Mrs Grumble is a bit upset this morning.
She fears that our overseas holiday plans have been done a mischief by the decision to strip MPs of their international travel perk.
It will be replaced by a new scheme designed to stop taxpayer-funded jaunts, according to the report at Stuff.
Speaker Lockwood Smith announced the change late last night after meeting MPs on the Parliamentary Service Commission.
He had cross-party support to get rid of the international travel rebate after abuse of the perk by former Cabinet minister Pansy Wong was exposed last week. “The international travel rebate for private travel is going,” he said after last night’s meeting.
The withdrawal of the rebate will take effect when he changes his Speaker’s directions. He will have to consult Prime Minister John Key and officials before the direction can be passed into law – but Dr Smith suggested it would be within days.
It has been a great little perk, allowing MPs to claim back up to 90 per cent of the cost of a private holiday.
But it has been scuttled in the aftermath of Pansy Wong being outed for letting her husband Sammy use it to pursue private business interests on a trip to China.
Damned dumb thing to do.
The Grumbles have used the perk strictly for relaxing.
Pansy can’t be blamed for the removal of the perk, of course. Pressure has been building to be rid of it for some time.
So what happens now?
It seems Lockwood will be asking the Parliamentary Service to come up with a replacement scheme to fund work-related travel.
“It’s important that MPs have some ability to travel overseas on legitimate party business.
“Not having access … would restrict the ability of members, especially Opposition members, from gaining important skills and knowledge overseas. The exposure is often valuable preparation for members who may eventually become ministers.”
That’s true enough.
But what about the Grumbles’ holiday plans?
Buggered, by the look of it.
Dr Smith said the detail of the scheme would be decided later, but it would have to be for travel that was on parliamentary business only and be subject to an approval process with appropriate controls, transparency and accountability. It would also have to be simple to administer.
His instinct was that the new scheme would be run by the Parliamentary Service and that it would retain an element of personal contributions from MPs. “I’m not looking at a free scheme.”
But does Alf discern the hint of things being not quite as grim as they first seemed?
His decision does not address travel perks for former MPs elected before 1999 – such as Mrs Wong.
Dunno exactly how to interpret this nugget of information.
Does this mean all MPs elected before 1999 or only former MPs?
Pansy – so far as Alf knows – is not yet a former MP.
Gotta check that out.
He had better have a word with Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, too, because she is saying the Speaker should get rid of the rebate for former MPs and order an independent review of the pay and benefits for MPs.
Meantime, it’s fair to say the Grumbles are upset (although we are not making this known publicly).
On the other hand, news of the ditching of the perk went down well in the Eketahuna Club.
Maybe Alf should make the most of things by telling his mates there how he has been a leading player in having the perk removed.