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Greens shed light on spending issue

20 September 2006

Greens shed light on spending issue

While the Greens are still challenging the basis of the Auditor-General's report, the caucus has agreed that any Green Party Parliamentary spending that is ultimately found to have been outside the rules will be paid back personally by the MPs in addition to a modest contribution from the party, Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"However, we are not at that point yet. The Auditor-General has not issued his final report, we are still challenging his inconsistent new interpretation of the rules, and there could be further legal challenge to his findings.

"The Auditor-General has advised us that he now considers that our regular parliamentary newsletter, Green Times, published in the pre-election period, was within the rules. This reduces the Green Party's questioned expenditure of about $95,000 by approximately $30,000. We have also challenged many other items.

"We are adamant that the bulk of our spending was within the rules as we understood them, based on the Speaker's direction and Members' Handbook. Our decision to pay back any spending eventually found to be outside those rules does not constitute an admission of guilt - merely an acknowledgment that once there is a final legal ruling we will respect it.

"Even if all the spending were determined to be election expenditure, the Party would not have breached its election spending cap under the Electoral Act so is not in breach of the law.

"We were all aware that the money could not be used for 'electioneering' but this has never been adequately defined. The interpretation applied by parties was that you could not solicit votes, money or membership. However, the Auditor-General's interpretation of the same rules stretched to include most of the things that MPs do in their daily work.

"We do acknowledge that a few of our advertisements inadvertently breached Parliamentary standards in that they referred to the election or to candidates. These amount to $5000 and will be repaid regardless of the outcome of any investigation or legal challenge. Two party advertisements worth $226, which did solicit votes were incorrectly charged to our Parliamentary budget but these were paid back months ago." Ms Fitzsimons says.

"The caucus has also agreed that it will not support any retrospective validating legislation. While validating legislation of overspending by Government departments is a normal practice and happens frequently we don't think it is the best way of clarifying the rules. We do think there needs to be legislation to ensure that the rules around campaign spending are clear for the future and we look forward to working with other parties to find a resolution that leaves us able to carry out our duties and responsibilities as Parliamentarians," Ms Fitzsimons says.

Further details and examples of advertising deemed outside the rules in the Auditor General's draft report are available in PDF form on the Green Party website,

www.greens.org.nz

ENDS


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