LNP in taxpayer-funded $45k wine country getaway
SEVEN current and former Liberal National MPs pocketed more than $45,000 in expenses after spending time in Western Australia's picturesque southern wine district last winter.
Gold Coast MPs John-Paul Langbroek and Ray Stevens, Toowoomba's Trevor Watts, Gympie's Tony Perrett and Lockyer's Ian Rickuss claimed flights, car hire and accommodation costs for the trip.
The quirky 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 West Australia.
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.
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.
Mr Langbroek and Mr Watts flew on July 5 and returned four days later.
The former LNP leader, who was forced to repay hotel stays in his Surfers Paradise electorate last term, claimed $5687.16 for flights, $810 in daily travel allowance and $676.93 for car hire.
Mr Watts claimed $3204.40 for flights, $1125 in daily travel, $480.65 in car hire and $54.55 for other incidentals.
Mr Rickuss, who had already announced his plans to retire before the trip, topped the travel bill with $9784.94 in expenses after leaving on July 3 and returning on July 10.
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."