Will Shadbolt go to jail?

I didn’t think the actual ad run this month by the Invercargill City Council and other supporters of Southland Institute of Technology would cause problems under the Electoral Finance Bill/Act. But the ones planned for next month certainly would:

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt plans to spend $300,000 on an anti-government advertising campaign opposing the cuts, which he says will see an estimated $24m wiped out of the Southland economy each year.

He plans to use the slogan “Bring down the government” in a second series of newspaper advertisements to run next month.

The ads are likely to fall foul of the new Electoral Finance Act, which is expected to be passed into law on Tuesday. The new law will stop third parties from spending more than $120,000 on political advertising during an election year.

If Shadbolt is convicted, he will automatically lose his job as Mayor. Those planning to vote for the Electoral Finance Bill on Tuesday should reflect on whether they want to be associated with the electoral consequences of having a popular Mayor forced out of office due to him standing up for his local constituents against the central Government.

Spending $300,000 to fight a decision which will cost your community over $20 million is a very logical thing to do. And this is not a big wealthy person funding this – it is a democratic body on behalf of its 50,000 residents. It is stopping the Council from spending $6 per resident to fight a decision which affects their community.

And don’t anyone imagine that the Council’s action will not be near universally supported. They are fanatically passionate about the SIT in Invercargill and 95% of the population there will be cheering the Council on.

The Electoral Finance Bill may become the tombstone for those parties who support it.  I’ll leave the final words to former Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore:

The former Labour Prime Minister has today labelled the piece of legislation as fatally flawed. He says the restrictions in the electoral finance law, promised by the Government to be passed next week in Parliament, are without precedent in the free world.

Mike Moore says the bill is wrong in principle and in substance and will end up doing the opposite of what its authors expected.


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