NZ First still lagging behind with repayment

By Audrey Young

Most political parties have repaid the money unlawfully spent at the last election.

At two minutes to five last night, Parliamentary Service had sent $870,042.85 back to the Treasury - the GST amounted to $126,957.87.

Yesterday was the last working day before the end of the 2006/07 financial year, the deadline most parties had set themselves to repay the money.

The Progressives was the only party with a clean slate and nothing to pay. All parties except United Future and New Zealand First have repaid the money in full.

United Future has made substantial inroads into the debt and its three MPs, including now independent Gordon Copeland, have paid about $50,000 of the original $71,867.

New Zealand First is the glaring exception. In the 10 months since the Auditor-General's report last October, it has not repaid a cent of its $157,934.

Leader and Foreign Minister Winston Peters initially said he had been overseas at the time the report was being prepared and he wanted to talk to the Auditor-General about it.

He also wanted to talk to lawyers about a possible challenge but one of his lawyers was overseas.

When asked about the matter last week, Mr Peters said he wanted to talk to party president Dail Jones but he was overseas. He is in Italy and will not be back for three more weeks.

Mr Peters could not be reached for comment last night.

Deputy leader Peter Brown said from Brisbane that the caucus had agreed some time ago to repay the money and put the issue in Mr Peters' hands.

The Auditor-General found that $1.2 million of taxpayers' money budgeted for the use of parliamentary parties had been spent unlawfully on advertising and publicity in the three months before the 2005 campaign.

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