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 7.1.2.1

          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

  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Ruakura Inland Port development vital infrastructure for Waikato
    The Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura which will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato, Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The funding has been has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Appointments made to Defence Expert Review Group
    Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today the establishment of an Expert Review Group to review a number of aspects of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) structure, information management and record-keeping processes.  The Expert Review Group’s work arises out of the first recommendation from the Report of the Government’s Inquiry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • No active community cases of COVID-19
    There are no active community cases of COVID-19 remaining in the country after the last people from the recent outbreak have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “This is a big milestone. New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus. The systems ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago