Labour’s biggest affiliated union, the EPMU, has applied to be registered as a third party for the election.
By pure coincidence it plans to spend $120,000 – the same amount it spent on the 2005 election. And the amazing coincidence is that is the limit for third parties.
I mean I am sure it is a total coincidence. There is no way the Government set the limit by looking at how much its largest affiliated union wanted to spend. They would not be so self seeking I am sure.
Never mind that the independent Electoral Commission advised the limit should be around $300,000, and actually produced emperical research on how much advertising one can buy, justifying their recommendation.
I am confident that the Government had excellent reasons for setting the level at $120,000, and ignoring the official advice – even though they can’t tell us what these are. And again it is just a coincidence that is how much their largest affiliated union wants to spend, and spent last time.
The EPMU’s President and proposed Financial Agent is Andrew Little. This is the same Andrew Little who is a Vice-President of the Labour Party and is currently considering standing for Labour as a candidate. But let no one suggest the EPMU advertising spend will in any way be co-ordinated to align with Labour’s. Andrew will skillfully not listen to any discussions of campaign strategy at NZ Council meetings.
It may be an interesting issue for the next review of electoral law about whether an organisation that is formally affiliated to a political party, and whose members automatically are voting members of a political party should be seen as different from the political party for electoral spending purposes. The Young Nats activities get included as part of National’s, and Rainbow Labour would be included as part of Labour’s. The difference between a constituent group and an affiliated organisation might not be hugely different. For example both Rainbow Labour and affiliated unions have a representative on the Labour Party Ruling Council, and both have automatic membership eligibility – join them and you are automatically a member of Labour should you wish to exercise those rights.
Of course affiliated unions have a role and primary purpose related to industrial relations, not politics, and that should not be restricted. But it is a grey area when union membership is also de facto party membership and the union is affiliated.
This isn’t anti-union. If for example a farming lobby group was formally part of the National Party, and membership of the farming lobby group also gave you membership rights in National – then the same questions should arise.
UPDATE: I should make clear that the EPMU can not campaign for people to vote Labour without Labour’s authorisation and it counting as part of Labour’s limit. They can campaign for people not to vote National or to campaign against parties wishing to introduce choice of provider into the ACC scheme for example]