O’Sullivan on taxpayer funding moves by Labour

An excellent column by Fran O’Sullivan on all that is wrong with how Labour is planning to bring in of political parties. Extracts:

If a major shareholder plundered company funds to maintain a jet-set lifestyle or fight off takeover attempts, someone would blow the whistle.

But somehow our ruling Labour Government seems to think it’s okay to try to square away private deals with minority parties, such as United Future and NZ First, so it can get control of $1.14 million of taxpayer funds to fight the next election. And rort some other election spending rules so it can more easily remain in power.

That’s what’s really going on at the this week as Labour’s “coalition managers” build the numbers so they can try and ram through legislation to get state funding of political parties in place for next year’s election.

Any forensic accountant – or Serious Office investigator – looking into this unseemly dealing would quickly do a double take.

They would question why Labour needs to rush through state funding without first asking all those taxpayers who are qualified to vote to give their mandate through a referendum at next year’s election.

Could it be that – despite Labour president Mike Williams’ denials – the party has found itself clean out of cash after it was forced to refund the $800,000 of taxpayers’ funds it unlawfully raided from the parliamentary purse to bolster its campaign for the 2005 election?

If so, the cosy deal that Labour is trying to stack up is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded money-go-round to out its finances.

But if Williams’ protests are true – and Labour does have sufficient fund-raising capacity for the next election – then he should urge the Government to take the right step and seek a proper political mandate.

For a Government which has made shareholders’ rights a motif for its own corporate law reforms, this all smacks of abuse of privilege.

… Labour is attempting a frank gerrymander by then trying to reserve a special position for the unions on third-party election funding. The $60,000 limit will not apply if they are “communicating directly” with their members.

The Herald has disclosed that Labour’s proposals fall into five major categories: transparency of donations; restricting third-party campaigns; clarifying election expenses; beefing up enforcement of the law; and state funding.

If it wants to be taken credibly, Labour should get Justice Minister Mark Burton to release a policy paper and form an all-party agreement on the options which can be taken to referendum.

The Electoral Act is one of our key constitutional documents, even though only parts of it are entrenched. Structural changes such as the move to MMP happened with the consent of the people. of political parties is a structural change. It will have a huge impact on parties, on members and the public. It will help entrench the current parties against challengers. There are pros and cons one can debate, but Labour negotiating 61 votes in favour in secret is a very bad look, as opposed to the bipartisan process advocated by Fran.

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