MPs Children Travel

April 6th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is backing a plan to expand the travel perks for MPs’ children which potentially opens the way for MPs to claim for taking their children on holiday.

Parliament’s Speaker, Lockwood Smith, revealed last week that he was considering changing the rules to allow the children to travel anywhere in New Zealand to join their MP parent rather than just between their home and Wellington.

School-aged children now get four return trips to Wellington a year to allow them to see their MP parent while he or she is working in Parliament.

However, Dr Smith said most children could travel only during the school holidays – when the House was in recess and few MPs were in Wellington.

He believed more flexibility was warranted but said he did not intend to make it more expensive or expand it beyond the equivalent of four trips a year. A financial cap was one possibility.

The current policy seems reasonable to most people. The job requires MPs to spend half their year in Wellington, so their school age kids can travel down once per term, or more likely once per school holidays.

It is tempting to then go along with the argument that as few MPs are in Wellington during school holidays, the travel policy should be more flexible and wllow them to travel to other areas to be with their MP parent.

However I think this does change the nature of the policy, from a clearly work related policy, to something that could end up subsidising private holidays – and that is something which I don’t think is appropriate.

Any rule change could stipulate that the perk was to be used only when the MP was on work trips rather than private holidays.

She said MPs often spent the holiday recesses working elsewhere around the country rather than in their hometowns.

Ms Turei said she had no issue with limiting the number of trips, but it made sense for children to travel to wherever their parents were, rather than just Wellington.

“That’s the point, really. Especially for those who have younger children, it can get difficult to see them.”

If the Speaker does change the eligibility, then Metiria’s suggestion of only allowing it to accompany an MP on a work trip has merit, as that would be more palatable than what will be seen as a subsidy for private holidays.

Something that the Speaker may wish to reflect upon, is how the Remuneration Authority currently treats the policy on dependants’ domestic air travel.

You see the Remuneration Authority calculates a total remuneration level for an MP, and then deducts off that total package, the private value of some of the perks.

For example 5% of the average cost of MPs’ air travel is deemed of private benefit, as is 45% of the average costs of spouses’ air travel and 100% of MPs’ international air travel. So these are all deducted from the total remuneration package to calculate an MPs salary.

What I find interesting is what the Remuneration Authority said in their last detailed determination in 2003 on dependents’ air travel:

Dependants’ domestic air travel

4.5 The average cost of this per member is $2,208. The IRD has assessed that all of this constitutes remuneration. The Authority has made no allowance for this in the calculation of the package value as it believes that members should be able to have their children visit them in Wellington at the taxpayers’ expense.

So unlike even an MPs own air travel (which is deemed 5% private) the Remuneration Authority had determined that allowing children to travel to Wellington (four times a year for school age) is a legitimate 100% work related necessity.

But if this is changed to include travel to outside of Wellington, then I would suggest the Remuneration Authority would find that there is now a private benefit to this, and deduct a portion of the cost off an MPs salary calculation (as they do for 45% of spouses travel).

So if the Speaker does make the change, then it may result in MPs having it effectively deducted off their salary – regardless of whether they use it or not.

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15 Responses to “MPs Children Travel”

  1. bearhunter (822 comments) says:

    I don’t expect my employer to fly my kids to see me when I’m at work and I certainly don’t want my employees in Parliament doing it either. Let them use the huge bloody wodge of cash I give them each year to do it.

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  2. krazykiwi (8,040 comments) says:

    It’s all noise.

    Scrap all perks and bundle ‘entitlements’ into salary.

    While we quibble over a comparatively few perk dollars here or there our country, with the nice Mr Key at the helm, going right ahead and borrowing $1b per month and will apparently expects to do this for the next 4 years. The interest cost of this money alone would fly all MP’s kids, spouses and pets to Europe and back.. first class every week.

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  3. backster (2,196 comments) says:

    Their current perks are outrageous, and are abused. There are all sorts of employees including many employed by the State (servicemen) who are required to spend prolonged periods absent from their families without these privileges.

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  4. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is backing a plan to expand the travel perks for MPs’ children which potentially opens the way for MPs to claim for taking their children on holiday.

    God Metiria Turei is confusing… I would have thought Tariana Turia would be the one backing this.
    Are you sure this is not a misprint.. and Metiria Turei is backing a plan to expand the travel perks for Green MPs.

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

    These pricks have no shame, they all knew the terms and conditions of their employment when they started their jobs yet they are still not happy.

    The really annoying thing about it all is that nothing is every going to change, it does not matter who is in power the bastards will find a way of spending our money on themselves.

    The very worst example of this is the speaker, nobody else in the house (even the Labour MP’s) has such a high sense of self importance and entitlement.

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  6. GJ (329 comments) says:

    A lot would depend on how important family was to you. Personally I wouldn’t begrudge them the request as many of them spend days away from their families and it is a career that puts more strain on relationships than most. Often their wives can feel like widows. I would also agree with Prebbles comments that they are certainly NOT overpaid.
    In fact we need to pay them more so that we can lift the standard of our MP’s. The problem we have is the vast majority of them have no practical experience and that’s why so many of the laws that they pass are disasters waiting to happen.

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  7. Positan (397 comments) says:

    Lockwood Smith held my admiration for his performance as Speaker – particularly so, following the appalling performance of his predecessor – but he, too, seems to have lost the plot as regards the role, reward and expectations of parliamentarians. Metiria Turia is only demonstrating the complete inability of the Greens, demonstrated so many times, to grapple with anything financial or remotely honourable.

    I think today’s MPs are the greatest bunch of self-serving teat-suckers of the public purse that we’ve ever seen. They uniformly display inbuilt reflexes to reach out and grab for themselves whatever they can, transparently blind to the responsibilities expected of them and heedless of the consequences.

    In the past I’ve worked and campaigned for National, but if its MPs, including Lockwood Smith, don’t show immediate restraint and start curtailing their trigger-finger reflexes of greed, many like me are going to quit all party support and start lambasting them as they seem so richly to deserve. All NZ MP’s have ridden a gravy train of their own making for too long, and their electorate and parliamentary performance is as bad as anyone could ever imagine it could get.

    Further, Parliament when sitting is said to cost $8000 a minute. If we, as a country, are getting value for the time wasted in childish displays of petulance and oneupmanship, it’s time we adopted something completely different. Something where standards had to be met before entry.

    Frankly, I almost despair.

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  8. Barnsley Bill (848 comments) says:

    david, you and I corresponded via email on this a couple of weeks ago. It is disappointing that me swearing at you about this has not seen your attitude change at all.
    They get enough. Your claims that you have seen mp’s pay for things out of their own pockets is all good and well. BUT. These troughers get 300 bucks a week in tax free pocket money (unreceipted expenses allowance) to cover this sort of shit. They can spend it on coke or anal probes for all we will ever know and they must not be allowed any more.
    You should be campaigning to get all their activities and expenditure brought in under the rules for OIA requests. Not posting about them wanting more

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  9. gravedodger (1,575 comments) says:

    @GJ yes the JOB that mps are required to do may be worth more but too many of them are able to get the job, when if they were in a normal employment situation they wouldn’t get anywhere near final selection. They are selected for so many criteria outside whether or not they are suitable, leaving us with people whose skill set is so far short of any reasonable standards and we finish up with the dumbarses we finally get. A big guy addicted to big macs, a little thug, and a dear old granny type spring to mind and with a little research I could come up with a larger list that would further depress me. They could probably get a job yes, but nothing anywhere near the salary package they have as an MP.
    I agree with the sentiment that moving their bloody spawn around the country is their cost not MINE.

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  10. GJ (329 comments) says:

    gravedodger: Yes and some of that is our fault as we have never really got to grips with MMP. We continue to vote for parties instead of people.

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  11. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    One comment: WTF!

    We need a new campaign.

    “Stop the Troughing”

    Anyone want to start a facebook page with Meteria’s troughing scone on the front.

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  12. 2boyz (273 comments) says:

    Why stop at extending it to children of MP’s, why not make it all blood relatives then Auntie Viv and Uncle Steve could fly down for the personally guided tour of Parliament they have always wanted to have. While we are at it lets make it international travel too (makes the system a lot fairer and much easier to monitor).

    As for us peasants we already get too much cake so we can f**k off.

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

    GJ

    I have one name for you (one name out ot many I could have picked at random)

    Keith Locke.

    Tell me where Locke could ever find a job that paid him anywhere near what he earns as an unelected member of the house?

    Each and every one of these bludgeing MP’s knows what he or she is in for when they put their name forward, the “but they have kids” excuse does not wash with me, nor does the “it is hard on families”, these excuses are trotted out by the chief trougher Lockwood Smith every once in a while as if we should be grateful to these largely useless and expensive bastards who infest Parliament.

    Most of them (at least 95%) are grossly overpaid, most of them are a complete and utter waste of space, I used Locke as an example but I could have chosen any number from either side of the house.

    They have to be stopped, the only way we can ever hope to do so is to shame the bastards into doing something about it.

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  14. Grizz (613 comments) says:

    My father often travelled for business. Sometimes at the end of a trip the family would join him for a holiday (so long as it was a good spot). The cost was covered out of his own pocket. Why is this not good enough for MPs?

    Like most people here, we have to pay to take our families on holiday. I cannot see why this should not apply to Members of parliament. It is not like they earn so little that they cannot save enough for a couple of trips each year.

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  15. francis (617 comments) says:

    All this carping overlooks the idea that MPs are in “public service” – and that being denied access to their families is an unreasonably burdensome demand for that public service, especially at present levels of compensation. If you hold them in contempt, it makes sense to bash the system for allowing them to have something like a normal family life while working. But why would you hold them – that is, the office, not any particular MP – in contempt? No honour to the office, everyone in it measured only by those who fail to live fully up to it? That seems churlish.

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