Editorials 10 May 2010

The Herald approves of the electoral finance bill:

The Government’s long-awaited bill reforming electoral finance law solves many of the problems created by its contentious, discredited and repealed 2007 predecessor and the dated 1993 . …

It is better than both the EFA and the status quo. Personally I wanted to see considerably more reform, but accept the Government made a decision not to push through changes, which did not have wide parliamentary support. Effectively Labour were given a veto over the changes.

Several new measures have been raised since details of the reforms were announced in February.

The most welcome is news that a separate bill will finally be introduced to tighten the use by parties and MPs of parliamentary funds to campaign to voters. …

A bill later this year will align the parliamentary and electoral law definitions in the “regulated period” or three months before an election. Parties will no longer be able to spend parliamentary money for communications other than those that “explicitly” seek people’s support or party vote or donations or membership of their party.

News I exclusively broke here, using papers I obtained under the OIA.

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill sets a three-month regulated period, down from the entire calendar year of an election in the 2007 law, and limits it still further if an election is called fewer than three months from polling day.

The regulated period is shorter if the election date is announced less than three months before the last possible election date, not just the actual election date. Expect to see this change at select committee.

The Dominion Post has advice for Nick Clegg:

Welcome to our world. Britain is about to face the realities of coalition government. The voters have delivered an MMP result under a first-past-the-post system, effectively leaving the Liberal Democrats to decide who gets to form the next government. It is small wonder that the New Zealand Cabinet Manual is being avidly read in Whitehall offices. …

However, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will have to be careful not to overplay his hand. His party’s tally of 57 seats is fewer than he and others expected, and he needs to be conscious that how he behaves now will play a huge role in how Britons view proportional representation.

Mr Clegg is unlikely to have a better chance to push the cause of electoral reform with the other parties than he does now while still in the role of kingmaker – at the time of writing no deals had been struck – but if he is seen as putting his party’s interests ahead of those of the country, or of seeking to be the tail that wags the dog, there will be a backlash.

As some NZ parties have found.

And the ODT looks at local government:

The pros and cons of what exactly are local government’s “core activities” continue to be debated by the public in a somewhat desultory fashion, while it is obvious central government has long embarked on providing the statutory means by which local councils can shed what might once have been regarded as essential services in favour of the private sector. …

Mr Hide’s Local Government Amendment Act 2002 Amendment Bill, which has received its first reading in Parliament and will now be further considered in select committee, enables local councils to offer tenders to private companies to provide services for up to 35 years, essentially a technical change since councils can already take that action, but only for a 15-year period.

He has argued that the change is necessary because 15 years is not sufficient to enable an adequate return on the economic life of water assets.

In other words, his Bill is designed to make the possibility of privately contracting water services more attractive.

But even if the Bill survives without radical change, it does not necessarily mean water services will be privatised.

Indeed, councils will retain control of services should they opt to have components contracted to private providers; the restrictions on the sale of council water services in the Local Government Act 2002 remain.

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