Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2010 Submission

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR
TO THE ELECTORAL LEGISLATION SELECT COMMITTEE
ON THE PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE AMENDMENT BILL 2010

About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

Executive Summary

  1. I support the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2010 as it provides a necessary limitation on what advertisements can be funded by the taxpayer during an election campaign.
  2. The history of this issue goes back to the 2005 election, when the Auditor-General found much of the parliamentary spending was illegal and outside the law.
  3. ’s response was to legislate an interim definition of what was allowable that was wide – anything that did not explicitly call for votes, money or members was okay.
  4. The problem with the interim definition is that it would have allowed a repeat of 2005, when you could have taxpayer funded election pledge cards being paid for by Parliament, just weeks or days before an election.
  5. One solution is to adopt a more narrow definition during the entire parliamentary term – banning any publications that promote a political party or MP. The problem with this solution is that in practice it could never work. Almost all parliamentary publications involve a degree of party and MP promotion. One can not easily draw a fine line between parliamentary and political publications. The Opposition should be able to campaign against (for example) the Government’s budget, from their parliamentary budget. Otherwise the Government will be too powerful.
  6. The solution adopted in this bill, is to have a wide definition of what is allowable for two years and nine months (approx), and to have a much tighter definition during the three month regulated period.
  7. I support this solution, and in fact have publicly urged such a solution since 2006. It doesn’t unduly restrict the operations of Parliament during most of the parliamentary term, but makes the election period fairer by preventing parliamentary parties and incumbent MPs from being able to spend taxpayer money on their advertising materials.
  8. The ability to get an advisory opinion from the Electoral Commission as to whether a proposed publication is an election advertisement will, I am sure, be welcomed by MPs and staff of the Parliamentary Service.
  9. One issue I would raise is whether s3A(2)((a)(i) and (ii) should also exclude communications that explicitly call on people not to elect a particular person or party vote for a particular party. This would seem desirable to me, as I don’t think (for example) taxpayer funded pamphlets should ever explicitly refer to how people should vote.

In summary I urge the Electoral Legislation Committee to recommend the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2010 be passed.

David Farrar

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