Winston’s stunt may be backfiring. The Herald editorial is blunt:
The Starship children’s hospital should immediately return the cheque it has received from the New Zealand First Party. This money is public property.
Mr Peters has not technically broken the law but only because he has used his party’s votes in Parliament to help legalise the spending at the last election that the Auditor-General believes to be wrong. He has always disagreed with the Auditor-General’s ruling and had wanted to contest it in the courts. But he has dropped this action, he says, because he could not have gotten a decision before the election next year and did not want to face the election accused of refusing to pay back “stolen money”.
This claim that they could not have got a hearing in time is one media should treat with suspicion. The Auditor-General ruled in the latter half of 2006. I have not seen anything to suggest that one could not have got a court hearing within two years. For example the lawsuit against the Electoral Finance Bill only has a six month wait for a hearing.
The other point to remember is that there was a lawsuit which would have tested whether the Auditor-General was correct. Darnton vs Clark. With regards to the Labour pledge card at least, this would have resulted in a court ruling whether or not the expenditure was legal.
NZ First voted to kill off the lawsuit, voting against an amendment that would have stopped the validating legislation retrospectively killing off the lawsuit.