SA premier stands by minister over travel

14 Nov

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has defended a senior minister who took her seven-year-old daughter on a government-funded overseas trip.

Education Minister Grace Portolesi took her daughter to India with her in April.

The young girl travelled business class with her mother, prompting questions from the opposition about the inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.

Under parliamentary travel arrangements, MPs can take a family member with them on one trip each year.

Ordinarily that is their spouse, but Mr Weatherill said Ms Portolesi had applied in February 2007 for her daughter to be her nominated travelling companion.

He said that application had been approved, as had the girl’s travel to India earlier this year.

“It’s pretty simple, there’s a set of entitlements and she sought to access them,” Mr Weatherill told reporters on Monday.

“And she was granted approval by the relevant authorities.

“The very same allowance that the minister has accessed has been accessed by a range of other MPs.

“Children have travelled at the taxpayers’ expense using this allowance on both sides of the parliament.”

Mr Weatherill said the travel arrangements for MPs had been longstanding and he was not aware of any calls for them to be revised.

But he said if people had concerns they should “honestly and openly agitate about that” rather than engage in innuendo about inappropriate conduct.

The premier said he had not personally reflected on the rules.

Ms Portolesi has been a focus of opposition attention this year over her sometimes uncertain handling of the Aboriginal affairs portfolio.

When Mr Weatherill replaced Mike Rann as premier last month, she was promoted to the education portfolio.

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