Bill could allow illegitimate use of taxpayer money: academic

Politicians would be able to use taxpayers money illegitimately for election advertising if proposed legislation changes go ahead, an academic says.

The Parliamentary Services Amendment Bill seeks to define how MPs can use public money.

Otago University political sociologist Bryce Edwards said the bill would allow MPs to use taxpayer money for political electioneering.

The bill restricts what parliamentary parties can spend money on in the three months before an election, but not the rest of the term.

"Thus while the bill is ostensibly about fixing the problem of illegitimate state funding of political parties it actually achieves nothing of the sort while making the problem worse," Dr Edwards said.

The limitations would allow parliamentary-funded advertising for MPs during most of the parliamentary term, he said.

Former Labour Party general secretary Mike Smith said the restrictions would run from when the prime minister called an election and could allow the governing party to use taxpayer money for election advertising before the election was actually announced.

"It's perfectly possible for a parliamentary party to advertise with state funding and then stop take the (parliamentary) crest off on the day the prime minister announces the election, stick the party secretary's name on it and run the ad...the only difference is the taxpayer paid for it up until the date the prime minister announced the election," he told Parliament's electoral legislation committee today.

"The parliamentary political party does use state funding for advertising for political purposes, it's part of the role of communications."

Right-wing blogger, and former National staffer, David Farrar, said banning any publications that promote a party or MP that were paid for with public money during the entire parliamentary term would not work.

Every parliamentary publication contains political communication, he said.



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