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MPs spending down ministers, international travel bill soars

MPs trimmed back their taxpayer funded expenses in the final three months of last year due to the start of the long summer break and more discipline.Both MPs' expenses and ministers' expenses for October 2009 to the end of December 2009 were released toda

NZPA
Thu, 25 Feb 2010

MPs trimmed back their taxpayer funded expenses in the final three months of last year due to the start of the long summer break and more discipline.

Both MPs' expenses and ministers' expenses for October 2009 to the end of December 2009 were released today, the third time such a release has been made.

Ministerial expenses within New Zealand were slightly up, but international travel costs soared as Prime Minister John Key and others hit the international conference trail.

MPs expenses paid through Parliamentary Service totalled $1,790,956 for the last three months of the year compared to $2,050,020 in the previous quarter.

Parliament rose in early December for the long summer recess, but Labour's deputy leader Annette King acknowledged the scrutiny from the release of some details about expenses had prompted a change in behaviour.

"There will always be ups and downs in expenses because there are times of the year when MPs travel more or less... but obviously we are being careful with our expenses, looking very carefully at it," Ms King said.

"The public expect us to and we have taken that on board as MPs... but not stopping the job we were elected to do."

The biggest spending MP was Labour leader Phil Goff, who spent $89,455 in total with the biggest item being $69,657 for car travel as he hit the road as opposition leader.

The biggest spending National MP was Speaker Lockwood Smith with a $38,033 bill, mostly made up of $22,698 in car travel.

Dr Smith racks up a large car bill travelling to his rural electorate and Auckland airport.

Most large spending MPs lived in rural and provincial electorates such as Labour's Shane Jones ($31,375) and the Maori Party's Hone Harawira ($35,772) in Northland.

The biggest feature of the ministerial expenses was a large increase in international travel, with the total bill rising from $661,815 in the September quarter to $1,051,906 in the three months ending December.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully ($231,654), Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser ($221,267) and Prime Minister John Key ($164,499) were the major contributors.

Trips included the climate change conference in Copenhagen. Mr Key also travelled to Thailand, Malaysia and China as well as Singapore for Apec, and made a trip to New York.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, who last year hit the headlines over his claiming a ministerial housing allowance for his family home, was shown now as receiving no housing subsidy.

Former Housing Minister Phil Heatley, who quit today over his misuse of his ministerial credit card, received $8035 in housing allowances for his Wellington home and $2690 for out of Wellington accommodation.

Mr Heatley also racked up more than $30,000 in air and car travel expenses.

Previous disclosures showed that Mr Heatley received $1000 for his wife to holiday with him in the Cook Islands.

NZPA
Thu, 25 Feb 2010
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MPs spending down ministers, international travel bill soars
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