MP: Time to address banning business class for pollies
BANNING business class flights for politicians is an issue Ipswich West MP Jim Madden says needs to be addressed by all MPs.
Mr Madden said that in tough economic times it was an issue that could not be ignored and that "belt tightening" applied to politicians and non-politicians alike.
While politicians at state and federal level are entitled to claim business class travel, the four local MPs the QT spoke to often, or always, fly economy within Australia.
"Given this issue has been raised I think it is time for the government, and the opposition, to look at whether it is appropriate to have politicians fly economy class rather than business class," Mr Madden said.
"Just like everybody else, I think politicians need to tighten their belts.
"We can look at what it is costing the government, and what the savings could be if business class was banned.
"Whenever an issue is raised we have the obligation to consider it."
Mr Madden said it was "a mixture" for him but added that he flew a lot of charter flights.
"When I go out on agriculture and environment committee trips we generally charter a plane and they are below economy.
"It is pretty tight in those tin cans.
"There are generally 12 or 15 of us and we go out west in a little plane, it is like a taxi.
"But I don't travel much at all, other than for committee work.
"We don't book our own flights. They are booked by parliamentary services.
"But I might have had two business class trips in the entire time I have been in parliament."
Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller said she flew a mixture of both but said the issue was "about common sense and whether to travel is necessary".
"If practical, economy should be the preferred option," she said.
Ms Miller travels mostly economy but made the point that on occasions, when working on confidential material, that may not be wise or practical.
She said she would generally only travel business class "when on longer flights or when needing to undertake work as it is difficult with space and sometimes you are dealing with confidential Parliamentary or Ministerial information"
"Otherwise, it's economy," she said.
Ipswich MP Jennifer Howard agreed with Ms Miller on the issue of long flights.
"I never travel business class when I travel in Australia," she said.
"But when it comes to international travel, which doesn't happen that often at a state level, I think it depends.
"I have seen schedules and they are very tight.
"I think when you are representing your country at a conference it is not a good look to be jet lagged. You should arrive fresh and be able to represent your country to the best of your ability."
On the issue of whether the business v economy issue should be addressed, Ms Howard said it should be a personal choice while adding that technology had made some trips unnecessary.
"Some of my colleagues are six foot five, so I can understand why they wouldn't want to sit in economy class.
"I am a small person, so I am happy to travel economy.
"As for governments discussing it, with the advent of technology like Skype and teleconferencing there are a lot more things that can be done without having to travel.
"So maybe some trips could be avoided, which could save a lot of money."
Blair MP Shayne Neumann said politicians did fly business class because that mode of travel was "part of the parliamentary entitlements and total work expenses they are entitled to claim".
"I fly economy plenty of times, as you will see when my six monthly (records) are published," he said.
He said that had been the case for decades.
"But I fly business as well as economy," he said.
"When there are options to fly economy I do, as I did when I went to Newcastle recently.
"I comply with the parliamentary guidelines."
Mr Neumann said it was ultimately "up to the government of the day" to put forward a change in the rules and ban business travel.
The QT contacted other state and federal MPs in the Ipswich district but they were unavailable for comment or did not get back to us.