The Labour Party talent showcase for the three MPs vying to
become party leader will roll into Dunedin early next month,
courtesy of taxpayer funding.
Grant Robertson, Shane Jones and David Cunliffe yesterday
defended the use of taxpayer money to fund their nationwide
campaigns, saying they did not make the rules.
University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards told
the Otago Daily Times the issue had the potential to
upset taxpayers, who would not see the use of taxpayer money
for the leadership contest as legitimate.
''Interestingly, the MPs had decided to use just their flight
entitlements as MPs and not surface transport, such as taxis,
or accommodation. They saw this as an issue coming and
''Technically, they are correct. Parliamentary flights are
legitimate and there are quite specific rules. But the
argument will be around whether or not it should be
He said most of the public would see it as ''an illegitimate
use of taxpayers' money''.
''It has the potential to be a key issue.''
Dr Edwards would not be surprised if the MPs backed down and
paid for their own flights. As soon as one MP paid for his
flights, he received an advantage and the others would have
to follow, he said.
There should be pressure on other MPs attending the various
meetings around the country to say whether they were using
taxpayer funds to attend, Dr Edwards said.
Mr Cunliffe told The New Zealand Herald the party had
sought advice from Parliamentary Services, which had
confirmed campaign-related flights and phone calls were
covered, but taxis, accommodation and other costs were not.
''The rules are not decided by me. We will follow the rules
as we are given them.
''The selection of a party leader is both a party process and
arguably a proper process for the Parliamentary process too,
because party leaders have both a party role and a
Labour whip Chris Hipkins said the candidates were being very
careful about making a clear distinction between
Parliamentary and campaign-related expenses.
He emphasised that the MPs would continue doing their
Parliamentary jobs while they campaigned for the leadership
The 12 leadership husting meetings start this Saturday in
Levin. The Dunedin meeting will be held on Sunday, September
8, and the last meeting will be held in Christchurch on
A meeting will be held in Blackball, the birthplace of the
Labour Party, on September 9.