I had been concerned at the lack of coverage in the NZ Herald on the Electoral Finance Bill. Aucklanders I know, including a former party president, had told me they would have had no idea of what was in the Bill and how bad it was, if they hadn’t heard me on NewstalkZB discussing it with Larry Williams.
Anyway today the Herald comes to the party big time with no less than three articles on it.
First of all this article by Audrey Young which labels it an “electoral bill no one wants”. Yes the bill is so appallingly bad that even the Government has stopped trying to defend it. Not that they don’t want it passed, they just realise there would be a public revolution if it got passed unchanged.
The Herald uses my phrase (well I’ve not seen it elsewhere) of “regulated criticism” and that is exactly what it is. A bill which defines how one can criticise the Government, and by how much.
They quote Forest & Bird who say having the restrictions stretch out for a whole year is “absolutely unreasonable”. The Sensible Sentencing Trust label it “a corrupt piece of legislation”.
Forest & Bird is also upset that if anyone gives them over $500 anonymously, they have to hand it over to the Government. Yes Dr Cullen will confiscate your donations.
Even Jeanette Fitzsimons concedes “that while she did not agree with Roger Dickie of the Kyoto Forestry Association on the allocation of forest Kyoto credits, I will stand up for their right to put that view publicly.”
I even get a mention as having “lampooned in Stalinist style by David Farrar on Kiwiblog”. This is technically incorrect as I was lampooning it in Maoist style, but the differences aren’t great
In a second article Audrey Young reports that National is alerting about 500 interest groups to make submission on the bills. Good. I’m half tempted to try and form a “Free Speech Coalition” of interested groups to co-ordinate opposition to these provisions.
And finally John Armstrong lets loose:
Wake up to what Labour is doing with its shabby, self-serving Electoral Finance Bill. Or let it be on your conscience that you stood back and watched your right to free speech being flushed down the drain.
While not being quite that direct, National’s Bill English has effectively thrown down that challenge to trade unions, left-of-centre lobby groups, and politicians and individuals of the same ideological ilk.
I have absolutely no doubt that if this bill was passed into law, and National still won the next election, then the Electoral Finance Act would become the most hated and despised law amongst the left. The advantages it gives to an incumbent Government is massive. A National Government could arrange for all state sector pay rounds to be in election year. This would muzzle the unions from doing a public campaign is support of their claims.
If National was totally unprincipled and very cunning it would let this bill pass, betting on the probability their poll lead is great enough that even the taxpayer funded Govt advertising campaigns next year won’t save the Govt. And then in Govt this bill would be their best protection, and Labour and the Greens having forced it through wouldn’t be able to complaining about it.
Armstrong covers this in his article also, that National in 2011 could be hugely advantaged by this bill.Luckily for us all National is putting principle first:
English says standing back is not an option. The legislation is so draconian, so pernicious, so unsatisfactory and so unworkable, National is morally obliged to fight it, even though the bill’s failure to ban anonymous donations is very much to National’s advantage.
One has to give kudos to the Herald for covering this issue, because it is against their own self-interest also. By shutting down almost all paid advocacy in election year, the media are made incredibly more powerful. If lobby groups and parties can’t spend much money on promoting their issues, then editorial discretion as to what gets covered becomes massively more powerful.
This aspect gets noticed by Michelle Boag, who on her blog labels the bill as great news for the PR or public relations industry. Because if one can’t pay to advertise your view, you then need PR people to try and influence editorial coverage.
So in summary the bill is great for the incumbent Government, the media and the PR industry and bad for everyone else!No tag for this post.