Labour's campaign avoids big issues, says PM

By Derek Cheng

Prime Minister John Key has been criticised for spending heavily on security, among other financial decisions. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Prime Minister John Key has been criticised for spending heavily on security, among other financial decisions. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Prime Minister John Key is defending a bill of $275,000 for renovations on his Wellington residence, even though he personally blocked a $400,000 upgrade to the property in 2009.

He returned fire at the Labour Party for sweating the "small stuff" a week out from Budget day and six months out from the general election.

Labour has tried to portray Mr Key as loose with the public purse by stringing together spending decisions.

"No new BMWs with $1000 seat warmers," Labour leader Phil Goff told the Grey Power annual meeting at the weekend.

"No ministerial trips like Mr McCully's to Vanuatu by Air Force plane ... when he could have flown there commercially for $4000.

"No $800,000 blow-outs in diplomatic protection costs with four bodyguards flying business class to accompany the PM on a Hawaii holiday."

Labour's Internal Affairs spokesman Chris Hipkins revealed yesterday that the Government had spent $215,000 painting Premier House, $55,000 on new carpets, and more than $3000 on new blinds and curtains.

Mr Key said the Labour Party was preoccupied with trivial matters.

"The reason Labour are talking about these issues is because they don't want to talk about the big issues.

"It's a bit rich coming from Labour. These are people who spent $45 million upgrading Government House."

He said he had overruled a $400,000 proposal in 2009 to upgrade Premier House, because it was for "nicer couches for me to sit on, a better table, and I didn't think you could justify that, nor do I think you could justify that today".

Mr Key said he personally intervened to lower the carpeting bill. "I told them not to replace [the carpet] upstairs where I live ... it was replaced for the public areas downstairs. I don't think that's overly extravagant.

"The paint job is about preserving the value. The carpet they replaced had not been replaced since 1990.."

Mr Key defended the DPS budget blow-out, because overall police did not exceed its 2009/10 budget, and the BMW decision as "the most cost-effective thing we could do".

"I don't fly first class like Helen Clark did. I don't take my partner overseas and expect the Government to pay. I don't do a lot of things that the previous Government did do. And that's been true of my ministers."

Use of Diplomatic Protection Service, including on a private holiday to Hawaii costing up to $30,000.

Renovations on Premier house, where Key resides in Wellington: $215,000 on repainting, $55,366 on carpeting, $3056 on new blinds.

Chopper rides: a $2081 helicopter ride from the Vela brothers in 2009; using an Iroquois helicopter to get from Auckland to the V8 Supercar races in Hamilton and back in time for a golf club dinner.

Key's approval of Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully using Air Force aircraft to fly to Vanuatu and back at a cost of more than $65,000.

Buying 34 new BMW limos to renew the ministerial fleet, one with heated seating at an extra cost of $1000.

- NZ Herald

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