$45k wine country getaway headache for MPs
GYMPIE MP Tony Perrett has defended the expenses he incurred during a trip to Western Australia's southern wine district last year as "strictly prudent, reasonable and judicious”.
A group of six former and current LNP MPs pocketed more than $45,000 from the trip, The Courier Mail reported online yesterday.
Gold Coast MPs John-Paul Langbroek and Ray Stevens, Toowoomba's Trevor Watts, Mr Perrett and Lockyer's Ian Rickuss claimed flights, car hire and accommodation costs.
The quintet all travelled with their wives to the little-known gathering of National Party state parliamentarians in the historic coastal town of Albany, on the southern tip of WA.
Albany is part of west's great southern wine region and a four-hour drive from the Margaret River, renowned for its vineyards, first-class accommodation and blossoming craft brewing fraternity.
"I receive many invitations to attend meetings and conferences across Queensland and Australia,” Mr Perrett said yesterday.
"Parliamentary entitlements and allowances are set by an independent tribunal and endorsed by the Queensland Parliament,” he said.
"These allowances include a general travel allocation and are only paid following an exhaustive acquittal process by parliamentary officers.
"State members pay up front and put in a claim.
"My claims have been strictly prudent, reasonable, and judicious and well below the annual allocation.
"I will always abide by the rules applicable to Parliamentary expenses.”
Member for Warrego Ann Leahy also ventured west along with her predecessor, Howard Hobbs, who claimed his flight under former MP entitlements.
The six sitting members claimed the high-priced sojourn under guidelines that allow state MPs to recoup the costs for attending meetings of their political parties, according to the latest Annual Report of General Travel Allocation Expenditure.
Little is known about the event's agenda or timetable but one source yesterday claimed the conference was booked for a single day at the Albany Entertainment Centre.
Mr Stevens, whose five-day travel bill was $9457.77, told The Courier-Mail the event provided invaluable insights.
"Having rural roots with cattle and sheep farming, I am more countrified than many people in the National Party,” the Member for Mermaid Beach said.
"It was a really good exercise, we came back with the Royalties for the Regions policy.”
Asked why he spent more days than some of his colleagues in the west, Mr Stevens insisted he had other work to do but that did not involve visiting the Margaret River region.
"While I was there I did some other business,” he said.
An LNP spokesman defended the travel spend.
"The conference in Albany involved a range of seminars from different jurisdictions to assist in policy development,” he said.
"All trips were within the guidelines.”