Peter Dunne does not know what he is voting for

Peter Dunne has posted on the United Future website about the Electoral Finance Bill, and sadly it is apparent Peter is not conversant with what the EFB will do. He makes a number of quite wrong claims.

A Dave (not me) had said:

If the opinion can be seen as encouraging or persuading people to support or not support a party or a candidate or a class of party or candidate it will be limited. If you want to run a campaign which says �Support parties which support Kyoto� then that is captured.

Peter Dunne replied:

With respect, Dave, neiter of those claims are true. To be caught, a group has to be apending more than $120,000 in support of a particular party, from the period of registration through to the leection. That is from Writ Day onwards – about a month before the election.

Now let us look at what the Bill says – would it include a campaign which says support parties which support Kyoto, even if it does not name them?

Clause 5(1) is our key clause defining an election advertisement, and we want paragraph (a)(ii) which is:

encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a type of party or for a type of candidate that is described or indicated by reference to views, positions, or policies that are or are not held, taken, or pursued (whether or not the name of a party or the name of a candidate is stated)

So it is crystal clear it does not have to be in support of a particular party. It can be in support or against parties which hold or do not hold particular policy positions. Peter Dunne is quite wrong in his assertion it has to be “in support of a particular party”. The example given by Dave about “Support parties which support Kyoto” is quite clearly within the gambit of 5(1)(a)(ii).

Peter is also confused about the dates which the spending limits apply for – it is all of election year. Here’s how it works:

  1. Any communication with the public by any means which says “Support parties which support Kyoto” is an election advertisement from 1 January 2008
  2. If one spends over $12,000 on that communication, you *must* register as a third party prior to spending over $12,000. So if you spend $3,000 a month from January then you must register before May.
  3. The latest you can enrol as a third party is writ day, but the spending limit applies for all expenditure from 1 January. You can not do what Dunne suggests and spend what you like until writ day, and then be restricted.

So the implication that the limit on spending is from writ day to election day is quite misleading.

Peter is also wrong on the t-shirts. T-shirts were not defined under the 1993 Electoral Act as an advertisement. The Electoral Finance Bill most definitely will include t-shirts as publishing an advertisement if it encourages or persuades people to vote for a party. But that is a trivial side issue compared to the fact that a Government Minister and the swing vote on the Select Committee has not fully understood the third party provisions of the Bill he is partly responsible for.

I have a hell of a lot of time for Peter Dunne, and I note he has not said he will definitely vote for the Electoral Finance Bill on the third reading. I urge him to re-read the Bill and decide to vote against it.

UPDATE: Graeme Edgeler (lawyer who has written a lot on this bill) has posted on the United Future blog correcting various statements made there. He points out that the Crazy Car campaign being run this year would be covered (and illegal due to its cost) next year.

Also Peter Dunne has admitted he is wrong about the period of time the $120,000 applies for. He has not yet conceded that his description of what sort of activities would be captured was also wrong.

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