Have Labour and Greens broken the CIR Act?

February 21st, 2014 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

Whale blogs:

Back in March last year David Farrar asked if the , and the Unions might break the Citizens Initiated Referendum Act.

On top of that leaked documents showed that they intended to work together on the referendum, utilising taxpayer funds to do so.

Those documents clearly show it was a co-ordinated campaign working together.

S42 of the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act states:

Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who, either alone or in combination with others knowingly spends, on advertisements published or broadcast in relation to an indicative  petition, more than $50,000

And the election returns show:

  • Service and Food Workers Union – $26,269
  • Labour party - $45,382.95 
  • Public Service Association – $3987.18
  • The Green party  - $39,541.49
  • The NZ Council of Trade Unions - $523.20
  • First Union - $23,356.08
  • The NZEI – $547
  • NZ Nurses Organisation – $556

Whale points out:

Total Spend  by Unions, Labour and the Greens is $140,162.90

Labour and the Greens by themselves breach the act, with combined spending of $84,924.44

Will be very interesting to see what the result of a complaint would be.

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35 Responses to “Have Labour and Greens broken the CIR Act?”

  1. burt (7,793 comments) says:

    You do know it’s different when Labour do it ?

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  2. Than (425 comments) says:

    The result of a complaint is fairly predictable unfortunately. The complaint would be upheld and referred to police, who would decide a prosecution was “not in the public interest”.

    I’m not sure why we even bother having any electoral laws.

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  3. freedom101 (462 comments) says:

    I’m sure no offence has been committed. We can all sleep easy, knowing that the long arm of the law is cracking down on that elderly Otaki couple who trimmed some trees on their property. To think we fought two world wars to defeat fascism for our freedoms, only to be subjugated by home-grown bureaucrats and control freak politicians. Let’s see if the police will lay charges to protect our democracy.

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  4. Don the Kiwi (1,582 comments) says:

    Should get some private well funded shit-stirring types to get hold of this and create such a ruckus that it couldn’t be ignored.

    I reckon Nasska and some of his buddies could do a great job of that – nasska, kea, big bruv, johnboy et al – go get ‘em, boys. :-)

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  5. OneTrack (2,574 comments) says:

    Those electoral laws only apply to “Tories” and the Exclusive Brethren. Everyone knows that.

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  6. RF (1,261 comments) says:

    But but but Labour and co are entitled to ignore the CIR Act because they say they are. Don’t you understand.

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  7. Pete George (22,753 comments) says:

    Service and Food Workers Union – $26,269
    First Union – $23,356.08

    What the hell? Why would unions spend that much on a futile referendum?

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  8. burt (7,793 comments) says:

    Pete George

    It’s a lot of money taken from low paid workers isn’t it. Taken to save the highly paid politicians spending their own money advancing their chances of election.

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  9. burt (7,793 comments) says:

    Than

    I’m not sure why we even bother having any electoral laws.

    Because parties other than Labour MUST comply with them !

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  10. david (2,531 comments) says:

    It is worth noting that the Act limits the limits to spending on advertising and broadcasts. Presumably spending on people gathering signatures and annoying the citizenry all over the country is exempt from the caps. However anyone with a perceived need to stir (or has a death wish) might ask their Union to show just where the membership authorised the use of union resources for something completely divorced from member welfare.

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  11. Fisiani (944 comments) says:

    Did the unions ask their members if they wanted thousands of dollars wasted on a poinless referendum? No, they did not.
    Did members ask the union to spend thousands of dollars NO again.
    Why would anyone freely join such a union. Answer – (I’ll give you a clue ‘freely’) Because they are compelled to do so.

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  12. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (783 comments) says:

    Big deal – another slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. Nothing will happen. Move on bro.

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  13. In Vino Veritas (136 comments) says:

    Hmm, I thought that all the Unions were affiliated with Labour, which surely makes them, by definition, a “combination” with Labour? And any TV air time that Labour, the Greens and the Unions got on this issue, surely has to be a form of advertising and valued?

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  14. ManuT (34 comments) says:

    Sir Cullen’s Sidekick – “bro”? You Dick!

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  15. Colville (2,059 comments) says:

    Is the tax payers union (http://taxpayers.org.nz/) the type of outfit that would make a complaint?

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  16. Psycho Milt (2,253 comments) says:

    Will be very interesting to see what the result of a complaint would be.

    Sounds like a very expensive way to get a judge to laugh in your face. Still, whatever turns you on…

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  17. Psycho Milt (2,253 comments) says:

    Why would anyone freely join such a union. Answer – (I’ll give you a clue ‘freely’) Because they are compelled to do so.

    The 1970s called, they said you should come back at once because you’re causing a space/time anomaly that threatens the very existence of the universe.

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  18. jp_1983 (184 comments) says:

    Maybe the Union levies should be reduced because they have far too much money to spend on such frivolous matters

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  19. peterwn (3,144 comments) says:

    No worries – the cops are too busy chasing burglars.

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  20. RightNow (6,646 comments) says:

    ManuT (30 comments) says:
    February 21st, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Sir Cullen’s Sidekick – “bro”? You Dick!

    Why does that make him a dick? He uses it all the time in the context of union brothers (comrades).
    I don’t want to rush to judgement like you did, but you’re not going out of your way to take offence are you?

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  21. Peter (1,577 comments) says:

    Our electoral laws are a joke. May as well get rid of them as I can’t recall any real consequences of breaking them.

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  22. adze (1,856 comments) says:

    “Why does that make him a dick? He uses it all the time in the context of union brothers (comrades).”

    Yeah, I took it as a parody of Cunliffe’s fake Pasifika accent.

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  23. adze (1,856 comments) says:

    “Sounds like a very expensive way to get a judge to laugh in your face. Still, whatever turns you on…”

    PM, are you not at least concerned by the fact that the Greens et al apparently broke the electoral law? Would you be equally sanguine if an unholy alliance between National, Act, the exclusive brethren and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse did something similar?

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  24. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Bet Campbell has this as his lead tonight!

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  25. ManuT (34 comments) says:

    RightNow (6,153 comments) says: Why does that make him a dick?

    I have never ever met anyone who uses that term who is not a dick; that’s why.

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  26. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    Sorry I don’t get it. They are individual organisations. They spent less than 50k each. End of.

    How much did Colin Craig spend? Half a mill? Is that considered advertising? Oh and that Larry & Bob were in it together they spent $48k each (suspicious). They should be prosecuted.

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  27. Than (425 comments) says:

    itstricky, actually read the article before you comment on it. DPF has quoted the relevant section of legislation, and even bolded the key sentence. I’ll repeat it for your convenience;

    Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who, either alone or in combination with others knowingly spends, on advertisements published or broadcast in relation to an indicative referendum petition, more than $50,000

    I don’t know what the legal definition of “in combination with” is, but Labour and the Greens communicated to coordinate their efforts on the asset sales CIR. If this situation doesn’t qualify then that section of the legislation is pretty much meaningless, and it’s open season to set up multiple organisations and just spend, spend, spend.

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  28. SPC (5,334 comments) says:

    How does person apply to a political party or union?

    But if it applies to political parties, it certainly does to Larry and Bob as well and anyone who spent over $50,000.

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  29. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    Than I read it. I don’t understand how you loosely couple two independent groups together and say prove that they actually sat in a room, spent 100k together and then proceeded to deliberately fraud the electoral office. They are independent organisations after all. If they work to the same goal and get prosecuted then, as you say, that is ridiculous, and Larry and Bob should go down as well.

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  30. Than (425 comments) says:

    SPC, I’m not a lawyer, but my guess is “person” includes both legal persons (i.e. incorporated societies, corporations, etc.) and natural persons.

    itstricky, you couple two groups together by proving communication (in this case emails) between members of those groups discussing strategy and how best to get a result they both wanted. They were working towards the same goal and they were coordinating their efforts. Claiming they were independent is blatantly false.

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  31. adze (1,856 comments) says:

    @itstricky

    You still haven’t read the whole post then. Up the very top there is a link to a previous blog post containing a leaked document. This document clearly shows that the Labour party, Green Party and unions were working together in a coordinated fashion. The document itself even notes the requirement to stay within a $50k spending cap.

    It’s really not that difficult.

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  32. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    I don’t think it’s anywhere near cut and dry.

    The “smoking gun” says “a coalition of parties” and specifically mentions the 50k cap. So they are aware of it, and they’re not trying to hid it

    A coalition of interested parties is not the same two people getting together to deliberately trying to evade the 50k cap as a single entity and hiding it. That’s what the law is for – deliberate evasion. Otherwise the law would be an arse – you could say Colin, Larry and Bob colluded on the last one because they talked to each other and were working towards a common goal.

    Your essentially saying that in any referendum, there must be only one party, they must not speak to anyone else or be involved in anyway with another group who has the same ideas if more than 50k is to be spent. 5 parties who all believe in the same thing? 10k each. I think, generally, there is always going to be several interested parties pushing agendas in any referendum.

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  33. Than (425 comments) says:

    itstricky, your interpretation makes the limit pretty much meaningless. The Labour party can only spend $50k, but it’s members Joe, Bob, and Jane can also each spend $50k, and they can freely talk together about how to best use this $200k total to achieve the common goal?

    The coordination part is the key. Labour, the Greens, and the unions discussed strategy and how to best spend the combined total. But hey, I’d be happy for the law to go with your version. Just don’t complain when National and ten other business-friendly groups work together to spend ten times the permitted amount this election.

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  34. itstricky (1,536 comments) says:

    Than… When John Key was questioned about the “antics” of this referendum last year he said that he “wouldn’t rule out doing the same thing himself” so yes perhaps where DPF has a point is that this murky grey law needs testing somehow otherwise it will get out of hand. What you mention is a very real possibility. He does not phrase it in such a partisan way though he is full speed ahead on Greens broke the law wagon. I am not a legal eagle but as it stands my interpretation at this point in time is that they are individual organisations. Otherwise older referendii such as the smacking one would be subject to the same thing surely.

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  35. adze (1,856 comments) says:

    itstricky, you can use semantic origami all you want (your political sympathies are hardly a mystery), but if the document is genuine it’s pretty damning. And remember, it’s not the National Party that tried to clamp down on third party political funding in 2007. And the Greens opposed its appeal. So pretty hypocritical for them to collude with unions.

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