Even The Listener joins in the queue to criticise the double rort of the Electoral Finance Bill and the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill. Some quotes:
Proposed rules for election-year spending are blatantly unfair.
This week the government introduced to Parliament a measure called the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill, which it intends to rush through before Christmas.
It might as well be called the “One Law for MPs Bill”. When combined with the Electoral Finance Bill, which is being considered by a select committee, it makes the rules on advertising in an election period markedly different for MPs than for all other New Zealanders.
The Electoral Finance Bill itself attracted widespread and deserved criticism for being anti-democratic. It establishes a regime that will come into effect on January 1, rather than the usual three months before an election. Everyone who produces material that could be construed as supporting or criticising a political party, or even a type of party, will be captured by the restrictions in the bill, including a cap on expenditure between January 1 and election day. The bill is likely to come back from the select committee with some changes, but nothing so far indicates that its fundamental affronts will be removed.
However, the Electoral Finance Bill contains a provision that means it does not apply to MPs. Instead, they will be covered by the “One Law for MPs Bill”. This allows them to campaign next year, right up to the day before the election, using the generous taxpayer-funded allowances given to each party represented in Parliament. What is more, this spending will not be counted as part of each MP’s individual spending cap, nor towards a party’s spending cap.
It seems that Labour and its support parties, believing themselves to be far more cash-strapped than National, have found a way to legitimise election-period spending through their taxpayer-funded parliamentary budgets. Add such spending to the expensive ad campaigns to allegedly educate the public on policies like KiwiSaver or Working for Families, and next year Labour, in particular, will be bleeding a lucrative vein of taxpayer-funded publicity.
The public deserve better. Not only because the public are paying for it, but because it is unfair for incumbent MPs to have a legalised advantage and because, in election year, there should be a level of robust participation that the Electoral Finance Bill will inhibit.
The bill’s provisions are a shame and a shambles and New Zealand’s democracy will be poorer if they are passed.
One of the better Listener editorials.