7 Aug 2009

Labour's Carter responds to expenses criticism

6:40 pm on 7 August 2009

One of the Labour Party's biggest spenders, Chris Carter, has broken his silence at criticism of his high level of expenses.

The Te Atatu MP held a news conference on Friday, after becoming increasingly concerned at what he says is the high level of misinformation that has been circulating about his travel costs.

Figures on MPs' expenses, released last week for the first time, show Mr Carter spent $57,000 on air travel costs in the first half of 2009.

Mr Carter said those high costs reflect a trip he took this year as Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson to China, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

In the first six months of 2008, Mr Carter spent $211,000 on travel and accommodation, during his time as a minister. That figure included $83,000 of overseas travel approved by the Cabinet.

Mr Carter said he took eight overseas trips as Minister of Education to attract overseas students. He also travelled to 300 schools and 200 ethnic events throughout New Zealand.

Mr Carter said he can understand the public's concern about MPs' spending, but is careful with his costs, and neither he nor his partner nor family pocketed any money.

He criticised journalists for failing to recognise that part of his job as minister was to foster the flow of international students worth $2.3 billion a year.