Leaked Electoral Law Changes

has started leaking their proposed electoral law changes, as they want to divert attention away from their attempt to raid the taxpayer for political party funding. They hope to get that unpopular money grab through, by linking it to the more popular restrictions they propose.

So the first thing to be aware of at all times, is that one can agree with everything proposes in terms of private funding, yet in no way support taxpayer funding of political parties. They are not linked. One is a cover for the other.

The second thing is that Labour’s changes are clearly designed to change the rules to favour themselves. They never had a problem with anonymous donations when they received more of them than National. People should be very concerned that they plan to ram through changes to the Electoral which they have negotiated in secret, rather than seek bi-partisan support for. The Electoral Act is an important constitutional safeguard.

Anyway onto the leaked details:

Require any third party (a group or individual other than a candidate or registered party) to register its intention with the Chief Electoral Officer if it plans to spend more than $5000 nationally and $500 in an electorate.

No problems with that. Lack of disclosure is what the Brethren did wrong last time.

Restrict any third party from spending more than $60,000 nationally or $2000 in an electorate.

$60,000 is a very very low threshold. That barely gives a lobby group a couple of ads in the NZ Herald. It is a limit per voter of two cents expenditure per voter. I think having a limit is fine, seeing political parties have limits, but one has to ask the rationale for one so low it may suppress genuine free speech.

Restrict any third party to New Zealanders or -based organisations.

Fine. Not aware of that are not.

Exempt from the new third-party rules groups such as unions or companies when they are communicating directly with their members.

Now here is the first outrageous attempt to favour their own. They appear to make it look neutral by including companies communicating with their members. But when has a company ever told its members how to vote? They don’t even have members. But the union loophole can and does get used to exempt all sorts of propaganda in union publications which can be circulated around workplaces, handed out in streets etc.

Lower the threshold for disclosure of donations from $10,000 to $5000 for parties and from $1000 to $500 for individual candidates.

That seems reasonable. A lower limit than that would risk exposing rank and file donations, and people have a right to keep their party membership secret, just as it is a hallowed right to keep your vote secret.

Do not allow anonymous or trust donations above the $5,000 limit

I think there is strong public support for this. People should be aware though that inevitably more money will flow to third party lobby groups, as happens in the US. I’m not worried either way, but people should not be surprised when lots of lobby groups pop up.

Ban foreign donations except those from expatriate New Zealanders.

Here’s goes for an outrageous tilt. They received $500,000 last election from Owen Glenn who was not born here and has not lived in NZ since 1966. He would still be allowed to donate but Julian Robertson who is alleged to donate to National, would not, despite Robertson owning property in NZ and spends most of his time living here.

No problems if people want to ban foreign donations, but having a loophole to allow someone who has not lived here since 1966 to donate just because he gives money to is outrageous.

Personally I don’t think you need restrictions if you have full disclosure, as the public can decide for themselves if they disapprove of the source of any donations. But if you are going to have restrictions then they should apply fairly. Say no-one who hasn’t lived here in the last ten years being banned.

Include in the definition of donations loans at non-commercial rates, and a party’s goods or properties sold well over their valuation.

Sounds sensible enough – presumably to stop what has happened in the UK for interest free loans not disclosed and being exchanged for peerages.

Require whatever the third party spends to be counted against its $60,000 limit and the limit of the party it is supporting.

Now this part is not clear from the leaked report. The current law already states that if say a union spends $20,000 saying Vote it must be approved by Labour and count as part of its total.

But it seems they are suggesting that negative against other parties must be approved by a party and count as part of its limit. That’s seems ridiculous if true.

If someone runs an anti-NZ First ad, which party has to approve it and have it counted as part of their return? How about an anti- ad? Or an anti- ad?

Overall there are some parts of the changes which are sensible, and should be (and I think will be) supported by almost all parties. But some are clear attempts to gerrymander the electoral laws to help Labour, and should be strongly opposed.

Also we should look at what is not included? The current $4,000 for a corrupt practice is ridiculously light. If Labour has integrity they should be including an increase in this to at least $100,000 for individuals and $1 million for political parties.

Comments (28)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: