Espiner on electoral law changes

Colin Espiner writes:

Voters are set to be bombarded by record levels of advertising during the next election, after Government moves to relax some campaign spending rules.

Bzzzt. I really wish one would not treat an opinion as a fact. As no third party came close to spending the $120,000 limit last time, it does not follow that having no limit will lead to record levels of advertising.

In a big change to the former Electoral Finance Act, National is proposing to allow lobbyists, such as unions or special interest groups, to spend any amount during election campaigns – provided they register with the Electoral Commission and identify themselves in their advertisements.

I will make a prediction now. The vast majority of third party spending will be unions advertising against National. In Australia the unions spends ten times as much as any other groups.

The move could see a return to the sort of high-spending negative campaign run against the Greens by the Exclusive Brethren during the 2005 election. In addition, lobby groups will be able to advertise for as well as against political parties – raising the possibility of “back door” donations that get around the limits on what politicians can spend.

This is just plain incorrect. A third party can not advertise in support of a political party unless the party agrees, in which case the spending counts as part of the party’s spending under their limit.

You can not get around the spending limit for advertising in favour of a party, by having a third party do it.

But the advertising can only take place in non-broadcast media, after the Government decided to keep current limits on broadcasting during campaigns in place.

They are not limits. They are a ban. The ban incidentally is almost certain to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

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