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Double-dipping Ministers Rent Apartments To Backbenchers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

NZPA political reporters

Wellington, Aug 5 NZPA - Double-dipping by ministers who rent their Wellington apartments to backbench MPs is the latest twist in the expenses saga that is ripping through Parliament.

The MPs claim around $20,000 a year from the Parliamentary Service to pay rent on the apartments, which goes back to the ministers who have moved out and live in taxpayer-funded official residences.

So far Housing Minister Phil Heatley and Defence Minister Wayne Mapp have been confirmed as renting their apartments to backbenchers.

Police Minister Judith Collins has been named in reports but won't say who lives in her Wellington apartment.

Labour leader Phil Goff also rents out his flat in the capital and lives in a taxpayer-funded home.

Mr Heatley is taking most of the criticism because he is in charge of the country's state houses where poor people live.

His salary is around $250,000 and TV One News calculated his additional "taxpayer subsidy" at about $77,000 a year.

TV3 News reported Mr Heatley owns two houses in Whangarei and rents one of them to the Parliamentary Service as his office, netting another $15,000 a year.

The ministers aren't breaking any rules because there don't seem to be any.

Prime Minister John Key has ordered a review and a likely outcome is that ministers will have to use income from their rented apartments to offset the cost of their ministerial residences.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, whose circumstances sparked the media investigations into ministerial housing, is still being questioned by reporters.

Mr English claims about $1000 a month to live in his own home in Wellington. It is owned by a family trust and the title is in the name of his wife Mary.

Mr English, and the other ministers involved, all says they will be happy to comply with any rules that emerge from the review Mr Key has ordered.

New expenses data released by the Government last night showed Labour ministers spent slightly less than their National counterparts on accommodation and domestic travel, but more on international airfares.

National ministers received $254,333 in Wellington accommodation expenses during the first six months of this year while those in the previous government racked up $207,156 in the first six months of last year.

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