A wretched failure

The Dominion Post calls a spade a spade when it comes to the Electoral Finance Bill:

By any measure, the Electoral Finance Bill is an abject failure, The Dominion Post writes.

It fails to promote participation in parliamentary democracy – one of its lofty ideals; fails to achieve what the prime minister set out to do – end anonymous political donations – and fails to meet any competent law-drafting test.

As the Law Society says, it is so defective and incoherent as to be irredeemable and should be withdrawn. The Government has instead tried to revise it.

National’s deputy leader, Bill English, has damningly dissected the bill’s worst flaws, so irritating Justice Minister Annette King – now in charge of the bill – that she says the law of common sense will apply. No one can find a copy of that.

The bill is still so muddled that Electoral Commission chief Helena Catt has felt compelled to issue a coded admonition to her political bosses, saying she does not intend interpreting the “law of common sense”. Hers was truly a warning shot.

There are political reasons for Labour to push ahead with the bill; confusion suits the prime minister. The absence of countervailing debate will make it so much easier for Labour to get its message across next year, bolstered by taxpayer-funded departmental advertising for KiwiSaver, Working for Families and sustainability, whatever that means.

Had the Government the country’s electoral health at heart, it would take the Law Society’s advice and start again. It might then, for example, remember that, in democracies, elections are not for the parties that contest them but for the people who choose which among them will lead the Government. It would also consult all political parties – not just those in Parliament – because all voters have a stake in elections.

At election time in real democracies – New Zealand used to be one – ordinary voters, as well as lobby groups, can participate through public meetings, advertising, marches and, in this technological age, the blogosphere. No longer. National has promised to repeal the bill. If it really wants to give Labour and its acolytes pause for thought, it should back off and let them stew in their own juice.

I would blog all the editorials in favour of the Electoral Finance Bill, but I can’t find them.

Actually one has to give the media a lot of credit for opposing this bill – because it is against their own interests.  If you restrict the ability of parties, candidates and the public to communicate their views to the public, then the media become far far more powerful.  The media almost become the sole arbiters of what messages they agree with and publicise to the public.

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