web analytics

Democracy Under Attack!!!

Written By: - Date published: 10:15 am, December 21st, 2010 - 22 comments
Categories: election funding, newspapers - Tags: , ,

I couldn’t let the last of the year slip away without a fond farewell to the good old Electoral Finance Act.

Cast your minds back to where it all began. The 2005 election, where National’s lies and dodgy dealings with third party lobbyists cost them both the election, and their leader (when Don Brash resigned in the face of the public outcry). Trying to close the loopholes, Labour put forward the Electoral Finance Bill. The first draft was flawed. Overall there is no doubt that Labour bungled the process. But the final version was acceptable, and the Act was passed by the majority of parties in Parliament.

During this process the attacks mounted on the EFA were extraordinarily feral. The “respectable” face of the crusade was the Herald’s “Democracy Under Attack” campaign. Taking the fight to the gutter, was National blogger DPF and his series of billboards comparing the government to a range of brutal dictators. And let’s not forget the rent a mob demonstrations and the perfectly valid and reasonable comparisons of Helen Clark to Adolf Hitler. Ahhh – good times.

Fast forward to the National government of today. Last week their replacement Act was passed. Legal academic and constitutional expert Andrew Geddis at Pundit sums up:

[On December 15th] Parliament once again passed the Electoral Finance Act – repackaged as the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill …

Those compromises also have resulted in a set of rules that are less prescriptive than the Electoral Finance Act’s were. So, the period of pre-election regulation is much shorter than under the Electoral Finance Act – dialed back from up-to 11 months to about 3 months. “Third parties”, now called “promoters”, can spend up to $300,000 on election advertisements during this period – up from the $120,000 cap that applied previously. There’s been an increase in how much political parties and candidates can spend on their own campaigns, to take account for the fact these limits hadn’t changed since 1996. Donors to political parties can give up to $15,000 without having to identify themselves publicly, up from the former threshold of $10,000.

So, all-in-all, the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill is less restrictive of campaign spending than was the Electoral Finance Act. But, and here’s the germ of truth I referred to earlier, it is more restrictive than was the law prior to 2008. And the restrictions it applies differ from the Electoral Finance Act more in degree than substance.

Most importantly, the new legislation accepts the proposition that anyone who wishes to involve themselves in the election campaign with the aim of influencing the outcome of the vote ought to be subject to financial limits. So it doesn’t matter if you are a political party, a candidate, an outraged individual, a pressure group or a labour/business organisation – if you want to tell people how they should vote come election day, then you should get a say … but not too much of a say.

So the Nats’ replacement has tweaked some thresholds, but it retains the principles (and much of the actual substance) of Labour’s EFA. Is the Herald running “Democracy Under Attack” banners? No. Is DPF on TV pushing his dictator billboards? No. Are wealthy bagmen spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to fake grass roots concern? No.

If the EFA was actually a bad law then the same people who campaigned against it then would be campaigning against it now. But they aren’t, and that silence speaks volumes. That silence tells us that the new Act, like the old EFA, are perfectly reasonable documents. That silence tells us that the real attack on democracy was not the EFA, but the crusade against it. That silence tell us that we have witnessed one of the most extraordinarily cynical and feral propaganda campaigns of our recent political history.

22 comments on “Democracy Under Attack!!! ”

  1. Sookie 1

    I started dipping into NZ political blogs in 2008. The misogynistic bile and vitriol directed at Helen Clark I discovered used to make me feel physically sick. I knew then that NZ wasn’t the lovely green, leftie, feminist-friendly land of frolicking Hobbits I so fondly thought it was while I lived and worked in the UK. Now the sad little Hollow Men so awesome at stirring up cynical faux-outrage like this EFA nonsense are in charge, and I want to bugger off again. But where can a girl run to? It’s just as bad everywhere else.

    • foveaux 1.1

      Scandinavia is probably your best bet. That’s where I’m off to when I graduate.

      • r0b 1.1.1

        We’re sorry to lose every graduate, every Kiwi. But I can’t argue with the logic.

      • grumpy 1.1.2

        Alas, the Scandanavia of a few years ago is no longer there. Most of the governments are Right Wing and the taxation is horrendous. However, if you are looking to be taken care of from cradle to the grave and have every original thought kicked out of you – go for it!

  2. Bill 2

    Jut an observation (not the first time it’s been made), but the astro turf EFA effort bears a remarkable resemblance to the Tea Party nonsense in ‘the states’ with it’s reliance on conflating democratically elected leaders with dictators and using the traditional symbolism associated with dictatorships.

    If the main protagonists were identified…ie, the people behind Farrar and the rest, then I reckon that Mallard’s ‘bag man’ would be discovered to be not a million miles distant.

    And while I’m on a role of unsubstantiated musings, you don’t think that Key…the man the world revolves around…was stupid enough to assume that by being a conduit for US foreign policy and economic policies finding favour in NZ, that he would be rewarded with a faux ( but real to John) Obama friendship that he could exploit through the media for his own political gain? I can just picture him, all tearey eyed and fretting wondering why he was experiencing such feelings of rejection and firing off a cable, hoping to be told it wurrent so…it just wurrent so.

  3. Bunji 3

    Great post r0b – shows the hysteria up for what it was…

  4. Bill 4

    What I detest about all of this; the EFA and the Amendment, is the blithe acceptance that money should be given an avenue to talk…awarded a platform. It’s bullshit. Financial limits only moderate the interplay between those already advantaged by the monetisation of politics.

    See, I just shook my piggy bank. Couldn’t raise so much as a squeak. And there was me thinking democracy was something for us to practice and engage in. Silly me.

    You and I are rendered mute. Just as democracy should be.

  5. tc 5

    ” Is the Herald running “Democracy Under Attack” banners? ” pure gold R0B….keep up the great work and have a great xmas new year.

  6. Nick C 6

    “The Act was passed by the majority of parties in Parliament.”

    No it wasnt. National, Act, United Future and Maori Party voted against at third reading. Labour, Greens, NZ First and Progressives voted for. So it was 4 parties in favour 4 against.

    edit – In fact Taito Philip Field voted against at third reading too :P. He was not a party, but if he was it would have been majority of parties voting against.

    • r0b 6.1

      You are correct on the third reading, but on the first two readings United Future voted for, not against.

      Note also that the Maori Party (who voted against) supported the goals of the Act and voted against in part because they felt that it wasn’t strong enough.

      Interesting to go back and see what all the Party leaders were saying at the time.

  7. But this time there is no “Democracy Under Attack” campaign. I wonder why…

    Well I’ll tell you why my protest has been more muted this time round (though I have voiced my disapproval here and elsewhere).

    Because what’s the point? NZ got rid of a cold, supercilious, dictatorial, hubristic leader and a Cabinet that was too emasculated (or simply didn’t care) about democracy replaced them with a smiley, supercilious dictatorial hubristic leader and a Cabinet that actually wants to erode democracy.

    So really, what’s the point?

    • r0b 7.1

      I’m certainly glad that I’m not as pessimistic as you Rex. See, I only believe that half our politicians are dangerous to our health, not all of them. How do you get through the day?

      • burt 7.1.1

        It’s easy for you though rOb because you only need to look at the colour of their party affiliation rather than scrutinise their actions or words.

      • How do you get through the day, r0b, maintaining the delusion that, say, Kris Fa’afoi or Chris Carter have principles?

        Yes, some pollies do, on both sides of the aisle and on the cross-benches. But never enough to form a critical mass in any major party and rarely even in a minor one.

        And it appears I’m getting through the day by gradually morphing into a centrist version of Redbaiter… 😀 And hoping that, at some time in the future, I’ll once again be in a position to try and effect change, rather than rant impotently on a blog.

        • r0b

          I’m not sure that hating everyone is exactly “centrist”! More like left right out.

          My suggestion, pick the lesser of the evils and get involved. Effect change from within. It’s the most effective way…

  8. ak 8

    Terrific post r0b. Clearly demonstrates and proves the synthetic quality of the insanity that was whipped up over this relatively minor issue – and others, especially Winnie-bango. The first inkling of this pathetic phenomenum emerged with Orewa One: editorials and talk-back insanity (genuinely and naively thought I was listening to sophisticated parody!) – the hint given in “The Hollow Men” via a Brownlee reference to “work that was done for weeks before” pointing to a deliberate, well-heeled campaign of mainstream media hatemongering (“Death of Democracy” the risible nadir) the like of which we had never witnessed. Except, in hindsight, on Fox News.

    We tend to forget that the polls were neck-and-neck around Sept-Oct 07: then the Mallard/Henare slappo was heavily blamed on Trev, and the deluge of EFA mania began. Most disappointing was the willingness of hitherto ostensibly sensible actors to lap it up: Harawira screaming an extreme sewerblog montage in the house, Espiner and Garner gleefully jumping on the hatewagon for their drinking buddy with extensive “detached” reporting on extremists like Farrar and his billboards, to the extent that even in refined and mature company “that bitch” passed withered lips that had never whispered a “damn” in eight or more decades. A time of shame for many, of disappointment for others. To all sunday-school children who had ever scratched their heads as to how the Jews could flick from praise to crucifixion in days – or how refined and cultural Germans could unite behind Adolf, mass, hysterical hatred bared its ugly fangs in our very own idyll.

    Here’s a word to help you get through the day Rex: forgiveness. Requires courage, but works far better than correction. And as r0b proves with every post, builds strength and hope.

    • Thanks for the thought, ak (and for the very eloquent piece that precedes it).

      But forgiveness is only possible if one sees contrition and change, as I know full well from my justice sector work. I’ve championed murderers whom I’ve seen genuinely change their ways.

      But if you’re suggesting I forgive Labour their excesses I have two problems with that. First, many still involved don’t see them as excesses at all – or at least refuse to admit they were. And accepting guilt is the first, and utterly necessary, step to rehabilitation. Second, when given a chance to show they realise they need a game-changer, they trot out Kris Fa’afoi. Or abdicate power to Gerry Brownlee. Or fail to go into bat for the Chief Justice. Or vote for EFA Mk II. Or…

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    10 hours ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    13 hours ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    21 hours ago
  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago