NZ Herald on electoral finance

The NZ Herald editorial addresses electoral finance issues:

The last rites on the were read last week when the head of the Electoral Commission, the body charged with enforcing it, declared the law was having a “chilling effect” on public participation in the imminent election. The next day Justice Minister Annette King announced the review.

And Annette King still refuses to discuss how the law of common sense became the law of chilling effects.

The review is plainly designed simply to give the Government’s election campaign a response to the inevitable criticism it will incur for the Electoral Finance Act. It will say it always envisaged a post-election review to iron out problems with the new law, but when the legislation was passed in December it promised to appoint a review panel early this year. Had it done so, the exercise might have been credible. It is rather late now.

Yes why does it take nine months to appoint a panel? I think the Herald is right in labelling it a campaign stunt.

National, if it forms the next government, will have to replace the Electoral Finance Act with something better than the opaque rules that preceded the act. It ought to hold an all-party conference to draw up questions of political finance to be put to an independent commission.

I would hope there are public discussion papers, and open seminars on the issues. A National-led Government should consult with all parties on electoral law proposals, to try and repair the damage Labour has done to our constitutional conventions aound the Electoral Act.

It ought to be wary of political academics who are inclined to believe that the public purse should fund everything to do with elections.

Taxpayers already finance most of the activities of parties in Parliament, giving them too much advantage over those not already in the House.

I agree. One way to even the odds might be to redirect the broadcasting allocation away from the parliamentary parties, so that only parties without existing MPs are eligible to receive taxpayer funds for their broadcasting. The parties in Parliament have the huge benefit of three years of free publicity through their MPs but over $10 million a year of funding for their parliamentary parties.

It is healthy to have new parties break into Parliament (something only ACT has managed to date without the benefit of an existing MP). So giving each non parliamentary party $100,000 to $150,000 would help them have a decent chance against the existing parliamentary parties.

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