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Don Brash Writes - No. 88

Don Brash Writes - No. 88, 25 August 2006

Why the election funding scandal matters

In recent weeks the National Party and the New Zealand media have focussed considerable attention on the issue of Labour's election spending. I'm going to take this opportunity to explain why this issue is so important.

I believe this scandal reveals a degree of corruption and dishonesty possibly never seen before in New Zealand politics.

First, let's review the facts.

In 2005 Helen Clark used $446,000 of taxpayer funds, allocated for parliamentary purposes, in order to pay for a Labour Party campaign centrepiece, the now infamous 'pledge card'.

The rules about parliamentary funds are clear: they must not be used for producing or distributing electioneering material.

Despite this explicit ban, a public reminder from the Auditor-General three months prior to the election and a direct warning from the Chief Electoral Officer in the final weeks of the election campaign, Helen Clark went ahead and illegally used parliamentary funds to pay for the electioneering pledge card.

Four independent government agencies unanimously agree this breached the rules - the Auditor-General, the Solicitor-General, the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer.

Helen Clark's attempts to feign confusion hold no water. The fact is, she dipped into money she was not entitled to spend, and she was warned this would break the rules, but she did so anyway. To add insult to injury, Labour is now planning retrospective legislation to make the spending legal.

For Helen Clark, this is a matter of self-preservation, and the pursuit of power at any cost. It casts a dark shadow across all of Parliament.

New Zealand politics has long been free of corruption, but Helen Clark's defence of this blatant rort undermines that reputation. Helen Clark broke the rules and misused your money. She should pay the money back.

Around the country

In recent weeks, I have travelled throughout the country, from Christchurch to Nelson, from Wanganui to Taupo, in each place visiting New Zealanders from all walks of life. These visits give me the opportunity to talk to Kiwis about the issues concerning them and their vision for our country's future.

It is disappointing to see what a lack of vision the Government has for New Zealand.

While in the Bay of Plenty, I visited the potential site of a hydro power-generation plant. The plant would provide emission-free, environmentally friendly power to about 10,000 households. But it's being stymied by resource management laws and the intransigence of the Department of Conservation (DOC). That's because the plant would use a tiny amount of reserve land - less than one hectare!

While DOC prevaricates over a tiny piece of reserve, New Zealand continues to burn more and more coal to generate electricity - surely a worse environmental outcome?

In recent days I was privileged to visit Turangawaewae Marae for the funeral of the Maori Queen, Te Arikinui, Dame Te Atairangikaahu. The outpouring of grief I witnessed there shows the high regard that both Maori and non-Maori held for that truly remarkable woman. Dame Te Ata conducted herself with utmost dignity and she will be deeply missed by all New Zealanders.

I look forward to meeting the new Maori King, Tuheitia Paki, and establishing a dialogue and working relationship with him.


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