Barry O’Farrell gave a pre-election promise that he would resign if he failed to deliver on Government Accountability. Finance Minister Greg Pearce’s post-election spend and tax payer funded lifestyle demands the Premier does not renege on this promise to the People of NSW.
NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce spent $22000 on taxpayer-funded trips
FINANCE Minister Greg Pearce has spent two months of his two years in the job away from home on the taxpayer -including 18 weekends away, many of them with his wife.
The minister, who is on the government’s razor gang responsible for tough spending cuts, has spent more than $22,000 on 39 domestic away trips involving 56 nights’ accommodation, documents released under freedom of information laws to The Daily Telegraph reveal.
Mr Pearce, who is also the Minister for the Illawarra and in charge of Hunter Water, often makes announcements or schedules meetings on Friday or Saturday in Wollongong or other regional areas then stays the weekend, often with his wife. Wollongong is just 90 minutes from Sydney – close enough for many to commute – and Newcastle just two hours away.
The documents show Mr Pearce has stayed overnight 13 times in Wollongong (six weekend stays), five times in Melbourne (all weekends, except for the Melbourne Cup) and five times in Newcastle and the Hunter (two weekends).
The minister has charged up three visits to Canberra, weekends in Brisbane, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, two weekends in Orange and has stayed three times in the Blue Mountains and one time each in Kiama, Shoalhaven Heads, Griffith and Dubbo.
The revelations come after Mr Pearce was sent on a month’s stress leave in June after the director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet found he misused travel entitlements in travelling to Canberra to attend a drinks function organised by Liberal powerbroker Michael Photios’ firm PremierState.
Records show Mr Pearce reimbursed the Department of Premier and Cabinet $968.60 for flights and accommodation for that ill-fated trip, and that he has also reimbursed $14.95 for the rental of an in-room movie at the Crowne Plaza Newcastle in February.
Under NSW government rules, ministers approve their own domestic travel. There is no suggestion any of the trips – other than the June Canberra trip – were not work-related.
But the latest revelations are set to increase pressure on the embattled minister already dubbed “Grand Final Greg” over revelations he attended several sporting events in Melbourne on the taxpayer.
Mr Pearce has been beset by allegations since he was given a “final warning” by the Premier after being escorted from parliament drunk in late May. Mr Pearce has admitted he was drinking but says he had the flu and was “exhausted”.
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On the occasions the minister has gone to Melbourne to attend the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open and AFL grand final, he charged the taxpayer up to $675 a night at the plush Langham Hotel and also stayed at the Art Series Blackman Hotel.
Both those hotels are five star, while the other places he has chosen to stay, such as the Crowne Plaza Newcastle and Sebel Kiama, are 4.5 star, with the Best Western City Sands in Wollongong having four stars.
When Mr Pearce travelled to the Australian Open with his wife last year, he stayed at the Art Series Blackman Hotel from Friday, January 20 to Monday, January 23 at a cost of $1164 plus $838.62 return airfare and $165.91 car hire.
The following Australia Day long weekend, he stayed at the Observatory Hotel in Port Macquarie from January 26 to 28 at a cost of $518.
Pearce travelled to Melbourne between June 23 and June 26, 2011 with his wife, staying at the Langham Hotel. He followed that with a Monday night stay at the Crowne Plaza Newcastle on June 27.
A week later, the minister spent a Saturday night at the Best Western Wollongong.
Greg Pearce punished with a month-long holiday
In December 2011, the minister spent a Thursday night at the Echoes Boutique Hotel at Katoomba for $355.35, then two nights at the Magistrates House in Orange for $390.
On May 11, 2012 the minister stayed at Melbourne’s Hilton on the Park from a Friday to a Sunday at a cost of $570.
For the AFL grand final last year, he stayed at the Langham at a cost of $1350 for two nights plus $453.60 in flights. The next weekend, he was at the Mercure Hunter Valley from Friday, October 5 to Sunday, October 7 at a cost of $587.10.
In November, when hosted by insurers and PremierState client Suncorp at the Melbourne Cup, he stayed at the Langham at a cost of $1360 plus $895 airfare, followed by a night at the Best Western Wollongong.
Mr Pearce has been accused of arranging government “jobs for the boys” and of being too close to the PremierState lobbying firm.
Too many trips, Mr Pearce
The Daily Telegraph revealed that PremierState lobbyist David Begg had been granted access with clients to Mr Pearce or his office 10 times in a 13-month period. Mr Begg’s wife is Mr Pearce’s former deputy chief of staff Natalie Ward but the pair have strenuously denied any wrongdoing and insist they maintained “strict protocols” with Ms Ward never involved in matters involving PremierState.A spokesman for Mr Pearce provided a one-line statement in response to a number of questions on his travel: “All travel is within the guidelines and is related to portfolio duties.”
Mr Pearce refused to answer any questions on the trips.
The Premier’s office declined to comment.
Read more: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/nsw-finance-minister-greg-pearce-spent-22000-on-taxpayer-funded-trips/story-fni0cx12-1226687162124