MPs lapped up World Cup freebies

Labour has been left red-faced after the latest disclosure of MPs' financial interests revealed eight Labour MPs took free tickets and hospitality from SkyCity casino during the Rugby World Cup.

Rugby World Cup tickets were the most commonly listed gift in this year's register of MPs' financial interests, in which MPs must list all gifts worth more than $500.

Fifty MPs got free tickets to Rugby World Cup games and some took up to six.

Sixteen MPs enjoyed the hospitality of SkyCity, of which eight were Labour MPs, including former leader Phil Goff and current leader David Shearer, who had strongly criticised both SkyCity and Prime Minister John Key for negotiations over a new convention centre in exchange for more pokie machines.

Yesterday Mr Shearer said he accepted the SkyCity ticket before he knew about the convention centre deal. He also said his later criticism of pokie machines proved he was not influenced by the free tickets.

He defended taking free tickets to six games, the highest of any MP, saying he was the local MP for Eden Park.

Other regular corporate hosts of MPs were Fonterra, Telecom and Vector.

Yesterday Trevor Mallard said he believed his tickets were in recognition of the work he had done in getting the Rugby World Cup to New Zealand from his time as Sports Minister under Labour. He believed several Government ministers had not disclosed tickets to games, saying he had seen Prime Minister John Key, Finance Minister Bill English, and Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully at games but they had not disclosed free tickets.

Mr Mallard said the Government itself did not host the games - that was done through the Rugby World Cup Ltd and the IRB, so they should have been declared.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said he did not accept any RWC tickets as gifts.

"When the Prime Minister attended RWC games, he attended in his official capacity as Prime Minister, not as the guest of any corporate. When he attended RWC games in a private capacity, he purchased his own ticket.''

The register also revealed that Act leader John Banks is entitled to a pension, but has opted out of receiving it.

A spokeswoman said he wanted to lead by example and did not take it because he did not need it. Mr Banks' gift of a hamper from Kim Dotcom was not in the main register because he had not declared it by the 31 January deadline. However, it was included in additions to the register.

Mr Key's gifts included a framed and signed All Blacks Rugby World Cup jersey, an All Blacks Tri-Nations jersey, and a match ball from the NZ vs France pool game from the IRB. Mr Key also declared a replica Lord of the Rings sword made by Weta Workshop which was a gift from US President Barack Obama, and wine and a Wallabies rugby jersey from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

National's Hekia Parata, who was the Minister of Energy and Resources at the time, had free tickets to pool games from NZ Petroleum and Minerals, NZ Oil and Gas and went to a quarter-final courtesy of the oil and gas company OMV.

Maurice Williamson, the Minister of Building and Construction, was a guest of Fletcher Construction for the final and Mainzeal for a semifinal.

Vodafone also paid for flights, accommodation and tickets for National's Sam Lotu-Iiga to fly over to Australia for the NRL final featuring the NZ Warriors.

- Claire Trevett of the NZ Herald

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