I was hoping to blog this over the last week but got too busy so have had to write it all in the last 36 hours.
Anyway for those interested my submission is here – electoral-finance-reform-submission-form-final-dpf.
The very high level summary of what I advoctaed is:
- Agree with six principles but under equity makes it “manifestly unfair” rather than merely unfair. Also add 7th principle of simplicity.
- Ban all anonymous donations (except those under $100 as not practical to record every cent), and abolish protected donations regime through Electoral Commission.
- Retain transparency and disclosure of donations through an intermediary such as a trust.
- Proposed disclosure threshold for donations remain at $10,000/year but also require disclosure if donations exceed $25,000 over a three year electoral cycle.
- No limit on donations from a single source.
- Donation levels should be inflation adjusted.
- No restriction on who can donate, so long as significant donations are disclosed.
- Against any additional public funding of parties or their campaigns
- Would ban all advertising from parliamentary or Government funds during the regulated period, except essential advertising approved by Auditor-General.
- Restrict the current broadcasting allocation to parties not in Parliament as parties in Parliament already have a massive advantage with their media profile, their MPs, their parliamentary staff and their parliamentary budgets. Suggest $200,000 per non parliamentary party be allowed.
- Political parties (and third parties) should be allowed to purchase their own broadcasting time and advertisements.
- TVNZ and RNZ should not be required to give away free broadcast time for party broadcasts.
- Advocate new additional transparency requirements for political parties – that they report a summary of all donations received by band – ie x donations from $0 to $100, y donations from $101 to $1,000, z donations from $1,001 to $10,000 etc. This will allow an overall picture of how a party is funded and would have exposed the false imagine NZ First portrayed as solely funded by cake stalls etc.
- Campaign spending limits should be based on emperical evidance of what amount of money is needed to effectively communicate with all voters. Suggest $50,000 for electorate campaigns and $5 million for party campaigns. Note this includes the broadcasting allocation so effectively moves the limit from $3.5 million to $5.0 million – which is what it would be anyway if it had been inflation and population adjusted from 1996 when last set.
- Spending levels should be inflation and population adjusted.
- Would like a fixed election date and regulated period to start 90 days before that. If not possible, then have regulated period start 90 days befroe expiry of the House or on a fixed date such as 1 September. Must not have a retrospective regulated period.
- Have a narrow definition of election advertisement so it does not capture personal communication of views etc.
- Generally exempt communications on the Internet as this is information people seek out. Exception is paid advertising on the Internet.
- Require advertisements to be authorised but allow names and addresses to be listed on Electoral Commission website.
- Have a voluntary registration regime and spending limit for third parties or parallel campaigners. Provide incentives for third parties to register – such as binding rulings on advertisements, but not make it compulsory as experience of EFA is this is hugely resented.
- Suggest threshold for registration (if compulsory) is $50,000
- Spending limit (preferably voluntary) to be 20% of a party’s limit or $1 million.
- Combine electoral agencies and let them take cases direct to Court without Police.
- Allow electoral agency to give binding rulings like the IRD
- Also allow agency to impose automatic fines for minor breaches such as late returns.
The Ministry of Justice will pubish a summary of submissions in the near future and in August a proposals paper. Will be very interested to see them.