12 October 2006

Prime Minister Helen Clark today said the Labour Party would refund the money ruled by the Auditor-General to have been wrongly spent on communications in the lead-up to the 2005 general election.

Helen Clark said Labour strongly maintains that it spent its parliamentary budget within the rules as they were understood at the time, and in the same way as other parties have over a long period of time.  Given the Auditor-General’s new ruling, however, Labour will refund the spending identified.

“Labour has strongly stated its case, as was its right.  The Party welcomes the Auditor-General’s finding that inadequate guidance has been available to MPs and parliamentary parties on what constitutes appropriate advertising, particularly in the pre-election period.

“The Auditor-General’s investigation has opened up a number of issues relating to how politics is conducted. 

“Refunding the money is one step in a series of responses which need to be taken to ensure public confidence in the political process.  The government will also seek to introduce the validating legislation which, we are advised, is required under the Public Finance Act and which the Speaker has recommended. 

“Clear rules are also needed governing parliamentary funding for communications going forward.”

Helen Clark said the government would also be drafting legislation to bring greater transparency to political funding and campaigns.

“We do this not to discourage participation but rather to encourage it.  Politics is a public business and it requires transparency.  New Zealanders are far more likely to want to get involved in and support politics if they know our system is open, transparent, and clean,” Helen Clark said.

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