The Auditor-General found last election that Labour had spent $800,000 of taxpayer money illegally. Labour is about to introduce a new law which will over-turn the Auditor-General’s (and Solicitor-General’s) interpretation of the electioneering and substitute a definition which will allow it to spend its parliamentary budget on another pledge card.
At the exact time that Labour and allies are seeking to restrict the money than can be spent by everyone else, they are throwing open the gates on their parliamentary spending. Under this new law, Labour could totally legally spent $2 million on advertising from its parliamentary budget in the week before the election, and not only have the taxpayer pay for it, but not have it count as election advertising under the Electoral Finance Bill.
The net effect of the Electoral Finance Bill and the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill will be to legalise Labour’s illegal expenditure in 2005, and to criminalise what was legal expenditure in 2005 by other parties.
Now what do you call a country where the Government breaks the law, and then changes it so they can do the same thing again – but legally – while at the same time making illegal the previous legal activities of their critics?
This is one of those rare times where it is not hyperbole to label this as corrupt conduct. The Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Commission, the Auditor-General and the Solicitor-General all found the pledge card to be electioneering. A non-corrupt Government doesn’t vote with its mates to change the law to overturn the decisions of those impartial bodies of state.
Labour even voted to retrospectively amend the law last year to prevent a law suit on the pledge card, which would have allowed a High Court Judge to rule whether or not it was electioneering.
Can anyone really argue that an election pledge card should not be treated as an election expense? Well it won’t be under Labour’s two proposed laws.
Labour and other parliamentary parties will be able to use taxpayer funds to do full page newspaper ads the week before the election. So long as they do not explicitly ask for votes, they will be legal under labour’s new law.
On the day before the election Labour could spend one million dollars of taxpayer funding on say four fullpage advertisements in every newspaper in New Zealand. They could detail all of Labour’s proposed policies if re-elected, and all would be not only legally funded by the taxpayer, but would not even count as part of Labour’s election spending.
I hope National, and presumably at least ACT, fight this law with everything they have got. The Government plans to pass the law without even referring it to a select committee it seems (as not yet introduced and plans to pass by year end). They don’t want to have the public have a say. It’s up the the public and the media to demand they get a say.