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Was the election spending furore necessary?

Friday, 27 October 2006

Copeland: Was the election spending furore necessary?

United Future MP Gordon Copeland is suggesting the recent prolonged row over use of Parliamentary funds for electioneering may never have happened, if the police had decided to prosecute the Labour Party over its pledge card spending.

"This arises," he says, "from an analysis of the timing of events surrounding the Auditor-General's controversial report on parties' advertising expenditure in the three months before the 2005 general election.

"On 9 February 2006 the Electoral Commission laid a complaint with the police concerning Labour's $418,000 breach of their election spending cap.

"On 17 March 2006 the acting Assistant Commissioner of Police, Roger Carson, reported that the police had decided not to prosecute the New Zealand Labour Party under section 214B of the Electoral Act.

"Police found a prima facie case to charge the Labour Party but decided to issue only a warning.

"On 22 March however the police advised the Chief Electoral Officer, David Henry (who had also expressed concern about Labour's pledge card expenditure), that they would contact the Auditor-General to discuss improvements to the rules governing government and parliamentary spending on publicity and advertising.

"Approximately one month later on 19 April the then-Solicitor General, responding to a request from the Auditor-General, issued the opinion which led to Mr Brady's finding that some advertising expenditure incurred by political parties in the three months before the 2005 general election was unlawful.

"This raises some interesting questions. Did the Auditor-General seek a legal opinion from the Solicitor-General only after the police raised their concerns with him?

"Would the Auditor-General have taken that action if the police had proceeded to prosecute Labour for their $418,000 breach of the spending cap?

"If not, then the events of recent weeks might never have happened."


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