7 Mar 2012

PM defends $26,000 charter flight for Myanmar trip

6:18 am on 7 March 2012

Prime Minister John Key is defending the cost of the Foreign Affairs Minister's trip to Myanmar against claims from Labour that it is extravagant.

Murray McCully is in the country, also known as Burma, to meet his counterpart, President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A plane has been chartered for Mr McCully's trip at a cost of $26,000.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says that at a time when Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff numbers are being cut, the minister should be saving money and using one of the many commercial flights into Myanmar instead.

Mr Key says the decision to charter a small plane was based on a recommendation from diplomatic staff.

"I'm not going to put him in a car and put at risk his security. That's the advice I've had from the ambassadors, and I think anyone who doesn't think that is basically saying he shouldn't go."

Mr Key said plenty of people around New Zealand have advocated strongly that New Zealand should stand up for democracy and human rights, and that is what the Foreign Affairs Minister is doing.

Mr McCully arrived in Myanmar on Monday and will leave on Thursday.

He said there was a choice between travelling through Myanmar via charter flight or not being able to do it at all in the time that was available.

He said his visit is part of an international programme of engagement as Mynamar moves towards elections.