EPMU cleared to campaign

Written By: - Date published: 10:21 am, July 30th, 2008 - 39 comments
Categories: dpf, election funding, national, workers' rights - Tags: ,

The Electoral Commission has decided the EPMU can register as a third party under the Electoral Finance Act despite the National Party spending big bucks to try to stop them in the courts.

Given the EPMU is a democratic organisation representing 50,000 Kiwi workers and the other unions (dairy workers, meat workers, maritime workers and service and food workers) that will come in on this decision probably represent another 100,000 or so, this is a significant win for a lot of people.

National Party activist David Farrar was behind the original complaint against the EPMU’s registration and, as one would expect, he is unhappy about the decision and considering challenging it.

It’s interesting that when first challenging the registration David claimed he was merely doing so to point out the problems with the law. At the time the suspicion was that he and his party were actually trying to stop the EPMU’s members, and the members of other unions, from having their democratic say.

Turns out is was probably the latter. In his piece on Kiwiblog last night he begins with:

I’ve just been told by a journalist that the Electoral Commission has decided to allow the EPMU and four other unions which have chosen to be affiliate members of the Labour Party to register as a third party. This means the five of them can collectively spend $600,000 attacking National on behalf of Labour.

You’ll note that there is no mention of the flaws of the EFA in that paragraph. David’s main concern is that unions will be able to campaign against National. It’s also interesting to note he claims unions will campaign against National on behalf of Labour.

I have no doubt that the unions will campaign against National, but considering National’s abysmal record of attacking the rights and wages of New Zealand workers and their clear intention to continue doing so, it’s abundantly clear the unions will be campaigning on behalf of their members.

I guess that kind of open democratic representation is a little too hard for the National Party and its minions to grasp.

39 comments on “EPMU cleared to campaign ”

  1. r0b 1

    It is more and more clear that the “free speech” rhetoric from Farrar and his ilk is nothing but a cynical flag of convenience. They don’t care at all about free speech (except in as much as they can exploit the idea as a tool), what they care about is shutting up those that oppose National. The EPMU, the unions, journalists who dare to speak out, National wants them all silenced.

  2. r0b – I agree Farrar was never interested in free speech. Now he’s talking like he might appeal but on morning report it sounded like English doesn’t want to. If Farrar appeals I wonder whose money he will use?

  3. r0b 3

    ‘Sod, you can be sure we’ll never find out. That’s the second great duplicity, they keep their own finances secret while attacking philanthropist Owen Glenn for his public and open donations to Labour. And they get away with it too, so why would they stop?

  4. MikeE 4

    Interesting that a post that said:

    “How can you call it free speech, when you need to register to say something” was deleted.

  5. Tane 5

    Mike – I’m not sure why it would be. May have been an error, apologies for that.

  6. Tane 6

    Actually Mike, on second glance it appears you made your comment in the other thread on the EC case –
    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2619#comment-76535

    It’s still there.

  7. r0b 7

    How can you call it free speech, when you need to register to say something

    You can say anything you like. If you want to say it real loud (spend more than $12K) then you need to be honest about who is speaking, that’s all. Otherwise NZ ends up with the kind of duplicitous secret campaigns that cost the last National Party leader his job.

  8. MikeE 8

    Hahah – I fail at the internet.

  9. Tane 9

    No worries bro, easy mistake to make.

  10. You mean there’s a test!? Shit – I better get off it then…

  11. Matthew Pilott 11

    It will be interesting to see if Farrar appeals.

    If this was about testing the law and its application, he should be a real happy camper.

    The law has been tested, David should be thrilled that the test has been applied as was his intent.

    If it was nothing about the test, and all about a specific desired income, then Farrar’s probably been lying, if he said he just wants to make sure the law is properly implemented.

    If it was about silencing a union because he fails to recognise that pro-worker unions would be more likely to campaign upon issues that are favoured by a pro-worker party, then I guess he will appeal, and his cynical ploy will be as transparent as we all wish electoral funding would be (apart from those who want to hide large trust donations, like National, which will do so if it gets the chance).

  12. I’m running a bit late this afternoon so to David Farrar I say this:

    HA-F’ING-HA!

  13. monkey-boy 13

    The most cynical reading is that Farrar wanted to restrict freedom of speech by the union. So let’s accept that at face value.
    But you surely have to ask how on earth he came within a gnat’s spit of doing so, if it wasn’t through an attempt to apply the Law as it was passed.
    But then we have an even longer bow to draw, that perhaps somehow David Farrar conspired to force the Labour Party and ‘its minions’ to draft and pass and defend a shonky, badly written Law (regardless of it ‘intent’ the public deserves better than being expected to be mind-readers), and then attempted to use it to stifle ‘freedom of speech’.
    Meanwhile all those who unwittingly defended and proposed it, (perhaps they were victims of Farrar’s ‘mind-control’ techniques) are now suddenly outraged that they were so duped by this heinous villain who has so perverted the ‘intent’ of the EFA, for his own purposes.
    Perhaps they should have all worn tin-foil hats while they drafted the frikkin’ law in the first place then this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

  14. Quoth the Raven 14

    Farrar lost monkey boy so the law worked.

  15. Matthew Pilott 15

    The most cynical reading is that Farrar wanted to restrict freedom of speech by the union. So let’s accept that at face value.

    Generous of you. Good call though, you don’t need to be too cynical to make that judgement mind.

    But you surely have to ask how on earth he came within a gnat’s spit of doing so, if it wasn’t through an attempt to apply the Law as it was passed.

    I don’t know how close he came, but the legal judgement doesn’t usually say how close it was to being a ruling in one direction or another. Either it was close or it wasn’t. This time, it wasn’t.

    But then we have an even longer bow to draw, that perhaps somehow David Farrar conspired to force the Labour Party and ‘its minions’ to draft and pass and defend a shonky, badly written Law (regardless of it ‘intent’ the public deserves better than being expected to be mind-readers), and then attempted to use it to stifle ‘freedom of speech’.

    No sense whatsoever. None. I don’t think anyone, sort of you, o posessor-of-a-fertile-imagination, thinks Farrar magically forced Labour to pass the EFA.

    Meanwhile all those who unwittingly defended and proposed it, (perhaps they were victims of Farrar’s ‘mind-control’ techniques) are now suddenly outraged that they were so duped by this heinous villain who has so perverted the ‘intent’ of the EFA, for his own purposes.
    Perhaps they should have all worn tin-foil hats while they drafted the frikkin’ law in the first place then this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

    Umm, Farrar was wrong, the law didn’t have this unintended consequence (although if I read you correctly, some form of mind control technique was being used, so it wasn’t an unintended consequence per se, although it would have been for the people who wrote it, because they weren’t in control of their faculties, but presumably wouldn’t have known at the time. Phew – that’s a likely proposition) and those who drafted it, whilst they could have done a better job, haven’t been duped by some mind controlling fiend.

    You should write books for kids, monkey-boy. They believe in magic, heroes, villians, mind-powers and such…

    Edit – see QTR above for abbreviated version!!

  16. monkey-boy 16

    “You should write books for kids, monkey-boy. They believe in magic, heroes, villians, mind-powers and such ”

    Yes perhaps I should, Matthew, because satire is evidently way over your head.

  17. monkey-boy 17

    By the by, does any one feel that the EC’s decision to allow the EPMU to register as a third party on this, the eve of three months before the election, has been an application of ‘common sense’?

  18. Matthew Pilott 18

    That was satire? I thought there might have been a point somewhere in there I could elicit…

    I haven’t looked at the EC decision, but suggest that it could have been an application of electoral law.

  19. commonsense would have been if Farrar hadn’t opposed the registration in the first place. but that opposition having been made there was a due legal process to be followed, and that takes time. A just decision was made in the end, and with plenty of time for the EPMU to participate in the democratic process openly and honestly on behalf of its 50,000 members.

  20. monkey-boy 20

    “commonsense would have been if Farrar hadn’t opposed the registration in the first place.”
    I do not agree. Regardless of your political agenda or affilliations, it is the duty of us all, as citizens to question laws with which we do not agree. If they bear scrutiny and are considered just, then fair and good. Otherwise we might as well just sign hand over a nmetaphorical blank cheque to Parliament and go to sleep between elections.
    What were unions created for in the first place? Wasn’t it to protect the ‘little people’ against the unscrupulous motives of the powerful? The Law is not supposed to be a partisan device for the exclusive use of one interested aspect of society. ANd you can’t justify the abolition of one law which achieves that by replacing it with another which achieves it for someone else.
    Unless of course one subscribes to the ‘Tyranny of the Majority’ idea, in which case, you may as well scrub elections and ‘the democratic process’ altogether, and just go with ‘commonsense’.
    Matthew: “That was satire? I thought there might have been a point somewhere in there I could elicit ” like I said, it went over your head, yo don’t have to explain it to me, I got it in the first place.

  21. MikeE 21

    “commonsense would have been if Farrar hadn’t opposed the registration in the first place. ”

    Commonsense would be no requirement to register in order to have your say.

  22. No MikeE, registration of large spenders was necessary because we had large campaigns being run secretly and in conjunciton with a certain political party as a means of circumventing the spending limit that applies to parties… it’s not good for democracy when a few wealthy actors can secretly spend huge amounts of dough, especially when they’re secretly cooperating with a political party to avoid the law.

  23. djp 23

    no MikeE common sense would be for you to pay so that I can have my say. Public funding all round! Woo hoo!

  24. Felix 24

    monkey-boy, to paraphrase The Princess Bride: “that word – satire – I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    I realise that you think you were making fun of a point of view, but as no-one has ever been shown to hold the point of view you were claiming to parody, the whole bizarre display is rendered completely meaningless.

  25. Swampy 25

    I think maybe it’s too hard for you to grasp that the EPMU and four other unions are Labour Party affiliates. That implies that all they are campaigning for is for Labour to be re-elected.

  26. monkey boy 26

    Felix:
    Definition of satire (noun)
    form: satires
    the employment of sarcasm, irony or keenness of wit in ridiculing vices

    the vice I allude to is ‘hubris’.
    n.
    Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance:

    [F., fr. L. arrogantia, fr. arrogans.] See ‘Arrogant’

    The act or habit of arrogating, or making undue claims in an overbearing manner; that species of pride which consists in exorbitant claims of rank, dignity, estimation, or power, or which exalts the worth or importance of the person to an undue degree; proud contempt of others; lordliness; haughtiness; self-assumption; presumption.

    the arrogance (a much-misused word) to which I refer is that which presumes that a particular viewpoint is so sacred that anyone who disagrees (ie DPF and kiwiblog) must be a corrupting influence. which is of course close to paranoia:
    Paranoia is an exaggerated distrust of others that is not based on fact. As a psychotic feature of bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, paranoia may manifest as delusions of persecution.

    Hence the ‘tin-foil hat’ reference, which was satirical inversion of the ‘left’s’ commonly used criticism of those on ‘the right’ who are assumed to be victims of various delusions or paranoias. It’s satire, if you you don’t ‘get it’ – it could be claimed to be effective satire.

  27. Felix 27

    As I said, I understand what you were trying to do.

    However you’re not satirizing anyone as no-one actually holds the beliefs you’re trying to make fun of.

    It’s not a matter of not getting it, it’s that the point you’re making is ridiculous and rather clumsy.

    Nice that you went and looked it up though.

  28. Daveo 28

    Swampy, unions are democratic organisatios that campaign on behalf of their members so it’s natural they will support parties that promote rather than attack workers’ rights. All unions are operationally completely independent from any political party and make decisions on their own basis, and affiliation doesn’t change that. Why would it?

  29. Higherstandard 29

    Daveo

    Are all unions in NZ democratic ? Just asking I know mine is but I’m not sure that they all are – perhaps Tane can clarify I’d be interested to know.

  30. Daveo 30

    Higherstandard

    As far as I’m aware they all are. I’ve been a member of a few in my years and I’ve never heard of any union that doesn’t have an elected national council and general secretary. Every union I’ve been involved in has also had members vote on claims and ratification etc.

  31. monkey-boy 31

    Felix isn’t tht like saying ‘Animal Farm’ can’t be satire because no-one believes that pigs can talk?

  32. Swampy 33

    I think you have missed the bigger picture here, which is the suspicion by and large that the EFA was created entirely to attack Labour’s opposition whilst doing the minimum amount to constrain Labour.

    One of the points that got this through for me was that this sum of $120,000 is apparently about what has been spent in previous elections by individual unions in pro Labour campaigning.

    Also, why would you expect a Labour Party affiliate union to campaign for anything other than Labour? It may be put down as “our members interests” but in a situation where union members can be called party members at the drop of a hat, these are indistinguishable.

    The decision is a matter of legal interpretation, just as the original flawed decision that the union wasn’t a natural person was. I would not be so hasty to lose sight of the fact that the legal interpretation in the first ruling was changed, not by the National Party or their “big money”, but by another judge looking at the matter a different way. There could be another court challenge to the latest ruling and it could be overturned as well. That is the legal process at work.

    Frankly I am quite pleased that this law is actually able to be challenged in the courts system like this, because we have little enough opportunity to challenge the way these laws are made as it is.

  33. Swampy 34

    “Swampy, unions are democratic organisatios that campaign on behalf of their members so it’s natural they will support parties that promote rather than attack workers’ rights. All unions are operationally completely independent from any political party and make decisions on their own basis, and affiliation doesn’t change that. Why would it?”

    You are kidding, Daveo. When I grew up, practically all the unions were Labour affiliates, and their members were automatically counted as members of the party as well.

    In fact, it is still roughly the same today. A member of an affiliate union can become a member of the party at the drop of a hat if they so wish, purely on the strength of their existing union membership.

    Some affiliates have come out openly and said “Our goal is to have Labour re-elected”, and all their newsletters promote Labour and attack National at every turn.

  34. Swampy 35

    “commonsense would have been if Farrar hadn’t opposed the registration in the first place. but that opposition having been made there was a due legal process to be followed, and that takes time. A just decision was made in the end, and with plenty of time for the EPMU to participate in the democratic process openly and honestly on behalf of its 50,000 members.”

    So commonsense was that the original contradictory interpretation that the existing body of law did not apply to this law, was it?

    Is commonsense the extent that the EC process could not be challenged at all? That is anything but democratic. Democratic means open.

    The original decision was “Commonsense” and the new decision which overturned it was “Just” and therefore Farrar did no wrong at all.

  35. Swampy 36

    “No MikeE, registration of large spenders was necessary because we had large campaigns being run secretly and in conjunciton with a certain political party as a means of circumventing the spending limit that applies to parties ”

    Has there been any such finding in regard to the claim of “circumventing the spending limit that applies to parties ”

    If so then how does it differ from the Auditor General’s findings in regard of another aspect of campaign financing in the 2005 election?

    And how, in turn, does that particular misuse of public funds differ from the way in which the parties approach this whole matter of electoral finance, as epitomised by the way in which the EFA and related legislation leaves huge gaps through which a thousand pledge cards could fall?

    Depending on your POV the EFA was either intended to deliver public funding by stealth for Labour, or to address the allegation made above.
    Labour has relished the opportunity to turn the tables for the negative publicity it experienced post-2005, under the smokescreen of “comprehensive campaign financing reform”, whilst ensuring that by and large the public are kept in the dark about the way all parties conspire to create a system that gives all of them maximised access to backdoor State funding.

  36. lprent 37

    Some affiliates have come out openly and said “Our goal is to have Labour re-elected’, and all their newsletters promote Labour and attack National at every turn.

    So? The track record of National in promoting real wage decreases is pretty good. Similarly they like reducing the conditions of workers.

    What are you proposing? That they should support a party that screws up their members working conditions and reduces their wages as a matter of record?

    Don’t be a dickhead swampy.. Have a look at RedLogix’s numbers and use your brain rather than rehashing antique stereotypes.

    As for the other matter of the EPMU decision. That could have been taken care of in the courts without the injunction. The law needed testing (as all new law eventually does get tested). However the injunction can only be described as petty, punitive, and outright pathetic.

    In the end the decision would have come back to the interpretation of the law. It was pretty clear that eventually that would wind up saying that the interests of the unions were not the same as the NZLP. Their interests are similar – yes! They grew out of the same background, as is shown in our About. But the interests are not identical.

    Any NZLP member who has never been a union member (like myself) talking to any active unionist for more than 10 minutes finds this blindingly obvious. But you seem to prefer to believe right-wing myths that are so old they should be checked for jurassic DNA.

  37. Draco TB 38

    Frankly I am quite pleased that this law is actually able to be challenged in the courts system like this, because we have little enough opportunity to challenge the way these laws are made as it is.

    I’m quite happy that the EFA is being challenged in court as well – it’ll clean up some of those nasty little ambiguities it has in it. I’m also glad that the EFA replaced the Electoral Act 1993 which was a very badly written piece of junk that allowed massive amounts of corruption to occur within elections.

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