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SOE endorsement of Labour MP raises questions

Jenny Shipley Leader of the Opposition

19 June 2001

SOE endorsement of Labour MP raises serious questions

National Leader Jenny Shipley has demanded an explanation from the Government over suggestions that money from a State Owned Enterprise has been used to promote the Labour MP for Christchurch Central, Tim Barnett.

In Parliament today Mrs Shipley revealed that Tim Barnett had told National's Nick Smith that a full page ad worth many thousands of dollars in the Christchurch Press on Saturday was paid for by Meridian Energy - at a time when that SOE is being reviewed in terms of its performance.

"That advertisement, signed in the name of Tim Barnett, contained strongly partisan political statements. It is an outrage that an SOE, an asset owned by taxpayers, should be donating money to promote a party political agenda," Mrs Shipley said today.

"Mr Barnett's decision to accept money is a blatant transgression of the rules governing appropriate use of SOE money. Under no circumstances should an SOE use the money it earns from its control of taxpayer assets to promote a political agenda in the name of an MP.

"This is a blatant misuse of power by Mr Barnett, compounded by his use of the House of Representatives official seal in this advertisement. Is that meant to connote that Parliament in some way endorses Meridian Energy against its competitors, because that is the implication many will take from this ad.

"National has today written to the Speaker for an explanation on the use of the seal, and we expect the Speaker to investigate.

"The questions surrounding this highly dubious use of money from a taxpayer owned company must be answered. As it is, it appears that Labour has its hand in the pocket of the taxpayer. I for one would rather see Meridian Energy's money used to make electricity more affordable to householders, rather than used to promote a Labour MP," Jenny Shipley said.


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