Kerr comments on big money in politics

Roger Kerr commented on yesterday’s blog post about big money on politics. I think this is Roger’s first comment on a blog post!

Roger made a few observations:

(i) Representative business organisations today typically take a national interest perspective, not a narrow, self-interested business perspective as in Fortress New Zealand days. The rationale is that what’s good for New Zealand is good for business in the long run, not the other way round. (Of course whether their advocacy conforms with that perspective should always be open to challenge.)

Thankfully it has been a long-time since business groups have demanded special favours for this sector, or that sector.

(ii) Consistent with (i), they routinely both support and criticise policy positions taken by all political parties.

Indeed, and groups like Business NZ have worked closely with the Labour Government on many issues – some might even say too closely!

(iii) It’s hard to fathom why some unions (eg EPMU) are so overtly partisan. Can this really be in the interests of their members? Governments change, as they should in a healthy democracy. How can they expect a sympathetic hearing for their members’ interests when they have publicly campaigned against a party that ends up in government?

Well the EPMU is a member of the Labour Party and hence can only be partisan. It does raise the question of how should a National-led Government deal with unions who have said their job is to get National kicked out of office regardless of what their policies are.

And as amusing as I find the CTU ads, I do wonder about the wisdom of being quite so partisan, that their influence with a new Government could be greatly reduced.

(iv) Unions in other countries seem less partisan and more willing to criticise the policies of ‘their’ parties, eg US unions in manufacturing industries on climate change issues.

Yes, some of the Australian unions also have been critical of ALP policies.

(v) Donations by corporates now seem to be very small, and are often split between parties.

So far the largest reported donation to National is $30,000. And I agree they are split between parties.

(vi) It would appear that the largest reported donation to a political party in recent years from a business source was that by Mr Owen Glenn to the Labour Party.

$500,000 to Labour plus $100,000 interest free loan plus $100,000 to Winston’s legal fees.

(vii) The most blatant case of business cash-for-favours in recent years would appear to be from racing industry sources to New Zealand First, whose leader Winston Peters has railed against ‘big business’ influence on politics.

I’m not sure ironic covers this situation adequately. I’m not even sure gross hypocrisy covers it.

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