Amazing what a by-election can do, as Russel Norman and John Boscawen have revealed some of their expenses:
The Green Party co-leader Russel Norman pays $340 a week to rent a house in the Wellington suburb of Hataitai. He lives there with his partner Katya Paquin, who is also employed full-time by the Greens in Parliament.
It is against the rules to hire your partner (or other family members) as your executive secretary or electorate agent, but it is okay to have them work for other MPs in the party, or in the Leader’s Office.
Because Wellington is home, he is not entitled to claim expenses of up to $24,000 for accommodation in the capital.
Not doing a Bunkle/Hobbs – good.
Paquin sometimes accompanies Norman on out-of-town trips. Norman says the two ran up $15,828 in publicly-funded air travel in the first four months of this year.
That is a hell of a lot of flights – especially for a Wellington based MP. The vast majority of the travel will be to Green party events. Now I’m not saying this is bad – just that one should be upfront about recognising the benefits parties get from having MPs who can travel at no cost to the party.
There is potentially a small conflict over Paquin accompanying Norman. I have no problems with modest travel for spouses, but because Paquin is also a staffer it does raise some issues. You see normally if a staffer travels with an MP, the cost is charged to that party’s parliamentary budget, which is limited.
But if a spouse travels with an MP, that is a general cost to Parliament, and means the party’s parliamentary budget is not impacted.
Norman also spent $3794 on taxis and hire cars, but emphasised that he had not been claiming any taxi and accommodation expenses in the Mt Albert campaign.
That’s $250 a week on taxis – guess the buses do not come enough.
“When in Wellington, I generally catch the bus to work at Parliament. I often get a taxi home when the buses have stopped,”
At $250 a week, I’d say the taxis are more than just going home at night.
Norman says his travel expenses may be higher than many other MPs, because as co-leader of the Greens he is required to attend events and meetings around the country.
Yep, and many of these will be Green Party events. I don’t think it is practical to try and differentiate these from other events MPs travel to, but it is worth remembering that when the Greens call for further taxpayer funding of parties, that parties already receive considerable benefits from parliamentary funding.
The Auckland-based MP pays $160 a night to stay in the Bolton St Hotel, three minutes’ walk from Parliament.
He ran up $3500 in hotel expenses in the first five months after the election. he expects to claim up to $6000 on Wellington accommodation expenses this financial year, which ends next month.
Sounds like John only comes to Wellington when the House is sitting.
Boscawen estimated his domestic air travel will have cost the taxpayer up to $13,000. That included regular travel between Auckland and Wellington, and two trips to Christchurch.
He was also claiming for two return trips to Wellington made by his partner Jane, one for the opening of Parliament and the other for his maiden speech. “She is entitled to have travelled far more frequently, but works five days a week,” he says.
Boscawen also flew business class to Vietnam and Japan last month as a member of the Speaker’s Tour, at an estimated public cost of $10,000.
Act MPs are opening an Auckland office, but Boscawen did not know how many items costing more than $500 he would buy. As for alcohol bought for Parliamentary business? “I do not drink alcohol,” he says.
No scandal there.Tags: John Boscawen, MPs expenses, Russel Norman