Alf observes that a party bench-mate, Paul Foster-Bell, has been a quick learner of how to slurp from the Parliamentary expenses trough.
At first he seemed unaware of how far a fellow can go when travelling at the expense of the taxpayer.
But he has quickly learned how to making the most of it.
This is all to clear from a record of his expenses published today at Stuff, which gives him no credit for keeping his expenses so low in the second quarter of 2013.
Data published by the newspaper show his claims record has been:
April 1 to June 30, 2013 – $563
July 1 to Sept 30, 2013 – $7459
Oct 1 to Dec 31, 2013 – $14,224
Jan 1 to March 31, 2014 – $12,732
Alf was aware Foster-Bell had hardly tapped into the taxpayers’ generosity when he could muster a mere of $563 of claims in that early period.
He normally prefers to steer clear of fellers with hyphenated names, having learned they are apt to be tossers.
But he has warmed to Paul Foster-Bell – one of our List MPs – and sat him down for a chat, during which he pointed out that so long as he could demonstrate he was flying, wining and dining in the public interest, he would find the taxpayer was only too happy to cough up.
Foster-Bell was a quick learner.
Fair enough, too. If we MPs don’t slurp it up, the swill will be thrown out or given back to taxpayers or something similarly wasteful.
But Andrea Vance has been sniffing into Paul’s slurping record and come up with an article which presents him as someone on the defensive.
National list MP Paul Foster-Bell is defending a huge spike in his taxpayer-funded expenses as he campaigned for a seat selection.
Dunno why he had to defend himself.
If we MPs weren’t meant to dip into the trough, it would not be there.
The article went on:
Wellington-based Foster-Bell’s spending increased from $7459 between July and September last year to $14, 224 in the following October to December quarter. Between January and March, he claimed $12,732. He has claimed almost $35,000 in travel expenses in just over a year.
Vance goes on to point out that Foster-Bell sought selection in Whangarei but lost to Dr Shane Reti.
But Foster-Bell says he was not using public cash for political campaigning, and all his spending is within the rules. “I am adamant that I am not just squeaky clean but 110 per cent squeaky clean,” he insisted.
It sounds like he is more defensive than he needs to be.
And how you can be more than 100 per cent squeaky clean is something for mathematicians to explain.
It’s the sort of silly thing you might say when inquisitive journalists hit a nerve.
The former diplomat says he pays out of his own pocket for any personal travel, or for party political business. However, he admits he could have carried out campaigning for the seat while he was in Whangarei on official parliamentary business. He grew up in the town but now lives on the Terrace, Wellington, a short walk from Parliament.
“While I was up there [Whangarei] I travelled there to do official business with a parliamentary purpose, and whether I might have done another thing, or two, in the afternoon – that could well be the case.”
He could not say how often this occurred.
Alf is bound to confess to being fascinated by these reported remarks.
He rarely has had cause to visit Whangarei on official business, and at first blush he wondered what a list MP would be doing there.
But Vance gives the answers:
Foster-Bell says he did “a huge amount of travel” to the provinces and travels often for commercial visits, and select committee meetings. The trips included a visit to the court and district health board in Whangarei and attending Dargaville field days. He’s also been to Timaru to open a salmon farm and represented Prime Minister John Key in Dunedin. “I think if you are not travelling at all you are not being an active MP, and you are not doing your job.”
Vance tells us Foster-Bell is standing in Wellington Central, which he unsuccessfully contested in 2011.
Ranked 56th on the party list, he was called to Parliament last May to replace Jackie Blue.
It is a mark of the party’s regard for him that he is 46th on the latest list.
As for Claudette Hauiti – well, she has announced she is quitting politics at the election after surrendering her parliamentary charge card for unauthorised spending.
Alf did invite her to Bellamys for a snifter or two and a chat when she first arrived in Parliament, but she declined the invitation.
She gave the impression she was not too fond of socialising with blokes – not elderly ones, anyway.
Alf would have given her the same advice he gave Paul.
If she had heeded the advice, she may well have been able to claim a 110 per cent squeaky clean record too.