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The public pays $164,000 a year to Jim Anderton's Progressive Party - which sits with Labour, speaks with Labour, votes with Labour, and now campaigns for Labour.

The small party's deputy leader has been seen out on the Mt Albert campaign trail with a Labour rosette and placard, prompting accusations that the small party is a "convenient fiction" designed to claim additional public funding.

The byelection campaign appearance of Matt Robson, a former Progressive MP and minister, has prompted new questions about the generous funding for Parliament's one-man bands - Peter Dunne's UnitedFuture and Jim Anderton's Progressives.

Dr Joe Atkinson, a politics lecturer at Auckland University, said the Progressive Party funding was "an anomaly of MMP" as Anderton operated as a Labour MP. Anderton, the sole Progressive MP, sits on the front bench of the debating chamber among Labour MPs, and is the Labour opposition's spokesman on agriculture.

Associate Professor Andrew Geddis, a constitutional law expert at Otago University, called the Progressive Party as "a convenient fiction".

The party won only 21,241 votes nationwide last year - just 6000 more than Anderson's personal tally in his Christchurch stronghold of Wigram.

"The reality is, looking at the last election, there doesn't seem to be much of a constituency for the Progressive message outside of Jim Anderton's seat," Geddis said.

The Progressive Party is allocated $100,000 a year plus $64,320 for electorate funding. And, as an MP and party leader, Anderton receives a salary of $144,500 a year. Anderton was defiant: "What's the big deal?" he asked.

Progressive Party funding was small in comparison to other parties in the House, Anderton said, and the money was used for services including an independent analysis of the Budget and the NZ Superannuation Fund.

Both National and Labour have had out-of-town MPs visit Auckland to help on the Mt Albert campaign. Cabinet ministers David Carter and Anne Tolley have campaigned for Melissa Lee, while Pete Hodgson, Trevor Mallard and Parekura Horomia have supported Labour's David Shearer. Both parties pointed out the MPs were on other Parliamentary business.