I thought I was definately onto a bashing of immense proportions here. But as I learned from a couple of screw up over the past few years, fact checking is paramount.
I checked international flights into and out of Vanuatu. This is where the story started to come un-raveled. The timing of the meeting meant that international flights didn’t provide useful connections. I think from memory that if they had used commercial flights then all the Pacific diplomats in attendence would ahve had to have stayed over 3 more days before the next commercial flight out from Vanuatu.
Although the RNZAF Boeing may have gone over next to empty and configured for VIP travel at short notice, however it returned with a greater number of pax on the return leg to New Zealand (I didn’t receive any passenger details, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find out who has used the service after the fact if one was that inquisitive), one can only speculate at to who they may be, but as even politicians don’t replicate that fast it seems logical that foreign dignitaries were using the service and New Zealand as a transport hub, which is hardly unheard of, and hardly the travel rort which the first leg made it appear.
Whale has shown no hestitation putting the boot into National MPs over perks, when he thinks it is justified. In fact i doubt any blogger has been as consistent as he has, in attacking MP spending. So when he says this is no big issue, I tend to believe him.
I had a similiar issue to McCully when I was in Noumea. The lack of commercial flights meant I had to stay for six days, for a two day conference. I’m pretty sure Murray would have been happy to holiday in Vanuatu for a few days, but instead he did some diplomacy by transoporting a few of his pacific peers back with him.
I recall Helen Clark got an air force flight back from Australia when there was a problem with Ansett, so this faux outrage at use of air force is fairly tiresome.