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Govt. Funding Lobbyists Undermines Democracy

Media Statement
For immediate release
Tuesday, 14 October, 2003

Dunne: Where there's smoke, there's sly Govt cash?

By allowing ministries to fund groups lobbying on legislation in the making, the Government is undermining and abusing the democratic process, United Future leader Peter Dunne said today.

"This unethical puppetry is a far greater misuse of taxpayer money than the public service 'golden handshakes' and the likes that Labour criticised so vociferously before coming into office.

"It's got to stop and it's got to stop now - and the public should be told precisely where the secret hand of the Government has been at play in trying to shape public opinion and pressure parliamentarians for or against policy and legislation.

"Left unchecked, it will raise the spectre of corruption in a country currently seen as one of the least corrupt in the world.

"How much taxpayer money has the Government allowed to be slipped quietly into the lobbying funds of groups backing its 'we-know-best' anti-smoking legislation, for instance?" Mr Dunne asked

In supporting United Future justice spokesman Murray Smith in asking the Audit Office to investigate Health Ministry funding of the Prostitutes Collective's lobbying on the Prostitution Reform Act, Mr Dunne said questions now had to be asked as to where else such abuse was at work.

"Labour's pre-1999 election histrionics about secret deals and the integrity of the public service ring hollow in the face of evidence that ministries under its administration are bank-rolling the fight for Government policy.

"As one newspaper editorial so rightly put it this morning: "It (the Government) should not be funding organisations which appear to be built on a groundswell of public support, but may turn out to be fronts for the Government."

Ends.

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