The Electoral Finance Bill

I object.

Normally I don’t get worked up enough to rant like this, but I’m going to. This must be stopped.

Here’s the gist:
Under this bill if you want to make a political statement in election year that takes a position on a subject that a party in parliament could be aligned with, you must register with the government. The costs of your statement are added to a personal total for the year, capped at $60,000 for third parties, and more for political parties.

Example:

As a private citizen I take out two full page advertisements in the Herald saying “Child Abuse is Bad.” This costs more than $60,000. Parties in Parliament have taken a position on this subject, so it falls under the definition of ‘election advertising.’ Since I broke the spending cap I can be sent to jail, doubly so if I chose not to register.

The reason this is so unbalanced is that the laws will not apply fully to the sitting government, because promoting government policies (like Kiwisaver, for example) is done with budgets assigned to those policies (how much advertising have you seen for Kiwisaver on TV, in the papers, websites etc? Answer: heaps, and it costs millions). These budgets are not ‘election spending.’

Summary:

Government canĀ  spend as much as it likes promoting what it has been and is doing, opposition and third parties have tight spending restrictions applied, and must register their criticisms with the goverment.

Sound right? New Zealanders have paid dearly over the years, many with their blood, for the democratic rights we have today. If you ever thought about writing a letter to the editor – do it on this one. Ever considered writing to your MP? – do it. Blog? – do it. I’m just not willing to trust that it will sort itself out.

Cynically speaking, National’s most self interested course might have been to let them pass it. Public sentiment is probably enough to elect National next time regardless of this bill, and Labour will bitterly regret sitting in opposition with this bill in play. Fortunately they seem to be fighting it anyway on principal.

What’s disturbing is the manner in which this has all been done. This bill has been drafted behind closed doors without cross party support from opposition. Changes to such a fundamental constitutional act should never be done in secret like this. Furthermore, now the real meaning of the bill is out in the open, Labour is claiming they didn’t appreciate the real meaning and that it will be fixed at the select committee stage. Bollocks I say. They knew what they were doing and are trying to squirm out of facing up to being found out.

Some among the media have labeled this the most serious attack on free speech seen in this country in decades. And all for the purpose of winning the next election at all costs.

I love Democracy, and I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

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1 Response to “The Electoral Finance Bill”


  1. 1 archiearchive 17 August, 2007 at 3:52 am

    Hey, over here we have wall to wall “Explanation Advertising”! Our little toad has set in motion advertising campaigns which will spend over $120 Million of taxpayer’s money on “explaining”, not “advertising” how good the Government’s initiatives have been/are/will be! By a sheer coincidence we have an election due before the middle of January 2008. It will probably happen late November. Roll on December and a change of Government.


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