Wellington, July 31 NZPA - Now that MPs have publicly released their expenses attention is being drawn to perks that former MPs get.
Details of MPs' expense claims were released yesterday for the first time, a response to the uproar in Britain over parliamentary extravagance and intended to show that in New Zealand a more rigorous regime applies.
They are to continue to be released every quarter.
ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas, who took his wife on an overseas holiday, put 90 percent of the air fares on taxpayers.
He told reporters he gained that entitlement as a former MP in the 1980s and saw no conflict with his party's strong line against wasting taxpayers' money.
"I was spending time with my son and grandchildren," he explained before he started to lose patience with questions about whether it was a good idea during a recession.
"Listen my friend, this is a right that Helen Clark has, Jim Bolger, it's something I would have been able to do whether I was an MP or not," said Sir Roger.
He topped the chart for backbench list MPs with claims totalling $62,663 which included $44,411 for air travel and $11,083 on the roads.
Former Labour prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer told Radio New Zealand he would be comfortable with greater openness of former MPs' perks.
"I do have them and I do take use of them from time to time and it seems to me the principle of transparency here is a very good one indeed."
Present and former MPs elected before 1999 receive a 60 percent discount on travel after nine years of service; after 12 years they get 75 percent and after 15 they get 90 percent off.
Former prime ministers also get annuity payments of about $40,000 a year and surviving spouses can get about $20,000.
An independent review of parliamentary spending on MPs in 2007, carried out by businessman John Goulter, suggested scrapping the air fare subsidies for retired MPs, among other recommendations.
Over half a million dollars was in this year's budget to pay for ministerial services to fund payments to former prime ministers and governors-general.
There is a $11 million budget from Parliamentary Services to pay for all current and former MPs' entitlements.