Australia: Traveling MPs Hoard Frequent Flyer Points

Australia: Traveling MPs Hoard Frequent Flyer Points

Australia’s Courier-Mail newspaper has reported that despite an unofficial policy encouraging government workers to use frequent flyer points for official travel, only six of the 226 Australian MPs have used their points to save taxpayer money.

A report on taxpayer-funded travel released in November revealed that federal MPs spent $3.65 million on domestic airfares in the first half of 2003. Only $4,096 of that, however, was offset by frequent flyer points.

Guidelines have been issued by Prime Minister John Howard and the Remuneration Tribunal that MPs should ensure points accrued were being used to offset the costs of travel “as far as is reasonably practicable.” They are prohibited from redeeming the points for personal use.

Labor official Daryl Melham, who used his points for official travel, said there was no excuse for MPs not to use frequent flyer points.

“I think the principle of using them is important because it saves taxpayers money,” Melham told the Courier-Mail. “I have saved thousands of dollars over the years and I even did a Commonwealth study trip on them and saved $5,000. I think the system is there and it should be used. But the reality is a number of colleagues ignore them. I would hope they’re not being kept for use after (retirement from) Parliament.”

Spokesmen for the “offenders” suggested that many MPs couldn’t use the points as often as they’d like due to restrictions in award availability.

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