bill English personally reimbursed $217 from his hotel bill at his hotel bar at the St Ermin's Hotel in London because the drinks were with friends.

The expenses show that New Zealand's campaign for a place on the United Nations Security Council has kept Foreign Minister Murray McCully's international travel high, with it costing $212,609 in the last quarter, or about 22 per cent of National's ministerial travel overseas.

Total travel for ministers in the quarter amounted to $947,714.

- NZ Herald

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