Geddis on Electoral Finance Act

June 12th, 2008 at 7:17 pm by David Farrar

Associate Professor had an article appear in the latest issue of the Otago Graduate magazine on the . Geddis is one of the leading academics on electoral financing, and one of those most commonly quoted as to the problems with the old Electoral Act. He is generally, I think it is fair to say, a supporter of more comprehensive regulations on political financing.

This makes his comments on the Electoral Finance Act more noteworthy. Some extracts:

  • The Electoral Finance Act has caused damage to our electoral process that now needs fixing
  • A good portion of the blame fir the present situation lies with the legislation’s authors
  • The way the Labour-led Government went about enacting those reforms was ill-considered and overly rushed
  • It is hard to see how Parliament alone can now put the matter right

I have attached the full article as a pdf geddis-efa-article so people can read it in full, and not just my extracts.

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29 Responses to “Geddis on Electoral Finance Act”

  1. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,810 comments) says:

    EFA is certainly a mess that needs fixing.

    The best way to fix it is to scrap it!

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  2. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    ‘Look, it’s clear that [insert name] doesn’t understand the EFA and I simply can’t be bothered going over the arguments with him again.’
    -Tane

    ‘Of course I’ve always said that the EFB is less than perfect, but I am sure that these minor issues will be ironed out during the Select Committee stage.’
    -Nome

    “It’s purpose is to stop people like John Key and the Exclusive Brethren rorting the electoral system.”
    -Helen Clark

    “A human rights approach to democratic government requires genuine participation. Genuine participation, in turn, requires an informed electorate. By limiting freedom of expression and creating a complex regulatory framework in the way it does, the Electoral Finance Bill unduly limits the rights of all New Zealanders to participate in the electoral process. The Commission therefore considers that the Bill is inherently flawed and should be withdrawn”.
    - HRC

    “Democracy implies far more than the mere act of periodically casting a vote… it covers the entire process of participation by citizens in the political life of their country”
    - UN Secretary General

    “The bill has serious defects, which mean it will not achieve its stated aims. Moreover, it is likely to curtail the legitimate expression of opinions while failing to curb (and potentially even incentivising) clandestine conduct in relation to the electoral process. The bill as a whole represents a backward step in the integrity of democracy in New Zealand.”
    -Law Society

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  3. francis (712 comments) says:

    The black art of legislative drafting should not be handled directly by politicians – or, apparently, Crown Law. In the US, major political figures hand their requirements over to skilled draftspersons and then test the results in subcommittee. Much to and fro ensues, usually involving cautionary and technical inputs from subcommittee counsel. Then the revised draft goes back to the original drafters and to the full committee, where there is a constant tug of war between the original drafters (who are intent on seeing the purpose of the legislation fully expressed) and the committee counsel (who is intent on making the legislation compatible with the Constitution and other laws the draft legislation might inadvertently quash). Then there are hearings at which every comma is discussed at horrifically boring but ultimately eventful levels. Then the law is passed, with amendments from the floor. Then it goes to the other chamber for the same process. Then the two versions of the legislation collide in a special committee of the two houses, in which the drafters encounter yet another, this time ENORMOUSLY skilled, legislative counsel. Then the law is voted on and the finer details of its meaning are debated on the floor of both houses, building a record of “legislative intent”. When the law is then challenged, that record, plus all the bluebook drafts, go before the court.

    Here, a couple of political folks jot down some notes and a researcher writes a statute the government rams through. Go figure that the laws are crap.

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  4. Nomestradamus (2,938 comments) says:

    In my opinion, Andrew Geddis provides a fair summary of the problem, but I simply can’t agree with his proposed solution:

    … [T]he best way forward may be to put the issue of election funding directly to the New Zealand public. Canada’s recent use of citizens’ assemblies to address issues of electoral reform provides a model for how this could be done. A randomly-selected, representative group of voters from around the country would be charged with deciding how to regulate the issue of electoral financing. Over a series of weeks, they would engage in a process of education on the topic, as well as hear submissions from interested persons or groups, before collectively deciding on the best way forwards. Their recommendations would then provide a signal as to how ordinary, fully-informed New Zealanders want their electoral processes to work. It would then be a brave, or particularly mendacious, government that would dare ignore such a message.

    Problems:
    (1) What is a “representative group of voters from around the country”?
    (2) What “process of education on the topic” exactly?
    (3) What if the group charged with “collectively deciding on the best way forwards” can’t reach unanimous agreement on the recommendations?

    I think Labour must, secretly, be regretting their decision to fasttrack the Electoral Finance Act into law. In particular, I think it was wrong for the substantial number of changes made by the Select Committee not to be referred back for a further round of public submissions.

    Be that as it may, this election will be contested under the EFA – for better or worse – and I think the only sensible thing to do is to have that election, then revisit the EFA using a proper process of genuine public consultation (as we’ve come to expect from controversial legislation).

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  5. dad4justice (7,725 comments) says:

    Another statute rort law pushed through by a mindless bunch of moronic Liarbour fools. How many more stupid unworkable grey area laws will this demented bunch of perverts pass? I know who needs a bloody good smack as we’re the laughing stock of the Western World. Good stuff idiot kiwi voter.

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  6. francis (712 comments) says:

    There is also the fact that citizen councils simply do not understand the technicalities of legislative language and tend to be deeply suspicious of those that do.

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  7. Mr Dennis (348 comments) says:

    Frankly, it looks like we will have a National led government after the election (hopefully). This means the EFA will be gone, as National has been so dead against it all along (the way National is moving to the left this seems to be the only thing we can be fairly confident they will change). So the choice for Labour is simply whether to drop the EFA now or in a few months.

    It has been causing them so much embarrassment that the only reason to keep it is to try and win the election afterwards through the court system. I suspect Labour is doing this now. While the right is finding where Labour is breaching the act and reporting it straight to the media, the electoral commission and the police (followed by Labour correcting their mistakes), Labour themselves may well have a large file of breaches by National they are keeping hush-hush in the hope that National will keep making mistakes if no-one tells them. They can then pull it all out after the election. Dirty tactic I know, but that won’t stop a politician!

    National really needs to be squeaky clean now to avoid a massive legal mess afterwards.

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  8. Frank (320 comments) says:

    The confusion existing round the ill-devised Electoral Finance Act, illustrates more and more the need for a Royal Commission of Inquiry, into the shoddy performance that was the last election, where misappropriations etc were covered up.

    Bill English was having a good chortle over The Labour Party authorising Labour Party Advertising and Helen authorising the Labour Government’s Advertising through the taxpayer funded Parliamentary Services.

    Leaves the Electoral Commission to sort out the mess. Serves them right. They dragged their feet over complaints in the last election and generally were negligent, thus adding to the Confusion that now exists and is getting worse

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  9. Zippy Gonzales (485 comments) says:

    Thoroughly agree with Geddis’ points. To ask politicians to write electoral law at this stage is like calling for a Royal Commission to address Republicanism. I strongly support an open and transparent citizens’ jury along the lines of the Canadian model. However, the jury process must be bottom up from go to woah. The Greens should be wary of any charge of stitching up the process for ideological gain. Let Labour wear that custard pie.

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  10. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    National really needs to be squeaky clean now to avoid a massive legal mess afterwards

    Hmmmm, pipe dream I recon. This law was constructed to ensnare any opposition and create a massive legal mess.

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  11. JohnMacc (60 comments) says:

    I can’t see the point of citizens juries – its just another gimmic by people who want to make the dull serious work of legislating look exciting. Here’s the recipe:
    - randomly select some uninformed and probably less than interested citizens,
    - dress the whole process up as some grand national exercise in democracy,
    - orchestrate the juror’s “education” by determining who they hear from, and how the officials’ advice is framed
    - define the options and the agenda so that the “middle ground compromise” these things always end up with is precisely the outcome you wanted in the first place.
    When you boil it down, it sounds pretty much like a select committee process to me, but with people who never got elected and aren’t accountable for what they do. Once the “citizen’s jury’s” done its work and some bureaucrat invents whatever is going to be taken as their consensus, you still have to take the result through the legislature anyway – so lets just get on with that.
    Or – if we want to try some groovy new ideas for involving the average citizen in democracy , lets just cancel the election and offer cabinet positions to all the 1st division lotto winners between now and November.

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  12. Frank (320 comments) says:

    JohnMacc: ” I can’t see the point of citizens juries”.

    Who can? The whole jury system is flawed.

    The whole Court proceedings are all controlled by the Legal Fraternity< Judge, Defence’s Lawyer and Complainant’s Lawyer. Juries untrained in Law, are asked to return a verdict on complex legal issues raised.

    An impossible task, in view of the fact there are really no special requirements for filling the role of jurymen.

    I would go further and relate it to our present Electoral System. There seem to be no special qualifications called for, for determining the worth of a candidate to run the country.

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  13. polemic (360 comments) says:

    The ‘Raison d’être’ of the Bill is baseless.
    The ‘Modus Operandi’ of the Bill is useless.
    The Labour Party appears ‘Hoist in their own Petard’
    The ‘Annus Horribilus’ of their 9 yrs of corruption

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  14. Graeme Edgeler (3,262 comments) says:

    Leaves the Electoral Commission to sort out the mess. Serves them right. They dragged their feet over complaints in the last election and generally were negligent

    This is the Electoral Commission that referred both National and Labour to the police at the last election?

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  15. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Isn’t it delicious that this abortive Act that was mean’t to hobble anyone but the Gummint looks like it will hobble them the most – Ha Ha (nelson-esque).

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  16. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,810 comments) says:

    Only four months to go and then its payback time for the EFA.

    Labour thinks that it can poop in the mouth of democracy. Well I’ve got news for the Labour party and its supporters. The voters have got a sandwich with the aforementioned special ingredient in it and soon it will be time for the vile Labour party and its supporters to eat it up. Bon appetite! Who’ll be smiling then?

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  17. boomtownprat (281 comments) says:

    Political history will paint the EFA as Clark’s biggest mistake. Her political acumen and radar had packed their bags and gone when she decided that she could push/manage such a clearly partisan shoddy piece of legislation.

    Her “beltway issue” comment demonstrates this. It just keeps on getting bigger and bigger that dawg gone beltway

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4582149a6160.html

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  18. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    the EFA will be Helen’s epitaph:And this on Leafletgate:

    http://monkeyswithtypewriter.blogspot.com/

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  19. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    My good buddy Inventory put out this news yesterday on keeping stock but here it is as a rather damp second-hand (sorry – ‘pre-loved’) offering from one very cheeky Monkey.

    Bill English who has obviously taken on the role of EFA-rort-exposer-in-chief had this to say in his press release yesterday:
    “Mr English says Labour has confirmed it thinks the pamphlet is an election advertisement, because it has included a party authorisation.
    “That raises real questions about whether her office should be registered alongside union groups and others who plan to spend more than $12,000 in election year promoting a particular party.”
    Mr English says Helen Clark’s attempts to distance herself from the pamphlet are not credible.”

    We have noted that Helen Clark’s tactic in dealing with this situation is (as is the norm for any embarrassing gaffe by Labour) to put some clear water between her and the issue. This included refusing to discuss what the leaflet cost, refusing to confirm if it is to be an election expense, and refusing to confirm whether she considers it will form part of her post-election submission to the Electoral Commission. Her latest tactic of course, was to be dismissive of questions about the provenance of the photo-image used, referring to it as ‘a storm in a teacup’. The only ‘storm’ actually visible on Helen’s clear-water horizon was herself ‘storming’ out of the press conference in righteous indignation.

    Just like her spin-doctors scripted it for her.
    But English is right to raise the question, on what basis should we ask questions? Helen is pretending the leaflet has nothing to do with her although …
    ” …. Labour has confirmed … the pamphlet was entirely the work of the Labour Leader’s office.”

    In light of this, he rightly asks:
    “Her photograph and her signature is on it. Whatever happened to the 1999 promise in relation to the pledge card, ‘my signature is on it. I am accountable for it’?”
    Lee – MWT

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  20. ghostwhowalks3 (387 comments) says:

    Good to see an ivory tower academic not rubbished as being out of touch with the real world. Its not like hes publishing in some low rated academic journal… hang on. the otago graduate magazine!!. Must have had some empty pages this quarter.
    Fancy there being laws where the facts are challenged in the courts everyday! Didnt know we had 40 something high court judges and 150 district court judges. Fancy a lawyer saying because there are some court cases the law is unworkable.
    Its so nice sitting in an office at a law school not having any real world experience of courts , politics or even ordinary people.

    lets see this geddes guy run for parliament and see how much support he gets

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  21. big bruv (13,210 comments) says:

    The opposition leader in Zimbabwe was detained twice yesterday for speaking out against the leader/government while Mugabe is free to say and do what he likes.

    Goodness me, this sounds a lot like New Zealand.

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  22. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    GWW

    Once, just once, could we please have a substantive arguement from you where you debate the issues raised and not just attack the author. DPF outlined Professor Andrew Geddis’s credentials.

    Also the fact that something as essential to our way of life and system of government as elections, election funding and results may now be decided by the courts because the law, as written, is fundmentally flawed should give you pause. You rely on the system to fix it not realising it was this system that created it.

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  23. pdm (842 comments) says:

    GWW – Once again plays the man not the ball.

    Red Card – shove off.

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  24. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Ha ha – the point is Ghostwhateva, the EFA is an abortion, liarbore fucked it up and got fucked on it and now its fucking them. Remember that Southpark song about uncle fuckers, yep thats what is happening to liarbore right now.

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  25. Colonel Masters (420 comments) says:

    Mr Dennis wrote:

    It has been causing them so much embarrassment that the only reason to keep it is to try and win the election afterwards through the court system.

    If National gets in (at least, in the first instance), what is to stop them passing a law repealing the EFA and *retrospectively* making legal any breaches (the same way Labour retrospectively made legal their overspend and blew the Darnton v. Clark case out of the water)?

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  26. Nomestradamus (2,938 comments) says:

    Ghostwhowalks:

    Good to see an ivory tower academic not rubbished as being out of touch with the real world. Its not like hes publishing in some low rated academic journal… hang on. the otago graduate magazine!!. Must have had some empty pages this quarter.
    Fancy there being laws where the facts are challenged in the courts everyday! Didnt know we had 40 something high court judges and 150 district court judges. Fancy a lawyer saying because there are some court cases the law is unworkable.
    Its so nice sitting in an office at a law school not having any real world experience of courts , politics or even ordinary people.

    Gutter tactics – what I’ve come to expect from you. But, since you’ve set the (low) benchmark for academic commentators, I’ll quote this back to PhillipJohn/Roger Nome next time he regales us with his “worldly” experience from the perspective of a dusty bookshelf.

    For the benefit of others, Andrew Geddis’ Otago Uni profile is here, and includes: “In 1996 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Harvard Law School, where he completed his LLM degree.” Geddis also has a respectable number of published articles, book chapters – plus one book to his name.

    lets see this geddes guy run for parliament and see how much support he gets

    I’ve got a better idea – let’s see you run for parliament Ghostie. Go on, I could do with a bloody good laugh!

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  27. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Mr Dennis raises a point that touches on something I have been saying all along: expect ANYTHING from the Heleban next time round, to keep themselves in power. NZ’s transition away from true Democracy has gone through several earlier stages already. No Queens representative with any meaningful authority, no Privy Council, judges in the highest court appointed by the PM, Police Commissioner appointed by the PM – and the previous Police Commissioner FRAMED by the PM to get rid of him…..the list goes on……in a way, the last chapter of Ian Wishart’s recent book was the most important, the glaring difference between OUR system of “democracy” as it currently stands, and the checks on power that exist everywhere else…….

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  28. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    To repeat what I told the SC the matter must be decidie by a binding citizens referendum from a maximum of 3 models recommended by a panel of 3 retired High Court Judges after hearing submissions from all interested parties.

    the Panels TORs should include that they must give weight to considering the submissions of MPs and political parties having a high level of self interest in the matter.

    They must weigh the submissions of those without a self interest at a higher to level to ensure the most equitable outcome.

    In other words ignore the pollies and their lackeys and hacks and listen to the people for once.

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  29. Fisiani (943 comments) says:

    Watch out for the fun when Bob Jones flagrantly and expensively and frivolously flouts the EFA and really rubs the cheating election stealing hypocrites noses in their pile of excrement that is this appalling assault on freedom of speech

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