Tony Milne’s got a good piece on the Electoral Finance Bill over at his blog I See Red – electoral finance reform is a way to safeguard democracy:
“New Zealand history tells an interesting story about the battle for democracy. Whenever progressive forces have mobilised to extend the franchise or the ideal of ‘one person, one vote’ the forces of the right, mostly represented by the National Party, have stood shoulder to shoulder with the wealthy and powerful to oppose such change.”
Jordan Carter’s post a couple of days ago makes the point that the law should treat all parties the same, and that the current law doesn’t:
“Currently in New Zealand politics, the scrum is well and truly screwed – in National’s favour. Big, dirty money had a sinister role in 2005’s general election, as we all know too well. That overreach fortunately failed to deliver Government to National, and so now the political forces which support a level playing field are going to push through laws to do just that.”
On Public Address Russell Brown suggests that on closer examination The Herald might not be quite the defender of democracy it would have us believe:
“It sees no problem in very wealthy individuals being able to anonymously pursue their interests by funnelling millions of dollars through secret party trusts that are opaque to the public. And for the spending of that money on electioneering to be open slather apart from the three months presently deemed to be the official election campaign. This seems an odd stance for a self-styled champion of democracy…”
Just to remind us why we’re even talking electoral reform, No Right Turn takes us back to the shady events of 2005:
The real “attack on democracy” comes not from the bill, but from an existing regime which allows rich parties with rich mates to ignore disclosure requirements and circumvent spending limits – effectively allowing them to sell policy and buy power.
We saw these loopholes exploited in the 2005 election, when National used a network of secret trusts to launder donations, thus preventing any public scrutiny of what donors were getting in exchange for their money. That party then used its mountain of cash to spend up large on advertising before the regulated period began, thus circumventing its spending limit.
Then, when the election campaign actually began, it colluded with the Exclusive Brethren and the Fairtax lobby to have well over a million dollars spent in support of their election, over and above their official spending. This was on material designed and scripted by National, but officially published by others in a deliberate effort to circumvent the law.
In a recent post entitled “The Electoral Fincance Bill: is our democracy really at threat” Colin Espiner rounds the recommended reading with a reminder that The Herald isn’t famed for it’s neutrality (“[readers] know not to turn to this organ for balanced, unbiased coverage on this particular topic”) and a gives a nice pitch of his own for state funding:
And before anyone leaps on their high horse about misuse of taxpayers’ money, puh-lease. The current situation is precisely the one that has operated for decades, and will continue to operate until we finally get around to state funding of political parties, which would be a far simpler, clearer, and fairer system for all.