30 Jul 2009

Sir Roger, Chris Carter top MPs' travel expenses list

7:20 pm on 30 July 2009

ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas has defended spending $44,000 on air travel in the first six months of the year.

The figure, revealed in the first-ever disclosure of MPs' travel expense claims, is one of the biggest on the list. Apart from government ministers, only Labour MP Chris Carter spent more on travel than Sir Roger did.

All expenses incurred by MPs for domestic and international travel and accommodation - including when they have to stay Wellington - are listed. The average claim is $40,000, though many MPs spent well under $30,000.

Carter complains, but won't talk on the record

Sir Roger, who has himself repeatedly criticised excessive government spending, explained the high cost by saying that he and his wife had flown to London on a taxpayer-subsidised trip, during which he spent some time with his son and grandchildren.

Mr Carter, who spent $57,000, rang Radio New Zealand to complain when his spending was reported, but declined to talk on the record.

It was left to fellow Labour MP Trevor Mallard to defend Mr Carter's spending.

And ACT leader Rodney Hide, who once campaigned against MPs' perks, also defended Sir Roger's use of taxpayer-subsidised travel.

Big claims by Maori MPs with large electorates

Maori Party MPs (excluding their ministers) claimed an average of $55,000, but as Speaker Lockwood Smith says, all the information must be viewed in the context of where MPs live and the demands placed on them by their constituents

The very large Maori electorates by definition cost more to properly service. MPs from large rural general electorates have also made higher claims.

From now on, fresh figures will be issued once every three months.