Labour candidates take advantage of parliamentary perks
Tuesday 27 Aug 2013 4:14 p.m.
Labour's political idol competition got underway in earnest today, with the first round in Parliament.
But a nationwide road show comes next, and the taxpayer is picking up the tab for air travel.
Labour's X Factor hit the House today, with the leader's seat empty and the three contenders side by side.
Deputy Grant Robertson wasted no time.
"How many New Zealanders are unemployed?" Mr Robertson asked Prime Minister John Key.
"Last week one person lost their job, now there's three people looking for it," said Mr Key.
David Cunliffe had a shot at Mr Key as well.
"Does he have confidence in all his ministers?" asked Mr Cunliffe.
"Yes, about as much confidence as he had in his portrait painter," said Mr Key, referring to a painted picture of Mr Cunliffe hanging on the wall in his New Lynn, Auckland electorate office.
Political X Factor will now hit the road, touring New Zealand on the MPs' travel perk.
"The rules aren't made by me," said Mr Cunliffe. "We will follow the rules as they are given."
"We are entitled to exercise our parliamentary air travel," said Shane Jones. "That is a decision that has been made and its one that I will abide by."
The road show will take place in 11 towns and cities in 12 days, from Whangarei to Dunedin.
3 News did the sums, and it comes to roughly $8000 for all three. And yes, they pick up the air points along the way.
"I think you should refer those inquires about what we're allowed to do to Parliamentary Services because they set the rules," said Mr Robertson.
All are using perks in unison and all using the oldest MP's excuse in the book: it's within the rules.
And it's not just the candidates who benefit; Labour MPs like Iain Lees-Galloway who travel in support go for free too.
"This is part of my job as being an MP," said Labour MP Maryan Street.
And even Mr Key backs them up.
"It's consistent with what happens everywhere else," he said.
Mr Cunliffe made a big play, allowing the party activists to put the so-called man ban on the agenda again.
"I'm saying it's a matter for the party conference to decide," said Mr Cunliffe. "It's not my preferred position, but it's a matter for the party, not the leader."
The man ban could make its way back under Mr Cunliffe. The public may hate the idea but the party activists love it, and right now that's all Mr Cunliffe cares about – the party members and their votes.