The Herald reports:

New Zealand First has criticised the cost of Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce’s recent four-day trip to Europe but Mr Joyce has hit back.

Mr Joyce visited Poland, Germany, Brussels and the United Kingdom in June to strengthen New Zealand’s science, innovation and international education links with the European Union.

He opened the biennial New Zealand-European Commission joint science and technology co-operation meeting in Brussels.

Answers to written questions show the budget for the trip was $56,700, a total NZ First leader Winston Peters said was the equivalent of two minimum wage jobs.

Mr Joyce confirmed today the budget for his trip was $56,700 but said actual costs were still being processed.

He said 75 per cent of the budget was spent on airfares and has called Mr Peters a “hypocrite” for his comments.

“This was the guy who as foreign minister defined spending money. For example, in 2006 he managed to spend more than $250,000 in three months – which equates to around $300,000 today – and he said at the time that was to be expected.

“The good news is that I didn’t burn any bedspreads.”

Heh, no smoking in bed.

But it is truly sad and pathetic to see a former foreign minister attacking Ministers for their travel. Winston presided over a culture of extravagance at MFAT with massive boosts to their budgets.

“While Steven Joyce and his staff are jet-setting around the world, more and more New Zealanders are lining up to collect the dole”.

This trip was not jet setting. Certainly some trips, such as Speaker’s Tours, are fairly shall we say relaxed. But most Ministerial travel consists of 16 hour days, and no spare time at all.

Where did Mr Joyce stay:

* Poland: Hotel Stary, Krakow – 1 night

* Germany: Hotel Berline-Mitte, Berlin – 1 night

* Brussels: Sofitel Brussels – 1 night

* London: Royal Horseguards Hotel – 1 night

People who don’t travel much think travel is fun. Travel is not fun, it is a pain in the butt. Checking into and out of hotels every day and stuck on planes is not a holiday. Don’t get me wrong – being in other countries can be great fun – if you have the time to actually do stuff when you are there. But look at Joyce’s itinerary – every day was travel.

But Mr Joyce gained some support from former foreign affairs minister Phil Goff, who said the costs weren’t unreasonable.

“I’ve never criticised a minister of foreign affairs or a minister of trade for travel costs, because if you’re doing your job you’re spending long hours flying, long hours at meetings and there’s no time for junkets in between.

Good on Goff for playing this fair.

During Mr Peters’ time as foreign minister, he spent more than $250,000 between June and September, 2006.

In that year his office was charged $230 for a bed cover that was burnt with a cigarette, although the money was later reimbursed.

And we’re still waiting for him to repay the $158,000.

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