Editorials 17 February 2010

The Herald says electoral law reform is on the right track:

The government has gone the right way about electoral finance reform, consulting all other parties as the previous Government did not.

Inevitably, therefore, the decisions announced yesterday contain some comfort for parties such as Labour that fear private money in politics, and some disappointment for those who welcome all contributions to public life.

My concern is that a future Labour Government will not be as restrained as National has been, and will force through changes that benefit them, even if other parties are opposed. What would be welcome is for Labour to make a clear declaration that they will not in future push through electoral law changes without a political consensus behind them.

There will be no relaxation of the restrictions on election broadcasts, which can be made only by political parties that have to make them with public money and must be kept within the amounts allocated.

It would be better to let, in fact insist, parties use their own money for television and radio commercials, or let them use public funding for any form of advertising they prefer. But Labour and the Green Party were strongly opposed to any change.

I agree. It is very disappointing that no change is recommended. I hope the Select Committee will be open to persuasion.

The decisions announced yesterday do not appear to go far towards resolving the misuse of parliamentary funds for election purposes. The usual rule is that parliamentary information money can be used to push party barrows as long as the material does not expressly urge a vote, a donation or membership of a party.

It is well past time a tougher test was imposed, and not just within three months of an election, which is the best we can expect from this exercise.

I think the likely tougher test during the regulated period would be a huge improvement. I do not think it is practical to have this tougher test during the entire electoral cycle as almost every publication put out by parliamentary parties has an element of seeking to influence voters towards them.

The Press attacks the publicity stunts:

Most New Zealanders recognise for the self-serving farce which it is the Japanese notion of scientific and are appalled by the view that in order to conduct research into whales it is necessary to kill them.

But most people also believe that international pressure and setting, as New Zealand is doing, an example of non-lethal research are more likely to end whaling than the confrontational antics of the radical Sea Shepherd conservation group.

I hate the hypocrisy of the Japanese claiming the whaling is scientific research, but I hate the lunatics of Sea Shepherd even more.

The Dominion Post does not want the taxpayer funding an America’s Cup bid:

Prime Minister John Key says the Government might back a bid as its Labour predecessors did in 2003 and 2007. Labour put $30 million into the underfunded 2003 defence, $34m into the unsuccessful 2007 challenge in Valencia, and, immediately after that loss, pledged another $10m to Team NZ to stop crew members being poached.

Mr Key should think again. It is not the role of government to fund the sporting pursuits or obsessions of millionaire yachtsmen.

The time to put money into the cup was when there was a realistic prospect it would generate a financial dividend. That time has passed.

The cup is of sporting interest to only a small number of New Zealanders. The rules are obscure – and endlessly up for interpretation in court – the competitors are remote and the action is incomprehensible without a television set, computer graphics and the services of commentator Peter Montgomery.

The event’s primary attraction is as a magnet for the world’s wealthy. Hosting the 2003 regatta was reputedly worth $529m to Auckland businesses. The New Zealand team performed commendably in 2007, winning the challenger series and winning two races in the best of nine contest with Alinghi for the cup itself.

But with many of New Zealand’s best sailors now sailing for foreign syndicates and foreign billionaires lining up to bankroll challenges, the prospect of Team NZ again winning the cup is so slight that the Government should forget it.

I agree. Kiwis keep winning the Cup – but not for NZ syndicates.  Leave it to the billionaires to fund.

The ODT examines colonoscopies:

The report on the 33 colonoscopy patients and the Otago District Health Board is a mixed bag. It gives all sorts of detail about the board service, or lack of service, but it fails to spell out answers to basic questions about these patients.

Did the board provide timely and adequate colonoscopies? And was the treatment of these patients according to board and national criteria? What the report does say is that those audited did have “prolonged journeys” through the public system.

In “report speak” that seems to be saying that the answer to the first question is no.

Check early and check often!

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