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Satirist defends funding for Civilian Party

Satirist Ben Uffindell is at odds with the Prime Minister over the claim his Civilian Party is wasting taxpayers’ money.

John Key yesterday criticised the $33,635 Electoral Commission funding allocated to the satirical party.

The funding is ring-fenced as part of the commission’s funding of election programme broadcasting, despite the Civilian Party having not yet gained the 500 members it needs to register as a political party.

Uffindell, 23, launched the “up-of-centre” party last month on the back of his popular satirical website, The Civilian, and plans to announce the party’s deputy leader within weeks.

The party’s policies include granting a free tub of icecream for every New Zealander, moving Wellington airport to Christchurch and banning all satire.

Key told Breakfast the party clearly thought “the biggest joke’s on us, the taxpayer”, while a Taxpayers’ Union spokesman said the funding allocation was “outrageous”.

Uffindell said the criticism was either “dishonest or extremely uneducated”.

The money came from a fixed pot that was set before parties were required to register and his party’s allocation was a “tiny, measly portion of that pot”, he said.

“If it weren’t going to me, it would be proportionally reallocated amongst the other political parties.

“If you think that National’s one-point-something million dollars was not enough, then yeah, OK, fair point.”

Uffindell said the Civilian Party’s $33,365 allocation could be used only for broadcast advertising, and would contribute more to the election than funds allocated to major parties, which simply reinforced “an electoral status quo”.

Key said most people would consider the commission’s allocation a joke and compared it to the former Bill and Ben Party, created in 2008 by TV3 Pulp Sport hosts Jamie Linehan and Ben Boyce.

Uffindell rejected Key’s comparison, saying the Civilian Party was more serious.

“They had a TV show and they decided to register a party and get some votes and have a piss-up at the election.

“What I’m trying to put together is more intentional, direct satire.”

Based on membership so far, the party appealed to most New Zealanders, he said.

“I thought it would be largely young people but it’s all sorts of people. [People] do find something valuable in this and want to see something like this work.”

Four of the 17 parties funded by the Electoral Commission are yet to register. The New Zealand Independent Coalition has been allocated $76,930 for broadcasting programmes.

_Hannah Herchenbach for The Press