Electoral Finance Bill passes first reading

Thanks to DBP I have been unable to blog until now the fact the Electoral Finance (Supression of Criticism) Bill has passed its first reading.  I went into the House for the debate.

The Minister told two big porkies in his speech.  Mark Burton said that the reason there was no clampdown on anonymous and trust donations was because it was difficult to word, and also that one should have a cross-party consensus on such a change.

This is of course a lie.  And not even a plausible lie, but an incompetent one.  The PM herself the previous day had said the reason it wasn’t there was because Labour would be too short of money if they did clamp down.   But even if she had not said, that the excuses were feeble.

The claim that getting the wording right wasn’t possible in the time is nonsense.  They have the wording in the third party regime and could just substitute it.  1/10 for that lie.

Then we have the claim that such a change should have a broad consensus.  0/10 here.  You see this is the one part of the bill there was a broad consensus on.  Everyone except ACT had said they supported a clampdown.

Again the hypocrisy that they have no problem with restricting the advocacy rights of every third party in NZ without a consensus,but suddenly claim to need one for removing anonymous donations.

Bill English spoke next and was superb.  You could tell he was enjoying himself as he held up full page PPTA ads that had appeared that very day, and pointing out that under this bill they’ll be illegal next year once the $60,000 cap is exceeded, and that those two ads were 50% of the annual cap – in just one day.  Bill also covered how one won’t be able to campaign in favour of hard work if a political party is associated with hard work.

Lynne Pillay was third and almost seemed embarrassed by the Bill.  She didn’t talk about any of its features (as they are so bad) but just berated Bill for National saying it would vote against when they had previously said they would support a bill.  Well Lynne, the answer is bloody obvious.  National had no idea that the bill would be so retarded when they said in principle they support change.  And they had no idea Labour would renege on its word and protect anonymous donors after all.

Simon Power was not as animated as English, but clinically dissected it with precision.  He made the absolutely salient point that this is a bill designed for just one election – 2008 to keep Clark and Cullen in their jobs.  He said they care nothing about the next Labour Party Leaders who in opposition will hate and resent this bill as it is such a gerrymander in favour of the Government of the day.

Doug Woolerton then spoke.  I fell asleep.  NZ First are supporting it just because Winston got to change the law relating to his unsuccessful electoral petition.

I missed Tony Ryall’s speech, as I had a meeting with an MP later on, but understand some of the material from here made its way into the speech.  Excellent.

It was a shame that during the speeches, the only journalist present was Peter Wilson of NZPA.  And today neither the NZ Herald not Stuff appear to have any articles online regarding the bill’s passage, despite its huge importance.

The bill was passed 65-54 with Labour, Greens, NZ First, United Future and Progressive in favour.  Against were National, Copeland, Maori Party and Field.  ACT failed to vote.

One major victory was that the House agreed to change the composition of the Justice & Electoral Committee for submission on this Bill.  Normally it is 3 Nats, 3 Labour and 1 Green which would allow Labour/Green to put in whatever they want.

Now it is Labour 4, National 4, Green 1, NZ First 1, Maori 1, ACT 1, United 1.  It is much better to have seven parties, instead of three parties, on there.  The Government did not want to change the composition but some intense lobbying from Phil Lyth (former Parl staffer) convinced all the parties except Labour and NZ First to support a change.

I guess I had better start work on a submission.  I could see the submission being almost as long as the 73 page bill, as it is so badly flawed.  I’ve started a clause by clause analysis and I suspect over a hundred clauses need amending at a minimum.

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