Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Downsized Dunne fights for $100k

United Future leader preparing Electoral Commission case from less salubrious office after resignation.

Prime Minister John Key forced Mr Dunne to resign. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key forced Mr Dunne to resign. Photo / Mark Mitchell

United Future Peter Dunne is expected to spend the week settling into his much smaller office at Parliament and preparing his party's case for a special meeting of the Electoral Commission.

The outcome of the Electoral Commission meeting could affect whether Mr Dunne loses $100,000 of his leaders' budget at Parliament.

After resigning as a minister on June 7, Mr Dunne took leave from Parliament last week.

This week he will seek to persuade the commission that it should change its policy to accept electronic evidence of his party's 500 members and paid fees - as it does with registered parties - rather than require United Future to present original signatures as is required with new parties. That could take months to collect and would be an even greater setback to rebuilding the party's presence in Parliament.

Leaders of registered parties elected to Parliament get $100,000 for their leaders' office. Leaders of unregistered parties don't.

But there is a dispute among parties as to whether the party has to be registered just at the time of the election or if it is an on-going requirement. Getting re-registered quickly would render that argument irrelevant.

Speaker David Carter has not yet ruled on the party funding issue but indicated last Wednesday he had delayed making a decision in the expectation that United Future's re-registration was weeks away, not months away.

Parliament is in recess this week and so Mr Carter will not come under daily pressure from Labour and New Zealand First to declare Mr Dunne de-registered and take away his leaders' funding.

The Electoral Commission board comprises chairman Sir Hugh Williams, deputy Jane Huria and chief electoral officer Robert Peden. They are expected to decide today when to meet this week.

Prime Minister John Key forced Mr Dunne to resign as an unco-operative suspect in the leaking of a confidential report about the GCSB spy agency.

Mr Dunne denies leaking it.

Last week he lost his ministerial staff and suite of offices on the 19th floor of Bowen House. His chief of staff, Rob Eaddy, and senior private secretary, Anne Small, have been taken on by new Inland Revenue Minister Todd McClay as have his health and inland revenue advisers. His old press secretary, Mark Stewart, and ministerial adviser, Hayden Cox, have joined the Prime Minister's office.

Mr Dunne's resignation was entirely separate to the party's issue about whether it had the 500 members required to be registered with the Electoral Commission.

- NZ Herald

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