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Clark rejected chance to fix advertising rules

Gerry Brownlee MP National Party Deputy Leader

14 February 2006

Clark rejected chance to fix advertising rules

National Party Deputy Leader Gerry Brownlee says Helen Clark must explain why she rejected the opportunity to fix the rules surrounding taxpayer-funded advertising just a few months before the election.

"It's a bit rich for her to be claiming now that the rules need clarification. She had the chance before the election and turned it down. The latest pledge card rort gives us some clues as to why.

"It's hard not to escape the conclusion that Labour was already planning its taxpayer-funded pledge card spending binge at that time."

Mr Brownlee is referring to the immediate aftermath of the scathing Auditor-General's report into Labour's Working For Families ad campaign, which was slashed from a budget of $21 million to a budget of $15 million.

"Straight after that, and in the middle of last year, the Auditor-General attempted to meet Helen Clark for a discussion on how to fix the formula for Labour's taxpayer-funded advertising.

"She declined.

"But now both Mike Williams and Michael Cullen have, in effect, revealed that the decision to spend Leader's fund money on the pledge card had already been made.

"Why would Helen Clark meet with the Auditor-General if he was going to rain on her parade and stop the mis-use of the Leader's fund?

"It was clearly in Labour's interest to wait until after the election then claim confusion.

"This doesn't wash, the timing's suspicious, and the delay suited the party with the most to lose. This is nothing short of an outrageous abuse of public money and public trust.

"Overspending by accident is one thing. Overspending and knowing that you're pushing the boundaries is quite another.

"In the wake of the Auditor-General's report, Labour must've known they were skating on dangerously thin ice," says Mr Brownlee.

ENDS

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