Return of the EFA

November 22nd, 2010 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

God I am pissed off. The Electoral (Finance and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill has been reported back, and and have voted for introducing a cap on third party spending.

I really wonder sometimes why we bother changing Governments, when the  new Government adopts so many politics of the old Government – especially a policy that was a big part of why they got thrown out.

The law is not as bad as the old EFA, for four reasons, but is still an unjustified limitation on the rights of New Zealanders to campaign against Governments or parties they don’t like. The four mitigating factors are:

  1. The limit is $300,000 over three months rather than $120,000 over 11 months. That is around 10 times as high per month.
  2. The bill does follow a public and transparent public policy process where people were allowed to have their say, and where most backed a limit
  3. The bill has bipartisan support, and is not an attempt by one party to do over their opponents
  4. There have been some trade-offs with Labour agreeing to back higher spending limits for candidates

But don’t read that list of mitigating factors as signalling agreement with the bill. I think National has sold out far too cheaply. I did say in my submission that I supported bipartisan agreement, and if National concedes on something , then basically Labour should do the same. But the only concession that in my opinion would be suitable for having a limit on third party spending would be removing the draconian ban of political parties being able to but advertising time on television and radio. If National could have got Labour to agree to that change, then I would grudgingly accept a compromise on third party spending.

I think many of those who protested against the EFA will feel a sense of betrayal with this bill. National has put the desire to be bipartisan with electoral law (which is commendable) ahead of doing what is right.

I did support the bill at select committee stage on the basis it did improve things in several areas. And the select committee has also made many other minor improvements which I support (and will detail in a later post). But the inclusion of a limit on third party spending, combined with no lifting of the ban on parties buying their own broadcasting time, means that I no longer think the bill is worth proceeding with.

I accept that in reality few third parties will find the $300,000 limit a barrier. The trade unions tend to be the biggest spenders and their biggest contribution is staff hours (which do not count as spending). And the limit is simple to get around also. But by agreeing to such a limit, National has now made it easier for future Governments to lower it, to try and silence their opponents.

Labour should be very very happy with the willingness of the Government to not just give them a veto over changes to the existing law, but also to introduce measures the National Party submitted against, all for the sake of bipartisan electoral law. It is a universe different from what Labour did in its last term, and my fear is that a future Labour Government will not return the benevolence and when they are next in Government, make changes without bipartisan support.

National MPs who railed against the should feel very sheepish when they vote for this bill to become law. I suggest National Party members take advantage of end of year meetings to ask their MPs why they agreed to support limits on third parties using their own money to have a say during election campaigns.

UPDATE: Whale provides us with this updated billboard:

It would look better if it was 6 metres by 4 metres in size I think.

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43 Responses to “Return of the EFA”

  1. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    “God I am pissed off. The Electoral (Finance and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill has been reported back, and National and Labour have voted for introducing a cap on third party spending.”

    I thought for a minute I was reading the wrong blog!

    Good to see DPF recognising (at least once) that his beloved Labour-lite is nothing but a transmogrification of the old and tired socialist Labour Party. Two sides of the same devalued red coin.

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  2. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,065 comments) says:

    The law is not as bad as the old EFA . . .

    Does that mean your next billboard campaign will only compare John Key to secondary totalitarian dictators like Caucescau and Mobutu?

    [DPF: If you wish to donate money to a billboard campaign against the law change, I'd be happy to arrange suitable billboards]

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  3. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    “God I am pissed off.”

    Get this guy would you, DPF thinks GOD reads his damn blog now.

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  4. berend (1,660 comments) says:

    DPF: National and Labour have voted for introducing a cap on third party spending.

    And they’re spending the same, or perhaps National is even spending more than Labour.

    Time to ACT.

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  5. berend (1,660 comments) says:

    Yeah Danyl, limiting spending at $300,000 for 11 months is the same as shut down of all political speech for a year.

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  6. Scumsucker (59 comments) says:

    John Key will always betray us.

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  7. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Where’s the transparency you asked for in pushing Open Govt 2 DPF?

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  8. Lance (2,529 comments) says:

    @Scumsucker….
    Who’s “us”?

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  9. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    “… my fear is that a future Labour Government will not return the benevolence and when they are next in Government, make changes without bipartisan support.”

    Your fear is based on the correct assumption. What you failed to notice is that Labour and its younger sibling, Labour-lite National, abide by the same principles of deception and blanket lies to get elected. Once in power they are prepared to change the rules and the laws of the land to justify their nefarious means.

    What is true of Labour it is also true of Labour-lite.

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  10. Viking2 (11,215 comments) says:

    Really, why would we be surprised?

    ACT ually its limited to stop the ACT party out spending them. That’s what the Nat’s. are all bothered about. Act can raise the funds to do so. The rest cannot. Even the Nats.

    Why didn’t National win Mana. Because they were too damm lazy to work for it as a party.
    1110 votes to win and some at least could have come off Labour.

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  11. Bryce Edwards (248 comments) says:

    While I think you are right to be pissed off, and while I also oppose the expenditure limits and regulation of third parties (or parallel campaigners) I also think that there is always an inevitability about such regulations once a decision was made by Labour, National and others to regulate the other electoral participants so highly. So the lesson to me is that this U-turn is really just the by-product of having expenditure limits on political parties and candidates, for which there is (unfortunately) a very strong partisan consensus.

    As I’ve said before, the existence of limits on political party expenditure is actually the main source of problems for political finance regulation. Most other serious issues flow on from the existence of these limits. For example, most issues relating to parallel campaigning revolve around the problem that the limits for parties can be circumvented by parallel third parties spending additional funds essentially on behalf of the parties. Also, most of the problems relating to the need for a definition of election advertising exist because there is a need to determine what expenditure counts towards the limits of political parties, candidates and third parties. Similarly, most of the controversy about the length of the regulated election period would also be removed. If New Zealand were to revert to pre-1996 rules by not having a limit on parties, then most of the problems of political finance regulation would be solved. But once you accept parties having spending limits, this creates a ripple effect on nearly every other part of the electoral system.

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  12. Lance (2,529 comments) says:

    Ah Manolo
    Has there ever been a govt anywhere and at anytime in history that didn’t do that?

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  13. burt (7,945 comments) says:

    Excellent, a self serving re-run of the socialist play book. What next… increased middle class welfare, increased low quality spending and increased taxes… go on National, show us how red you really are and follow the Labour party “power at any price” handbook all the way.

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  14. Hagues (711 comments) says:

    DPF “I really wonder sometimes why we bother changing Governments, when the new Government adopts so many politics of the old Government ”

    Contrary to the Split Enz prclaimation, it turn out that history does indeed repeat. This is what Sir Bob Jones wrote about the National Party in 1978…

    “In short the party in office has never practiced what it preaches. In that regard it differs from Labour only in that its objectives are different. In office the two parties are largely indistinguishable.” (New Zealand the Way I Want It; p17)

    If you want a government that is different from Labour rather than one that is just not Labour, then you aint going to get it by voting National. Decades of history tells us that much.

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  15. Lucia Maria (2,229 comments) says:

    We changed Governments because we hoped this one would be different. National said all the right things before they were elected. I even hoped, based on what was said prior to the sell-out support of the anti-smacking bill, that National would reverse the legislation once the mandate from the referendum came in. Well, we know what happened there.

    There appears to be no strong moral backbone in any of the current National MPs.

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  16. Scumsucker (59 comments) says:

    Unfortunately my national MP is Dr Wayne Slack, minister of defence

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  17. Mr Nobody NZ (397 comments) says:

    John Key lost my vote after choosing to ignore the 1,421,003 New Zealander’s who voted No in the Anti Smacking Referendum. This decision just re-enforces mine.

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  18. wreck1080 (3,778 comments) says:

    @MRNOBODY: then who would you vote for?

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  19. RRM (9,585 comments) says:

    [mawm]: “I voted for the National Party because of its policies and principles and all I have in return is a government doing the Maori party’s bidding. Never again! Jonkey you are a spineless socialist.”

    [big bruv]: “It is nothing more than I expect from this fucking gutless bunch of socialist scum who masquerade as the National Party.”

    [Viking2]: “Totally disgraceful conduct in NZ’s supposed democracy.”

    [Chicken Little]: “I agree Viking – bring back Helen.”

    [serge]: “I voted national all my kife until now, I regret voting for John Key and by default for a coalition that does not serve the interests of European New Zealanders or of New Zealand as a whole. No, I will not cast a blue vote again, ever.”

    [side show bob]: “You will wake up one day Graeme and all your rules and laws will be of no relevance as your freedoms have been signed over to the one world scumbags.”

    [All quotes from http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2010/04/a_big_win_for_the_maori_party.html ]

    Hell hath no fury like an idealogue scorned.

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  20. questlove (242 comments) says:

    then who would you vote for?

    Exactly. Thanks to the laughing stock that is ACT – National has the Right by the balls.

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  21. mickysavage (786 comments) says:

    So propaganda front organisations set up by big corporations will now have a quite high maximum spend level.

    And you find this upsetting?

    It is good to see that the National Government has acknowledged what Labour previously recognised. That if you want to have a proper democracy and a fair battle of ideas you have to have a third party spending cap.

    Well done Key, even if the level is somewhat high and the relevant time period short.

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  22. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    “Well done Key, even if the level is somewhat high and the relevant time period short.”

    There must be something seriously wrong with all this when the ineffable comrade mickysavage endorses Key’s actions!
    Do we need further proof the two parties, Labour and Labour-lite, are joined at the hip?

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  23. big bruv (13,450 comments) says:

    “So propaganda front organisations set up by big corporations will now have a quite high maximum spend level.”

    Are you talking about the EPMU, Unite or other unions Micky?

    Oh….and how about that Mana result aye Micky, are the BBQ’s being fired up?

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  24. burt (7,945 comments) says:

    big bruv

    It’s OK when unions spend thousands and thousands – it’s just the EB we need to stop.

    DPF: Will this bill stop the evil EB from being allowed to speak ? Oh I hope so… National’s beloved mentors told us they were an assault on democracy.

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  25. mickysavage (786 comments) says:

    The unions do not have hordes of paid officials or huge amounts of money. The suggestion that they are all powerful organisations that can compete with the likes of Telecom is, well, laughable.

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  26. Pete George (23,123 comments) says:

    I can understand people that have campaigned against this will be a bit miffed about it being included. But what is the likely practical effect of it? In practice s it going to stifle the democratic process at all?

    Political advertising, especially on TV, is aimed at duping people without providing the sort of information required to making informed votes. Particularly over a certain amount advertising is not my idea of good democracy where money can effectively buy votes. I don’t want to see us getting anywhere near like the US where the dollar rules – even the success of campaigns is often describe in terms of the amount of funds raised.

    The end result of unlimited third party advertising would be for National or Labour to lead a coalition, much as it happens now. Dumb votes can’t be any worse than bought votes, and are a lot harder to be hijacked.

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  27. Enzo (44 comments) says:

    “especially a policy that was a big part of why they got thrown out.”

    You’re dreaming. I must have talked to a good few thousand people in the last election campaign in door-knocking, phone canvassing, flea market stalls, supermarket car parks etc, etc, etc, a LOT of them expressed frustration with the then Labour government for a range of policies but do you know how many people mentioned the EFA to me? Zero. I don’t disagree that the Electoral Finance Act was crap law but it was always a beltway issue. Ordinary people in the street didn’t give a hoot about it.

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  28. Hagues (711 comments) says:

    @mickysavage Telecom previously made equal donations to National and Labour (with smaller and equal donations to the minor parties) but stopped making donations in 2006. They don’t have their employees out campaining on behalf of a political party either. So why on earth would you compare them to the unions’ known campaining on behalf of the left?

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  29. GPT1 (2,100 comments) says:

    Someone must have yelled at Simon Power so he changed his mind. But he will look serious about it so it is ok. FFS.

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  30. Tim Ellis (253 comments) says:

    Micky I didn’t see any Telecom cars on polling day in Porirua on Saturday. I saw lots of EPMU ones driving around though.

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  31. Nicholas O'Kane (168 comments) says:

    I’m angry about the Bill too. But the thing that annoys me isn’t so much the cap on third party spending (albiet I’m not happy about it, $300 000 is reasonably high not to make it too much of a concern). What interests me (and will probably annoy me ) is the retatntion of “protected donations” of up to $36 000 to a political party. Read here http://www.elections.org.nz/rules/make-protected-donation-form.html

    Labours rewriting of the Election Finance rules, albiet supposedbly justified on the need to keep secret money out of politics involved specific clauses to protect it oulined above, and National will probably keep the same dirty rules in place

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  32. labrator (1,797 comments) says:

    … [it's] not my idea of good democracy where money can effectively buy votes.

    People always say this as if it’s the truth. I’m yet to see any evidence of any elections being bought but have seen evidence to the contrary. People aren’t stupid. Why are donated resources not included such as union labour?

    Election promises of spending lots of other peoples money (eg Labour and free student loans) are much more powerful vote manipulators than any advertising campaign I’ve ever seen.

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  33. thedavincimode (6,573 comments) says:

    Unbelievable.

    A chance to just do the right thing and then let a next Labour government shoot themselves in the foot all over again by changing it to their own advantage. Who are the National/Act clowns on the committee?

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  34. big bruv (13,450 comments) says:

    If you want to know how bad this thing is then look no further than the press release from the Greens congratulating the government on keeping the third party restrictions.

    Why the fuck is Neville Key giving the Greens a win on this?, if the roles were reversed the bastards would not give the Nat’s one single thing.

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  35. big bruv (13,450 comments) says:

    Micky

    “The unions do not have hordes of paid officials or huge amounts of money.”

    You sure tell a lot of porkies for a lawyer, the EPMU did indeed have “hordes” of paid officials on the ground in Mana.

    As usual you pinko’s want different rules for everybody else.

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  36. burt (7,945 comments) says:

    big bruv

    The socialist can only survive when the field is tilted in their favour. They are the masters of tell a lie enough times and people start to believe it. The really scary part is they actually believe socialism works even though when challenged to name a single country where it has worked they can’t. They just think that they need one more try to prove to the world how right they are….. muppets.

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  37. Rex Widerstrom (5,307 comments) says:

    burt says:

    …a self serving re-run of the socialist play book… follow the Labour party “power at any price” handbook all the way.

    You’re right about this being driven by the same philosophy burt, but it’s nothing to do with socialism, it’s elitism. The vast majority of MPs aren’t in marginal seats – they’re in safe seats or high enough on the List to get elected no matter what they do (or don’t do).

    Democracy is just a damned nuisance – a charade they have to pretend to believe in so the UN doesn’t downgrade our “transparency” rating.

    Don’t we realise that, having crawled round on their knees and kissed the correct quota of Labour or National arse and secured their pre-selection, that’s all they should ever have to do?! How dare we “third parties” expect to have a voice?!

    Sure, they get to spend our money telling us what to think, but it’s the height of arrogance to expect that we should be allowed to spend more of our own money suggesting that they exercise their conscience and listen to their electorate or, worse still, that our fellow citizens should wake the f**k up and hold them truly accountable.

    They’re doing us a favour, really. They’re never going to do anything other than what their leadership tells them to do (unless of course they’re working to undermine the leader and install a different leader who’ll preference them even higher) so we might as well save our money. I hear that owning a big screen TV and a boat makes living in a benign oligarchy extremely palatable for most.

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  38. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    “I hear that owning a big screen TV and a boat makes living in a benign oligarchy extremely palatable for most.”

    The same can be said of receiving a weekly/fortnighly welfare deposit on one’s bank account. New Zealand’s future is bleak, no doubt.

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  39. Banana Llama (1,105 comments) says:

    Rex go run for parliament so i have someone to vote for.

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  40. Josh (54 comments) says:

    Unbelievable. Yet more third-rate law for our increasingly third-rate country.

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  41. burt (7,945 comments) says:

    Rex

    Well said Rex, and here here to Banana Llama – Go for it.

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  42. Rex Widerstrom (5,307 comments) says:

    burt & banana:

    Thanks. I’d love to. But Matt McCarten conclusively showed once again that the average voter can’t be bothered thinking it through and so won’t vote for an independent. If Mana had wanted a lefty, they had a genuine, committed, hardworking one in Matt. If they wanted a righty they had an intelligent, committed, hard working one in Hekia Parata (not of the calibre of Matt IMHO, not that I agree with his platform, just that he’d have been responsive to the electorate and Hekia would toe the Key “moderate” line, but not a bad choice as righties go).

    But what did they do? Elected the epitome of the self-satisifed dilettante, arse-smooching head office yes boy. And that in a by-election that wouldn’t have changed the government whichever way they went.

    Sorry to threadjack, but I’m so bloody angry I could go knock on every door and slap them across the face, one by one. And twice for those who didn’t vote at all.

    So how does one “go for it” in NZ these days with any hope of success?

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  43. ciaron (1,346 comments) says:

    It would look better if it was 6 metres by 4 metres in size I think.

    6×3 or 12x3m are the standard sizes, 6×4 can be done, just more expensive and would have to be a special site.

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