The Herald reports:
One of Parliament’s new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs’ partners to be lifted for those with young babies.
While MPs’ partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called “perk” was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.
The cap does not apply to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, who will be primary caregiver for baby Neve, because the Prime Minister’s partner gets unlimited travel.
However, the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers’ partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.
Allan, mother to a 10-month-old, raised the issue when speaking as a new mother and MP at a conference of Speakers and Clerks from Australia and the Pacific Islands.
Allen said the cap was difficult when her baby was less than six months old as it restricted her partner and baby to visiting Wellington only once every six weeks at a time the family wanted to spend as much time together as possible.
Kiri is quite correct that allowing unlimited travel for partners would make it easier for MPs who are parents of young kids.
But how do you justify doing this just for MPs? Why are MP parents more deserving that other parents whose jobs require them to spend time away from home?
Would Labour introduce a system of free partner travel for all parents?
Not in any way comparing myself to an MP, but I get speaking requests for around NZ. I’m reluctant to do these if it means leaving my partner behind with the young one. So what we often do is pay for an extra airfare (at our expense) so we travel together. Should the taxpayer pay for my partner’s travel?
So it is a real issue for MPs who are parents. But returning to the days of unlimited partner travel would be helping the few, not the many.