Granny Herald wants to run a campaign against the Electoral Finance Bill when it doesn’t understand the Electoral Act. Worse, because it doesn’t understand the Act it makes assertions that are neither true to the law or in line with the facts. So it keeps repeating National and Brethren spin.
One example is in yesterday’s editorial which says “The law also forbids others from publishing material that declares support for a candidate or party without their authorisation, lest it breach their spending limit.” What the law actually says is that “No person shall publish … any advertisement… which encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for a party or candidate”.
Granny goes on: “The Brethren took care that theirs did not expressly support National while it attacked Labour.” This repeats the same misunderstanding of the law that Brash used in his defence – “encourage or persuade” does not need to be express in order to be captured by the law. Granny doesn’t understand the law.
Not only that the Herald’s facts are wrong. The Brethren showed draft pamphlets to the Chief Electoral Office when they were seeking advice as to how to run their $1.2million campaign in support of Brash and National without having it attributed to National.
One of these had blue ticks, similar to those used by National. The Electoral office advised that these were in a grey area and were probably captured by the Act, and care shoud be taken to avoid these grey areas. The Brethren did not take careful note of this advice and went ahead with the blue ticks which the Chief Electoral Officer decided were in support of National and referred to the Police.
Then National denied they knew about the campaign which we now know was also not true. Had this truth come out earlier than the publication of the Hollow Men the Brethren’s $1.2million would have been attriutable to National, and put it well over its limit.
New Zealand does have a highly regulated system, with low spending caps compared to other countries. We do not have political parties spending huge amounts of money as they do in Australia, Great Britain and the US where there are no limits on what can be spent to buy votes. If the Herald believes that money is not important in election campaigns, this is clearly not a view shared in those countries.
It is therefore even more important in our tightly regulated system that relatively significant amounts of money, half as much as National’s legal limit in this case, are not available under the counter to one party as was the case in the last election. It is this sort of rort that does need to stop; this is why the Electoral Finance Bill is needed.