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NZ First Will Pay When Convinced

Media Release


12 October 2006

NZ First Will Pay When Convinced

NZ First can and will repay parliamentary funds if the Auditor General can convince the party of what it did wrong, says Leader Winston Peters.

The Auditor General's report tabled today outlined parliamentary spending by New Zealand First and other parties that he believed contravened the rules.

Mr Peters said New Zealand First had already identified some "rats and mice" expenditure that should never have gone to Parliamentary Services for payment, and that money would be repaid.

"We now need to sit down with our lawyers and go through the Auditor General's very detailed report line by line to try to understand how he has come to the conclusion that the rest of our spending was wrong," Mr Peters said.

"On initial consideration parts of the report appear contradictory and contestable, and Chapman Tripp's independent legal opinion also casts doubt over the report's legal sustainability.

"New Zealand First has always recognised the responsibility associated with taxpayer funds, and we have always gone the extra mile to ensure absolute accountability. We have also consistently under-spent our funding entitlements by millions since 1993.

"If the report shows us clearly where we went wrong, we can and will repay the money.

"However I am at a loss as to why the Auditor General is now finding fault with us when we have done nothing different to what we have done for the past 13 years.

"We have always been scrupulous about getting Parliamentary Services approval before spending funds, and the rules have not changed since the 2002 election.

"The Auditor General may have talked to the two old parties about spending before the election but he did not speak to New Zealand First or any of the minor parties.

"The bulk of our parliamentary funding was on two policy pamphlets that were part of our normal three-yearly cycle of promoting New Zealand First policy.

"They were produced early last year and have been used continuously since then. In fact, we are still using them now – our electorate offices stock them, and we send them to people asking for information. We will continue to use them until they are updated before the next election. They do not ask anyone to vote for us, join our party, or to give us money – the three things explicitly excluded by Parliamentary Services rules.

"Quite why the Auditor General has decided they are electioneering utterly escapes me. My staff and I are still looking at his report for a cogent explanation. But at this point we do not believe we have done anything wrong.

"If we have, then we will repay the money," Mr Peters said.

ENDS

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