Home sweet home for our politicians

A CRACKDOWN on political junkets and luxurious taxpayer-funded overseas jaunts will see a sharp increase in MPs holidaying in their own backyard this year.

A survey of senior Gillard government and opposition members reveal the beaches and waters of Australia's coast are overwhelmingly the preferred destination for politicians seeking relief and respite from a gruelling year in politics.

Of the 21 Labor cabinet members, 14 told Fairfax Media they would spend time at the beach, while others opted for the family home for the Christmas and summer parliamentary break to ready themselves for the election year.

In years past, politicians have used both the long winter and summer parliamentary breaks to set off on luxurious overseas ''study tours''.

But the days of federal MPs fleeing for different climes at taxpayer expense ended this year - a casualty of the hefty new MP pay rises.

Special Minister of State Gary Gray said the phasing out of the overseas study scheme meant that ''you won't again have the appearance of members of Parliament going on overseas study tours to look at wine-making in Latin American countries. You won't again have overseas study tours of members of Parliament travelling to Las Vegas to look at gambling.''

MPs were entitled to one such trip each every three years, costing taxpayers, on average, $22,000.

The scheme has long been plagued by controversy: NSW MP Craig Thomson was caught out when it was revealed last year he took a $24,000 study trip of the US and Europe and then plagiarised a large proportion of the report to Parliament, required of all MPs who take study trips.

This year, Julia Gillard will spend Christmas in Adelaide with her mother, Moira, and the PM expects it will be an emotional day, with the pair still mourning the loss of father and husband John, who died unexpectedly in September.

Wayne Swan will assume the role of acting prime minister during Ms Gillard's break from official duties but will trade off on her return to indulge in R&R with his family on the Sunshine Coast.

Australia's most hopeful would-be Lodge residents, Tony and Margie Abbott, will make their annual trek to a special and private holiday spot on the NSW south coast, where the opposition leader plans to spend a large part of his time surfing. They will be joined at various times by their three daughters.

National senator Barnaby Joyce will also head to the Sunshine Coast in the New Year and intends to ''lie on the beach and think about anything other than Canberra''.

Almost two-thirds of the 20-member opposition shadow cabinet said they would take a dip in the ocean and lie on an Australian beach in the coming weeks.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd will spend the break with his family at his Brisbane home.

Members and senators will not return to Canberra until February and Speaker Anna Burke has urged all politicians to use the time to rethink the ''unruly behaviour'' on display throughout 2012.

This story Home sweet home for our politicians first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.