Neither of these are reasons why the EFA should be repealed. The ultimate proof of the stupidity and far reaching effects of the Electoral Finance Act comes in this story by Audrey Young.
All references to a “Labour-led Government” were deleted from the Government’s press releases on the Budget for fear of breaching the Electoral Finance Act.
People laughed and jeered at me when I said that the law was so bad it even included press releases, but it does. It is the height of stupidity that one can not even refer to the name of the major party in power in a press release.
Labour should just admit they fucked up, and it is a stupid law. It is probably going to stop their biggest ally from running the campaign they want, and it stops them even mentioning their party’s name in press releases.
“We were advised that the use of the term ‘Labour-led’ in the Government releases could be seen as coming under the Electoral Finance Act and obviously that would not be appropriate because they were Government publications, not Labour Party publications.”
It believed the term could be seen as promoting Labour and could therefore meet the new definition of election advertisement under the act.
That would have meant that the material should have been authorised by Labour’s general secretary and financial agent, Mike Smith, and possible prosecution of the Secretary of Treasury, John Whitehead, because Government departments are banned from publishing election advertisements.
Dr Cullen’s own Budget speech contained the term twice but he said he had received advice that because it was a speech in Parliament, parliamentary privilege applied.
It gets even more insane. If it were not for parliamentary privilege, then speeches in Parliament might be illegal election advertisements.
I’m serious. It is time to repeal the law. If it is not repealed before the election there will be court cases galore. Electorate MPs will be fighting off electoral petitions for months and months. By-elections may change the result of the election.
Some may claim that no one thought the law would end up being this far reaching. That is not true. There were warnings and warnings. Submissions were made. Protests were organised. It was all predictable. The Government even gave up trying to defend it and retreated behind their “law of common sense”.
Someone should go ask Annette King how common sense required budget press releases to not mention the name of the major party in Government. You can mention it in 2009 and 2010 but not in 2008 or 2011 as they are election years. You could not get more absurd.
If they will not repeal the law, a compromise would be to return the regulated period to 90 days. This would allow MPs to actually mention the name of their party in press releases for most of the year!