Ministerial spouses paying their own way

June 30th, 2009 at 7:37 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour ministers had often travelled with their spouse – allowed if the Cabinet approves of the travel.

However, Mr Key has told his colleagues that things are different because of the tough economic times. …

“I made it clear to my ministers I didn’t expect them to take their spouse and, to the best of my knowledge, they haven’t. If they have, they’ve paid for it.”

He said there were possibly some exceptions on trips to Australia.

“In every other instance, I’ve told them if they want to take their partner, they can do it, but they pay for it. When I went to China, it’s well documented I took Bronagh and I paid for her.”

That’s definitely a change of policy.

While one can only applaud restraint in a recession, I would caution against a blanket ban on spouses travelling with Ministers (unless they pay their own way). It can be difficult enough keeping a marriage together when you don’t spend the week together – and certain Ministers such as Foreign and Trade travel so much, they would never see their spouse if they din’t sometimes accompany them.

Now as it happens in the Key Minstry both those Ministers are not currently married, so not so much of an issue. But as I said a blanket ban on spousal travel could be unfair.

From what I read though, it is not quite a blanket ban – more a expectation with permission needed for exceptions.

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23 Responses to “Ministerial spouses paying their own way”

  1. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    erm,

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10581532&ref=rss

    “Mr Key has come under fire since Budget papers showed National ministers’ travel costs for their first three months in government came to $739,000 – more than double the $336,000 of Labour ministers over the same period the year before.”

    Sounds like the newbies have been rolling in the muck and have been given a rocket aye.

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  2. noj (21 comments) says:

    I would have thought it would make sense to compare the first three months of both parties rather than the start of one and the end of another, unless it includes trips to Melbourne.

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  3. Brian Marshall (205 comments) says:

    Hey Expat. Seems Labour ministers were spending about $1 million a month in the lead up to the last election. Seems Goff was only cherry picking months.
    It’s in this mornings DomPost.

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  4. tvb (4,560 comments) says:

    Surely you are not suggesting that a Minister should approach the PM asking for the taxpayer to pay for spousal travel on grounds it is needed to hold a marriage together. The only reason for the taxpayer to pay is in exceptional cases when there is something laid on for the spouse by the hosting country.

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  5. Nigel (493 comments) says:

    My read is there should be more flexibility, having a formula based on trip duration / time overseas in last 2 months as the key factors, so say a minister has been overseas 2 weeks of the last 2 months, then spousal travel is free. The details are less important than recognising the time away & it’s impact.

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  6. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Merely an observation. Don’t shoot the messengers.

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  7. david (2,194 comments) says:

    I wonder who paid for the ex-prime minister to travel to new york for interviews and then relocation? Did husband accompany?

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  8. Murray (8,803 comments) says:

    Goff is only opening his mouth to change feet these days. Being bitch slapped from arsehole to breakfeast by Key over travel is just the latest. Maybe he should consider talking less… possibly not at all.

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  9. big bruv (14,224 comments) says:

    Many people have jobs that require substantial overseas travel, it is simply a fact of life given our geographical isolation and the desire of NZ companies to compete in a global economy.

    If you go to work for one of these companies then overseas travel is often a condition of employment, in nearly every case that I know of (and certainly the ones I have worked for in the past) the idea of ones spouse accompanying the employee is just not an option (save for the annual company dinner or award ceremony).

    I fail to see why the hell we as tax payers should EVER be expected to pay for an MP’s spouse to accompany their partner, if a marriage is not strong enough to cope with the absence of one of the partners then that couple have a decision to make, it is the same in the business world, that couple have to decide to work at their relationship, split up, or get a different job where overseas travel is not required.
    MP’s should be no different, if they cannot handle the separation the the greedy bastards should resign and get another job that does not requite extensive overseas travel.

    I am sick of our elevated officials (and the unelected list MP’s) feeling that my pockets are bottomless.

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  10. Michaels (1,233 comments) says:

    Why is it that when you become a politician you get so many perks??
    At the end of the day is it not just a job??
    And not just the politicians either, their bloody staff too.
    On the odd occasion when I travel for work I stay in middle of the road hotels or even motels that is paid for, as is my travel and meals BUT NOT IN THE COUNTRIES TOP HOTELS!!!
    Just as well we’re such a wealthy country.

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  11. david (2,194 comments) says:

    Michaels, I understand where you are coming from with your “jack-is-as-good-as-his-master” routine BUT with due respect to your status in life (and your employer) this does not always hold true. For example, while the lower echelons of Fonterra (for example only) travel economy or Business Class for longer flights and stay in modest pubs, you can bet your boots that Henry van der Haydn travels First and stays at the Hilton or the Marriot. And that is probably appropriate for he is representing a level of authority in his organisation that the food technologist inspecting pallet wrapping machines is not.

    Like it or not, MPs represent New Zealand when they are travelling, And Ministers represent our Government when they travel. Personally I would rather our Minister of overseas trade was seen in the Lobby of the Grand Hyatt in Beijing and had use of decent meeting rooms etc, than in Mrs Chin’s tourist Hotel 10Km from the City Centre. Just my preference.

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  12. Michaels (1,233 comments) says:

    I have no problem with “ministers” staying in flash hotels while traveling, it’s all the others down the chain, I don’t see why we should pay for their staff, opposition and those who do nothing, to stay in the top hotels when they could be very comfortable in a slightly lesser hotel. Wouldn’t be a good look at all to see John Key backpacking in China.

    [DPF: Ministers tend to like their staff to be accessible to them when travelling – not a dozen blocks away. ]

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  13. Michaels (1,233 comments) says:

    That’s fine David but tell me this, why should Phil Goff’s staff stay at The Stamford in Auckland while he is tucked up in bed at home??

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  14. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    I think at the end of the day MP’s earn enough to pay for their spouse’s travel themselves. Good on Key for doing it. This won’t stop the recession but it is a good political gesture.

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  15. david (2,194 comments) says:

    Sorry Michaels, call me thick but I don’t quite understand the question.
    If you are suggesting that Phil makes a habit of staying at the Stamford in Auckland when he already has a nice place somewhere near Howick, then there is something rotten in the state of Denmark as the saying goes. Perhaps it has something to do with an incredibly attractive Indian sheila – I just don’t know and can’t think of a good reason for it just as I would not expect John Key to stay at the Stamford even for a state occasion.

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  16. burt (7,436 comments) says:

    DPF

    It can be difficult enough keeping a marriage together when you don’t spend the week together

    There are hundreds of people in this situation who have the same choice that MP’s have. Keep the job and accept the consequences of their career choice or resign and get unlimited time with their partner.

    I think if MP’s want their handbrake partner to travel with them then it is entirely reasonable that they pay for it themselves – always.

    I see no reason why tax payers should pay for partners to travel with MP’s. There are plenty of people who would still want the job without this touchy-feely luxury that we the tax payers pay for.

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  17. Craig Ranapia (1,266 comments) says:

    I would caution against a blanket ban on spouses travelling with Ministers (unless they pay their own way). It can be difficult enough keeping a marriage together when you don’t spend the week together – and certain Ministers such as Foreign and Trade travel so much, they would never see their spouse if they din’t sometimes accompany them.

    Sorry for sounding like a cold hearted bitch, but hand me the world’s smallest violin and let the pity party begin. To be blunt about it, if senior civil servants were in habit of taking their spouses/CUP-cakes/fuck buddies with them on official trips at public expense, I suspect State Service Minister Tony Ryall would be issuing a terse ‘please explain’ note. And rightly so.

    When you’re demanding everyone else not merely tighten their belts but pull on the fiscal corset, “do what I say, but don’t say what I do” isn’t credible.

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  18. Chris2 (775 comments) says:

    Do MP’s accrue airpoints? If so, what happens to these airpoints?

    Are they used to offset the cost of further official travel, or do they use them for personal benefit?

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  19. gd (1,780 comments) says:

    If we can put the emotion aside for a moment there is a balance and my organisation has I believe found a way. Employees who travel are allowed to keep their airpoints and use them for their spouse or partner to accompany them on certain business travel.

    As we are an international organisation is allows the spouses and partners to meet each other in each others country and be hosted on sightseeing tours whilst the business sessions are on and for some social events together.

    Its a mature way to recognise the spouse or partner having to be apart from their other.

    No big deal easy and inexpensive Just needs some common sense .

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  20. Chris2 (775 comments) says:

    gd – if you allow employees to keep the airpoints, does your company also therefore pay Fringe Benefit Tax on the airpoints, to IRD?

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  21. backster (2,196 comments) says:

    I would have thought they could use some of their expense allowance to pay for the Mrs (or Partner in Liabour’s case}I recall one of the ministers in the last government on a visit to China or Korea detoured to take in a title fight in the states before returning.

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  22. gd (1,780 comments) says:

    Chris2

    I pay the airfares myself and the airpoints account is in my name. I then claim a reimbursement of the cost of the ticket from my employer. The airpoints are mine as they awarded to me not the company.

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  23. Chris2 (775 comments) says:

    gd – I’m not sure IRD would agree with you: “Fringe benefit tax (FBT) is a tax on benefits that employees receive as a result of their employment, including those benefits provided through someone other than an employer.”

    Given your employer pays the cost of your airfare then the airpoints you earn fall into the category of a benefit “provided through someone other than an employer”.

    That’s why your employer is liable to pay FBT on your airpoints.

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