29 Oct 2010

Speaker changes disclosure rules over MPs' travel

7:19 pm on 29 October 2010

The Speaker of the House will no longer make public the names of individual MPs who claim travel rebates for private international travel.

In the past, ACT MPs Rodney Hide and Sir Roger Douglas were criticised for using the taxpayer-funded discounts, while calling for cuts in public spending.

The Speaker, Lockwood Smith, says MPs have money deducted from their salary to cover the cost of the rebate, and so he considers that they have paid for it out of their own private funds.

Dr Smith says from now, only the total amount MPs claim collectively will be released and believes this is a fairer system.

Dr Smith made the announcement to coincide with the latest release of MPs travel and accommodation expenses.

"I've been troubled about this release for a long time, because it has not, in my view, been a genuine release of expenses - and it should be. There's been this mish-mash of items included in there."

The rebate applies to MPs who came to Parliament before 1999 and have served more than one term.

Those who have done more than two terms qualify for a 50% rebate on the travel costs, while more than three terms qualifies MPs for 75%.

The rebate for MPs in Parliament for four or more terms can claim 90% of travel costs.

Spouses accompanying MPs can claim the same rebate, as long as it is for personal travel and not for private business purposes.

Other changes Dr Smith intends to make to the disclosure scheme includes the publication of legal costs for MPs, paid for by the taxpayer, but only once legal proceedings are finished.