An Espiner column

Two pretty balanced pieces from Colin Espiner today.  First his column on the Electoral Finance Bill:

The Electoral Finance Bill will dominate this final sitting and it’s likely to be a grim fight to the death for both sides.

… but this year the Opposition is likely to put up more than its usual token resistance and will drag out the debate on the bill for as long as it possibly can.

And so it should. The bill has potentially far-reaching consequences for the democratic right of opponents of the government to have their say in election year.

Indeed.  I hope National fight the bill for as long as possible.

But despite attempts by Labour to patch up the worst of the bill’s flaws, it remains a shoddy piece of legislation that should be consigned to the dustbin. Even the kindest interpretation of its aims and objectives would still require, as the Electoral Commission itself says,”a law of common sense” to apply.

… There is also no doubt that the debate has been effectively hijacked by Right-wing supporters of National such as David Farrar and John Boscawen, who have even appeared in the media as “independent” commentators, despite one being National’s Wellington Central campaign manager and the other an Act Party fundraiser.

I wouldn’t say hijacked – no one is forced to quote me.  But glad to have been effective on such a good cause.  I actually had no plans at all to oppose the Bill on the basis of what was in the leaked Cabinet Paper.  It is only when it got changed into the monstrosity that got introduced into the House that I decided to oppose the Bill outright rather than just offer amendments.

Labour only has itself to blame, however. It missed a golden opportunity to hold National to an earlier pledge to support the end of secret trusts and Brethren-style campaign tactics by over-reaching itself in a bid to stamp out any anti-government expenditure in an election year.

Indeed.  National should have been on the back foot over the bill, and it is a sign of how incompetent the Government’s handling of this has been, that even the Sunday Star-Times is now saying Kill the Bill.

Regardless of whether this bill has any merit ramming any electoral law through Parliament on a bare majority weeks before it is due to come into force is bad government.

Incredibly bad Government.  Hell they had a four month period for spam laws to come into force, and we now have only 15 working days left this year and no-one has actully seen the final law.  It’s beyond Mickey Mouse.

Labour has already rolled over companion legislation dealing with the funding of parties’ office budgets until after the next election and it should do the same with the bill. Only in the relative calm post-election can these issues be properly debated. In the meantime, the entire lot should be farmed out to a properly constituted Royal Commission of Inquiry. Electoral law is too important to be decided by back-room deals and without the support of the major opposition party.

Indeed.  The electoral law is being written by Helen Clark and Winston Peters in private, plus the Greens.

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