Members of the ACT Assembly are routinely flouting guidelines that ask them to use frequent flyer points for official travel where they can, with only three members having declared using any frequent flyer points in the current Assembly.
Most members failed to even declare frequent flyer points. Ministers Andrew Barr and Joy Burch updated their registers on Wednesday after inquiries from the Canberra Times, having failed to declare points at any stage since the last election.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Simon Corbell have made a practice of declaring points, as have backbenchers Chris Bourke and Mary Porter, and Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury.
But none of the Liberals have declared points.
Assembly members will have accrued more than 1.5 million points between them on a conservative estimate, based on travel reports online. The figure doesn't include former Assembly members, and only covers transport for a limited period (since 2009 for minister and 2005 for others). It also assumes flexible economy travel with Qantas, whereas members are entitled to travel business class, and doesn't take account of extra points awarded for higher-status airline memberships.
In all that time, there are only four official records of points being used for Assembly business, with Labor backbencher Ms Porter having declared using points twice for work trips to Sydney and Perth, Mr Barr noting points were used to travel to Sydney in January, and Mr Rattenbury using 23,000 points for a trip to Sydney and to buy Q bag tags.
Former member John Hargreaves evidently used points to attend a Labor Party conference in Sydney in 2009, although use of any taxpayer-funded entitlement for party political events it itself a controversial topic.
Official guidelines say wherever practicable, members travelling on Assembly business should use points accrued through work. They are also advised to keep a record and make sure they differentiate between points earned on private travel and those earned on official travel. The issue is serious, with their seat in the Assembly at stake. Guidelines say use of frequent flyer points for private business could contravene the Self-Government Act, which says any Member who takes "directly or indirectly, any remuneration, allowance, honorarium or reward for services" loses their seat.
Ms Porter and Liberal Speaker Vicki Dunne are two of the big travellers outside the ministry, partly through longevity, with Ms Porter clocking up about 21 trips since 2005, four of them overseas. Her husband accompanied her on a number of trips, including at least two overseas, but Mrs Porter says he doesn't have a frequent flyer membership and doesn't accrue points.
Mrs Dunne's husband appears to have accompanied her on at least four overseas trips.
The fate of points earned by other spouses is unclear, but the guidelines also warn against spouses using the Assembly-earned points, saying "any use of the points by that person for private gain is likely to offend a general community view about the appropriate use of taxpayers' resources".
Ms Porter was one of just one of just five members to declare points in their registers of interests before this week. She declared her points total at 120,460 at the end of 2012, and 46,395 in April, having used points for a Sydney trip and a Perth trip.
The other members to declare points are Labor ministers Ms Gallagher (78,890 since the last election in 2012; previous records are not online) and Simon Corbell (73,000 since the election), Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury (63,700 since early 2009), Labor backbencher Chris Bourke (6000 since the election).
Mr Barr and Ms Burch declared their points this week, 118,200 for Mr Barr since the last election, and 25,360 for Ms Burch, although both will have accrued more from previous Assemblies.
No Liberals have declared points. Along with Mrs Dunne, Brendan Smyth has probably accrued a fair amount, given his longevity in the Assembly. Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson said Liberal members hadn't declared points "as they are simply not required to do so". He confirmed they hadn't used them for travel.
Ms Gallagher said all ministers were expected to use points for official travel where possible, but it was difficult given ministers travelled mostly in peak times and sometimes on short notice. They also needed flexibility, which is not possible with frequent flyer seats.
She said the government had signed a new contract from July 1 which meant no minister, nor staff, nor public servant would be able to accrue points from official travel.
When members are voted out or resign from the Assembly they keep their points. The guidelines point out the difficulty of monitoring how they are used outside the Assembly, saying, "While these guidelines cease to apply to MLAs after their term expires, former MLAs need to consider carefully the appropriateness of any decision to use such points for personal gain."