Helen, stop critiquing polls

Written By: - Date published: 9:23 am, June 25th, 2008 - 318 comments
Categories: helen clark, polls - Tags:

Everyone in the know is aware that Colmar Brunton is the worst polling company in New Zealand and constantly over-rates National. We also know Fairfax isn’t much better. There’s no use in going on about it. It’s not a good look.

The fact is Labour is well behind National in the polls. There’s no point pretending that isn’t the case. Instead there are two points that you can make:

1) This is MMP. It is the largest group of parties, not the largest single party, that governs. Labour has both the experience and the allies to make workable governing arrangements Labour doesn’t need to win more votes than National to lead the next government.

2) Labour is coming into this as the underdog and, in reality, that’s where the Left always is against the Right – we have the people but they have the power. There’s nothing scary or impossible about that situation. Admit you are the under-dog and the challenge goes on National to prove they deserve to govern in their own right. PLacing yourself as under-dog undermines this constant vacuous nonsense of ‘time for a change’ and foils hit and run attacks from National. The pressure will go on the tories, and their facade will be shown for what it is.

318 comments on “Helen, stop critiquing polls”

  1. andy 1

    See Rudman in the Herald today.

    This is the same Mr Power who less than a year ago was on his high horse about the last 500 extra prison beds having cost taxpayers nearly $1 million each. So how many million-dollar beds is this election promise going to add to National’s porkometer total?

    To Labour, stop pissing about with light bulbs…

  2. burt 2

    Steve P.

    2) Labour is coming into this as the underdog and, in reality, that’s where the Left always is against the Right.

    Since about the time the standard started we have been hearing about the “natural left bloc” of voters and how the natural left bloc has been bigger than the nasty right wing vote. But oh no – polls look really really bad so the story changes to suit the spin.

    Sad sad sad.

  3. higherstandard 3

    Clinton

    Spot on again – I’m 100% in agreement with your analysis.

  4. coge 4

    Helen is using her spin in the hope that elements of the left don’t stay home on polling day. As I expect some of them might, as they regard the effort as futile. As it’s clear the long term trends are established, the best outcome Clark can hope for is to call the election ASAP.

  5. Okay then if I read this post right.

    You would have no problem at all with National becoming the government even though they get less seats than Labour, but they form a coalition with say NZ first.

    Just wanted to know this beforehand, because Im pretty sure if that happened, people will be no here saying…

    “Unfair, Labour got more seats” “Labour got more Votes”

    Oh could you also please provide some evidence that those two polling places are showing bias towards National

  6. Burt. No. check my edit, which I was going to make any way (I wrote this post last night). The Left has more people, more activists, and most base support, but the Right has the money and the power. We are, after all, living in an essentially rightwing economic structure with some leftwing elements.

  7. andy 7

    elements of the left don’t stay home on polling day.

    I think the base of both always come out to vote, regardless. Its the middle swing vote she is trying to talk to. IMO you may be correct in calling for an election early, it may be the only hope of a tight race for Labour, as would force the Nats hand.

    As I said, labour have a tin ear at present. Focus on important issues and stop the self inflicted wounds of bloody lightbulbs..

    HS

    Thats twice in one day you agree 100%, time to hand in your VRWC (Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) membership card 🙂

  8. Brett Dale. I have no problem with that (except I never want to see National in government). In fact, there is such a situation now in Sweden, where the Social Democrats are the largest party but a coalition led by the right-leaning Moderates governs.

    The coalition supported by the most voters should govern. That’s democracy. What does the relative size of the largest party in a coalition have to do with it?

    I assume you would have no trouble with a LPG coalition governing if Labour got fewer votes than National.

  9. Polls used to say how many were undecided. In not doing that any more they exaggerate the proportions of those who are decided.

    This election hangs on what roughly 10%-15% of supposedly decided voters do. The other 85%-90% more or less have their minds made up.

    It is fascinating watching the Right here in NZ successfully using the same tactics the US Right used over the past 15 years to trick voters into casting votes for a party with hidden policies that are actually contrary to their interests.

    Make elections about morality, smacking, queers and all sorts of other stuff that either isn’t true or doesn’t actually play a role in the lives of most people…..and then lie or fudge or conceal your stance on all the issues that really DO affect the lives of most people.

    On your side is the simple fact that life is now complex enough that a huge number of people – maybe 20% – have no real idea of how the legal / governmental world around them actually works….so you you communicate with then emotionally on these moral issues instead. Stuff they think they understand.

    If you can, make them hate their government so you can dismantle it and remove the checks on the power of business to do as they please.

    It’s been working. Unfortunately, the greedy pigs in the US have gone too far and voters are waking up to the wreckage accumulating around them.

    Looks like the generations of the Kiwis alive today may have to learn this lesson the hard way, too. There may not be enough thoughtful, curious people around with memories to stop it.

    I have nothing against the National party other than their hostility to democracy and apparent lack of respect for the average voter. If this were not the case, they would not play cynical games for electoral advantage and would instead argue their policies, on their merits with the people who must decide to back them or not: voters.

    Naitonal sees no value in doing that. Fair enough.

    I see no value in voting for them. If it is to be the money or the bag, I’m not taking the bag where the future of NZ is at stake.

  10. I personally want to see a system , with the party that gets the most seats/votes becomes the government.

    I dont like a system that has a party like The Greens who may get 6% of the vote have a big say in who gets in power, they may have 6% of the vote, but 94% of New Zealanders didnt vote for them.

    As for saying Labour has more people, well if National gets more seats and votes in this upcoming government would you agree that National now has more people?

  11. Andy: The lightbulb policy change is an excellent one. It allows NZ to reduce power consumption by almost 20% in barely 3 years. That is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to all of us. You can count that money twice, the second time for the power plants we don’t have to build to supply that power. The river(s) we don’t have to dam.

    The NZ Herald’s negative portrayal of the light bulb issue is just one more example of their interest in getting National elected and LACK of interest in what is best for New Zealand. No more evidence is needed there.

    I have used CFLs for a decade. They last many years each. They are much cheaper to use. They are safe to use. They are more than bright enough to navigate when first turned on and brighten very quickly. They needn’t be that ugly blue-ish light. The people moaning about them clearly don’t use them and have never seriously considered using them. There is a CFL or high-efficiency option for any purpose.

    The reaction to this worthwhile policy change is typical of the “knocker” mentality that has no rational basis in evidence or (informed) experience. Some idiot goes off half-cocked, buys the wrong thing and it is forever someone else’s fault. Heard it too often.

    In this case, it is also simple ignorant bigotry from the political clique determined to make any good thing look bad for political advantage.

    Unfortunately, that clique now includes Auckland’s only daily newspaper. OK, a couple of columnists occasionally differ and John Armstrong is (too often) a lonely voice of reason and balance amid the overt bias of the leader writers……but that isn’t good enough.

  12. T-rex 12

    Brett – Can you think of any reason at all why 6% of NZers shouldn’t have proportional representation of their views?

    Other than that they disagree with you I mean.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to see how your system could result in tyranny of a minority. Or a majority. Both of which are demonstrably bad.

  13. mike 13

    Good to hear you are not denial Steve like the leader of your left wing cause.

    “The pressure will go on the tories”

    No pressure yet and I think Helen will go under more pressure soon explaining why she wants to waste 10 mil on deferring the anti-smacking referendum http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10518214

  14. T-rex 14

    Steve – agreed. The argument against CFL’s is basically “I want the freedom to be indefensibly stupid if I want to”.

    You forgot to count the money again for the emissions that won’t be generated and won’t have to be paid for through Kyoto.

    The only people with a valid argument against CFL’s are those supporting LED. To which I say “buy CFL now, buy LED when they arrive”.

  15. Steve: “The Left has more people, more activists, and most base support, but the Right has the money and the power.”

    Not true: in this country the Left via the left leaning government has the money. It is not at all realistic for the Left to cry poor.

  16. Bryan. National has a warchest of $5 million plus all the rich allies (Exclusive Brethern, Business NZ, corporates, media etc etc) leftwing groups have nothing like that kind of money are their disposal.

  17. Trex: Yes, 6% of people should be represented, but they shouln’t be able to dictate to the other 94%.

  18. Steve Withers:”It allows NZ to reduce power consumption by almost 20% in barely 3 years.”

    The policy is good but the electorate is sick of government interfering in their private lives.

  19. andy 19

    Steve,

    I too agree about lightbulbs, but they are just handing the Nats a bat to bludgeon them with. Sorry I was on about the art of politics not the merit of the policy.

    Its the tin ear thing, they have not taken any lessons from “anti-smacking” legislation, and Nats divide and conquer tactics.

  20. lprent 20

    BD: Depends what the turnout is. Essentially the right wins only when the total turnout of voters is low, or the enrollment rates are low.

    The Greens 9% or the ACT 1% are valid votes. The whole point of an election is that all opinions that hit the thresholds are valid. Those thresholds used to be the gerrymandered electoral seats. Now they are either 5% or winning an electoral seat. The difference these days is that those opinions cannot simply be ignored like they were in the days of yore.

    Parties have to compromise to win the treasury benches, but at least they get a lot closer to carrying the majority of NZ with them. Because of the nature of the minority coalitions that have been formed, the representation is actually wider. The primary party in a coalition has to reach to either side depending on where they get support.

    On the whole this has allowed for much better government with fewer of the excesses of governmental stupidity that I’ve suffered through in the past.

  21. Mr Dennis 21

    Steve Withers:
    “I see no value in voting for them [National].”

    Neither do I. National is just rehashing Labour policies and promoting them slightly differently. They support an ETS – they are just delaying it to get votes. They voted for the smacking legislation with Labour and show no signs of changing it. They now support working for families, KiwiSaver… everything except the EFA. The electorate is sick of Labour, as the polls show. They just haven’t yet figured out that National won’t change anything.

    There are parties that would push for change. The Family Party has great policies from a conservative perspective. Act has great policies from a liberal perspective. If people actually read the policies each party has (rather than just choosing between the almost-identical Labour and National) they could vote for change.

    But it will take a lot of publicity to get people to think about these minor parties, and policy such as the broadcasting allocations is designed to ensure they stay voting for these two old parties, continually pretending to push opposite issues but actually just being the same policies painted different colours…

  22. Skeptic 22

    Steve Pierson said: “Burt. No. check my edit, which I was going to make any way (I wrote this post last night). The Left has more people, more activists, and most base support, but the Right has the money and the power. We are, after all, living in an essentially rightwing economic structure with some leftwing elements.

    You’re lying again, Steve. The Labour Party has some five thousand members, max. That is all. National has some forty thousand members. I know your mathematics is dodgy, but not even you would argue that five thousand is greater than forty thousand.

    The National has a four-level membership structure: national board, regional committees, electorate committees, and branches within electorates. Many electorate organisations have over a thousand members. Not a single Labour Party branch comes close to that.

    The Labour Party can not, and has not, run an election campaign without the resources of the EPMU, among several other affiliated unions. The National Party has the organisational capability to run an election campaign independent of the organisations that are right-leaning. The Left does not have more activists.

    The Left does not have more base support. You have just said in this post that Helen should stop critiquing polls because everybody knows that the Nats are currently more popular than Labour. National is well over 50% in the polls. Polling analysis suggests Labour’s support is softer than National’s, with at least 20% of Labour voters saying they are likely, or very likely, to change their vote before the election.

    Unless you argue that every political party in Parliament, with the exception of National, is of the Left, then you’re pushing the proverbial uphill suggesting that the Left are even within coohee of the Right’s support base right now. Not that I’d put it past you to come up with such a stupid argument to advance your warped view of the world.

  23. lukas 23

    SP-The Left has more people, more activists, and most base support, but the Right has the money and the power.

    “National has a warchest of $5 million”

    Got anything to back either of those statements up?

  24. Skeptic 24

    Oh really Steve? Left wing groups have nothing at their disposal? What about the $100 million in assets that affiliated unions of the Labour Party have? What about the $100 million that the Government will spend in the twelve months before the election promoting itself? (Unless there are more scrupulous bureaucrats, as in the IRD, who withdrew a kiwisaver ad because it was too close to advocating Labour policy).

  25. Steve P: You are saavy blogger: you know it’s all about demonstrating to your constituency that you can deliver the goods. Otherwise why do the Greens proudly boast of spending like this:

    “The Buy Kiwi Made programme resulting from the 2005 Labour- Green Cooperation Agreement enters its most active phase with the launch of a $6.3 million media marketing campaign to manufacturers in July and to consumers in August. This will run through until early 2008.”

    And Winnie ( yes I know he isn’t a leftie) boast like this:

    “It not only deserved, but had, a representative who could get things done. Like a new harbour bridge.

    A representative who can deliver.”

    The left has had access to $800 billion over the last nine years to promote their viewpoint with.

    [government spending over the last 8 and a half years has been only around $370 billion, and nearly half of that is transfer payments to pensioners etc. The comms budgets of departments is small relative to government spending, only $69 million last year, and nearly all of that goes on exicting things like road closures, tax return advertising and the like. Press releases make up a minute part of government spending. And announcing policies is part of being government, it’s not electioneering. SP]

  26. Tane 26

    Skeptic. What a load of trash.

    Left wing groups have nothing at their disposal?

    They don’t have nothing, but they have significantly less resourcing than the right to mount proper PR and advertising campaigns, which is how opinion tends to be shaped in a modern democracy.

    What about the $100 million in assets that affiliated unions of the Labour Party have?

    I’d be interested to find out how you came across that $100m figure.

    The only unions affiliated to the Labour Party are the EPMU, the SFWU, the Dairy Workers, the Meatworkers, the Rail and Maritime Union and a few branches of the Maritime Union – of these only the EPMU and the SFWU are large enough to have any sizeable impact and they advocate for worker-friendly policies, not blindly for a Labour Government.

    In any case, I don’t know if you understand how unions operate, but each of them uses the vast, vast bulk of their money on organising workers. Their campaign and publicity budgets are a fraction of one percent of their annual revenue.

    What about the $100 million that the Government will spend in the twelve months before the election promoting itself?

    Seriously, this is getting tired. Are you seriously telling me that campaigns on drink driving, healthy eating and depression are Labour Party advertisements? Give me a fucking break.

  27. Vanilla Eis 27

    Tane: You forgot the ‘It’s not OK’ campaign… I’m sure a few of the more extreme righties would see that as electioneering.

  28. Great post, Steve. Gives the lie to the nonsense about the Standard being NZLP propaganda. I’ve also blogged to the effect that ignoring the message in the polls is not a good look.

    I would have to say that Labour doesn’t always have a major advantage with people, for the simple reason that its membership goes up and down in cycles, as does National’s. National’s membership figures used to be severely inflated — anybody who bought a raffle ticket was (usually unknowingly) “enrolled” as a member, for example. Do they still do this?

    But National usually has an advantage with the money, except in extreme cases like 2002, when the party isn’t doing the bosses bidding sufficiently diligently. They seem to have fixed that problem though, and it’s back to business as usual (pun intended).

    PS Steve Withers, generally the undecided vote doesn’t make much difference, since it tends to split in line with the decideds.

  29. Steve P: It would be fair to say Working For Families promises helped the Left win the 2005 election. (Yes, yes I know recent Union sponsored polls show that Kiwis have forgotten to be grateful).

    $21 million dollars was budgeted for promoting WFF in the first three years $6.3 billion has been spent so far on WFF. Makes the Exclusives Brethrens $1 million look like chicken feed 🙂

  30. Matthew Pilott 30

    Bryan, sorry but you really embarrass yourself when you use such figures in an argument. It looks like you’ve been to the Bernard Hickey school of Partisan Hackery with such a poor, selective use of figures.

    In this case, you’ve mixed up actual transfer payments with an advertising budget, within a single comparison. That’s like saying that tax cuts count as part of an advertising campaign.

    Next time, why not just say the $70bn or so the government spends every year makes a mockery of National’s campaign war chest? That would be equally illogical.

    Embarrassing. (note: a smiley face doesn’t hide terrible logic)

    And I think you’ll find much, if not all, of that advertising, was after the 2005 election.

    “Bretherens” needs a posessive apostrophe, but I’ll leave it for the ‘enlightening debate’ thread.

    Elaborate on the “Union sponsored polls” comment, if you will. You actually mean commissioned, and showing that people don’t want tax cuts at a cost of social services is no revelation, but it was pointed out at a good time. What did you mean by that comment though?

  31. burt 31

    Bryan Spondre

    The EB spending their own money legally was an assult on democracy because it had potential to effect the outcome of the election. The $800,000 spent illegally by Labour made no difference to the outcome of the electionm, but we needed the EFA because un declared additional spending is undemocratic – However we must never forget…

    It’s OK when Labour do it – keep up!

  32. Matthew: so are you saying that the promise of receiving Working For Families payments didn’t influence the outcome of the 2005 election i.e. the decision by swinging voters to vote for Labour rather than National ? Ditto the late announcement of tax free student loans shortly before the 2005 election.

    If publicizing government policy isn’t political advertising why is there so much concern in government departments about the risk of being caught up in the EFA?

    ( The 🙂 is actually a self-righteous smirk !!!!! 🙂 )

  33. “And Winnie ( yes I know he isn’t a leftie) boast like this:

    “It not only deserved, but had, a representative who could get things done. Like a new harbour bridge.

    A representative who can deliver.’ ”

    I see that allowing Winston to boast that he delivers, cost the taxpayer a mere $50 million. By Labours standard merely bacon sandwich politics instead of pork barrel politics.

  34. Felix 34

    note: a smiley face doesn’t hide terrible logic

    Bryan has been adding these to most of his comments lately. He seems to believe it adds an illusion of “reasonableness” to his ill-conceived simian dribble.

    You only need to read one or two of his “thoughts” to realise that (to paraphrase Rowan Atkinson) any attempt to engage in a serious discussion with him would be like fitting wheels to a tomato.

    Of course it could just be that he’s not used to seeing words without pictures attached.

  35. jbc 35

    Steve, Andy

    A little OT, but this CFL light issue has been discussed in this thread and it is perhaps related to the polls (or at least the way it has been handled).

    All of my fixed lighting is high efficiency. It’s a no brainer. Most of my table lamps are too. I have a couple of low-wattage incandescents where they are the only thing fit for the job. I know exactly what I am doing. I don’t use indcandescents to be “indefensibly stupid”.

    But seriously, banning incandescents just seems stupid. If it were true that the govt intends to ban them then it would show an apparent lack of respect for [the intelligence and free will of] voters… and I think that is where the government is failing.

    [just a note: the government set efficency standards for lighting, just like it does for fridges and other electrical applicance. Any type of bulb that meets those standards is allowed to be sold. SP]

  36. G 36

    Steve: “The Left has more people, more activists, and most base support, but the Right has the money and the power.’

    Firstly, in an election, people = power.

    Secondly, it doesn’t matter how much National has in its coffers, there’s a definitive limit to how much any party can spend (they even have to include the cost of the wood used in erecting backyard signs), which is exactly the same amount available to Labour.

    This election will be decided on foot traffic, and it would appear that the people are walking away in the droves from the “9 years of solid and productive government” that Rob talks about.

  37. Matthew Pilott 37

    Burt – I’ve seen the floor being wiped with your stealing $800,000 comment (think of r0b about three days ago), so no need to rehash that. You’re becoming a real troll, which is a shame.

    If it was directed at me, you can stick your “it’s ok when Labour does it” schtick. I don’t put words in your mouth, have some respect and don’t the same. If it was a generalised comment, well pretty much the same goes. You haven’t been able to demonstrate that once, and I’ve seen you take quite a hammering in trying to argue it.

    Bryan, that’s a patently ridiculous argument.

    I’m not talking about publicising government policy and neither were you. Or are you going to tell me that the $6.3bn figure was advertising WfF? Stop trying to misdirect, the cost of advertising and the cost of enacting policy are not the same.

    What you’re trying to say is that any goverment transfer payment or spending needs to be compared only to the advertising against it. So if Party X (incumbent) was to invest $9bn in, say, health, then you would compare that to Party Y’s advertising for a different policy. But you’re ignoring the potential cost of Party Y’s policy.

    If you want to talk about “the promise” of a policy then fine and well, but you’d need to include the cost of both the policy of the winner and the loser.

    In 2005, National was the loser. What would their tax policy have cost? More than WfF, that’s for sure. Yet for some reason, that wasn’t enough to convince the voters.

    You’re trying to have your cake and eat it, and it’s a terrible argument, logically and economically. Your self-righteous smirk isn’t justified, maybe you better save it.

  38. burt 38

    Matthew Pilott

    Burt – I’ve seen the floor being wiped with your stealing $800,000 comment (think of r0b about three days ago),

    Yes yes – rOb told us how National once validated $50m. He also told us how it’s convention to use retrospective validation most years for ‘something’.

    He then agreed that it’s not usually used for covering up dubious deeds in election funding debacles…

    Wiped the floor – I think not… More like covered the mess with some BS about how it’s OK because Labour are not the only ones who broke the law and they are not the only ones who have validated their misdeeds.

  39. andy 39

    banning incandescents just seems stupid

    I was under the impression that it was a change in standards that would make incandescent bulbs too difficult to pass muster?

    I find the free will thing a little disingenuous, govt mandates many things that impinge on ‘free will’, do you complain about red lights on the road? Bad analogy I know. No one is stopping you buying as many lightbulbs as you want and stocking up.

    They have just made a complete farce of it and allowed the Nats to use the ‘Free will’ facile argument. Basically great idea absolute crap delivery.

    They have to smarten up, this is a policy for the second year of a term not the 9th year.

  40. burt 40

    Matthew Pilott & rOb

    Have National ever killed off a standing court case using retrospective legislation ?

    Did we forget that bit, becasue it’s not covered under the good o’l status quo of parliamentary convention.

    Please explain why that was not only OK but necessary for the sake of democracy?

  41. r0b 41

    it would appear that the people are walking away in the droves from the “9 years of solid and productive government’ that Rob talks about.

    Nope, this is a common misconception (or at some point, an oft repeated lie). Labour’s vote in the elections (% of list votes):
    1999 38.74%
    2002 41.26%
    2005 41.1%

    Labour’s current polling is in the range of 30 – 39%, including polls which historically underestimate Labour’s vote in elections by about 4%.

    In short, Labour’s vote may be down a bit, but it isn’t down “in droves” by any means. All that has happened is that opposition to Labour has consolidated around one big party instead of being spread over lots of little parties.

    Glad I could clear that up for you G.

  42. r0b 42

    Wiped the floor – I think not… More like covered the mess with some BS about how it’s OK because Labour are not the only ones who broke the law and they are not the only ones who have validated their misdeeds.

    Oh grow up Burt. You asked lots of questions that revealed your profound ignorance of the facts. I answered them. You are still here grumbling because you feel that something MUST be wrong, even if you can’t actually tell us what it is.

    Have National ever killed off a standing court case using retrospective legislation ?

    Is that it? Is that all you’ve got left? I want to deal with all the other issues first before we get on to this one, so I ask again is that it? Is this your only reason for objecting to the validation of government spending which occurred after the 2005 election?

  43. jbc 43

    I find the free will thing a little disingenuous

    My words and perhaps not the best choice. I started with ‘intelligence’ and added ‘free will’ later. The two go together. What I mean is that I am intelligent enough to decide where I use CFLs or LEDs, or HIDs, or (heaven forbid) incandescents.

    I have a 1920’s art-deco lamp from New York which uses a bare-filament 25W clear-glass bulb. It is designed around that style of bulb and anything else would look stupid.

    My daughter’s room has a decorative lamp which relies on the heat of a 40W incandescent to slowly rotate the inside of the lamp (by convection through vanes).

    I would still like to be free to purchase such lamps and I really shouldn’t have to explain why. I don’t complain about red lights but neither am I going to kill any pedestrians by using a decorative lamp with a tungsten filament bulb.

    Hoard bulbs? You’re joking right?

    Efficient lights: great idea! Government thinking they should be the only choice: stupid.

  44. burt 44

    rOb

    Oh grow up Burt. You asked lots of questions that revealed your profound ignorance of the facts. I answered them.

    More fool you rOb, I asked questions to move you away from the position of “status quo good – Labour good”

    You just didn’t notice you were being worked into a position where stock answers didn’t hold water anymore.

  45. andy 45

    Hoard bulbs? You’re joking right?

    Yes 🙂 (but you may have to for your deco lamp) and I agree with you, and Labour have not implimented this intelligently hence the perception and reaction to it.

    IMO they are just speeding up the inevitable end of an old technology.

    don’t complain about red lights but neither am I going to kill any pedestrians by using a decorative lamp with a tungsten filament bulb.

    as I said bad analogy of mine. Great imagery from you though 🙂

    Efficient lights: great idea! Government thinking they should be the only choice: stupid.

    in the short term yes stupid, in the long term not so stupid.

    Last analogy, no one is complaining that loudly about TV going digital. The phase out of analogue has been in the public sphere for years, planned and consulted. We can keep our old TV, we just have to shift the technology. So no surprises.

    How was that?

  46. Matthew Pilott 46

    Burt, perestroika and glasnost have come, you can’t rewrite history any more. I’m sorry but your every point was answered and dispatched. So it’s frustrating to see you repeating the same lines as if nothing has happened.

    As said, you’re just becoming a troll with that take – it’s not worth talking to someone who will spout off, be shut down and then come back with the exact same lines time and time again. I know you’ve been doing it for a while now and probably think you’re quite clever; what you fail to realise is that the level of debate here has really moved on while you’re standing still, bleating RETROSPECTIVELY, Retrospectively, retrospectively, like a personal echo-chamber.

    jbc – unfortunately, whenever some new and clearly better technology comes along, it won’t be compatible with the old. Normally, the old tech can quietly fade away, but in this case there’s a bit of an imperative for the rapid intorduction of the new.

    I guess the government has decided that it cannot allow the natural ‘lifecycle’ of incandescents to cease, although I don’t think they’re being banned per se – I haven’t seen anything (apart from MSM articles) to suggest so.

  47. burt 47

    Matthew Pilott

    Diddims.

  48. jbc 48

    unfortunately, whenever some new and clearly better technology comes along, it won’t be compatible with the old. Normally, the old tech can quietly fade away,[…]

    You make it sound as if I am a pensioner lamenting the loss of milk bottles and the milkman. 😉

    I’m a tech geek. No need to explain why.

    It’s the govt’s method that’s broken, not the motivation.

  49. Matthew Pilott 49

    That’s the one – emulate the worst behaviours of those you despise. Just glad we’re clear on all this.

  50. Matthew Pilott 50

    Sorry jbc, not the intention!! (I miss those glass bottles, and more so now that the Evil Tetrapack has multiplied)

    You, being a tech geek, are far more likely to realise the advantages – but NZ still goes through millions of old bulbs a year, so they haven’t really caught on. I don’t think they will, when there’s 50 cent bulbs around.

    I get what you mean about the method, but it’s aimed at the people who don’t think about it, not those who do such as yourself.

    I support compulsion, used sparingly – this could be one of those cases worthy of it, but the apetite isn’t there to swallow it. Still, I haven’t seen anything to actually say that old bulbs will be removed entirely from sale…

    And let’s be honest, this type of thing comes up every time – there are always exceptions, you can’t legislate around them.

  51. burt 51

    From the perspective of lighting in commercial environments it makes a lot of sense to enforce the use of energy efficient lighting through legislation. At home, I’m not sure.

    Lets look at the argument (and it was a good one) that T-rex put forward for charging electric vehicles overnight. There is no power shortage outside of peak business hours and outside peak business hours is the time when household lighting is being used.

    So if there is plenty of capacity for each household to use a few Kw’s charging up vehicles at night then there is no benefit for attacking the thin end of the wedge with household lighting. A simple “switch it off when you leave the room’ campaign would be more effective. It would also save the govt from another “do as we say’ piss the people off.

  52. r0b 52

    That’s the one – emulate the worst behaviours of those you despise. Just glad we’re clear on all this.

    Well Matthew, I wonder if Burt will just argue that Helen said it first, so it must be okay for him to say it too?

    It’s now abundantly obvious that he can’t make his case, he has nothing but bluster. Not surprising, but pretty disappointing.

  53. T-rex 53

    Burt – the difference is that you’re actually getting something in return for the energy you put into a vehicle, with an incandescent light the extra energy just goes to waste.

    Although actually it goes to heat, which people use all the time anyway…

    In any event, I’m more interested in the power it might save from a total-energy perspective, not a peak shaving perspective.

  54. burt 54

    rOb

    It comes down to this, you may know more about the conventions and norms of parliament than I do, you may know more about why retrospective validation is used when MP’s stuff up, you may know more about the technicalities than I do and I have no argument with all that.

    But you can’t defend the indefensible by hiding behind “National did it too only bigger” or “it happens most years”.

    Everybody knows that 14 years of retrospective validation covering misuse of tax payers money for election advertising is not a normal thing that occurs and we all know that National’s actions are not the measuring stick for right/wrong to judge Labour by – Only children try to hide behind the “they did it too” justification. You’re not a child are you?

    Oh, can you try to answer the Darnton vs Clark question without resorting to denigration. Attacking me along the lines of “is that the best you have” simply tells me you don’t want to answer the question.

  55. Draco TB 55

    My words and perhaps not the best choice. I started with ‘intelligence’ and added ‘free will’ later. The two go together. What I mean is that I am intelligent enough to decide where I use CFLs or LEDs, or HIDs, or (heaven forbid) incandescents.

    But if you don’t have the necessary information could you make an ‘intelligent’ choice? Or what if you couldn’t afford the better choice this week?

    The first is one of the biggest problems with the free-market ie, no one has perfect information. The second is systemic to capitalism – not everyone can afford to do what is best for themselves.

    By setting standards you ensure that everyone is working with the best information whether they have the information or not and, due to economies of scale, will bring down the cost of the item that is affected by said standards making them more affordable to those that are in poverty.

    As for your 1920s lamp – well, you’re the only one who cares about that so I’m sure you’ll do either of two things, pay the added cost to get the right light bulb or E-Bay it. The government can only make general rules and those rules will always have an exception to them and in this case your lamp is one of them but it would be a waste of taxpayer money to legislate for it.

    Oh, and yes, Helen really should stop critiquing the polls and start painting a vision for the future of NZ that sounds/looks better than what National is promising.

  56. burt 56

    T-rex

    You minced my argument about charging electric vehicles being something that would increase our overall usage because there is so much spare capacity available at night that is going to waste already. Hence cheap power at night rates etc etc. What changed with lights?

    Suddenly the thin end of the wedge when it comes to extra usage is important? Is the concern for overnight usage to ensure that there is capacity for charging batteries ?

    Please explain, you seem to be contradicting yourself.

  57. T-rex 57

    I think you might have misunderstood my argument (or I made it unclearly)…

    It’s not that there’s power at night that’s going to waste, just that the generation available to deliver it uses cheaper sources. Power can’t go to “waste” as such, it’s got to be used by something.

    Electric vehicles would increase overall usage, I was just arguing that the increase would probably be within the ability of low cost night rate generation to supply.

    Same is, of course, true of inefficient lights. It’s just there’s no sense putting 100W of power (even cheap power) into a light if you could get it for 16W instead.

    If there were an electric vehicle that was twice as efficient and functionally identical then, of course, it would be a waste of power to continue to use the inefficient one.

  58. burt 58

    T-rex

    OK, that makes sense. BTW I’ve changed all but 2 lights in my place and that is because there are dimmers in place.

    So I support the change to more efficient lighting, but I don’t support it as a “you must do” situation.

    Just like I wouldn’t support all car yards being forced to only sell electric cars, or being forced to upgrade to one twice as efficient as the one I was forced to buy last year….

  59. r0b 59

    I dunno Burt, are the labours of Sisyphus going to come to an end? Are we going to make progress on this at last?

    But you can’t defend the indefensible by hiding behind “National did it too only bigger’ or “it happens most years’.

    What is “indefensible”? Why? What’s the problem?

    Everybody knows that 14 years of retrospective validation covering misuse of tax payers money for election advertising is not a normal thing that occurs

    Is this the problem Burt? (Apart from the court case, which we’ll put on hold until other issues have been dealt with). Is this really the heart of the matter – not the validation of spending as such, but the claim that some of that spending was inappropriate? Is that what you’re really on about?

    Catch you much later tonight…

  60. burt 60

    rOb

    Simplistically, one of the following should occur.

    1. All parties who were identified as having helped themselves to an electoral advantage by misappropriation of public funds are required to have that ‘tax payers money’ assessed as due as at the date it was ‘stolen’. (For all of the last 14 years) Then late payment penalties and use of money interested charged on that balance until it was repaid. (using applicable punishment regimes as present in the tax system for each year that theft occurred). Followed by charges laid against the party and/or individuals as appropriate for each case. Fraud, theft, corruption etc. IE: Treatment the same as any other tax payer who misappropriates tax dollars.

    OR:

    2. All tax payers have all late payment penalties and use of money interest (underestimation penalties, unreasonable tax position penalties etc) refunded for the last 14 years. Any charges laid and/or convictions for tax matters or illegal financial practices during the last 14 years to be quashed. IE: Allow the tax payers the same rights and favours as some politicians voted for themselves.

    But please clarify for me, am I in “la la land” to assert that MP’s should be required to follow the laws they make for us all, and where they don’t they should suffer the consequences.

    I don’t think there is a lot more to say on retrospective validation, you’ve bought the “National did it too” line and have no issue with it, I haven’t. You have bought the AG got it wrong line, I haven’t. I won’t accept the AG got it wrong till somebody challenges his position in court and proves him wrong.

    We are not going to agree on this. (which is not to say I won’t mention it again) So lets hear how excited you were when Darnton vs Clark was wiped from the list of problems threatening the status quo?

  61. RedLogix 61

    Burt.

    The retrospective validation did not have the purpose or meaning that you are placing on it. If as you seem to think it’s purpose was to prevent legal liability and/or action due to the missallocation of funds over the last 14 years…. then it would have also removed any obligation to repay those monies.

    But the Parties did accept that the obligation to repay remained. Therefore the RV did NOT have the effect that you imagine it did.

  62. jbc 62

    But if you don’t have the necessary information could you make an ‘intelligent’ choice? Or what if you couldn’t afford the better choice this week?

    The first is one of the biggest problems with the free-market ie, no one has perfect information. The second is systemic to capitalism – not everyone can afford to do what is best for themselves.

    But we’re just talking about a more efficient light bulb – not how to pick a winning stock investment. It’s well documented, not particularly complicated, and you can probably buy 2 CFLs for the price of a pack of cigarettes (or block of cheese). Money which will be paid back several times over in savings.

    To take this back to the topic of the thread – “stop critiquing polls” – I think the same behaviour is responsible: the govt does not respect the intelligence of the public. Their actions could be textbook examples of “how to turn people to oppose your good ideas”.

    My guess is that just about everybody wants to do the right thing, but people do not feel good about being told that their behaviour is to be outlawed.

  63. burt 63

    RedLogix

    Did it stop (or make moot) the possibility of further investigations and prosecutions from illegal acts (over 14 years) as identified by the AG?

  64. RedLogix 64

    Burt,

    If it the problem had been ‘retrospectively validated away’ as you believe, then why did anyone repay anything? You cannot have it both ways.

  65. burt 65

    RedLogix

    Winston Peters in his letter to the ed. (Dom post Saturday) said he couldn’t pay ‘the money’ back to parliament without incurring gift duty, because it was not owed. Was gift duty paid by other parliamentary parties? It was mentioned around the political blogs at the time Labour finally paid their wedge back, so can I assume Winston is wrong or Labour still owe the gift duty, or they have already paid the gift duty?

    Perhaps Winston also misunderstands what retrospective validation actually did, which would be scary since he voted for it.

  66. RedLogix 66

    Well then if Winston is correct, then the AG was wrong. Perhaps the other Parties who paid in error can now have their monies back with interest and penalty payments.

    Along with a very public admission and apology from Brady.

  67. burt 67

    Winston’s angle that it was unreasonable to pay the gift duty was absurd, arrogant and self serving.

    If there is a requirement to pay gift duty as a result of legislation Winston helped pass then he should pay the fricken gift duty, not claim the full tax benefit of $55,500 as a result of charitable donation tax laws he also helped pass, all since he got caught taking the money in the first place.

    I just wonder how much further accountability will sink in this country with people still defending it?

    Perhaps you could help clarify. If Labour have paid stamp duty then Winston is certainly correct, if they pay it soon now that Winston has alerted the MSM to it then Winston is correct. If However Labour don’t pay the gift duty then the AG is correct. Lets see how soon Labour pay the gift duty, because I assume that for at least this part of the whole shitty mess normal penalties and UOMI will apply. Or has it already been paid?

  68. RedLogix 68

    Stamp duty is not payable in New Zealand on transactions. In particular transactions involving transfers of land, leases, share transfers and securities are free from stamp duty.

    It’s late. I assume you mean Gift Duty:

    Annual gifts of up to $NZ27,000 are free from gift duty. Gift duty arises on a graduating scale of up to 25 percent of the excess for gifts exceeding $NZ27,000 per annum.

    http://www.heskethhenry.co.nz/international/resources/taxation.html

    So going back to square one.

    EITHER the spending was retrospectively validated and any obligation to repay the money was nullified. In this case the AG was wrong had demanded repayments under false pretences. This also means the Parties have gifted money to the State in error and are due refunds, plus interest and punitive penalties.

    OR retrospective validation really does not mean what you think it does and the obligation to restore the misallocated funds remained. In this case the Parties have accepted without challenge (albeit under protest) the AG’s recommendation to repay in order to respect and protect the important Constitutional and Parliamentary role of the AG’s Office.

    Which do you think is more likely?

  69. burt 69

    RedLogix

    Yes stamp duty was a typo.

    This is why I want to start a property development company, run it hard for 14 years till I fail my first audit then squirt a few cc’s of magic retrospective validation into the books and come out smelling of roses. The socialists will be cheering me for ripping of the filthy tax payers and for showing such courage. Then I’ll start the whole process over again. Dooooh… I can’t do that, I’m not an MP. Bugger, I’d end up in jail…

    Back to square 1. Did it stop (or make moot) the possibility of further investigations and prosecutions from illegal acts (over 14 years) as identified by the AG?

  70. Dean 70

    “It’s now abundantly obvious that he can’t make his case, he has nothing but bluster. Not surprising, but pretty disappointing.”

    I notice you’re still dodging the question he posed, which was why it was necessary to go against the Auditor General’s findings and rush some progressive legislation – was it in order to avoid being taken to court? Yet another of Clark’s clangers.

    Not suprising, r0b, and actually not particularly disappointing either. You do always seem to run for cover when it comes to Labour’s many faux pas.

    PS: I’d be interested in your thoughts about Labour’s candidate Jordan Carter, who has previously expressed the opinion that “all trade is immoral”. Would you be prepared to call this kind of attitude “cancerous and corrosive” to New Zealand’s export industries?

  71. RedLogix 71

    This is why I want to start a property development company, run it hard for 14 years till I fail my first audit then squirt a few cc’s of magic retrospective validation into the books and come out smelling of roses.

    So the light slowly dawns on you that your notion of R/V (in bold type) is actually just magical thinking. At last we are getting somewhere.

    The real ‘retrospective validation’ was a boring technical process recommended by Treasury to resolve a boring technical audit problem. You know.. Treasury.. that notorious hotbed of thieving socialism.

  72. r0b 72

    Hi ho Burt, how ya doing tonight. You’ve been having an interesting chat with RedLogix I see. I’ll just watch that one, as I don’t know anything about gift duty.

    Re our own discussions, I’ve become interested (in a morbid sort of way) in the project of trying to see if we can reach any kind of agreement about this, so if you want to we can pick up where we left off:

    Everybody knows that 14 years of retrospective validation covering misuse of tax payers money for election advertising is not a normal thing that occurs

    I’m trying to understand what you think the problem is. Is it:

    (1) that governments should never retrospectively validate expenditure that is outside the scope of Vote Parliamentary Service appropriations, and or:

    (2) that (as claimed by the AG) significant breaches of the appropriations administered by Parliamentary Services occurred in the three months prior to the 2005 election (“illegal spending on advertising”), and or:

    (3) that the actions taken to address the AGs report were inappropriate, and in particular that the retrospective validation of spending was wrong (depending on your answer to (1) because it is always wrong or because it was wrong only on this occasion).

    Is it possible for you to state your position in terms of these three options? For example I think that:
    (1) is wrong, such validation is commonplace
    (2) is debatable
    (3) is wrong, the actions taken were appropriate.

    (Put aside for a while the Danton court case and your own theories on what remedies should have been applied, let’s just try and be clear about the problem).

    (Dean, not tonight Honey, I’ve only got time for one of these at once).

  73. burt 73

    1. It should not be an option, is not for anybody else’s accounting procedures. we are not talking about cost overruns on building prisons here, we are talking about inappropriate or illegal use of public money. Journal away for cost overruns, incorrect expenditure, etc. Std accounting stuff yada yada.

    2. Yes. Until the AG is proven incorrect in court, his ruling stands from my perspective.

    3. Yes, the actions were wrong. Acknowledging the debt as they did they were obliged to pay it back with haste (all parties). Some scum didn’t/havent. Scum… at least that’s what we call this behaviour when rich pricks do it with student loans. Ripping off the tax payers is one way I have heard it described, not repaying ‘free public money’ while collecting interest on investments. It denies people social services when rich pricks do it, somehow political parties are exempt from that scrutiny if we support them.

  74. r0b 74

    Ok Burt, great, thanks for staying on topic and replying within each of the three points. That gives us some structure within which there is a faint hope of progress. Can we stick within these three points for a while?

    (1) It should not be an option

    Ok, well there you simply disagree with the way government is run in this country. Like it or not, retrospective validation of expenditure that is outside the scope of Vote Parliamentary Service appropriations is commonplace and happens in many years.

    Can we agree that this is standard procedure of all recent governments (and while noting that you disagree with it, agree that it is therefore by convention OK)?

    (2) Yes. Until the AG is proven incorrect in court, his ruling stands from my perspective.

    I think this one is highly debatable. All parties (except Progressive) were found to have misspent (inappropriately used Vote Parliamentary Service appropriations) – almost everyone got it wrong according to the AG. Even Rod Donald (of the Greens), the MP most responsible for drafting the legislation, is supposed to have interpreted it incorrectly!

    But whatever. The AG is the referee, so let’s accept the ruling. All parties (except Progressive) inappropriately used Vote Parliamentary Service appropriations.

    So now, if we are agreed on (1) and (2) as above, we could get on to (3), which is of course the interesting one.

  75. burt 75

    Take ya time rOb, I’ll pick that up later.

  76. G 76

    Rob: “Nope, this is a common misconception (or at some point, an oft repeated lie)… In short, Labour’s vote may be down a bit, but it isn’t down “in droves’ by any means. All that has happened is that opposition to Labour has consolidated around one big party instead of being spread over lots of little parties.”

    🙂

  77. r0b 77

    Sorry you’re so bad at maths G. Here you go:

  78. Felix 78

    zOMG that might be a first on this site.

  79. burt 79

    rOb

    Add to my answer (3) above – face the consequences of breaching the law like any other citisen of this country. (it’s covered in my simple options 1 or 2 above)

    Before you go into a “Labour good, status quo good” barrage, just remember that if you are going to explain why it was OK for MP’s to excuse themselves from 14 years of possible illegal activities then that’s not going to wash with me. That will lead directly to a discussion on why it was not acceptable to kill off Darnton vs Clark.

    Oh, A mate of mine was bankrupted by the IRD for unpaid taxes (about 14 years ago), can he get retrospective validation so he can just pretend he never broke the law and misappropriated tax payers money?

  80. r0b 80

    Burt – hang on – baby steps – one at a time. Are we agreed on (1) and (2) as above, before we move on to (3)?

  81. burt 81

    I accept that retrospective validation is used by the govt to give it the simple option of correcting mistakes from the countries perspective. (validating the countries position) I don’t accept that the intent of using retrospective validation is to insulate MP’s from the consequences of breaking the law or to allow them to override rulings saying they breached the laws as they see fit from time to time.

    Naturally (2) is a no brainer, although you attempt to divert discussion along the lines the AG was wrong because Rod Donald helped write the ACT, it’s obvious that the AG’s position stands till somebody challenges it and proves it wrong.

    So, carry on. (3) is indeed the interesting one, I’ve played you game long enough, lets get on with it, lets hear how you can justify MP’s giving themselves the benefit of the doubt for 14 years against a ruling by the AG. Lets how you can justify killing off a standing court case. Lets keep it real rOb, no hiding behind “National did it too but worse with $50m’. Remember we are talking about money used for election advertising, not money misspent on some project that was never approved.

  82. r0b 82

    G’day Burt.

    I see we’re still hung up on (1) a bit. What exactly are the consequences of the law for MPs when some branch of government overspends or spends inappropriately? Do you know? I don’t. I doubt that there are any legally defined. Can we not just accept that it is usual practice to retrospectively validate such spending and therefore by convention OK? Then we can get on and argue about whether the usual practice was OK in the particular case of the 2005 election spending.

    Now, if you can bear with me just a little bit longer I want to get your opinion on two examples about the use of the law. Because we’re both cyclists the example is about cycle helmets.

    Example 1: You get caught riding home not wearing a cycle helmet. As per traffic law (which says that you must wear a helmet) you get fined. Is that okay?

    Example 2: The chief traffic cop decides that several brands of cycle helmet which had been thought to be OK do not actually meet the legally required safety standards in NZ. At a random check your cycle helmet is determined to be illegal. You get fined. Is that okay?

  83. burt 83

    rOb

    Example 2: The chief traffic cop decides that several brands of cycle helmet which had been thought to be OK do not actually meet the legally required safety standards in NZ. At a random check your cycle helmet is determined to be illegal. You get fined. Is that okay?

    Here we go again, fictional examples woven with the dexterity of an Elephant having a crap.
    But OK, I’ll humour your attempts to confuse and mislead the debate.

    If I had already been warned that wearing “that model helmet’ would be a breech of the law as the Helmet was not approved (as was the case with Labour’s electioneering pledge card) then yes it would be fine if I persisted, got caught and got fined.

    If the helmet was never approved and I scribbled “approved to burt standard 1734.5b’ in crayon all over it that would not validate it as a cycle helmet. If I then said it was never approved as I quickly rubbed the crayon off could I say the law was confusing and other people were wearing the same model helmet so it’s OK?

    It’s interesting you choose the cycle helmet example. If I choose to wear a woollen beanie as a cycle helmet and got caught and fined for “not wearing an approved cycle helmet’ could I retrospectively change the law so that there are no consequences for me? (not everybody, other people can’t wear woollen beanies just me and possibly a few of my special “above the law’ friends)

    Can we get back to reality now rOb? You are not doing a very good job of wiping the floor with me, but you are still trying desperately to sweep things under the rug. You seem to be ignoring the sequence of events that culminated in my enjoying a free banana in parliament grounds.

  84. r0b 84

    OK Burt, you’re a hard man to nail down. Are we agreed on point (1) yet?

    You didn’t really answer my cycle helmet examples either, but the tangents you went off on did acknowledge the basic point I was after. If you were knowingly breaking the law it was fair to fine you. If you couldn’t reasonably have been expected to know that your helmet was illegal then it would be unfair to fine you. This is why retrospective laws are usually considered to be a bad thing. To retrospectively make something illegal that a person didn’t know was illegal at the time is simply wrong in principle. Are we agreed on this principle? Once again, we can then get on and discuss how the principle applies to the 05 election, but are we agreed on that principle?

    PS – I’ll ask you about the banana when this is all over!

  85. burt 85

    rOb

    Yes agreed that making things illegal that were previously legal is wrong, however let us not forget that if I were warned in writing that wearing that helmet was illegal I should expect to face consequences if I continue to ignore that warning. (re: Pledge card spending letter from David Henry etc etc)

    I agree that for (1) it is what it is, but before I agree that it’s OK to use retrospective validation per-sae, are you saying the intent of retrospective validation is to allow MP’s to blatantly flout the law with no consequences OR are you saying that the intent of retrospective validation is to validate the govt ‘books’ as they stand. IE: Not to validate illegal acts by individuals and/or political parties.

  86. burt 86

    rOb

    To clarify: Yes agreed that retrospectively making things illegal that were previously legal is going to cause significant issues. But that’s not what we are talking about. We are talking about a ruling that said things were illegal and then them being retrospectively validated. (you have it the wrong way round and I guess that suits your purpose, but it’s not the same thing and further more it’s not confusing me as I suspect you are hoping it will)

  87. burt 87

    rOb

    To dispose of the pathetic position that political parties thought they were within the law and therefore it’s justifiable to validate them retrospectively .

    My accountant files my tax returns, I pay her to ensure that my business complies with the laws and obligations as laid out in the TAA. If the accountant makes a stuff up and IRD clout me with penalties can I legally claim any of the following and be excused from any prosecution/penalties etc.

    a) It’s the way I’ve always done it.
    b) Other people were doing the same thing.
    c) The TAA is confusing.
    d) My accountant told me it was OK.

    I could take a case against my Accountant and they might be informally admonished if they made an error but the penalties would still need to be paid and I would still need to answer for anything that was illegal.

    Sure one could argue that from [x] political parties perspective the AG’s ruling was not the same as the ‘clerk’s’ interpretation. However is the ‘clerk’s’ interpretation bigger than the AG’s ? It would seem so either that or partisan hacks want it to be so and self serving govt made it so.

  88. r0b 88

    Yes agreed that retrospectively making things illegal that were previously legal is going to cause significant issues

    OK, good.

    But that’s not what we are talking about. We are talking about a ruling that said things were illegal and then them being retrospectively validated.

    Actually, we’re talking about both, as we’ll soon see. But on this point, for goodness sake Burt, are we agreed on (1) yet as per my comment of 12:04? Please answer.

    it’s not confusing me as I suspect you are hoping it will

    I’m not trying to confuse you Burt, I promise.

    To dispose of the pathetic position that political parties thought they were within the law and therefore it’s justifiable to validate them retrospectively

    Hang on, we’ll get back to that.

    So, you’ve been very patient. Tonight (late, that’s the way I work) I’ll try and do a long comment on how all this fits together, the election, the AGs report and so on – address point (3). No more hypothetical questions, real concrete stuff. Promise.

    It would help me a bit if you would finally answer re point (1) as above. And also answer one last question for me. How did the party that you support, ACT, spend (according to the AG) $17,800 incorrectly? Don’t tell me that other parties did it too, because you don’t think that’s a valid excuse. How was it that your party spent money on things that it wasn’t allowed to?

  89. burt 89

    rOb

    It would help me a bit if you would finally answer re point (1) as above.

    So keep demanding I answer your question without answering the qualification I’m seeking – I seems you think if you push the same question enough I’ll forget that you need me to answer “what happened (in it’s entirety) was fine because it’s the convention”. This is the cornerstone of your position [1] and I have already said I don’t agree with that. Retrospective validation may be convention, I have no argument with that, it happens and I have no argument with that, but what happened after election ’05 is not something that happens every year.

    SO…

    Is retrospective validation to validate the countries books or to excuse MP’s and/or political parties from prosecution for illegal acts? I appreciate that your answer to this might completely undermine the “validity” of what actually occurred but that’s no reason to dodge the question while expecting me to agree that what happened was valid.

    So again…

    Is it the intent, in the usage of retrospective validation, to provide immunity from prosecution to MP’s who may have broken the law?

    You also tried to sidestep with this gem…

    What exactly are the consequences of the law for MPs when some branch of government overspends or spends inappropriately? Do you know? I don’t. I doubt that there are any legally defined.

    I think you will find that sentences are normally associated with act’s and people are charged under act’s, so consequences for the crime is usually pretty well defined within min/max boundaries. You don’t seriously think the way Darnton vs Clark was dismissed was normal practice and happens most years as well do you? No wonder Taito wanted his case heard before the election…

    Re: ACT and the $17,800. Firstly how they spent it – I don’t know, advertising I’m sure, but it may have been pies for Rodney for all I know. Secondly they didn’t vote to validate it, thirdly they repaid it as soon as it was identified (within days of settling a final figure). Remember that business about investing money while not repaying “interest free loans of public money” and how it disadvantages the tax payers while advantaging the investor. Technically all ACT (or any party) needed to do was only invest $100 and wait till interest turned it into the amount due – then the country could have it back. Crushing in the polls, but legal all the same. How many hip replacements would the interest over 2 years on $800,000 pay for?

    I don’t defend ACT for it, I posted on Rodney’s blog at the time that he must repay it immediately and that a fresh election should be called. Had ACT taken as long as Labour/NZ1 to repay the money then I would be as septic with them as well, particularly so as I see them as above taking the piss out of tax payers for their own gain.

  90. r0b 90

    Burt I do apologise, you answered re (1) and I missed it in the rush.

    I agree that for (1) it is what it is,

    Ok good.

    but before I agree that it’s OK to use retrospective validation per-sae, are you saying the intent of retrospective validation is to allow MP’s to blatantly flout the law with no consequences

    No of course not in general – but see below.

    OR are you saying that the intent of retrospective validation is to validate the govt ‘books’ as they stand. IE: Not to validate illegal acts by individuals and/or political parties.

    Yes it is standard to retrospectively validate the books.

    It is also perfectly standard to validate the books when they include “unappropriated” spending from a government department for a purpose that may have been not as planned (“outside of the scope or purpose of the relevant appropriation”). Unappropriated spending is technically illegal if you like, but it is perfectly normal, and it is retrospectively validated all the time. Here is a document relating to a random example.

    So like it nor not Burt, the retrospective validation of unappropriated spending is perfectly normal. This isn’t MPs flouting the law, this is just the mechanism by which governments deal with unplanned spending. Again – saving the argument about how it applies to the 2005 election for a moment – Are we OK on this aspect of government procedure?

    Also, I’d be really interested in your answer to my question: how did the party that you support, ACT, spend (according to the AG) $17,800 incorrectly?

    Back late tonight.

  91. r0b 91

    Messages that pass in the night! I’ve gone over point 1 above. Re ACT spending I’m not asking what they spent it on – I’m asking how it is that they came to spend it in appropriately. How was that possible – how did it happen?

    Later…

  92. burt 92

    RedLogix

    You can see the question of Labour owing gift duty was posted back in April 2007. (see: $194,000 Gift Duty Owing )

    There is a link on that post to a NZ Herald article where it says.

    “The Green Party yesterday paid back to the taxpayer more than $87,000 the Auditor-General said it had unlawfully spent last election – but co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons called it a “gift, not a debt”.

    Oh well, at least two parties out of the errant ones have decided to use the same story, even if they have behaved entirely differently.

  93. burt 93

    rOb

    On the question of “are you saying the intent of retrospective validation is to allow MP’s to blatantly flout the law with no consequences” you say;

    “No of course not in general – but see below.”

    Do you recall that an amendment was tabled to stop the validation of the election spending from killing off the Darnton Vs Clark case? That amendment was voted down – surprise surprise.

    So the intent of ‘this piece of retrospective validation’ was clearly to ensure no consequences from what was being validated. Therefore the power to retrospectively validate was deliberately used beyond the scope of it’s intentions.

    But please, carry on.

  94. burt 94

    rOb

    Again – saving the argument about how it applies to the 2005 election for a moment – Are we OK on this aspect of government procedure?

    Procedure when correctly used is fine. It is what it is.

    I still don’t see why retrospective validation isn’t available to companies or individuals, it would save a lot of companies from insolvency or individuals from the consequences of their actions.

    On ACT….

    How was that possible – how did it happen?

    They spent more money then they were allowed to… Maybe they ordered a billboard or two too many… I don’t actually know.

    I guess I’ll see where this is going in the fullness of time, I hope there is a spectacular slam dunk coming my way because to date this is stuck on you trying to prove nothing untoward happened while refusing to discuss anything untoward.

  95. Dean 95

    “(Dean, not tonight Honey, I’ve only got time for one of these at once).”

    Fair enough. However I do hope you as a Labour party member can find the time to tell me what your opinion is on your party selecting a candidate for this year’s general election who has gone on record stating that all trade is immoral.

    Alternatively you could call me a feral inbred.

  96. r0b 96

    G’day Burt. How are you doing tonight?

    Turns out I need to do a run to the airport in the early morning, so I don’t have as much time tonight as usual. But we’ll see how we do.

    I hope there is a spectacular slam dunk coming my way

    Nope, no big slam dunks. Just baby steps. But I feel that we’re picking up speed, the end is in sight. I’m actually learning a lot as I dig in to this deeper, I hope you are too.

    OK, so things I think we are agreed on so far:
    i – no one is above the law
    ii – retrospective laws are not OK (you can’t change the law to create crimes in the past)
    iii – the government regularly retrospectively validates expenditure
    iv – the government sometimes (in fact always so far) retrospectively validates expenditure “outside appropriation” i.e. spending of some government agency that was technically outside their legal brief (e.g. unexpected spending), this is normal and not a crime
    v – the concept of retrospective validation is open to abuse so governments certainly should never retrospectively validate past actions that are clearly illegal
    vi – all of these are general principles within which we can consider the specific case of 2005, where the AG found that significant breaches of the appropriations administered by Parliamentary Services occurred in the three months prior to the election.

    Are we agreed on all of that?

    Now, on ACT, your party. They had $17,800 of spending ruled inappropriate by the AG. I asked: “How was that possible – how did it happen?”. You replied: “They spent more money then they were allowed to… Maybe they ordered a billboard or two too many… I don’t actually know. Again I’m not asking what they spent the money on (e.g. billboards), I’m asking what systems failure let them spend too much. Seems to me there are only two possibilities: (a) they spent on things that they didn’t know were going to be deemed inappropriate, or (b) they deliberately broke the law. I’d be interested in which of these you think ACT did?

    (Dean – sure OK – please remind me when Burt and I get done)

  97. r0b 97

    Burt, PS you said re ACT: “They spent more money then they were allowed to” – no this is not correct. The amount of spending is not the issue, it is what they spent the money on.

    What systems failure allowed them to spend Parliamentary Services appropriations money on inappropriate things? Was it: (a) they spent on things that they didn’t know were going to be deemed inappropriate, or (b) they deliberately broke the law.

    I’d be interested to know which of these you think ACT did?

  98. vto 98

    hey you two don’t forget about the rest of us

  99. r0b 99

    There’s plenty of threads vto and plenty of time, we’ll be back!

  100. burt 100

    rOb

    I’m guessing: (a) they spent on things that they didn’t know were going to be deemed inappropriate.

    However, were they warned? Labour were warned over the pledge card and allegedly said they would count it as election expenses then changed their minds against the advice they were given. The crux of why Bradly climbed into them… remember?

    I’ve not heard that ACT did that. I would suspect the problem with ACT was that they spent money on something that was later ruled to electioneering when they had counted it as not.

    rOb, so far we have come no further than misappropriated public funds (eg overspend on welfare budget) are validated year on year. Validating 14 years of electoral misappropriations against a back drop of warnings and rulings showing misdeeds occurred is not something that happens every year. The legal process is the same and the outcome… well normally it’s benign but this time it’s curious and twisted.

    Good – we are getting somewhere, we are past ‘National did it too – $50m one year’, you are progressing well, I thought I lost you for a while there.

  101. burt 101

    rOb

    I guess Rodney was caught in the “This is how we always do it” scenario. Normally breaking the rules which had previously been unchecked. That however didn’t make it right or legal. Retrospective validation made it legal but didn’t make it right.

  102. r0b 102

    Good – we are getting somewhere, we are past ‘National did it too – $50m one year’, you are progressing well, I thought I lost you for a while there.

    Thanks for being so patient with me there Burt.

    Re ACT: I’m guessing: (a) they spent on things that they didn’t know were going to be deemed inappropriate.

    That would be my guess too. I don’t for a moment think that ACT set out to deliberately break the law. So I guess that if they spent on things that were later deemed inappropriate then it’s because the rules weren’t clear at the time. Would that be a fair conclusion? Same for National, who spent $11,500 on things later deemed to be inappropriate, and NZF who spent $150,400 on inappropriate stuff. The rules weren’t clear to them at the time?

    However, were they warned? Labour were warned

    Hang on, we haven’t got to Labour yet, I’ve learned not to rush.

    Validating 14 years of electoral misappropriations against a back drop of warnings and rulings showing misdeeds occurred is not something that happens every year. The legal process is the same and the outcome… well normally it’s benign but this time it’s curious and twisted.

    We’re getting ahead of ourselves again, but yes, the retrospective validation of unappropriated spending is usually benign. Good. Why 14 years this time? Well two points. First, no one knows if there were actually 14 years of problems, the AG only audited 3 months from 2005. (Certainly whatever warnings were issued only happened in 2005). Treasury then concluded that 14 years of spending was potentially involved – but only potentially, no one audited it. And second point, if this was the first time that retrospective validation of unappropriated spending happened for such a long period (which audited or not they did presumably just to be on the safe side), well it’s because it’s the first time such a situation ever came up. We have already agreed that the principle is benign.

    Boss sez I have to get some sleep for early morning airport run, and then I’m not at a computer much on Fridays, so Friday night probably Burt? I think we’re making progress, don’t you?

  103. r0b 103

    I guess Rodney was caught in the “This is how we always do it’ scenario. Normally breaking the rules which had previously been unchecked

    What does “Normally breaking the rules which had previously been unchecked” mean Burt? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Were the rules clear to ACT at the time (2005) or not? How about 2002, 1999 and so on?

    Really got to go…

  104. burt 104

    rOb

    And second point, if this was the first time that retrospective validation of unappropriated spending happened for such a long period (which audited or not they did presumably just to be on the safe side), well it’s because it’s the first time such a situation ever came up. We have already agreed that the principle is benign.

    No we have not agreed that.

    We have agreed that validation of misappropriated spending is usually benign. Year on year stuff, overspend here, new unplanned spending there, emergency aid here or there etc. Ne have not agreed that validating 14 years of electoral funding expenditure on the back of a 3 month audit that showed significant issues was benign.

    You do need some sleep, this stuff is getting on top of you again.

  105. burt 105

    rOb

    “Normally breaking the rules which had previously been unchecked’

    ACT were doing something that all parties did, spend money on things that were designed to encourage votes but had not been counted in the election advertising budget.

    Like Labour’s pledge card, they always paid for it from the leader account, same as 1999, 2002.

    So, if the 2005 pledge card was funded inappropriately, illegally according to the AG… and Labour said they funded the 1999 and 2002 pledge cars the same way then…. they admit they broke the same rules in 1999 & 2002 as they were warned not to break in 2005. I don’t think there is any doubt that a further audit would have turned up more issues for many parties. Don’t confuse Treasury saying to validate it with there being a low risk of any inappropriate deeds.

  106. burt 106

    rOb

    I think we will need to discuss these statements you made a bit more.

    First, no one knows if there were actually 14 years of problems… Treasury then concluded that 14 years of spending was potentially involved – but only potentially, no one audited it.

    Imagine the IRD audit 3 months of GST returns after you claim a substantial refund. The determine that there was noting wrong with the refund but give you a written warning that the photocopier you purchased (which is why you had a refund) needs to be recorded as a fixed asset and depreciated over 3 years, not included as an operational expense and claimed in it’s entirety in one year.

    Later the IRD audit your income return and find that you did include the cost of the photocopier in one year. You are served an assessment of [$x] to pay. (because you are special there are no penalties or interest and no due date for payment)

    You say that it’s not fair, IRD have made a bad call because you have always claimed the entire expense of the photocopier in one year, all 4 times you have purchased photocopiers over the last 14 years of your business. You say the income returns for the last 4 times you have done this have never been disputed, although you concede they have never been audited.

    Do IRD;

    a) Say, OK, no problem, it’s unlikely you did anything wrong so the last 14 years are valid and issue you a “NO Audit for 14 years” certificate.

    b) Audit the four times you have purchased photocopiers to ensure that you have not misappropriated the expense of the asset each time.

    c) Audit all of the last 14 years of your operation to determine the full extent of your misappropriations to ensure that you have correctly following the laws your business is required to operate under.

    Which brings us to one more potential anomaly of the Election ’05 validation debacle.

    Is retrospective normally done in such a way that it covers an unknown amount of money?

    IE: Whatever happened, however much it cost, whatever laws may have been broken – that’s OK – move on.

  107. r0b 107

    Note to readers, this is not a current thread. Burt and I are discussing old issues and the conversation is probably not of any interest to anyone else.

    Good morning Burt.

    You’ve got several examples and analogies now, your friend with the old tax bill, your accountant example, the photocopier example. We can get back to them later on if you really want to (Danton too), but in the meantime do you mind if we proceed with discussing the actual events?

    Now one bunch of stuff got passed over last night so I’ll ask it again. Are we agreed on the following points so far?
    i – no one is above the law
    ii – retrospective laws are not OK (you can’t change the law to create crimes in the past)
    iii – the government regularly retrospectively validates expenditure
    iv – the government sometimes (in fact always so far) retrospectively validates expenditure “outside appropriation” i.e. spending of some government agency that was technically outside their legal brief (e.g. unexpected spending), this is normal and not a crime
    v – the concept of retrospective validation is open to abuse so governments certainly should never retrospectively validate past actions that are clearly illegal
    vi – all of these are general principles within which we can consider the specific case of 2005, where the AG found that significant breaches of the appropriations administered by Parliamentary Services occurred in the three months prior to the election.

    I note your objections to some things in comments above, but are we agreed on this basic list?

    Now re ACT, your party. You haven’t really answered my question. Were the rules as interpreted by the AG in 2006 clear to ACT (and Parliamentary Services) at the time of the 2005 election or not? If the rules were clear to ACT in 2005, why did they break them?

    (Let’s leave Labour out of it until later, because you might want to argue that Labour were different, we’re just trying to clarify ACT here).

    (I’m only at my computer occasionally today Burt so apologies if I don’t reply quickly)

  108. burt 108

    rOb

    I agree with points i thru vi with the following qualification.

    iv – the government sometimes (in fact always so far) retrospectively validates expenditure “outside appropriation’ i.e. spending of some government agency that was technically outside their legal brief (e.g. unexpected spending), this is normal and not a crime

    The validation is normal and not a crime, the spending may not be normal and also may be a crime.

    Were the rules as interpreted by the AG in 2006 clear to ACT (and Parliamentary Services) at the time of the 2005 election or not?

    ACT thought they understood them and acted on that understanding. However like always, the final test is “will it stand an audit?” and it didn’t. This isn’t to say that ACT were right and the audit was wrong, it’s also not categorically saying ACT were wrong and audit was right. All it proves is the “highest authority” to investigate has made a ruling and that ruling stands irrespective of previous understandings (or conventions) until it’s overthrown by an even higher authority – EG A court.

    If the rules were clear to ACT in 2005, why did they break them?

    You are not getting this bit, as above If ACT thought they understood the rules and acted within that understanding then the rules are not necessarily wrong, ACT’s understanding is wrong. Ignorance is no excuse It’s written on the wall of the Court of Appeal, it’s well know as a principle of law, it’s not something that changes for people who wrote the laws. “The law is confusing’ is not an excuse

    Shall I go on or will you agree: Acting on an understanding of the law is not sufficient authority to re-write laws if you got it wrong?

  109. burt 109

    rOb

    I think one of the differences we are seeing here is that I don’t make up justifications to convince myself that the party I support did nothing wrong. ACT got it wrong, they may not have liked that, but they didn’t have the balls to challenge it in court, so they paid the money as quickly as possible. Did the crime did the time, thank the ball boys, thank the lines men and leave the field.

    You are aware that you always have the option of saying .

    “I agree that the retrospective validation for Election ’05 stinks like a rotten fish but I support labour and I’ll defend their actions because I wanted a Labour govt so It’s all OK with me’.

    I can’t argue with that position, I can call it partisan but that’s not going to make you reconsider your life is it.

  110. r0b 110

    Note to readers, this is not a current thread. Burt and I are discussing old issues and the conversation is probably not of any interest to anyone else.

    I agree with points i thru vi with the following qualification. … The validation is normal and not a crime, the spending may not be normal and also may be a crime.

    OK, sure. Usual cases of unappropriated spending are technically a crime but it’s OK to validate them. The process should never be used to validated real crimes. Agreed.

    Shall I go on or will you agree: Acting on an understanding of the law is not sufficient authority to re-write laws if you got it wrong?

    If the law is clear and you get it wrong (or claim ignorance), then agreed.

    ACT thought they understood them and acted on that understanding.

    Agreed. ACT’s understanding of the rules in 2005 (as interpreted by the AG in 2006) was wrong. But at the time (2005) ACT thought they were doing the right thing. Of course they did, they would never deliberately break the rules.

    Can we assume that the same is also true of National and say NZF?

    (Got to go until tonight…)

    Edit: You are aware that you always have the option of saying… – ta but I won’t take that option.

  111. burt 111

    rOb

    “If the law is clear and you get it wrong (or claim ignorance), then agreed.”

    No, not an option to qualify that agreement with “if the law is clear ‘.

    The law is the law, you can seek a review of the law and you can apply to a higher authority (higher than the one who ruled you broke the law) to overturn a ruling. This process is normal and it happens all the time. You cannot simply call the law an ass and make your own decision about how it should be interpreted, well not unless you are above the law and we have already agreed that nobody is above the law.

    At the moment you seem to be saying that if the law is unclear then it’s normal to retrospectively amend it. I disagree with that, although I do see how one might be drawn to that conclusion if one observes the process from the Election ’05 perspective.

    Remember we are talking about political parties and MP’s acting on the “status quo’ interpretation of an untested law. Untested first audit shows “that’s how we always do it’ was illegal according to the AG, who was not challenged and overruled by a higher authority. All parties had the option to test the AG’s ruling in court why did they not do that rOb?

    Can we assume that the same is also true of National and say NZF?

    If they were not warned that the things they were doing would breach the law, then I think we can assume that they misunderstood the law and acted on that misunderstanding.

  112. burt 112

    rOb

    As a qualification, I do not believe that National made a genuine mistake with the $100,000 GST debacle. It’s simply not credible that they would make a mistake like that.

    However this is not what we are talking about and I recall that parliament voted down a retrospectively law change so that National could legally re-pay that money. I guess retrospective law changes to cater for “misunderstandings’ of the law are not normal and everyday after all

  113. r0b 113

    “If the law is clear and you get it wrong (or claim ignorance), then agreed.’
    No, not an option to qualify that agreement with “if the law is clear…’.

    OK Burt, I disagree. We’ll get back to this very soon, promise.

    [re National and NZF] If they were not warned that the things they were doing would breach the law, then I think we can assume that they misunderstood the law and acted on that misunderstanding.

    Well the AG gave everyone a general warning to be careful. But ACT, National and NZF still managed to spend on things the AG later ruled inappropriate, so I guess we can assume that the general warning was not clear enough. So we can continue to assume that these parties all acted in good faith according to the law as they understood it in 2005 (we haven’t got to Labour yet).

    So, saving the case of the Labour Party (and any number of interesting but distracting sidelines) until later, would it be fair to say that this is your position re ACT, National and NZF:

    a) these parties acted in good faith according to the law as they understood it in 2005
    b) the law as the AG understood it in 2006 was not clear to these parties in 2005 (or otherwise of course they would have kept the law)
    c) it doesn’t matter that the law (AG in 2006) was not clear to these parties in 2005 because the AG is the final authority
    d) in effect the AGs ruling in 2006 creates the correct interpretation of the law in 2005
    e) therefore all these parties were guilty of significant crimes (later retrospectively washed away).

    If this is not your position, please correct me. If this is your position then I will reply later tonight (I’ll stop asking questions and I’ll explain my position on this in some detail).

  114. burt 114

    rOb

    re: (a) I would like to think so, I can’t be sure. I don’t think we can answer the question ‘did they push the envelope?’. If either of us had the answer to that we would not be discussing this stuff would we?

    re: b) No, not as you have stated. “the law as the AG understood it in 2006 was not clear” This is disagree with.

    I don’t think the AG had much trouble with interpreting the law, Jolly Jim didn’t have much trouble either. The effected parties had trouble with his interpretations so the effected parties said it was unclear.

    It’s electoral law, it’s never going to be simple. The clarity of the law is also subjective. This is why we have the separation of powers, such that the writers are not the enforcers, the judges or the juries. The way I understand it the defense of the law being confusing or unreasonable is by convention not available to the legislature. (you wrote this shit, you follow this shit sort of stuff) I’m sure you could enlighten me on some more of this if it’s relevant.

    However I would accept and agree with.

    b) the law as the AG interpreted it in 2006 was not as interpreted by these parties in 2005 (or otherwise they may have kept the law)

    re: c) What can I say rOb… NO.

    I would accept.

    C) it’s immaterial that the law (AG in 2006) was not clear to these parties in 2005 because his ruling stands unchallenged and unproven but made immaterial by retrospective validation.

    re: d) I would say…

    d) Is the most authoritative unchallenged ruling available.

    So and so said his ruling was crap won’t cut it, unless so and so is acting on behalf of the legislature in judging the interpretation. If such judgment exists please explain/link, otherwise AG stands.

    re: e) not quite.

    I don’t know if they were guilty, or if they are guilty, I don’t know if they deliberately took advantage of complex legislation to deliberately misappropriate public funds. This would be a matter between the crown, the judicary and parliament to determine, not me, and not conventionally parliament on their own.

  115. burt 115

    rOb

    Oh, one more thing, anything passed under urgency is hard to call conventional. Convention = appropriate process.

  116. burt 116

    rOb

    I’m going for the short cut again, I feel you are close to grasping this fundermental point.

    A court ruling that the law was confusing and unreasonable or impossible for a reasonable person to follow would validate the claim it was confusing and that retrospective validation was required. No problem with that, no problem with charges droped no convictions, public apologies etc etc. This as a concept is in no way unprecedented. It’s happened just recently with parking fines. The correct thing to do in that case would be refund all fines with interest, will that happen? Sorry I digressed.

    The legislature claim that they laws they wrote for their own election funding controls were confusing and changed them retrospectively saying the law as implemented was confusing and unreasonable since day 1… while claiming they hadn’t breeched the law…. something about this must be ringing a bell for you?

    It’s very different to what National did one year for $50m.

  117. r0b 117

    Note to readers, this is not a current thread. Burt and I are discussing old issues and the conversation is probably not of any interest to anyone else.

    With respect to ACT, National and NZF:

    ===

    r0b: a) these parties acted in good faith according to the law as they understood it in 2005

    burt: I would like to think so, I can’t be sure. I don’t think we can answer the question ‘did they push the envelope?’. If either of us had the answer to that we would not be discussing this stuff would we?

    Agreed. I suspect that they were pushing the envelope a bit myself, but we don’t know for sure, and we assume that they basically acted in good faith.

    ===

    r0b: b) the law as the AG understood it in 2006 was not clear to these parties in 2005 (or otherwise of course they would have kept the law)

    burt: It’s electoral law, it’s never going to be simple. The clarity of the law is also subjective.
    … I would accept and agree with
    b) the law as the AG interpreted it in 2006 was not as interpreted by these parties in 2005 (or otherwise they may have kept the law)

    OK, we’re stuck here for the moment. The parties and the AG interpreted the law differently at different times. How did that happen if the law was clear? Surely if the law (AG 2006) was clear in 2005 then Parliamentary Services and every party should have got it right. How did Parliamentary Services and every party (except Jim) get it wrong?

    I don’t see how you can argue that the AG’s 2006 law was clear in 2005. Can you rephrase “b” in a way that you agree with, but that takes this into account?

  118. r0b 118

    Ahh burt – why are you sticking on “b” – you agree in “c” that it was not clear?

    C) it’s immaterial that the law (AG in 2006) was not clear to these parties

  119. burt 119

    rOb

    I’ll paraphrase b in two ways, make a call or propose an alternative.

    b.1) the law as the AG interpreted it in 2006 was not as interpreted by these parties in, 2005 so the items identified in a three month audit were judged to be illegal so the whole shooting box of what the fuck was validated and we moved on.

    b.2) the law as the AG interpreted it in 2006 was not as interpreted by these parties in 2005. A court ruling that the law was confusing and unreasonable or impossible for a reasonable person to follow would validate the claim it was confusing and that retrospective validation was required.

    Meanwhile….

    Please, explain the constitutional integrity in applying the Law on the actions of the legislature rather than their intentions 14 years ago when controls were put in place. How is the separation of the powers reflected in this activity?

    I’ve got no argument retrospective validation was legal, we have no written constitution to control such activities, it can only be judged against conventions and ethics, principles etc.

  120. RedLogix 120

    Sorry to butt in guys, but some of us are interested and you are both having a great debate. Although I disagree with Burt, I will say that he is doing a fine job of putting his case. Here is my take so far.

    I think it is axiomatic to state that the PS spending rules were put in place by Parliament itself. The role of the AG is to apply these rules, not to create them. Ultimately he/she is a servant of Parliament, not it’s master.

    But it the innate nature of all written rules or laws that they are subject to interpretation both in terms of their meaning, AND in how they are applied to each case as it arises. In general Parliament enacts law that expresses it’s intent in a generic fashion and leaves the application of law in each specific case to the Courts.

    The question of how Parties spent their PS funding became the subject of some controversy, so in 2005 Parliament reviewed the rules in a fresh attempt to clarify it’s intent around how such funds could be legitimately spent.

    The role of the AG was to apply these rules. The reason why he/she is highly paid is because the role demands a high degree of probity and judgement in interpreting the rules according to Parliament’s intent and applying them in a manner that is widely regarded as fair.

    IF the AG had found against one or two Parties, and could have provided evidence that there had been a deliberate and malicious intent on their part to breach the rules, then he would have been widely supported.

    The problem is this. Apart from the case of Jolly Jim who had sod all to spend in just one electorate that he is closely associated with, and National who had colluded with him to spend most their PS funds on electioneering before the period of his audit…. he found EVERY other Party to be in breach of the rules. And yet the same time he produced NO evidence of any malicious intent to defraud by ANY Party.

    To my mind this strongly suggests that the AG intepreted the PS spending rules in a manner that distinctly deviated from Parliament’s intent and understanding. This sort of thing often happens when people apply rules using a “letter of the law” literalistic approach, instead of using their judgement and wider understanding to arrive at a fair and widely acceptable outcome. It is especially easy to do if the rules are both recent and complex. It called into question his judgement and the fairness of his rulings.

    Parliament is the master of the AG, not the other way around and I am not at all sure what the constitutional ramifications would be if Parliament challenged one of it’s own Officers in Court. Has this ever been done before?

    Imagine for a moment that the AG had made some hypothetical mistake, one that was entirely and universally disagreed with. What would Parliament do? Could it remove him from office? Would it challenge him in Court? Both of these actions would have long term implications for the independence and authority of the AG’s Office. If the damage arising from the mistake was severe enough, then the cost of firing/challenging him would be lesser of the two evils… but you really don’t want to be doing this unless the situation was extreme and there was a universal consensus supporting it.

    In this case a poltical consensus was impossible because there was a National Party jackup going on in the background, and a complicit media spreading disinformation. Challenging or sacking the AG was not an option. Therefore a compromise was reached. The individual Parties have with one exception respected the AG’s Office by repaying the funds he ruled as misspent, but Parliament as a whole voted to rectify the errors made by it’s servant utlising the technical mechanism of retrospective validation.

    Sometimes we forget that Parliament is the highest authority in this country. At some fundamental level it can do whatever it likes… and do so with perfect legal legitimacy.

  121. r0b 121

    I’ll paraphrase b in two ways, make a call or propose an alternative.

    Actually, I think in context we can stick with your original b.

    So – your view is that:

    a) these parties probably acted in good faith according to the law as they understood it in 2005 (maybe pushed the envelope a bit)

    b) the law as the AG interpreted it in 2006 was not as interpreted by these parties in 2005 (or otherwise they may have kept the law)

    c) it’s immaterial that the law (AG in 2006) was not clear to these parties in 2005 because his ruling stands unchallenged and unproven but made immaterial by retrospective validation.

    d) Is the most authoritative unchallenged ruling available.

    (So did the AGs ruling in 2006 create the correct interpretation of the law in 2005 or not?)

    e) therefore for all these parties you don’t know if they were guilty, or if they are guilty, or if they deliberately took advantage of complex legislation to deliberately misappropriate public funds. This would be a matter between the crown, the judicary and parliament to determine, not me, and not conventionally parliament on their own.

    Yes? (Though I’m still interested in the answer to my question on d).

    Edit: Hi RL – I thought were all alone here by now! Many interesting points! I’ll reply after Burt and I have chatted – I can only hold one train of thought at a time these days…

  122. burt 122

    RedLogix

    Technically Parliament is not the highest authority in the country, there are three branches of the executive (Parliament being one of them) and none have more authority than the other and none has complete autonomy over any one branch excluding the Crown who by convention never exercises that power. Well that’s the way I read the skinny on the back of the Weetbix pack.

    Parliament’s primary (some would say only) purpose is to create and maintain the legislation and the policies to govern the country. It’s not conventionally ‘normal’ for it to rule on it’s own legislation and amend it as appropriate to suite how it’s been acting recently.

    However, you made a compelling case proving that it was indeed convenient and cost effective, and not illegal.

  123. r0b 123

    However, you made a compelling case proving that it was indeed convenient and cost effective, and not illegal.

    Interesting response to RL!

    I note that and action can be all of those things, and still not “right” or “moral” – and I suspect that you think this is the case here…

  124. burt 124

    rOb

    Your question….

    How did Parliamentary Services and every party (except Jim) get it wrong?

    They did. Because they did. I’ve said several times over I can’t judge if they are right or wrong, It’s not a game of dice where the most sixes wins, it’s law. It’s written in parliament and proven in courts. Not bits scrubbed out and changes written in with crayon under urgency.

    ps: Who is RedLogix and why is my response interesting?

  125. r0b 125

    ps: Who is RedLogix and why is my response interesting?

    RedLogix is RedLogix, and I thought the comment that you made to him about a compelling case was interesting, but never mind.

    I wanted to completely understand your position, and we haven’t got there, but never mind, I think it’s time to move on. There is enough of what I wanted to understand in your version of “c”: c) it’s immaterial that the law (AG in 2006) was not clear to these parties in 2005 because his ruling stands unchallenged …

    This is where we have a very profound disagreement. I think it matters a lot whether the law is clear. Pick up any legal textbook and take a look. Here’s one, Purposive Interpretation in Law, which reviews the defining characteristics of the concept of “law” according to various experts:

    Fuller suggested an interesting list: law must be general, known, and publicised; law must be clear and understandable; law must be stable; law cannot be retroactive; laws must not contradict each other; law must not demand physically impossible tasks; there must be a system of enforcement by the responsible governing bodies.

    Rawls’s list … Third, there can be no sanctions for a crime undefined by law. The law must be public and known, clear and understandable. There can be no retroactive legislation.

    Raz also has a list: Laws must be prospective, public, clear, and relatively stable; the judiciary must be independent …

    You can find similar statements that the law must be clear in other legal text books (like here or here).

    In short, the law must be clear. Do you agree, and if you agree what implications do you think this has re ACT, National and NZF in our discussion?

  126. Ed 126

    I can remember a lawyer that I consulted on a business matter telling me once that as I had asked for a statement of fact he could not give it, as that could only be determined by the court; if I had wanted an opinion he could have given me that. He was not being unhelpful, it was an important distinction, and very relevant in that case. The law was clear, but a determination in accordance with the law required a court judgement in the particular circumstances I was asking about. I’m not a lawyer, but I did think it summarised quite well the difficulties that can occur.

  127. burt 127

    rOb

    Apart from statement by the effected parties, do we have an independent source that is qualified to say it’s unclear and has officially done so? If we do we can move on from the issue of “is it unclear or is it not”. RedLogix hinges his defense that it was on the fact that the AG called it differently to parliamentary services and all but one political party.

    We are still ignoring the warning letters and being non specific so in that context RedLogix makes a valid argument. However advance warning blows the theory completely out of the water against a back drop of no ‘more significant’ overriding judgment. One not from people with a personal vested interest. I think as soon as we move past the broader context of ‘good call – bad call – he said confusing she said not’ we need to start talking about all parties, what do ya reckon rOb – ya ready for it yet?

  128. burt 128

    RedLogix

    You said;

    What would Parliament do? Could it remove him from office? Would it challenge him in Court? Both of these actions would have long term implications for the independence and authority of the AG’s Office.

    If we are concerned for it’s independence, then by calling it wrong and nullifying it’s ruling under urgency we make it’s independence an irrelevance.

    Free Bananas anyone?

  129. r0b 129

    Apart from statement by the effected parties, do we have an independent source that is qualified to say it’s unclear and has officially done so

    Yes, the AG himself said that the rules could not be interpreted clearly in his report, and one of his major recommendations was that the process needs to be revised and strengthened.

    But we didn’t need the AG to tell us what was obvious from the fact that ACT National and NZF all got it wrong (others too) – despite the fact that they had advance warning they all got it wrong.

    You didn’t need an expert to tell you when you said: it’s immaterial that the law (AG in 2006) was not clear to these parties in 2005 because his ruling stands unchallenged …

    So here is my first major conclusion. There was a real issue with the clarity of the law in 2005.

  130. burt 130

    OK, I’ll accept that there were interpretation issues with the law.

    However now we still have the problem of law fundamentals, it’s passed by the legislature and proven by the courts. We do have separation of the powers and proving a law is unreasonable or confusing is not, under convention/constitutionally, within the powers of the legislature. Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

    This is a safeguard to ensure the legislature don’t act in their own ‘self interest’ and so they cannot be accused of doing so. This safeguard is not technically a legal barrier. Once again, please correct me if I’m wrong.

  131. RedLogix 131

    then by calling it wrong and nullifying it’s ruling under urgency we make it’s independence an irrelevance.

    I made an important distinction above. Note carefully that it was the individual Parties that undertook to repay their misspent monies. They had to respect the independence and authority of the AG.

    But it was Parliament who voted to rectify what it saw was a mistake by one of it’s Officers. The AG does not have absolute independence from or final authority over Parliament. This is a common misconception.

    The underlying root of the issue is of course that National exploited this misconceived authority and independence of the AG to attack Labour for it own political purposes. This is why, and only why, this matter still has any life whatsoever.

  132. burt 132

    rOb

    The legislature is not supposed to write laws that are confusing. If they voted for the law (approved it – sent it for royal ascent) then they should have understood it. If they cannot understand it or it is confusing then why did they vote for it, especially knowing they needed to follow it themselves. What went wrong…

  133. r0b 133

    OK, I’ll accept that there were interpretation issues with the law.

    Cheers Burt, thanks for not dragging this out forever.

    However now we still have the problem of law fundamentals,

    I cited some law fundamentals from the text books above. Law must be clear, and can’t be applied retrospectively to create crimes in the past (though it can be applied retrospectively to validate stuff in the past – you didn’t call me on that but I have another text book on it if you do!).

    We do have separation of the powers and proving a law is unreasonable or confusing is not, under convention/constitutionally, within the powers of the legislature. Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

    I don’t actually know, I’m not a lawyer, I suspect you’re right. But in this case it wasn’t parliament saying the law couldn’t be interepreted correctly, it was the AG, his major conclusion was that it all needed fixing up.

    But anyway, we’ve agreed that there were interpretation issues with the law. Let’s carry on.

    Who’s job was it to keep the law re Parliamentary Services expenditure? Who was legally responsible if money was improperly spent? Who did the AG have the authority to audit?

  134. RedLogix 134

    The AG Office itself has this highly relevant info:

    http://www.oag.govt.nz/about-us/answers#why

    The key point is this:

    “The Auditor-General is an officer of Parliament. He is independent of executive government and answerable to Parliament.”

  135. r0b 135

    RL Note carefully that it was the individual Parties that undertook to repay their misspent monies. They had to respect the independence and authority of the AG.

    Even more so – they didn’t have to respect it. There was no legal requirement to repay. They chose to respect the AGs authority as a moral matter.

    Burt – I don’t know what went wrong drafting and applying the legislation. Law is complicated, people push the envelope, test cases are needed…

  136. burt 136

    rOb

    test cases are needed Bang ! Darnton vs Clark was lined up for the job – bugger.

  137. Skeptic 137

    Nice try, r0b, but you’re deliberating clouding the issue.

    Well before the 2005 election the Auditor-General warned all political parties that they were not to use parliamentary services money for electioneering purposes in the last three months of the campaign. The AG said he would review all expenses by political parties in the last three months, before the election. Some parties chose to work within that warning. Other parties chose to ignore it.

    There is a major difference between a party being pinged for $10,000 of illegal spending, by having one or two MPs sending out newsletters that have an electioneering component–an accidental breach, as National did–and a political party choosing to ignore the AG’s warning, issue a pledge card and some $400,000 of other illegal expenditure, as the Labour Party did.

    The Labour Party cynically and wilfully ignored the AG’s earlier warning, by using taxpayers’ money for campaigning. If you can’t accept the difference between an accidental breach of the law, and a deliberate one, then you aren’t actually honestly debating.

    Further, the Labour Party told the Chief Electoral Officer before the election that they would include the pledge card expenditure in its return of expenses after the election. Magically, they reversed their decision after the election. Had they included the expenditure, as they were legally required to do, Labour would have breached its spending cap for the whole election.

  138. burt 138

    Skeptic

    Thankyou, I’m taking a coffee break, back later.

  139. r0b 139

    test cases are needed Bang ! Darnton vs Clark was lined up for the job – bugger.

    Test cases of elections run under the laws, not test legal cases brought by outside agents (we will get back to this case if you want to, promise, when the basics are sorted).

    Burt, who’s job was it to keep the law re Parliamentary Services expenditure? Who was legally responsible if money was improperly spent? Who did the AG have the authority to audit? Check out RL’s helpful FAQ link if you need too…

  140. RedLogix 140

    There was no legal requirement to repay. They chose to respect the AGs authority as a moral matter.

    Exactly. Technically the AG was auditing authorisation of expenditure by Parliamentary Services. Although the Service is not part of Executive government, it is deemed to be a department for the purposes of the Public Finance Act. It uses public resources under authority provided by appropriations contained within Vote: Parliamentary
    Service.

    Of course morally no-one could acceptably use this as a fig-leaf; it was the Parties who incurred the expenditure and could not avoid a public expectation to repay, even though there was no legal obligation to do so.

  141. r0b 141

    Skeptic: Nice try, r0b, but you’re deliberating clouding the issue.

    Ahh no, I’m really trying to clarify it.

    Well before the 2005 election the Auditor-General warned all political parties that they were not to use parliamentary services money for electioneering purposes in the last three months of the campaign. The AG said he would review all expenses by political parties in the last three months, before the election. Some parties chose to work within that warning. Other parties chose to ignore it.

    This has all been gone over with Burt. Every party was warned and every party (except Progressives) got it wrong. Part of the reason was that the law was unclear (wasn’t and couldn’t have been interpreted correctly by Parliamentary services).

    There is a major difference between a party being pinged for $10,000

    There is no difference in principle. Spending was either appropriate or it wasn’t. Some spending for every party was deemed inappropriate (the relative dollar amounts just reflect the sizes of their budgets, not their degree of culpability).

    The Labour Party cynically and wilfully ignored the AG’s earlier warning, by using taxpayers’ money for campaigning.

    We haven’t mentioned Labour yet, Burt and I are trying to work out what went on for ACT, National, NZF.

    I’m taking a coffee break too! – Shall reply next when Burt does.

  142. burt 142

    RedLogix

    There was no legal responsibility to repay the money as nobody had the appetite to test the law in court. Parliament had the numbers to pass the validation and did. Parliament having the numbers to pass a bill which retrospectively changes the meaning of a law that is alleged to have been broken by members of that parliament is why we have separation of powers – so that the legislature cannot reactively rule in it’s own self interest and so it cannot be alleged it did so.

    You could boil that down to: It’s impossible to defend an allegation that parliament acted in it’s own self interest when it has smashed through the fundermental principals of our legal system that are designed to make such allegations unacceptable. IE: It’s impossible to defend the indefensible.

  143. burt 143

    rOb

    We are not trying to work out what went on with National, NZ1 (who voted for RV) and ACT, you are trying to avoid the hard issues. Please, join the debate. Did you ever imagine it would go this long? I’ve got days of appetite for this stuff, so bring it on.

  144. r0b 144

    Burt, your comment to RL above has many misconceptions in it!

    I think we can get round to seeing why, but we need to answer some basic questions:

    Who’s job was it to keep the law re Parliamentary Services expenditure? Who was legally responsible if money was improperly spent? Who did the AG have the authority to audit?

  145. burt 145

    rOb

    Short cut, you tell me who it is and I’ll go – ahhhh yes, but but but. Lets give it a go.

  146. r0b 146

    OK, sure.

    Who’s job was it to keep the law re Parliamentary Services expenditure?
    Parliamentary Services.

    Who was legally responsible if money was improperly spent?
    Parliamentary Services.

    Who did the AG have the authority to audit?
    Parliamentary Services.

    The AG did not have the authority to audit the parties and did not audit the parties, he audited PS. If there was a legal problem with their expenditure it was their problem. (If something went wrong parties might be morally involved, but they were not legally involved).

    So let’s really speed things up. Who legally “got off the hook” because of retrospective validation?

  147. burt 147

    rOb

    I think you will find the most likely answer to that is found in ‘follow the money’.

    Parliamentary services are not in control of how the money is spent, hence the normal process of validating unexpected or unplanned spending. The sort of thing that is validated often alongside the budget each year. OK, so you still want to conflate the normal process of validating unplanned spending with 14 years of rewriting the meaning of a law. OK…

    So Parliamentary services approved the payment to the parties for the expenses claimed… Yes ? But the pledge card was from the leaders fund, which was not allowed outside the realms of parliamentary services approval or reach (according to the AG, but he had no authority???)

    Discretionary party spending but not withing the rules of the electoral finance legislation of the time. Que Bradly…

    Continue, please.

  148. r0b 148

    Parliamentary services are not in control of how the money is spent

    Wrong – they approve spending item by item specifically. In 2005 they approved spending on many items (submitted by every party except Jim) that the AG (in 2006) said were outside their appropriation (“illegal”).

    But the AG didn’t blame PS because he said that they were operating in an environment where they couldn’t interpret the law correctly, and where accountability was confused and lacked transparency (and the parties were pushing the envelope hard – no doubt about that).

    PS is legally responsible – item by item. So who did the retrospective validation legally get off the hook?

  149. burt 149

    rOb

    You did say it yourself – “(and the parties were pushing the envelope hard – no doubt about that)”

    so… umm let me think – The cleaner OR the people who had a vested interest who had been pushing the envelope OR the rubber stampers (as you said – they don’t really approve it do they – they record it and warn when limits are getting near)

    You did miss the bit about the pledge card spending, leaders fund and all that.

    I’ll need to know what the “Burt, your comment to RL above has many misconceptions in it!” was talking to, cause I’m gonna need some of that ‘how it should be’ stuff for you in a few comments time.

  150. burt 150

    rOb

    If the AG had no authority, and he was wrong, then why was his ruling not tested in accordance with the fundermental principals of separate branches of the executive (our legal system) ?

    If his ruling is benign, as you seem to suggest, then it triggered a lot of very swift and significant things… thank god he never delivers a shocking revelation!

  151. r0b 151

    You did say it yourself – “(and the parties were pushing the envelope hard – no doubt about that)’

    Yes they were. All of them. Bear in mind that they were operating with unclear rules, operating on the basis of past precedent, and politics always pushes the envelope. But I think they are ALL (not legally but) somewhat morally guilty in this.

    (as you said – they don’t really approve it do they – they record it and warn when limits are getting near

    I said no such thing. It is PS job to approve spending item by item. They approved items from all parties that were (as per AG 2006) inappropriate. They are legally responsible, but the AG identified it as a systems failure, not their fault.

    You haven’t answered my question, but clearly the retrospective validation got PS off the hook legally not the parties (despite what was said in newspapers parties were never legally on the hook).

    The retrospective validation was also required to create legal certainty and get government operating again. Here, take a look at this Treasury advice on the matter: http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf

    I’ll need to know what the “Burt, your comment to RL above has many misconceptions in it!’ was talking to

    Your comment to RedLogix at 12:30.

  152. burt 152

    rOb

    I’ll leave you to consider why I have many misconceptions.

    I would like to know where I’m wrong about the structure of our executive and the principle that the legislature don’t (under convention) have authority to rewrite the meaning of laws retrospectively when they are untested in a court because it allows them to act in a self serving manner. More importantly, it disables them from defending themselves against claims of self interest.

    As you are proving re: Who benefited, it’s hard to imagine that the best interests of the country are served by allowing Parliamentary services off the hook because Politicians have been pushing the envelope. They were ‘pinged’ and change the laws to match what they were doing, not how they were ‘ruled according to the law’ by a very senior civil servant who’s apparently an authority on legal type stuff.

    Good night.

  153. r0b 153

    If the AG had no authority

    He had authority.

    and he was wrong

    Some parties are on record as saying he interpreted the law wrongly. To me that seems to be true, because he interpreted the law differently to Rod Donald, the MP most responsible for writing it (The AG pinged PS for inappropriate spending on items for the Greens / Rod Donald).

    But despite their reservations everyone accepted his interpretation. In my opinion this was partly a recognition of his moral authority (“the referee”) and partly the fact that (whether he was right or wrong) the media would have made it political suicide to challenge him.

    then why was his ruling not tested in accordance with the fundermental principals of separate branches of the executive (our legal system) ?

    As above. Parties decided to accept his ruling (even if they thought it wrong). The issue then became how to deal with the consequences.

    One aspect of dealing with the consequences was to get government working again by getting Parliamentary Services off the legal hook with retrospective validation of their unappropriated expenditure (a regular parliamentary practice).

    If his ruling is benign, as you seem to suggest, then it triggered a lot of very swift and significant things

    It certainly did! It was a ruling delivered into an explosive political environment. It made a great story for the media to beat up. The opposition piled on board, Kiwiblog etc, the whole 9 yards. The real issues were lost in the political point scoring. It was a bloodbath. If it makes you happy Burt, I think Labour have never recovered from the damage.

    I’ll leave you to consider why I have many misconceptions.

    Too much time on Kiwiblog.

    the principle that the legislature don’t (under convention) have authority to rewrite the meaning of laws retrospectively

    I don’t think you’re wrong about that (not a lawyer). Retrospective validation of unappropriated expenditure is the only exception (as you agreed, way up the thread, a benign practice). It isn’t rewriting the law – the law is still the law and must (in future) be kept. It’s just a mechanism to OK unappropriated spending (in the past). That’s all it does.

    it’s hard to imagine that the best interests of the country are served by allowing Parliamentary services off the hook because Politicians have been pushing the envelope

    The best interests of the country are NOT served by allowing government to be paralysed. Once again, here is the Treasury advice on what needed to be done:
    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf
    Do you disagree with Treasury?

    Good night

    Good night Burt, sweet dreams.

  154. r0b 154

    Note to all:

    This is not really an active thread, it is just Burt and I (and a few others) thrashing over some very old issues. It’s probably not interesting to anyone else.

    For the active threads see the front page.

    Sorry for cluttering up the place.

  155. burt 155

    rOb

    Oh dear,

    the media would have made it political suicide to challenge him.

    Now we are getting somewhere, it’s not about the consequences for the party rOb! Political consequences are not allowed to be a driver in the application or interpretation of the law. Separation stuff again.

    Starting with “The issue then became how to deal with the consequences.” you switched fully into party damage control mode. Political consequences and interpretations of Parliaments behaviour under the law are not good friends, they were never going to be and it’s incorrect to find a happy medium between the two, or try and make them share a bed so we can pretend they are good friends.

    One aspect of dealing with the consequences was to get government working again by getting Parliamentary Services off the legal hook with retrospective validation of their unappropriated expenditure (a regular parliamentary practice).

    It’s practical, but no. You’re joining two completely different things together and calling them the same again. By the way, how much was validated, how much were Parliamentary services let off the hook for? Is it usual practice under the heading of “(a regular parliamentary practice)” to not know how much money was validated, over 14 years, by changing the law?

    Stop it – stop trying to weave normal convention and Election ’05 retrospective validations together to confuse what we are talking about, we are way past that. I said a few days ago stop being a Labour apologist trying to defend the indefensible, continuing to confuse changing laws and validating spending shows you are not defending changing laws, which is what we are talking about. We agreed a day or two ago that validating spending is benign, changing laws is different.

    If it makes you happy Burt, I think Labour have never recovered from the damage.

    It’s not about what makes me happy. If however Labour’s demise in the polls is attributable to them having put themselves in a position where they can’t ‘cleanly’ defend their intentions then the lesson – ‘never underestimate the intelligence of the voters OR their ability to smell a rat – even if there is no rat’ may be taken on board. This would be a good thing, some time ago I was staunch Labour supporter.

    The best interests of the country are NOT served by allowing government to be paralysed.

    Then the parties pushing the envelope should not have put the country in a position where that could happen. The gate keepers of Parliamentary services should not have signed off stuff they didn’t really understand and it should not have all been swept under the retrospective rug. Trouble don’t start itself rOb!

    Do you disagree with Treasury?

    No, but the way I read it they instructed what they thought should be done, not how to do it. So I don’t disagree with Treasury. But I don’t quite see how “validate any breach of relevant Acts;” justifies validating an unknown amount of spending and validating “unknown” acts over 14 years. Specific validation would still be Parliament covering Parliaments collective ass, but it would be measurable and possibly defensible because it is measurable.

    I don’t see why Darnton vs Clark (especially given an amendment to stop that side effect was voted down) had to killed off. Killing off Darnton vs Clark (although the case was embarrassing to the govt… considered in the context of what I said about consequences are not the driver) is sadly one of the aspects that adds considerable weight to the possibility of ‘acting in self interest’.

    I think Helen Clark made the statement, but I never heard her say why… ‘Accusations of corruption are intolerable in a democracy’ (or words to that effect, I not trying to distort what she said). I assumed it’s because there are checks and balances inherently in the executive (the structure of the democracy) to prevent any branch of the executive overstepping it’s authority, and checks and balances in the system that require collusion of powers and/or people to effect corruption. IE: The system (as designed) has to be corrupted for corruption to occur.

    Therefore I think a reasonable person can conclude that retrospectively changing laws to (even possibly) let ‘anyone’ in Parliament off the hook via Parliament, rather than in conjunction with the Courts, becomes indefensible. As I said earlier, not illegal, but unable to be defended as definitely not done in the best interest of ‘Parliament’. I think RedLogix introduced the ‘Annette King’ defense that it’s wasn’t the Labour-led govt that enacted the retrospective legislation, it was parliament, under that reasoning letting of Parliamentary services was letting off Parliament.

    Can you see that once we step over the safeguards of our legal system the integrity of our legal system can become questionable. Safeguards are in place because this must not happen. I could completely agree with every statement you have made about the best intentions of the actions, but you can not prove them when Parliament has been allowed to rule on alleged breaches of the law by Parliament. To “validate” required the courts to prove the law was unworkable, or that parliamentary services had become dysfunctional or something – it’s not Parliaments role to do that. Legally it can, but in the best interest of democracy and confidence in democracy it must not be.

    As an interesting aside, a dictatorship has no separation of the legislature, the judiciary and the Crown (and associated functions and powers of each) Do we agree at a conceptual level that without the separation of powers it becomes impossible to separate the interests of the Crown, the Legislature and the Judiciary?

  156. burt 156

    rOb

    Earlier you said.

    I don’t actually know, I’m not a lawyer, I suspect you’re right.

    about the legal/constitutional stuff.

    I’m not a lawyer either, actually the only time I’ve ever stepped foot in a university was for the kick-boxing/karate club, so I hope I’m right about the legal stuff. I hope I’m not making a complete fool of myself 😉

  157. jafapete 157

    Burt, responding somewhat patronisingly to r0b’s comment, “…the media would have made it political suicide to challenge him” said, “Now we are getting somewhere, it’s not about the consequences for the party rOb!”

    May I just ask, to whom then is the AG accountable?

  158. burt 158

    jafapete

    It think rOb knows a shit load more about that than I do, I’m sure he will answer that if it’s relevant. I’ll think about how it fits into the debate for a moment, but will get back to you.

    Meanwhile, have a think about the concept of the Courts jurisdiction over people in parliament who may have broken laws. Imagine we could rate the consequences from negative 10 to positive 10, now replace the courts with that rating system and assure me that political parties are not acting in their own self interest, with specific regard to public money.

  159. higherstandard 159

    Regarding to whom the auditor general is accountable.

    http://www.oag.govt.nz/about-us/the-controller-and-auditor-general

  160. r0b 160

    Now we are getting somewhere, it’s not about the consequences for the party rOb! Political consequences are not allowed to be a driver in the application or interpretation of the law. Separation stuff again.

    I agree. But political consequences are entirely reasonable in deciding whether to challenge a law / legal decision. No one is forced to make a challenge Burt, they can decide whether or not to. Parties on this occasion that disagreed with the AG chose not to. OK?

    You’re joining two completely different things together and calling them the same again. … Stop it – stop trying to weave normal convention and Election ‘05 retrospective validations together to confuse what we are talking about, we are way past that

    OK Burt, please re-read this advice from Treasury.
    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf
    Would you say that it weaves the two issues together? You have already said that you don’t disagree with this Treasury document.

    So what, exactly and specifically, is your problem? How can the retrospective validation of unappropriated Parliamentary Services spending be “indefensible” if you agree with Treasury advice to do exactly that?

    (Danton and Clark etc later – let’s deal with this fundamental underlying issue first, then I promise I’ll try and answer your questions for a while. Fair?)

  161. RedLogix 161

    The answer to Rob’s question above So let’s really speed things up. Who legally “got off the hook’ because of retrospective validation? is actually the Speaker of the House.

    Parliamentary Services is an unique beast. It is not a Department that is under the political control of the Executive, rather it is a creature of Parliament itself and technically under the control of the Speaker.

    I know this doesn’t help in the political context. I’m very much in agreement with Rob’s comment above, that Labour has never really recovered from the political damage this episode caused. Let’s remind ourselves of the context.

    In the 2003 election National led by Bill English was rather lightly funded and lost badly. With Don Brash “policies for cash” as Leader, the BRT and others secretly switched from backing ACT and pumped in millions of dollars to National’s coffers via the Waitemata and Ruahine Trusts. This meant that unlike all the other Parties, National was no longer so very dependent on it’s PS funding stream in order to run it’s campaign.

    This gave National an unprecendented opportunity to pull off a political jackup. The AG had clearly signalled that he was going to audit PS expenditure for the 2005 election period, so they determined to begin campaigning almost immediately after the 2005 Budget and utilise much of their PS Services allocation either prior to the three month cutoff, OR ensure that what PS expenditure they did claim for did not push any boundaries. They were in a unique position to pull this off this because they had so much of their OWN funding to spend on actual electioneering.

    By contrast Labour, NZ1, UF, ACT and the Greens had little choice to fight this wall of money with what funds they had available from PS. Yet the AG in his own report clearly took the view that virtually everything that a politician does potentially has an electioneering context and therefore ALL PS funding of Party activity was now considered suspect.

    This of course meant that National was then able to exploit the AG’s subsequent report as a massive political weapon. The media in particular the Herald (still stung by Dr Cullen recently closing a major tax loophole that had cost them in excess of $100m) led off the campaign to ensure the affair caused the maximum possible damage to Labour.

    Underlying this of course lies the deeper question of democracy funding. If the Parties were to conservatively apply the guidelines and tests outlined in the AG’s report, then they would have no access to ANY funds to be used for almost ANY activity. Virtually everything a political party does could be construed as having an “electioneering purpose”. In effect Parties would be compelled to depend solely on their own fund raising efforts.

    However appealling this notion might be theoretically to some people, the nett practical effect of such a regime would a “one Party State”. Only National would be in a position to function as a modern political Party. Despite claims from David Farrar, the actual monies received by National from “rank and file” members is very modest. Much the same is true for all other Parties. In general we all like the idea of having a diversity of parties to choose between at election time… but almost none of us are prepared to actually put our hands in our pockets to pay for them.

    Surely this is the defining issue here. A political party cannot function nor win elections without funding. With funding comes strings. This is the vital question you must answer Burt. Would you prefer that funding to come from the Crown (with apolitical strings attached) or that the bulk of funding arrives in secret from anonymous big business interests … and that the nature of the strings attached only gets discovered AFTER an election?

  162. All puppet politicians have strings attached.

  163. lprent 163

    RL: That was an admirable summation.

    There simply aren’t that enough people interested enough in politics to fund the political parties at a rank-and-file level.

    You can claim (as the Nat’s do) that everyone buying a raffle ticket is a member of the party and pop them on the mailing lists. Some clownish friend did that to me a few years ago & I got junk mail from Wayne Mapp for years.

    But the reality is that you raise money from outside the parties. That carries political risks for the country. The right always harps on about the unions. But the reality is that they use their money for their members benefit. That sometimes coincides with affliated political parties and sometimes not. In any case it really isn’t that much. Similarly public listed businesses have the same kinds of issues with shareholders.

    The problem area is always going to be rich individuals who wish to push particular points of view or their own sectional or business interests.

    Because of the limited supply of political funding, even relatively small amounts of money can have a big influence in NZ. Owen Glenn didn’t make a massive donation to the NZLP, but it allowed them to fight the 2005 election and win (just) because proportionally is was a big part of the NZLP’s budget. If he’d followed the Nat’s practice of making his contributions invisible, then he could have potentially wielded an influence in politics widely out of proportion between the donations to the GDP or the government budgets.

    That is exactly what Hager and others (including me) assert could be happening in the Nat’s. It doesn’t matter if that is what has been happening or not. It is if it is potentially capable of happening that is the problem. That is a problem that needs to be closed permanently,

    Political funding needs to be completely transparent, controlled in quantity, and largely funded by the taxpayers to ensure that political debate is done for all citizens and not just for a few. That means the political debate is done on policies for the whole country and for the few with high amounts of disposable money.

    The questions about the AG’s actions are almost irrelevant except that they highlighted that there is no basis in legislation to ensure that the playing field is kept reasonably level.

  164. Skeptic 164

    That simply isn’t true, lprent. I’ll resist the urge to insult your character, but you have got several points blatantly wrong.

    National doesn’t claim that everyone buying a raffle ticket is a National Party member. Raffle tickets are generally only sold at events to people who are already national party members. National has around 40,000 current members. They each receive a membership card, and a receipt for their membership subscription and donation. Some members sign up for as little as ten dollars. Others give more. On average, members give between $50 and $100 a year to the National Party. That gives a large, broad base of funding to the National Party.

    The National Party has a four tiered structure: branch level, electorate level, regional level, and the party’s board of directors. All electorate candidate selection is conducted at a local level: one delegate for every fifteen members, appointed by the members themselves.

    Being on a mailing list from a Parliamentary MP does not give voting membership status in the National Party. You have to sign up to be a member and pay an annual subscription.

    National raises pretty much all its operating expenses from its membership subscription base, along with a major chunk of its campaigning resources. Yes, the National Party does get additional funding from wealthy individuals, and in recent years more so than Labour, but this has not always been the case. In several elections Labour has raised more from wealthy donors than National has.

    As much as you want to argue for the merits of public funding of political parties, this should be out in the open. It simply isn’t acceptable to allow public funding via the back door, as took place in 2005 when Labour spent over $800,000 of parliamentary services expenditure on its campaign. This was not accidental. They knew that the pledge card–over $400,000, was clearly and blatantly electioneering material in the defined campaign period. They spent the money anyway. That is totally dishonest.

    If you want to have public funding of political parties, fine. Put your case out in the open. Don’t do it sneakily, by stealth, by raiding from the taxpayer. Let’s have a proper debate about the merits of it. Don’t simply change the law to shut down legitimate funding sources, and then change the law again allowing your party to raid the taxpayer, without public consultation.

  165. Anita 165

    To add a small part of the context, retrospectively validating spending is a normal practice.

    There are plenty of reasonable cases where an agency may spend inconsistently with its original appropriation, usually transparently and with approval. There are check points throughout the year where these are tidied up, usually by altering appropriations – the most formalised are the March and October base line updates.

    However not all inconsistent spending is handled through the base line updates, and it is sometimes necessary to tidy up them up with a retrospective validation. The most obvious is anything which occurs too late for the March round or, as in this case, anything that was not picked up until after the end of the financial year.

    To take a completely straightforward case, the department I worked for at the time had a flood relief/response overspend retrospectively validated. The flood occurred after March, we had Cabinet approval to overspend, we made people’s lives better, parliament did paperwork.

    The thing that is unusual in this case was not the retrospective validation, it was the fact that it was caused by PS misspending without recognising that they were doing it, and without getting any kind of approval. The misspend was picked up later by the AG.

    That is a bad and embarrassing misspend 🙂

    Tidying up the paperwork was a necessary consequence and not remarkable.

  166. Anita 166

    Oh, and while I’m on a public finance act pedantry kick…

    It wasn’t an overspend; parliamentary services spent no more than they had approved, they just spend it on the wrong things (things for which it was not approved).

    All of the parties could have had things funded by PS to the exact same value, they just had to be subtly different things 🙂

  167. r0b 167

    Thanks Anita. It’s problematic trying to understand all this from the outside, so very nice to hear an insider’s views.

  168. Anita 168

    r0b,

    No worries, the PFA is a sanity-sapping black art 🙂

    I was never sure how much of the fuss over the retrospective validation was clever spin by National, and how much was that the media usually don’t need to care about this kind of detail so got unnecessarily excited about the wrong bits.

    That said, the way the validation itself was done was a bit odd in two interesting ways.

    Firstly, it was done separately from the rest of the validations for the year; sooner and under urgency. There was never a good explanation of why the rush.

    Secondly, it’s a pretty woolly exercise; it validates back to 1989 but doesn’t address what gap between the original appropriation and actual spend in those years is. It also doesn’t explain why 1989.

    The second of those was probably an exercise in pragmatism, auditing back 15 years of expenditure just so you could validate it is almost certainly a pointless costly exercise.

    The first, however, feels like politics to me.

    If you want to see the lack of detail the useful documents are the Treasury Report and the Cabinet Paper.

  169. burt 169

    RedLogix

    By contrast Labour, NZ1, UF, ACT and the Greens had little choice to fight this wall of money with what funds they had available from PS.

    … against advice not to do exactly that, which was deemed a breach of the law… which was validated. They had a choice, don’t spend the money in ways that they were warned not to…

    OK, lets assume for a moment that apart from the fact they didn’t like the way the current legislation worked that they had their reasons which were not simply to remove liability from prosecution for potential breaches of the law. I’ll put that hat on for a moment.

    Legislation voted for and implemented by parliament for parliament is what we are talking about here, in the context of misappropriated public funds for election campaigning. Consider that when the Legislature say law is confusing the first response must be “Then why did you pass it if you can’t understand it?”, then it’s a hard job to justify fixing it on the fly covering 14 years, but I have this uncomfortable hat on so I’ll continue with this thought.

    OK, I want to believe that nothing legally inappropriate was done, but this hat is confusing me because I can’t see how we can prove that. I’ll switch to an analogy….

    Lets say my best mate is a Policeman, lets say he’s over at my place playing chess with me and we have tired from a few tough games and are sitting back having a few red wines. A crazed mad bastard crashes through the door demanding money, I smash him to the floor when he tries to assault me for my wallet. In doing so I kill him. My mate, who a Policeman (he works for the Crown) makes a decision, he tells me that it was self defense and there isn’t a jury in the world that would convict me as I would get off on self defense for sure. He calls his mate the Coroner and they arrange to change the death certificate of the ‘crazy bastard’ to massive heart attack, unrelated and coincidental to the fact I caved his face in. The best interests of the Crown have been served, it’s quick, efficient and the outcome is unchanged. The best interests of the judiciary have been served as considerable time/cost and paperwork has been saved because I don’t need to defend the case and prove it was self defense. (which would be easy, perhaps not so easy if we were in a bar not my house, but I started with my house so I’ll stick with that).

    So, a servant of the crown, who understands the law and how it would be applied has acted unilaterally on behalf of the Crown, with the best interests of the Crown and the Judiciary foremost.

    Is this the correct process? Is there no possibility that allowing such discretion by one branch of the executive can lead to compromise of the legal system? Is this approach open to abuse?

    Could this case stand up as completely defensible when somebody asked the Police why I was never tried in Court, other than somebody assuring them that it would have been annoying and inconvenient but the outcome would have been the same?

  170. r0b 170

    Hey there Burt, if you want to resume our chat my last comment to you is 11:20am.

  171. burt 171

    rOb

    Hello, yes I’m onto that one.

    So what, exactly and specifically, is your problem? How can the retrospective validation of unappropriated Parliamentary Services spending be “indefensible’ if you agree with Treasury advice to do exactly that?

    I did say that from the way I read it Treasury said it should be done, they did not say how. Perhaps if Parliament had received an “independent” ruling from the Court to review the legislation (for confusion and reasonableness) then the process would be seen to have been done. The fact that, as Anita also notes, we have no idea “what or how much” was validated is the issue. How can we be sure that Mr. Joe Bloggs from political party [xyz] had not been rocking back and forward in their office chewing their finger nails the whole time the AG investigation was occurring? How can we be sure when no efforts have been made to scope and measure the size of the problem.

    Not removing a govt who have acted ‘above the law’ is when a democracy becomes know as something that stats with “Dictat…”. The public must have complete confidence that when “unusual” things are done that there is no cover up going on.

    Darnton vs Clark could have spectacularly failed, Darnton could have been sued into oblivion. But we will never know, we have only the word of the people who had the most vested interest (parliament) to believe that parliament did nothing wrong.

    If the Court had found the law unreasonable (as Darnton vs Clark also had the potential to do) then validation of the law (and hopefully a severe shake up of the legislature for voting for impossible legislation – for themselves) would be defensible, as it was measurable and open accountable etc.

  172. burt 172

    RedLogix

    If you think you can justify that subverting the court process is reasonable in an obvious self defense case, then assume it happens two weeks in a row. Please ignore the fact that also for the last two weeks my front fence has been tagged, differently each time and it has not occurred since. But honestly, the crazy bastards both broke into my house, look I have receipts for getting the front door fixed twice.

  173. r0b 173

    I did say that from the way I read it Treasury said it should be done, they did not say how.

    They were specific about how Burt. But you’re just splitting hairs now aren’t you? They advised what should be done, you don’t disagree with the advice, it got done. How then can you claim it’s indefensible?

    Bear with me. I think we can make progress. Starting point:
    – the rules (AG 2006) were not clear in 2005
    – Parliamentary Services were supposed to apply the rules
    – all parties (except Jim) pushed the envelope hard and have some moral (but not legal) culpability for that
    – PS failed to apply the (unclear) rules properly
    – the AG dinged PS for this but found them not to blame (it was a systems failure)
    – this left some PS spending “unappropriated” (technically illegal)
    – on the advice of Tresaury the usual mechanism (retrospective validation) was used to fix this
    – other mechanisms were set in place to fix the rules and systems

    If we can agree that the above is true then so far retrospective validation is OK. If the validation was “indefensible” then the evil must lie elsewhere. If we are agreed on the above, let’s switch, I’ll answer your questions, and we’ll see if you can show me where the evil lies (maybe Labour was different, maybe the court case, maybe etc). Deal?

  174. burt 174

    rOb

    I’ll put the hat on that says: “The law of common sense states that when parliamentary law is obviously flawed and unreasonable then it’s appropriate for Parliament to amend it, retrospectively if required. In extreme cases of course.

    We have only been talking about the validity of my hat in the context of 2005/2006. Now we have the EFA, she’s a pretty confusing beast. She’s unintentionally captured a few of the people who passed it already. Lets say Mr. Joe Blogs MP gets his/her ass hauled into court for blatantly ignoring the law by publishing a PO Box on a brochure rather than a residential address. Unlikely I know, I think most people can read that bit of the act and form a consistent opinion, so it’s a fictitious example. Now, The govt is heading into the election, the case is in court, nobody really wanted the residential address of the financial agents for political patties published anyway, it was a mistake. Do we retrospectively valid? Why shouldn’t we? It’s obvious we didn’t want that to occur, and “everybody” in parliament wants it changed…

    OK, is it an opposition or a standing MP? – Wharrrrp thanks for playing – wrong answer. It’s not about the political consequences, we agree on that don’t we?

  175. burt 175

    Lets say the EFA stands for till election ’11 and all hell breaks loose in the court, do we validate all actions back to when it was passed and rush a new fix through under urgency, it’s a confusing piece of law and nobody can be expected to follow it….

  176. RedLogix 176

    Burt,

    Rob was doing a great job of patiently teasing out all the various strands of this issue. All I’ve probably achieved is distracting him from his task.

    But to keep it brief. In the absence of a transparent political debate and formal arrangements around the public funding of political parties, a kind of backdoor “gentleman’s agreement” had taken it’s place, in which all the Parties had informally and quietly agreed to tolerate the limited use of some PS funding for electioneering purposes. Remember that in the context of total Public Finances we are talking of a tiny sum of money. This had been going on since at least the early 90’s, and ALL Parties, including National, were involved.

    But of course the moment National were well enough funded and in a position to break the convention, plus stab everyone else in the back while doing so, they leapt at the chance. Clever yes… just don’t ask me to respect them for it.

    against advice not to do exactly that, which was deemed a breach of the law which was validated. They had a choice, don’t spend the money in ways that they were warned not to

    You cannot avoid the fact that in order to win votes you have to spend money electioneering, so in effect you are asking that these parties not contest the election and hand the result to National.

    I think I’ve said all that I can usefully contribute here. I’ll leave the rest of this excellent thread to burt and rob.

  177. r0b 177

    Sorry B back soon

  178. burt 178

    RedLogix

    I won’t dispute that the provisions of the law that allowed money through blind trusts did seem to favour National. I agree that put Labour (and other parties) in a shit of a position. But thats the bed parliament made for parliament. The shifting sands of the wealth in the supporter base are grounds to change (replace existing laws with normal process) and rearrange campaign finance laws.

    I would love govt funding, say min $100K for a one man band with a party having 500 members. I’d whizz around the bars selling member only raffle tickets (I’d have joining forms) to go into a draw to have a 5 week road trip on the ‘BURT BUS’. Driving the length of the country telling everybody how ‘BURTS PARYY’ will cure all know diseases .. After that I’d have another week off and get back to normal day to day shit.

  179. r0b 179

    RL – don’t go! I enjoy your contributions very much. I’m not replying because I can’t spread out in too many directions at once, but there is plenty of room in the thread for all!

    Burt please please please let’s leave the EFA for another time. All I want to do here is work out whether your deeply held belief that the retrospective validation after the 2005 election was a terrible thing is valid or not. That’s all. Other issues other days, there’s plenty of time.

    I’ll put the hat on that says: “The law of common sense states that when parliamentary law is obviously flawed and unreasonable then it’s appropriate for Parliament to amend it, retrospectively if required. In extreme cases of course.

    I can’t tell whether you accept my proposal or not. If you accept that the events described in my comment 3:59 are correct and so far don’t establish that the validation was evil, then it is your turn to ask the questions. Try and show me what other factors (not covered in that summary) make the validation evil.

  180. burt 180

    rOb

    Sorry I’m not ignoring the EFA completely, it followed RV under urgency because the retrospective validation that was as smelly as a rotten fish benign was expiring and the election year was upon us. (Interesting, could Darnton vs Clark have been re-started if the EFA was not passed before the validation expired?)

    So I take the position.

    If we would allow it again for the EFA perhaps this year, perhaps somewhere between ’08 and ’11 then we are saying Parliament can provide political parties the power to act outside the law for electoral campaign finance, because political parties (acting on behalf of parliament) can create and quash their own campaign finance laws, while spending public money.

    If I say NO, we should not allow parliament to do that with the EFA, it’s not conventional and it’s impossible to have confidence in parliament when that is occurring, then I must also take the position that although it occurred in ’06, and although it was legal, it was indefensible and must never happen again.

  181. r0b 181

    (A similar comment seems to have been eaten by a socket failure)

    Sorry Burt, you’ve lost me. I don’t understand your comment above at all.

    I’m not at all interested in discussing the EFA at this time.

    We are discussing the integrity of the RV that occurred in 2006. Events leading up to it are relevant, speculations on what could or should happen after it are not relevant (to the integrity of the decision that occurred in 2006).

    If you can’t proceed without trying to drag the EFA into it then I guess we’re done. If we get back to the topic we can carry on. Either is fine with me.

  182. burt 182

    Oh, if we would allow if for the EFA, can I have it for the 1992 tax year? She was a bad one, the penalty rules were confusing and it’s not fair my accountant didn’t tell me exactly how the IRD could hammer me, I was singled out because I know other people were doing the same thing and we all push the envelope don’t we… don’t we?

  183. r0b 183

    OK Burt, we had quite a long sane run there, but it seems to be over. Maybe I’ll catch you later when you’re in a better mood. Time to cook dinner anyway. Ciao.

  184. burt 184

    OK rOb

    If the ’05 situation had been reviewed by the courts (separate branch of the tree that keeps the powers from being able to fuck up democracy) then all would have been fine. Problem is process was not followed.

    Can you see where this position comes from, as a logical argument.

    ‘If something happened that must never happen again, then there is no valid excuse or reason for it happening. If there were a valid reason or excuse then it wound not be something that must never happen again.

    So, should parliament be able to write electoral finance laws, interpret electoral finance laws, judge indiscretions under electoral finance laws and correct electoral finance laws, without the balancing power of the Court? Yes or No.

    Do we excuse parliament for being (any or all of) Yes/No.

    Inept
    Incompetent
    Dishonest
    Corrupt
    Self serving
    Disfunctional
    Unlawful

  185. burt 185

    rOb

    I can’t say a systems failure is a valid reason to retrospectively change laws for unknown indiscretions unless I take the position that the system is more important than what it protects. A systems failure is a reason, it’s not a valid reason because it should never have been allowed to have got so completely out of hand and unchecked without clear understanding for so long.

  186. Matthew Pilott 186

    Skeptic – where did you get that into about National’s funding and membership from? I’ve been after that kind of information for all parties recently, mainly out of interest. I’ve only seen one other person with that info around the blogs, but he doesn’t seem to comment any more. I didn’t realise National raised $3m+ from membership, excluding any declarable donations! Or did that average amount ($50-$100) you gave include large donations from wealthy contributors and the millions funneled through trusts?

    (Enjoying the discussion by the way. Suspect there are a few watchers out there too…)

  187. burt 187

    Dear Matthew

    Perhaps you would like to give these two questions a go while rOb’s off cooking dinner, something I’m about to start as well so take your time.

    Should parliament be able to write electoral finance laws, interpret electoral finance laws, judge indiscretions under electoral finance laws and correct electoral finance laws, without the balancing power of the Court? Yes or No.

    Do we excuse parliament for being (any or all of) Yes/No.

    Inept
    Incompetent
    Dishonest
    Corrupt
    Self serving
    Disfunctional
    Unlawful

  188. burt 188

    rOb

    Sorry, I re-read something(s) I wrote and I’ve changed a few valid’s to acceptable, I think it makes more sense now.

    ‘If something happened that must never happen again, then there is no acceptable excuse or reason for it happening. If there were an acceptable reason or excuse then it wound not be something that must never happen again.

    I can’t say a systems failure is an acceptable reason to retrospectively change laws for unknown indiscretions unless I take the position that the system is more important than what it protects. A systems failure is a valid reason, it’s not an acceptable reason because it should never have been allowed to have got so completely out of hand and unchecked without clear understanding for so long.

  189. burt 189

    rOb

    On your 3:59 comment. It was weird that before I’d even seen that I was basically accepting what you had asked for… spooky

    I take one exception to what you said, it’s minor and I think we can agree to differ and carry on.

    ” – on the advice of Tresaury an unusual example of the usual mechanism (retrospective validation) was used to fix this”

    I know I’m being pedantic, but I’ve had the “You agreed it’s the usual mechanism” too many times. It was almost the usual framework (urgency makes a difference), the contents were anything but usual.

  190. Would a real lefty please stand up , please stand up and answer burt’s well reasoned questions.
    Thank you MADam speaker.

  191. burt 191

    I smell a Validation? or an election?

    We must get to the EFA rOb, it’s got ‘retrospective validation candidate’ written all over it. How many years do you think we can consecutively validate parliament before somebody cries NO MORE!

  192. Remind us what you do for a living FD!

  193. Matthew Pilott 193

    Burt, your question was interesting. I don’t have time to give it due consideration, but my basic understanding there would be a yes – parliament must draft and pass all legislation for the courts to enforce. So the short, sweet answer from me is a yes. A shortcoming of the democratic system, it has to take care of its own administration.

  194. Change your deodorant toothless tiger and head back to the dentist.
    I wonder if you are even 15 years of old, as you are so immature is freaks normal people out.
    Get a life freak.

  195. burt 195

    come on guys, there has been an noticable absence of shit slinging for a while now, sure there has been some minor argy-bargy going on, but keep the personal shit for partisan threads eh. Please.

  196. Anita 196

    burt,

    Putting this validation through parliament earlier than the rest of the validations was unusual. Urgency actually makes no difference, but putting it through early is odd, and I haven’t seen a good explanation of the necessity.

    The validation back to 1989 was unusual (but looks necessary, although it’s badly explained in the Cabinet Paper). That said, I’m not sure just how unusual it actually is; this year’s fix of 2006-2007 includes fixes for four years for one vote. Appropriation (2006/07 Financial Review) Act 2008 if you want to read it.

    I don’t see anything particularly unusual in the content of the validation.

    The unusual thing is the circumstance of the requirement for the validation. It is unusual for a part of government, particularly one as usually reliable as Parliamentary Services, to have been misspending unknowingly and for it to be picked up by the AG.

  197. burt 197

    Anita

    Cheers, I scanned that, thanks. I agree that validating unplanned/unexpected expenses is normal, I didn’t however see any validation of breaches of any acts in that Appropriation bill.

    I appreciate that misappropriations are being legally validated as without that validation they are illegal, however that is on the assumption the spending was required and/or unavoidable and/or not in contravention of laws that said that spending should not occur (excluding the law that said it shouldn’t be spent because it wasn’t approved). Have I got this differentiation between ‘normal’ and ‘unusual’ clear?

  198. dad4justice I’ll ask you for the 5th time. What do you do for a living?

    [lprent: it – give it a rest. It isn’t a valid question. If offered then it becomes part of the debate. Otherwise it is just trolling.]

  199. Matthew Pilott 199

    illuminatedtiger – stow it eh?

    D4J – you’d do well to not respond to such comments in that fashion.

  200. burt 200

    Anita

    In short (simplistically) I look at it like this, normal retrospective validation is akin to passing balance date adjustment journals. Fixing up the oops in the books. Unusual retrospective validation is ripping pages out of the law book and replacing them.

  201. lprent 201

    Skeptic:

    If you want to have public funding of political parties, fine. Put your case out in the open.

    Sigh – that is what I’m doing.

    Election funding, especially the invisible trust method has been a potential problem for years. It was a mistake in the 1993 legislation (and I’ve been complaining about it for years). The motives were probably laudable, but incredibly naive. The reality is that it is just too damn dangerous in a small political system like ours for the reasons mentioned above.

    We had limits and accountability on campaign spending for a long time including the 1993 act. But it was only for the short campaign period. The 1993 act moved us into MMP, but they kept the same short period for the election campaign. That was just plain stupid.

    MMP elections aren’t just about winning a few key electorates. You have to win across the whole country. So campaigns lengthen accordingly, and the resources used also increase as well. It was only a matter of time until we had a campaign, like the Nat’s ran in 2005, that started well before the ‘election period’ and spent money both private and public liberally. The legislation clearly wasn’t based on any kind of political reality, and got modified accordingly.

    The issue really is that given the long campaign periods and the kinds of resources required to fight them, is the current cross-spectrum party system is in the crap? There simply aren’t enough people willing to fork out money for what is required to run such long campaigns across the political spectrum. It is also an escalating problem as each party tries to outspend the other or to make the period longer.

    This means that campaigns will bankrupt political organizations that have less ability to raise funds. This denies their supporters an ability to organize, campaign, or advertise to put their viewpoint across. That is bad for society as a whole – unless you want to argue that you have to have wealthy supporters to have a voice.

    ergo: either there have to be some bloody effective caps on spending or public funding or ….. alternatives please

    Remember people without an effective say in political systems tend to eventually get nastier in all sorts of interesting ways – usually violent.

    BTW: I don’t believe your number of national party members. The ‘nut’ for running the national party outside election periods seems either inflated or gross over-spending based on what I know about the parties.

  202. Dean 202

    “MMP elections aren’t just about winning a few key electorates. You have to win across the whole country.”

    That’d be why Mike Williams was really concerned until South Aucklan’s votes were counted in the last election, wouldn’t it.

    I think you’re presenting the idealistic idea of MMP rather than the reality, lprent.

  203. Anita 203

    burt,

    8(1)b is an example of a consequential validation against another piece of legislation (the Civil Lists Act 1979). This is a normal part of the process.

    I’m not quite sure I entirely agree with your definition of normal and unusual, or at least the implication about PS’s behaviour. I believe that the AG’s conclusion was that PS’s spending was due to their genuine but incorrect interpretation of the appropriation. I think that the genuinely confused and unaware is the unusual bit, usually mis/overspend is conscious and deliberate 🙂

    I’m a bit baffled about your comments that the validation of the PS misspend was “ripping out pages of the law book and replacing them”. Which bit do you think did that?

  204. Anita 204

    Dean,

    From memory Labour was is a pretty weak position until the South Auckland votes were counted – unsurprisingly Williams was worried 🙂

    That doesn’t mean that South Auckland votes are more or less important than others; merely that Williams was counting on them being a boost to Labour because he knew the likely voting pattern and he didn’t know how big a boost until the results came in.

  205. lprent 205

    The south Auckland seats usually take a lot longer to count because they have fewer booths, and therefore arrive later.

    I wasn’t worried when the early count was coming through because it is all of those teeny booths in rural electorates or where there are lots of booths. I don’t know about MW, but I wasn’t concerned after I looked a couple of significant urban booths earlier in the evening. MW has been doing this stuff longer than I have and has better political antenna – I think he would have picked the election at least as early as I did.

    The question with the south Auckland electorates was simply if their voter turnout was at least up to 2002 levels. They did somewhat better.

    I’d have to say that the TV stations have lousy analysis programs. You could pick the results quite early in the evening off a relatively simple spreadsheet using the appropriate algorithm. But the TV channels were waffling on that it was a Nat’s victory up until bloody late.

  206. Anita 206

    lprent,

    When I edit a comment if there is a smiley at the end of a paragraph then blank line between the paragraphs no longer shows once I save it. If I go back in to edit the comment again the blank line is still there in the editor. 🙁

    The workaround is to put in two blank lines after the smiley, then one blank line appears once it’s saved, although both show if I go back into the editor.

    Odd huh?

    [Also true for paras which end with frownies :]

  207. lprent 207

    I hadn’t noticed.

    The save/post system is completely seperate to the display filters. It simply cleans some of the code before storage, so that is what the reedit will set as well – the origional code.

    However the comment display system in wordpress 2.5.1 runs a lot of filters on the comment data to produce the smiley, text decoration, and links. The display routine probably has a empty line clip. It probably ignores punctuation and treats it as an empty line. That’d be my guess.

  208. r0b 208

    I’m amazed at the level of interest / participation in this thread! I thought Burt and I were talking to ourselves. I guess not – good stuff.

    Burt On your 3:59 comment. It was weird that before I’d even seen that I was basically accepting what you had asked for… spooky

    Ok, I see the timing now. Spooky indeed!

    So grand, with your modification to one point (second to last) we are agreed that:
    – the rules (AG 2006) were not clear in 2005
    – Parliamentary Services were supposed to apply the rules
    – all parties (except Jim) pushed the envelope hard and have some moral (but not legal) culpability for that
    – PS failed to apply the (unclear) rules properly
    – the AG dinged PS for this but found them not to blame (it was a systems failure)
    – this left some PS spending “unappropriated” (technically illegal)
    – on the advice of Tresaury an unusual example of the usual mechanism (retrospective validation) was used to fix this
    – other mechanisms were set in place to fix the rules and systems

    So far retrospective validation is OK, if the validation was “indefensible” then the evil must lie elsewhere. I now owe Burt answers to his questions.

    There have been a few questions asked and answered so far. Burt if you wouldn’t mind starting over with the ones you want me to try and answer? (Also Burt I’m not staying up very late tonight, I have another early start, but I’ll meet you here other nights if we’re not done).

  209. burt 209

    Anita

    Why do I say the law was changed?

    Spending from the leaders funds was deemed to be illegal in the 3 months before an election, the AG identified that this had occurred. There seems little doubt that the pledge card was designed to encourage people to vote for Labour.

    Darnton vs Clark had this breach ready to be tested in Court, until such time as parliament reinterpreted the definition of spending from the leaders fund and/or what constitutes three months prior to an election and/or electioneering and made a ruling on the legality of their own actions.

    As I’ve said earlier up, not illegal for parliament to do so, but irregular in terms of the separation of the legislature and the judiciary.

  210. burt 210

    rOb

    Lets start with some quick easy ones;

    Should parliament be able to write electoral finance laws, interpret electoral finance laws, judge indiscretions under electoral finance laws and retrospectively correct electoral finance laws, without the balancing power of the Court? Yes or No.

  211. burt 212

    Excellent

    Under what circumstances would you say it’s acceptable? Not necessary, as we have been talking about that for a day or so. Acceptable, there was nothing alarming about what happened and we can all be comfortable with it – acceptable.

  212. Anita 213

    Parliament should not be able to judge indiscretions under any law. That is the role of the judiciary.

  213. r0b 214

    Under what circumstances would you say it’s acceptable? … Acceptable, there was nothing alarming about what happened and we can all be comfortable with it – acceptable.

    Doesn’t your question contain its own answer? It’s acceptable if society (in general) is not alarmed, is comfortable.

    Sorry I’m not trying to be cute – have I misunderstood your question?

    Anita – hang on a sec…

  214. burt 215

    rOb

    I’ve been saying it’s acceptable if the judiciary make the call, not parliament. The public (all the poblic, not just supporters of certain parties) can then be assured that parliament has not acted in it’s own self interest. One cannot accuse the Crown as a whole as being ‘questionable’ when these separations exist. It’s essential in a democracy that the public cannot have reason to doubt the integrity of the legal system. Not for the sake of the legislature or the flavour of parties that make it up, but for democracy itself.

    So, stuff ups and/or coverups cannot be categorically denied and neither are acceptable from parliament. Thus it’s necessary, the govt books need to be valid, but it’s not acceptable, hence not defensible.

    Has that clarified what I’m talking about?

    What situations do you accept to allow it to happen? An error in PS? Mr. Jor Blogs MP telling us noting bad happened – move on?

  215. r0b 216

    Anita: Parliament should not be able to judge indiscretions under any law. That is the role of the judiciary.

    Perfectly true in general. (I answered “yes” because Burt asked for a “yes or no” on a whole bunch of stuff).

    Judging indiscretions is not the job of parliament, except in the odd case of validating legislation. See for example this book, “Retrospectivity and the Rule of Law”:
    http://www.vuw.ac.nz/staff/dean_knight/Sampford.pdf

    Validating Legislation
    Validating legislation is passed where someone, usually the executive arm of government, has acted in reliance on an erroneous view of the law, which action the retrospective statute is intended to validate. Thus, this sub-category include statutes designed to overcome more significant legislative defects than those considered in the routine revision category; often there are complicating factors such as a person’s reliance on the defective scheme. However, provided that no new (that is, unexpected) obligations are imposed on anyone, there is little that can be objected to in the retrospective curing of the defects. Indeed, the reliance on existing state of the law is an argument for retrospectivity, because the executive and others relied on what turned out to be a mistaken interpretation of the law.

    In these instances, it would be perverse not to perfect the law given that people have been led into error by the government. The retrospective legislation is concerned with making the law conform to that which people acting in purported reliance on the law believed to be the case. Failure to cure the defect and validate those actions in the circumstances could diminish respect the law rather than support it.

  216. RedLogix 217

    Dumb question.

    Were the rules that PS administrating around Party funding… do they have the status of statute law under the PFA, or given that PS is accountable to the Speaker of the House… were they more in the nature of Standing Orders that the House itself is responsible for administering?

    If we allow that the former option is correct, and that the spending fell under the PFA and had the status of LAW; then some practical questions fall out:

    1. Has the judiciary ever reviewed any prior PFA spending indiscretions? Is there any precedent?

    2. And even if there was, would the judiciary be willing to involve themselves in a matter so highly Parliamentary and politically charged?

    If we allow that PS spending was entirely Parliamentary in nature, and outside of the role of the Judiciary to rule on, then is it true that constitutionally the AG is the last stop on the road… and that no higher authority is available to appeal to?

  217. burt 218

    rOb

    The snippet on validation legislation describes ‘validating legislation’ and why it’s used in circumstances where the law is an ass. Proving the law is an ass is not the job of Parliament, especially not when the alleged breach was inside parliament.

    Parliament will write and pass the legislation, that’s their job, so showing that retrospective legislation can be introduced by parliament changes nothing. But nothing I read from that snippet convinces me it’s ‘conventionally/constitutionally’ acceptable for parliament to judge it’s necessary when considering a breach, by parliament, when the law is apparently unworkable or unreasonable and has not been tested in court.

  218. r0b 219

    I’ve been saying it’s acceptable if the judiciary make the call, not parliament.

    Parliament writes the laws. The AG interprets and applies some of them. The Electoral Commission interprets and applies some of them. Such bodies judge some indiscretions, the courts judge others. Parliament can retrospectively validate unappropriated expenditure (taking care of a particular kind of indiscretion).

    The different bodies have different roles. Here we’re discussing a decision made by parliament (retrospective validation of unappropriated expenditure) that by convention and legal theory was theirs to make. You might want to argue that the courts should have made it, just as you might want to argue that our constitutional arrangements should be different in lots of ways. Nothing wrong with speculation, but the fact is that under our system it was parliament’s decision to make.

    So, stuff ups and/or coverups cannot be categorically denied and neither are acceptable from parliament.

    Of course we don’t want coverups, that’s why the system is open, the AG made his report. Nothing was denied. Although they had I think excellent grounds for claiming that the AG got it wrong, all parties accepted his decisions.

    What situations do you accept to allow it to happen? An error in PS? Mr. Jor Blogs MP telling us noting bad happened – move on?

    OK, I think I see where we are coming from different angles here. You regard the inappropriate spending as indiscretion under electoral law. I believe that I am correct in saying that it is not, it is an indiscretion under the Public Finance Act. The retrospective validation was a matter of public finance law, not electoral law. Parliament can’t and shouldn’t be judging problems of electoral law, but it can, it should and it did validate unappropriated spending under public finance law.

  219. Anita 220

    RedLogix,

    I’m not sure this is a straightforward answer 🙂

    The PFA sets the framework for government spending. The appropriation mechanism is set up by the PFA. Parliament passes the appropriations themselves as an act of parliament. In that sense they are law, and the mechanism by which they are interpreted and function is also law.

    To the best of my knowledge the judiciary has never been involved any mis- or overspend. While it is, I guess, theoretically possible it is neither a normal practice nor necessary. The AG audits government spending, and through that process picks up any screw-ups, they (as in this case) are then corrected through Parliament and, one assumes, action against individuals if it were appropriate (although that is unlikely to be under the PFA).

    The PFA is a funny beast, it puts a lot of onus on the Executive and Parliament as a whole to make the whole thing work. The offences it outlines (s76) not about misappropriation.

    The phrase “Party funding” is a little misleading, AFAIK the appropriation does not provide money directly to parties, it pays for things which parties request. In the process the gatekeeper for each item of expenditure is PS.

  220. burt 221

    rOb

    I’ll read that link more throughly and talk to you some more later.

    Good night.

  221. burt 222

    rOb

    Sorry our posts crossed again, not gone just yet.

    Parliament can’t and shouldn’t be judging problems of electoral law

    Didn’t the AG allege indiscretions under the electoral law re the leaders budget – or have I misunderstood this technicality?

    Treasure said validate the breaches in the report, which when they said that I assume they were talking to the PFA breaches?

  222. r0b 223

    RL – not dumb questions at all, I think they go to the heart of the matter – I just realised in my comment above that Burt and I have two very different views on this.

    do they have the status of statute law under the PFA

    Yes I believe so. See: http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf

    1. Has the judiciary ever reviewed any prior PFA spending indiscretions? Is there any precedent?

    Not as far as I know (not a lawyer)

    Edit: Again good to have Anita on board!

    2. And even if there was, would the judiciary be willing to involve themselves in a matter so highly Parliamentary and politically charged?

    Your guess is good as mine!

  223. Anita 224

    burt,

    Yeah, the Darnton vs Clark stuff is where it all comes unstuck in my head 🙂 I don’t understand how anyone could hope to hold Clark responsible to PS’s misspend, so I don’t understand how the validation affected the case.

    Help! 🙂

    In principle it seems to me that the analogous situation is that I ring the Police (or whoever) and demand a service which they are not funded to provide (like um… $10,000 for my overseas holiday). If they provide it then they are in breach, not me. No matter how much I shout at them or get Fair Go to beat up on them, if they breach their appropriation that is their breach, not mine.

    If they did it (shame on them!) and whoever needed to got fired (though this is the Police we’re talking about) and parliament did the paperwork to validate the expenditure, it wouldn’t affect a court case against me, because their overspend is not my fault. I could get charged with a variety of offences if I threatened them or pointed a gun at them or falsified documents, but the validating legislation wouldn’t stop those cases – so it wouldn’t change my legal status one way or the other.

  224. r0b 225

    Burt: Didn’t the AG allege indiscretions under the electoral law re the leaders budget – or have I misunderstood this technicality?

    Don’t know. Brain fried. Shall we chat tomorrow?

    G’night all.

  225. burt 226

    Good call – night rOb, cheers Anita.

  226. Anita 227

    Here’s a link to the 2007-2008 initial appropriation. The preamble and purpose kinda set out what their legal standing is, how they fit in with the PFA.

    Don’t read the rest unless you have a warped sense of humour 🙂 Vote Social Development has an appropriation of $5,000 for “Suspensory Loan Abatement” – if you want to know what that is you’ll have to read the actual estimates.

    G’night!

  227. burt 228

    rOb

    Speaking in general terms, without specific reference to any person or any country.

    Thinking about this question:

    “Should parliament be able to write electoral finance laws, enact electoral finance laws, interpret electoral finance laws, judge indiscretions under electoral finance laws and retrospectively amend electoral finance laws, without the balancing power of the Court?”

    If we answer “yes” without significant qualifications (EG: Only when absolutely necessary, which might be legal but not acceptable because it should never happen) then we are saying we are happy to live in a dictatorship.

    Personally I think the integrity of the legal system is bigger than the players within it. So, I find it hard to actually imagine a situation where it is necessary, perhaps the only case may be where a law cannot be tried in a court, I don’t know how this could occur, but if it could then there would be no other option.

    I think you owe me a banana 🙂

  228. r0b 229

    Good morning.

    Having slept on this, I want to summarise where I am at. I actually think (hope!) that we’re almost done, but I still owe Burt questions if he wants them.

    The issue: was the retrospective validation (RV) of government spending that occurred after the 2005 election a terrible thing or not?

    The legal position on RV

    Legally what happened was that Parliamentary Services (PS) spent their allocation on items later deemed by the AG to be inappropriate. This created a situation where “the books” were in a state that was technically illegal and the usual technical fix, RV was applied. This was normal practice, acceptable legally, at the advice of Treasury, and had nothing to do with electoral law (legally speaking).

    Other legal issues

    There are other legal issues relating to the 2005 election. One of these was the issue of the spending cap for each party and whether it was breached. This is a matter of electoral law, but it has absolutely nothing to do (legally) with RV. Separate laws and separate issues.

    Another separate legal issue is Darnton vs Clark. We can carry on with that separately if you like, but see Anita 10:50pm above.

    The moral position on RV

    On the act of RV itself – excellent move morally. Validating legislation strengthens the law morally (see reference from r0b 10:11pm above).

    Other moral issues

    This is the area where things are messy. All parties (except Jim) pushed the envelope (re what they asked to spend PS money on) hard. Although they are legally not to blame, morally they were pushing things in the context of an election, a fundamentally important democratic institution.

    My opinion on the above

    For the political parties RV is really a non issue. The issues relevant to the parties are moral issues relating to how hard they pushed the envelope. This applies to all parties (except Jim). There are some extenuating circumstances – the rules (AG 2006) really were not clear (they were so not clear that Rod Donald, the MP most responsible for writing them, was judged to have got them wrong, which I believe is absurd).

    For these moral crimes, such that they were, there is a perfect punishment available to the electorate, and that is to shift your electoral support accordingly. Labour got punished big time for its moral culpability – it suffered electoral damage from which it has arguably never recovered. No other party got punished. They win, Labour loses, har har!

    The real winner is National. As outlined excellently by RedLogix above, they played a brilliant game, spent their PS money before the period of audit, and so avoided the risks of the audit. They are almost certainly as morally guilty as everyone else, but they never got called on it. Very clever. Win to National.

    Wadda ya reckon Burt?

  229. r0b 230

    PS – parties admitted moral culpability when they agreed to pay money back, and in that sense they did all get “punished”. But the electoral damage went only to Labour.

  230. r0b 231

    “Should parliament be able to write electoral finance laws, enact electoral finance laws, interpret electoral finance laws, judge indiscretions under electoral finance laws and retrospectively amend electoral finance laws, without the balancing power of the Court?’

    OK.

    If we answer “yes’ without significant qualifications (EG: Only when absolutely necessary, which might be legal but not acceptable because it should never happen) then we are saying we are happy to live in a dictatorship.

    Maybe not a dictatorship, but in a very broken system. I answered “yes” to you above because you asked for a “yes or no” answer and “yes” was as close as I could get. Absolutely there are huge qualifications!

  231. burt 232

    I agree you answered “yes” because I asked for a yes/no, I have no issues with how you answered.

    So which of the qualifications are deemed to be “acceptable” rather than “necessary”?

  232. burt 233

    rOb

    The effect of parliament validating things is not only for the parties that voted for it. So as you say above “win to National” – exactly, they didn’t vote for validation but got the indemnity it provides. Sick isn’t it. (ACT also same as National :-))

    For all we know, The Green’s could have been the biggest abusers but their abuse was never uncovered and the other parties took a small hit on the chin to cover for their mates…

    This is why it should never happen without the courts.

  233. r0b 234

    OK, I’ll go through them one by one. I am not a lawyer.

    Without the balancing power of the Court:

    Should parliament be able to write electoral finance laws, enact electoral finance laws

    Yes, yes.

    interpret electoral finance laws

    Yes and no. Interpretation is usually a matter for entities such as the AG and EC – not “parliament” as such but not “the court” either.

    judge indiscretions under electoral finance laws and retrospectively amend electoral finance laws

    No.

    There you go. Now, my views are summarised 10:50am above, I’d be interested in your comments. But for now I have to go – I have regular Sunday engagements that take all day, and another airport run tonight, so sorry I won’t be back on line until 10pm at least. See you then.

  234. r0b 235

    they didn’t vote for validation but got the indemnity it provides.

    You’re still missing the point. RV provided no indemnification for any party, it was a technical fix for Parliamentary Services, no one else. The parties were never legally liable and RV had no effect on their moral situation, they were still liable – “pay it back!” – and they did.

    Really gone until 10ish, bye.

  235. burt 236

    rOb

    The issue: was the retrospective validation (RV) of government spending that occurred after the 2005 election a terrible thing or not?

    No, the issue is spending that was deemed illegal by the AG including spending from the leaders fund for electioneering (Darnton vs Clark). We haven’t really got to Darnton vs Clark yet so perhaps we have a long way still to go.

    If I may take the liberty of re-wording your legal position on RV.

    Legally what happened was that Parliamentary Services (PS) spent their allocation on items later deemed by the AG to be inappropriate illegal. This created a situation where “the books’ were in a state that was technically were allegedly illegal and the usual an unusual technical fix, RV covering 14 years of alledged illegal practice was applied. This was NOT normal practice, acceptable it was legally, at the advice of Treasury, and had nothing something to do with electoral law (legally speaking).

    Under other moral issues you say;

    Although they are legally not to blame, morally they were pushing things in the context of an election, a fundamentally important democratic institution.

    Winning an election is not more important than acting within the law! Some political parties may think so, but that is not a position that is generally supported in a democracy. How do we know they were “legally not to blame”? The only answer I can see for that is because Parliament told us that Parliament had not broken the law because the AG got it wrong. (think: democracy vs dictatorship)

    Validating legislation strengthens the law morally (see reference from r0b 10:11pm above).

    Absolutely agree in general terms. Law that is “BAD” should not be applied and RV is the best option – HOWEVER;

    WHEN LAW IS JUDGED BY THE COURT TO BE UNWORKABLE OR UNREASONABLE – NOT WHEN IT IS JUDGED AS UNWORKABLE BY THE PEOPLE WHO ALLEGEDLY BREACHED IT, WHO ALSO WROTE IT, VOTED FOR IT TO PASS IT AND THEREFORE ‘ACCEPTED IT’S CONSEQUENCES’ FOR THEMSELVES!

    You’re still missing the point. RV provided no indemnification for any party

    Then I’m struggling to see how it killed off a standing court case if it did not provide some form of ‘immunity’ even if that ‘immunity’ was technical rather than direct. From the public perception, there is immunity – confidence in the legal system is about perception, we cannot have the perception ‘something irregular’ occurred when it’s been tested in court.

    Lets, explore Darnton vs Clark. Is there a lawyer reading this who can explain why Darnton vs Clark was killed off?

    Graeme Edgler once explained it to me, I asked some questions because I was having trouble understanding what he was telling me, he qualified and I saw the clear picture long enough to say ‘thanks’ – but then it went a bit blury again after that.

    From what I do recall the reason Darnton vs Clark was struck off was technical, however there was an amendment to remove that technicallity tabled in parliament – but it was voted down.

    So rOb, I’ll ask a different question;

    Would we accept parliament passing retrospective amendments to the EFA becasue it’s confusing and/or unworkable. What situations would make that acceptable rather than ‘necessary’. Actually what situations would make it necessary?

    I don’t think a standing MP being required to appear in court for alleged breaches of the law creates a situation where it is necessary to change the law, and IMHO it would never be an acceptable reason.

    If the law is “bad” the court will judge it as ‘bad’ and the case will be dismissed or a ‘not guilty’ verdict will be delivered.

  236. Anita 237

    burt,

    I need to go back further about Darnton vs Clark, why did it have a chance of success in the first place? 🙂

    Thinking about it over night I wonder if DvC was actually about a breach of the Parliamentary Services Act, not about the appropriation misspend at all. If that was the argument I can see how the validating legislation might have extinguished the case as it validated against the PSA.

    Incidentally the validating legislation explicitly does not change the criminal liability of anyone. So if DvC was a criminal case it could/would not have been squashed by the legislation.

    Finally, I’m not sure how much of a difference this makes, but I think that spending outside the scope of an appropriation is unlawful not illegal.

  237. Anita 238

    burt,

    My turn for a bash at the contentious and many times rewritten paragraph 🙂

    Legally what happened was that Parliamentary Services (PS) spent their allocation on items later deemed by the AG to be outside the scope of their appropriation. This created a situation where “the books’ were possibly in an unlawful state. This was fixed by the usual practice of retrospective validation of unappropriated spend; but this case was unusual in that it was rushed and that it validated over 15 years of possible unappropriated spend. This was done at the advice of Treasury, and had nothing to do with electoral law (legally speaking).

  238. burt 239

    Anita

    Your 11:58 comment.

    Ahhh, yes….

    Reading that caused a sleepy synapse to fire and I think I recall the technical sequence of events that killed of DvC.

    It was indeed not a criminal charge, only the police can lay criminal charges (acting on behalf of the Crown).

    Darnton’s case was nullified by the RV. Separately, police decided that investigating any criminal liability as alleged by the AG was not in the public interest. (Is this a convention of the executive?)

    Incidentally the validating legislation explicitly does not change the criminal liability of anyone.

    Yes, this is clearly stated. My understanding (in the context of criminal cases) is that where a breach of a retrospectively validated act is already identified, the courts decide how that breach is to be acted on, not the police (acting on behalf of the crown).

    So, I’m getting this. Darnton vs Clark coming to a demise is explainable in a legal sense. No problem with that. Should a standing case have been struck off by the Court – Yes, they have that power as noted above, if the case becomes moot it’s a no brainier.

    Sadly for rOb however, we are back to the question of is it defensible. I’ll continue that line because as we know it was not illegal.

    Your 12:07 comment. Perfect.

    Cheers.

  239. burt 240

    Anita

    Sorry, one more thing. I understand that there is (in a criminal liability sense) a very short window to lay charges for breaches of the electoral laws. The chance for police to investigate the ’05 election had actually expired before the Darnton vs Clark case was extinguished?

    Do you know if this is correct? It’s makes little difference, it is what parliament make it, but it’s an interesting piece of the puzzle when pondering the discretionary powers of the police performing their roles acting on behalf of the Crown.

  240. burt 241

    Pondering that, Parliament could always retrospectively extent the statute of limitations on the ’05 election and allow the alleged breaches to be tested in court if that is what they wanted to do 🙂

  241. Anita 242

    burt,

    Um… I know next to nothing about the electoral laws 🙂 But yes, there is only a short window for, at least some, action under electoral law. This is a sensible thing, as it avoids unnecessary constitutional ambiguity – imagine if 2.5 years through a term we still didn’t know who had won Ohariu-Belmont!

    DvC wasn’t, as far as I know, an electoral law case. So the crown could have commenced criminal proceedings if they had wanted to.

    Re DvC – can you happen to remember which law Darnton said was breached? Was in the Parliamentary Services Act?

  242. Anita 243

    Electoral Act 1993

    226 Time limit for prosecutions
    A prosecution against any person for a corrupt practice or an illegal practice shall be commenced within 6 months after the offence was committed:
    Provided that where the person charged has been reported by the High Court in its report on the trial of an election petition to have been proved guilty of the offence, a prosecution shall be commenced within 6 months after the offence was committed or within 3 months after the date of the report, whichever period is the later to expire.

    The EFA has slightly more generous provisions

    140 Time limit for prosecution
    (1) A prosecution against a financial agent under any of the following sections must be commenced within 6 months of the date on which the return was required to be filed:
    (a) section 48(1) or (2):
    (b) section 56(1):
    (c) section 61(1):
    (d) section 88(1) or (2):
    (e) section 109(1):
    (f) section 130(1).
    (2) A prosecution against a financial agent or any other person for a corrupt practice or an illegal practice must be commenced—
    (a) within 6 months of the date on which the prosecutor is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to warrant the commencement of proceedings; but
    (b) not later than 3 years after the corrupt practice or illegal practice was committed.

  243. burt 244

    rOb

    Anita has been of great assistance to this debate. I suspect her impartiality in describing the ‘normal’ sequence of events for validating misappropriations and the ‘unusual’ occurrences of 2005/2006 has helped immensely. (She may have saved you and I a week or more …) Add to that her excellent knowledge of the workings, all in all a lot of things have been cleared up. It’s clear from her assistance that the misunderstandings were predominately in my camp.

    However I perceive we are still in a quandary.

    The way I still see it, validating 15 years of misappropriation pre-judged the Darnton vs Clark case, not in the sense that a court would judge it, but in a way that only validating the actions of the defendant during the case can.

    If we can, temporarily, can we talk about this outside of the context of which parties did what and what the consequences might have been. We can get to who did what and the consequences later if you like.

    So I do have some updated questions, reflecting my expanding understanding.

    [1] Was it necessary to rush the validation of misappropriations when the misappropriations (some which were deemed illegal by the AG) were being tested in court?

    [2] If [1] is “not necessary”, then is it “acceptable” that it happened?

    [3] if [1] is “necessary”, then why was it necessary?

  244. Anita 245

    burt,

    I just read some of the DvC paperwork – it did my head in a little, if we’re gonna do DvC we probably need a lawyer 🙂 I also have no idea whether DvC could have succeeded and, if it had, against whom it would have eventually succeeded – there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about who the defendants should be. All that aside, I can now see how the validation did skittle DvC (because it made a debatably unlawful act explicitly lawful), and am also clear that parliament seems to have had the option to validate in a way that didn’t.

    I reckon there are three possible reasons they pushed the validation ahead of the rest

    1) They needed a working and agreed definition of “funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes” within the Parliamentary Services Act (which flows through to the appropriation). Without that PS was fundamentally stuck because all they knew was that the the AG thought the old one was wrong but they didn’t have a new one, so they honestly had no idea what they could and couldn’t do. So they needed to get that through fast. Fixing the appropriation at the same time was convenient (the validation includes the definition).

    2) The shut down the public embarrassment, take the pain now, get it done, get it over, move on.

    3) To skittle Darnton v Clark.

    I can’t see any other good reason, and none of the briefings offer one.

  245. burt 246

    Anita

    From my perspective your answers (2) & (3) in no way constitute an acceptable or necessary reason (in the context of the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary) for parliament to make a debatably unlawful act explicitly lawful. rOb will be back later and he may have a lot more to say, so if you don’t mind I’ll resist assessing your answer (1) in the terms of my question.

    However, looking at your answer (1) from a different perspective.

    As the definition of what was workable for PS carried the validations, included the ‘making a debatably unlawful act explicitly lawful’, then how would PS be placed if an election was called before the EFA was passed?

    Would there have been anything that was illegal as such with regard to electoral funding, use of public money for electioneering etc? Or have I confused validating past things with defining current things, in my effort to understand quite how allegedly illegal activities are made legal without actually scribbling with crayons in the legislation.

  246. r0b 247

    Anita, Burt, Excellent work.

    I’m just passing through briefly, I’m not really back until 10ish tonight. Anita, thanks for your neutral rewrite of the one paragraph summary at 12:07pm. Burt accepts it and so do I. Done. Thank you.

    Burt: So I do have some updated questions, reflecting my expanding understanding.

    [1] Was it necessary to rush the validation of misappropriations when the misappropriations (some which were deemed illegal by the AG) were being tested in court?

    Yes it was necessary. Here is Peter Dunne, explaining it when he was challenged. His letter actually addresses both of Anita’s concerns – why was it rushed, and why was it for such a long time period: http://www.laws179.co.nz/2006/10/validating-legislation-peter-dunnes.html

    Without this [RV], and again on the basis of the Auditor-General’s report, Parliament will not be able to operate effectively. We are already having perfectly legitimate accounts, which are nothing to do with election spending, refused for payment, for example.

    I made it clear last week that we would not support retrospective legislation if it was merely to get people off the hook for the 2004/05 and 2005/06 years, because I did not think that was proper. However, this legislation goes much further than that and is necessary to protect the overall integrity of the Government’s accounts for the last 17 years, which in turn has some implications for our reputation as a country in the international financial marketplace.

    The Bill does not absolve parties of their responsibilities in the wake of the Auditor-General’s report, nor should it. I have announced earlier today that our Caucus has agreed to repay the money in question, and we will honour that. However, the strong legal advice we and others have received is that repaying the amount in question does not make the expenditure lawful. It remains unlawful and the Government’s accounts consequently unlawful, until the legal position is tidied up. That is standard practice, and Parliament passes similar legislation virtually every year to validate various expenditures caught this way, often to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Catch you good people later.

    (Edit: Burt since you’re here – if your only remaining concerns relate to DvC then I’m happy to chat tonight…)

  247. Anita 248

    burt,

    The definition was for current things, to allow PS to spend from the day the law was passed forward and was intended to tidy up the current situation and give breathing space to sort out the definition and the rest of the loose ends.

    It was in force from the day the Act got royal assent to 31 December 2007 and then a separate act was passed in Nov 07 to continue the interim definition to 30 June 2009 (that is the end of the 08-09 financial year).

  248. burt 249

    rOb

    That confirms what Anita said, it was necessary to rush a definition of what was workable for PS, convenient to validate the alleged indiscretions at the same time. As Peter Dunne said, “We are already having perfectly legitimate accounts, which are nothing to do with election spending, refused for payment” so the rectification for that is to validate alleged illegal election spending… Ummm..

    I don’t get that, I do get the bit about getting PS working again though.

    See this is where it comes a bit unglued rOb, a court cannot have a vested interest in the interpretation of the law, people who have been identified as having breached it cannot deny that have a vested interest.

    captcha: beats lawyers – spooky!

  249. Anita 250

    r0b,

    Dunne’s first para is about the need for a going forward definition – which does seem to have been urgent.

    His second para is about the retrospective validation – which was necessary, but he doesn’t explain why it was urgent.

  250. burt 251

    rOb

    I’ll add another question to the mix now.

    [4] Is it acceptable for the actions of the MP’s in the ’05 election to paralyse PS (and therefore parliament) to such an extent that parliament had to urgently validate 15 years covering an unknown quantity of misappropriations?

  251. Anita 252

    burt,

    The AG’s opinion went beyond election spending, basically he said that PS had been wrong about what they thought “funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes” was. He reviewed a small chunk of their spend (from memory only communications and only for the 3 months before the 2005 election) and found specific examples of places he thought they’d made a mistake, but he didn’t review anything else (e.g. travel, or any spending a way out from an election) so they could only guess what he might’ve had a problem with.

    Convenient to validate at the same time; yes – but not necessary 🙂

  252. Anita 253

    burt,

    It was not acceptable for PS to be sufficiently confused about the legislation under which they operate that the spent without appropriation (possibly for years) and then couldn’t actually operate because they didn’t know what they could and could not do.

    It got fixed, but it was not acceptable.

  253. burt 254

    IMHO, Dunne actually trips himself up here.

    The Bill does not absolve parties of their responsibilities in the wake of the Auditor-General’s report

    Clearly validating the misappropriations was going to tip out DvC. DvC and the AG’s report were certainly not one in the same, but they both shared the same context.

    It would be interesting to hear Dunne explain this statement, in the broader context of alleged illegal spending rather than the very narrow context of “the wake of the Auditor-General’s report”.

    This wouldn’t have all happened if DvC failed and Helen Clark spectacularly sued Darnton’s ass off for damages, imagine how the polls might be looking now!

  254. Anita 255

    burt,

    UF voted against both attempted amendments which were designed to preserve DvC.

    The only party to vote for them was National – ACT didn’t vote, everyone else voted against.

  255. burt 256

    Anita

    Do you share my position that if it’s not acceptable then it’s not defensible.

    IE: We don’t want it to ever happen again, and if it should never happen again then there is no acceptable reason for it to occur, or have ever occurred.

    Yes it happened, systems do fail, people are not always honest etc. Sometimes it’s very complicated etc. No Argument with that.

    If it happened in a commercial environment professional careers would be ended, law suits would be flying and peoples would be facing the consequences – big time. Imagine how the IRD would treat a company if it could noty determine what spending was operational vs capital over 15 years…

  256. Anita 257

    burt,

    In my ideal world no public servant (or any person in fact) ever makes a mistake. In my slightly less ideal world every mistake by a public servant is picked up almost immediately by another public servant before it has a chance to damage anyone or anything.

    But if I had a priority list of mistakes public servants must never repeat the ones that kill people would be higher than this one.

    I don’t mean to trivialise PS’s mistake; but they didn’t hurt anyone, they didn’t even spend more than they were allowed to, as far as we can tell they acted with honest intentions, and they genuinely tried to fix it once they knew they’d screwed it up.

    I don’t know if that sounds to you like I’m defending them, I think all I am doing is saying that I (try to) accept that mistakes are part of being human.

    Oh, and I’m sure there were consequences for PS staff.

  257. burt 258

    Anita

    I hear what you are saying, I do agree that in the broader context of the stuff that we deal with in the wider world it’s pretty mundane. Nobody lost an eye.

    I too agree that if it were all as a result of human errors or misunderstanding in PS then yes, they stuffed up – people do that. In the absence of the AG’s report we would all laugh at what we would see as ineptitude.

    I’ll wait for rOb to return, he has some catching up to do.

    Cheers.

  258. bill brown 259

    burt, r0b,

    I hope at the end of this you may get a chance to co-write a piece summarising all of this. It’s a bit hard to get a handle of if you are just looking on but I’d be interested in the joint result.

  259. Draco TB 260

    Regarding the question of legal separation of powers the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
    Public Policy in NZ, Richard Shaw & Chris Eichbaum, p44

    In NZ, the relevant division of labour is:
    Executive (all ministers and the public service), which proposes and implements policy;
    Legislature (Parliament), which creates law;
    Judiciary (the courts), which adjudicates on the meaning of the law.

    As you can see there is considerable crossover between the legislature and the executive. The judiciary is actually independent but “Parliament, not the judiciary, is the highest legal authority” (p47). Which leads to my favorite quote from the whole book “… in the final instance, the law is what Parliament says it is (p125).

    Our parliament was uplifted and transplanted whole from England. As such it runs more on conventions (some of which have been around 800 years) than laws. The reason we don’t wake up in the morning in a dictatorship isn’t because parliament doesn’t have the legal authority (it does) but because it just wouldn’t be British, old chap.

    The book is well worth reading. It’s a simple, and yet reasonably detailed, look at just how our parliament works and how it creates laws.

  260. Rob 261

    I think all the polls are showing how sick to death most New Zealanders are of this Fabian Socialist Government.
    The trend has been there for along time and I believe that people are sick of being told what to do by this Labour Government.
    Its a control freak Government even worse than Muldoons.
    They are now losing key support from Maori voters and the lower to middle income so who knows how low they will go in the polling.

    They are too busy trying to dig dirt up on Key instead of running the country.

    Can anyone tell me what The Labour Governments Economic Vision / Plan is for New Zealand for next year? The year after? The year after yup you got it they don’t have one!!.

    What happens when we go into a recession how are they going to fund their big Social spend who knows?.

    It will be good to see them go New Zealanders need to get away from envy Politics and see fresh vision for New Zealand

  261. RedLogix 262

    Rob (Not the real rOb I assume),

    Your post is a classic. I’ve been working very long hours the last few months and I can’t be arsed doing a full deconstruction, but in brief:

    I think all the polls are showing how sick to death most New Zealanders are of this Fabian Socialist Government.

    The polls only give you numbers, not reasons. Your use of the term “Fabian Socialist” is unusual. I wonder what you real background is. I’m picking that you are hiding your real affiliations and agenda.

    The trend has been there for along time and I believe that people are sick of being told what to do by this Labour Government.

    You repeat yourself. Actually you are regurgitating verbatim one of Crosby Textor’s attack memes that was manufactured for you to mindlessly repeat. Actually ALL govts tell you what to do, but I am curious as to exactly WHAT this govt has told you to do that you find so personally objectionable?

    Its a control freak Government even worse than Muldoons.

    You really are stuck on message here aren’t you?

    They are now losing key support from Maori voters and the lower to middle income so who knows how low they will go in the polling.

    Um actually we know that the polling companies use biased selection methods that minimise the calls they make to these groups.

    They are too busy trying to dig dirt up on Key instead of running the country.

    If you had ANY idea of how busy Ministers and Exectuive govt actually is, the very long hard hours they work, often away from home and family… you wouldn’t dream of making such a silly statement. Besides it invites the obvious riposte that if National was not so busy doing “hit and run” attack on the Govt… they might have some policy.

    Can anyone tell me what The Labour Governments Economic Vision / Plan is for New Zealand for next year? The year after? The year after yup you got it they don’t have one!!.

    Go to their website and do your own homework. I KNOW the principles that Michael Cullen bases his economic vision on. Itook the trouble to go and hear him outline them in person. He is a Keynesian, which means that essentially the govt saves in the good times, and spends when things get tough in order to protect the community as a whole. In this day and age of instant gratification, it’s not always popular and has made him an easy target for his shallow minded opponents…. but I personally deeply admire the man for having the sheer guts to carry out a plan he believes in despite the personal attacks and denigration.

    What happens when we go into a recession how are they going to fund their big Social spend who knows?.

    No other statement reveals your lack of understanding more. In fact of all OECD nations NZ is one of the best positioned to weather a global recession BECAUSE Dr Cullen has resisted calls to cut taxes prematurely and reduced public sector debt to historically low levels. This puts NZ in a strong position to increase public sector spending during a downturn.

    It will be good to see them go New Zealanders need to get away from envy Politics and see fresh vision for New Zealand

    The term “envy politics” is a right wing code word for something that has nothing to do with envy. We have all heard this smear/attack phrase repeated literally hundreds of times. It is a phrase that means nothing in itself… it is ONLY by endless repetition that it has any power.

    It’s worth noting that truth generally only needs to be stated once. An authentic explanation, backed with public domain evidence, or an acceptably reasoned argument… will stand on it’s own merits.

    But a lie has no life of it’s own. It depends on deceitful repetition to sustain it… otherwise it would wither and be forgotten.

    And finally. Since you are so keen to see Labour go, and National take their place (the only plausible alternatives the electorate has to choose between)… then this is your big chance to tell us all. Just what is National’s fresh vision for New Zealand that you are so taken with then?

    [lprent: Rob va r0b: different identicon (based on the hidden e-mail). That is why I use identicon’s is in the system. There are a couple of mike’s as well]

  262. burt 263

    rOb

    On the subject of consequences you said;

    parties admitted moral culpability when they agreed to pay money back, and in that sense they did all get “punished’. But the electoral damage went only to Labour.

    Come on, paying the money back is not punishment if a breach of the law existed. But we don’t know if a breach of the law existed do we, we only have the AG’s word for it.

    Picture this, Jolly Jim a few years back got pinged because he had used a parliamentary franking machine to pay for the postage of something like 1,000 letters for his wives campaigning for the local council or some such thing. Jim fessed up when a complaint was made (I imagine a vigilant recipient of a letter picked it up, but I don’t actually know how he got caught) Anyway, he was made to pay the money back. As an aside, his wife was also at that time using his self drive ministerial car, running around in it with her campaign advertising on it. How blatant is that!

    Jim was not charged, yet he clearly misused parliamentary (public) money and misused his tax payer provided vehicle. But perhaps this earlier experience for Jim was a contributing factor for his compliance in election ’05.

    However if a bar worker gets caught lifting $20 from till to pay for a taxi home because they just missed the last bus then all hell breaks loose. Looses job, charged, fined, criminal record, problems problems problems.

    Is there some way the ‘repay the money (when you feel like it) and smile nicely for the camera’ punishment can be applied to all peoples indiscretions under the law?

  263. Anita 264

    burt,

    Were the parties culpable? They followed the guidelines that were provided by PS, they acted consistently with what they were told was the law by an organisation which was behaving consistently with what they believed was the law.

    If I am told by the Department of Conservation that they will pay me $10 for every possum skin I bring them if I catch it in a National Park, and I catch possums in the National Park, and bring them to DoC, and DoC gives me the money, and then the AG later tells DoC the payments were outside the scope of the appropriation am I culpable? Have I broken the law? Do I have a legal or moral duty to return the money to DoC?

    What say DoC say I can have $10 of petrol vouchers or $10 of music vouchers and I choose the petrol vouchers, then later the AG says DoC was acting unlawfully by paying me with petrol vouchers? Do I have to return the petrol vouchers? Would DoC then have to give me the music vouchers instead?

    G’night!

    If you run out of questions, ask whether the Speaker was culpable (legally or morally) and what the consequence for her should have been.

  264. RedLogix 265

    Hows this for an alternative analogy to your unfortunate barkeeper. (Whose employer BTW should have ensured his employees were not put into a such a position. Especially if the barkeeper was a woman… but I digress).

    Imagine a senior executive while on an overseas sales trip spots a major opportunity for the company. In the process of landing the sale, he spends an amount on entertainment, that while quite acceptable in the country concerned, is larger than the company is accustomed to spending. Later an auditor questions the amount spent and what it was spent on, and in the process it comes to light that the company policy around such entertainment is not clear on what the sales executive was authorised to spend. The auditor goes one step further and even questions whether ANY spending on customer entertainment, by ANY sales person was EVER legitimate.

    In other words the excutive while legitimately landing good business and entertaining prospective customers in a manner he believed consistent with past practice…discovers AFTER the event that he should not have.

    In this case the Board of Directors might reasonably conclude that it was their lack of clear policy that had put their valued salesperson in such an invidious position, and in response hold a meeting, pass a motion to retrospectively validate all the expenditures the auditor had called into question, and undertake to write a better policy for the future.

    Sound familiar?

  265. burt 266

    Anita

    Yes I agree, but in both of your examples the party that received the money (benefit) was not the same party that had the ability (but not the authority) to take it.

  266. r0b 267

    Hi Burt, all

    Bad weather, flights delayed, I’m back much later than expected. I’ll try and catch up but may be a wee time…

  267. burt 268

    RedLogix

    Yes it’s familiar, but it’s not public money and I was talking about theft, you are talking about spending.

    Let me explain.

    Firstly a company hasn’t got spending laws, it’s got spending rules. The rules are made by the company and the company never makes the rules and expects all other companies to follow them to the letter while having the ability to change them as it goes along.

    However, a company has legal requirements imposed by parliament and enforced by the courts that restrict how it accounts for it’s spending. If we bring the entertainment binge back to NZ so that we discuss it in the context of the legal accounting requirements for spending then we have a different picture. Lets assume the blowout was alcohol and hookers, these items are not ‘typically’ allowed as tax deductible expenses. If a company were audited having claimed these expenses then the laws associated with accounting for entertainment would be applied by the courts – not changed in parliament.

    Shall I continue?

  268. r0b 269

    bill brown: I hope at the end of this you may get a chance to co-write a piece summarising all of this. It’s a bit hard to get a handle of if you are just looking on but I’d be interested in the joint result.

    Interesting idea bill, or maybe Anita can write one. Love your gravatar by the way (I saw that pic full size somewhere).

    Ahh – Rob is not r0b indeed (check out the gravatars for identity checks).

    DracoTB – interesting book, I’ll try and track it down one day.

    burt: I’ll wait for rOb to return, he has some catching up to do.

    Burt – too much has gone on, I’m not really sure where to begin. Would you mind starting off again with the question you want to look at first?

  269. RedLogix 270

    However, a company has legal requirements imposed by parliament and enforced by the courts that restrict how it accounts for it’s spending

    Yes but for Parliament it is called the Public Finance Act. And as Anita pointed out way up above the PFA is a rather unique in that it is both defined by, and administered by the Executive and Parliament. Unlike all other statute the Judiciary/Courts have never had anything to do with enforcing it.

    It would appear that the sole check on breaches of the PFA is indeed the AG and that the perfectly usual mechanism to rectify any misspends he uncovers is retrospective validation.

    It would only be if he could discover deliberate fraud accountable to some individual/s, that criminal action might be taken under an entirely separate criminal statute. But of course that is exactly what the AG did NOT find.

  270. RedLogix 271

    r0b,

    God you haven’t been flying in this shite have you? The things we doing for a living… sighs.

  271. burt 272

    rOb

    Do you agree it wasn’t necessary to pass the validations at that time, although it was necessary to pass the definitions urgently needed to lift the paralysis from PS?

  272. r0b 273

    God you haven’t been flying in this shite have you? The things we doing for a living sighs.

    Not me Burt no, and a good thing too I have not a good stomach for it! My better half was flying tonight.

    Do you agree it wasn’t necessary to pass the validations at that time, although it was necessary to pass the definitions urgently needed to lift the paralysis from PS?

    That is not a distinction that I had made previously, but reading upthread I understand it and see that it was possible to separate the two legally.

    So – was it strictly necessary to pass validations at the same time (as definitions etc) – no. Was it convenient and highly desirable (and recommended by Treasury) – yes.

    Was there any good reason to delay the validations? The only possibility is DvC, so have we got to that at last?

  273. burt 274

    So we have established that passing the validations with the definitions required to get PS working again was convenient rather than necessary. So what was it convenient for?

    Saving parliamentary time – NO, without the validations the bill would have sailed through the house, every member had a vested interest in moving the definitions along, The inclusion of the validation made people wade through treacle to pass it, prolonging the paralysis.

    Gaining attention to the whole shitty mess – Yes, but that’s not usually described as convenient.

    So what was it convenient for?

  274. burt 275

    I didn’t refresh before I posted. Yes we agree, entirely, but what do we each say about it?

  275. r0b 276

    So what was it convenient for?

    Economies of scale – one procedure instead of two. I also give a bit of weight to Dunne’s point that it was a bad look internationally to have the government books in doubt, and it needed to be fixed pronto.

    The real question is, what would be the reason for separating the two?

    Yes we agree, entirely but what do we each say about it

    DvC? I dread the topic to be honest. I totally lack the legal background, and I didn’t follow the case at the time. I don’t know what legal point it challenged, etc etc. Anita’s comment far upthread strongly suggests that it was a legally confused case. Anita also said that, for the amendment that would have allowed DvC to proceed, only National voted in favour. ACT apparently abstained. I find that very interesting.

  276. burt 277

    rOb

    I’ll settle at: It’s entirely impossible to defend (unless you are a lawyer, PFA expert, etc etc) why the validations needed to kill off Darnton vs Clark like they did, without proving it was to kill off Darnton vs Clark. This is (in my mind) the point that makes it indefensible, because the govt should not put us in that position. We could call it a “boggling” clarity, or we could dig into dVc and go mad.

  277. RedLogix 278

    Well from my limited perspective DvC was more than just legally confused.

    The major problem as we have identified is that the Judiciary had no precedent, or possibly even the authority, to judge any matters relating to the PFA.

    The next obvious problem was that it named the Prime Minister as the defendant, when in fact the only person who was possibly legally liable for the actions of the PS was the Speaker of the House.

    As constructed a Judge would have most likely tossed the case out within minutes.

    Like r0b I’ve only a slight familiarity with DvC; I stand to be corrected if I have this wrong.

  278. r0b 279

    I’ll settle at: It’s entirely impossible to defend (unless you are a lawyer, PFA expert, etc etc) why the validations needed to kill off Darnton vs Clark like they did, without proving it was to kill off Darnton vs Clark.

    Sorry Burt, may be just brain fuzz, but I really don’t understand that point.

    This is (in my mind) the point that makes it indefensible. We could call it a “boggling’ clarity, or we could dig into dVc and go mad.

    And we still disagree on indefensible! I can make my case without digging to DvC too far.

    The RV did not kill off DvC. It would have done so, but for one thing. It would have done so but for the proposed amendment to allow DvC to proceed. That amendment separated the two issues. Parliament got to make an explicit decision about whether or not DvC should proceed. Only National voted for DvC to proceed.

    Now we could argue about why Parliament acted as it did. Were they just trying to shut the courts out and cover their backs? I don’t think so. I believe (and it is only a guess, I haven’t dug in to evidence to support this) that Parliament killed DvC for two reasons. (1) They had confidence that the issue addressed by DvC was being adequately dealt with by the AGs report and the reorganisations that followed it. (2) They recognised that DvC was a legally poor case (as Anita pointed out above, Clark was not responsible for the PS misspend), and thus a waste of the Court’s time.

    I think National voted for the amendment because it fit perfectly the political milage they were getting from this very confusing issue.

    Interestingly, I think that ACT abstained because they have more integrity than National. The couldn’t in good conscience vote for DvC because it was a legal mess. But they didn’t want to embarrass National by voting against DvC.

    All the above is pure speculation (in increasing order of speculativeness!). It is far further out on a limb than I ever like to go without knowing the facts. But it’s been a long haul, and I’m feeling wacky, so what the heck!

  279. burt 280

    RedLogix

    I can’t prove the timing of what happened was to kill off DvC, I wouldn’t want to try that. But we seem to have established that it certainly could have been. Without being able to prove it wasn’t, then it might have been.

    Do we have a precedent for retrospective validation covering 15 years passed out of the normal cycle, with no apparent reason necessitating it, against a back drop of allegations of illegal behaviors we can draw on? We have hundreds of validations to talk about, this one is special.

  280. burt 281

    rOb

    The decisions about the amendments would be irrelevant (at this time) if ‘convienance’ wasn’t being applied and they would not have slowed down the passage of the definitions so urgently needed by PS.

    Hello – we are back at DvC.

  281. burt 282

    rOb

    I’ll stop calling retrospective validation indefensible, you stop calling it “every day and ordinary, nothing fishy about it” and I’ll only mention retrospective validation when Hollow men is being talked about – how is that?

  282. r0b 283

    The decisions about the amendments would be irrelevant (at this time) if ‘convienance’ wasn’t being applied and they would not have slowed down the passage of the definitions so urgently needed by PS

    Sorry Burt, I don’t understand, was that a reply to my comment of 11:28? If so I don’t understand, could you expand? Take your time, I’m going to have a cuppa.

  283. r0b 284

    I’ll stop calling retrospective validation indefensible, you stop calling it “every day and ordinary, nothing fishy about it’ and I’ll only mention retrospective validation when Hollow men is being talked about – how is that?

    I think it’s as good a place to stop as any! I think that, knowing now all that you do about RV it is a little cynical to use it as a stick to beat people with, but I certainly can’t stop you doing it.

    How about this to give the whole thing a measure of closure. I will write a summary as I see it. You edit the summary as you see it. Anita (if she is willing) writes the final edit, and we call it a day. OK?

  284. burt 285

    rOb

    Why are we here trying to determine why parliament did what it did, why was it that parliament made a ruling on the application of the law under such irregular circumstances amid such publicity culminating in the killing of DvC

    You say…

    (2) They recognised that DvC was a legally poor case (as Anita pointed out above, Clark was not responsible for the PS misspend), and thus a waste of the Court’s time.

    F##K, do you think parliament should have the power to decide when a court case should proceed as well ? You really do want to live in a dictatorship. Is there no power too great to give your political party of choice?

    I might be done here.

  285. burt 286

    rOb

    Lets get something clear here, IF the govt were so sure that DvC would fail, sure enough to push the house into urgency to kill it, then why why why would they not sit back and laugh at Darnton when he failed – then HC could probably sue his ass off and restore the publics confidence in her. She’s not silly enough to take the hard hard hard way if there was an easy way – surely…

    Come on, stop looking after them, face the facts….

  286. r0b 287

    F##K, do you think parliament should have the power to decide when a court case should proceed as well ? You really do want to live in a dictatorship. Is there no power too great to give your political party of choice?

    Oh Burt, I thought we were winding up!

    Re the power of Parliament, go see Draco’s post above at 8:09pm. Parliament already has ultimate power Burt. Are we living in a dictatorship?

    And the power of Parliament is NOT the power of the political party of my choice (used to be under FPP, isn’t under MMP, great move MMP!).

    If DvC was a case that just didn’t ask a sensible legal question then yes I think Parliament could and should save the courts some time.

    I’m done for tonight Burt, sleep well.

  287. burt 288

    rOb

    Sorry, now responding to your: 11:54

    Yes, perfect. There is no beating up to be done, this has been enlightening, for many I’m sure.

    I might be at Drinking Liberally one night, I’ll be the guy handing out bananas 🙂

    Re: a summary. Excellent idea, lets see how Anita feels about that.

    I’m off for some sleep. Goodnight all.

  288. Rob 289

    Red Logix

    Yes you will be talking to a right wing voter this time previuosly a Labour Voter for 35 years.

    Also my parents are switching and my Mother use to run Cake Stalls etc for the Labour Party for a number of years.

    Why is the question you should be asking your self. Let look at your answer to The Economic vision for New Zealand it just showed there isn’t one!!

    No one knows it no KPI (Key performance indicators) no CSF (Critical success Factors)no reporting back on New Zealand’s short term , long term economic vision.It takes more than School Teachers and Union Leaders to strategise an Economic plan you need Business input as well this Labour Government is diametrically opposed to Business and wants to punish anyone earning good money (Envy Politics) So they could never write one.

    I don’t doubt you are working hard most Fabian Socialist do and the public only see 10% of what they are really doing the rest flys under the public radar.

    They fill up Education departments , Government departments etc etc with people of their own ilk to report back.

    If you think the polls are lying you are sincerely deceived in fact I think they are worse for Labour than these polls are showing my prediction National by 67 to 70 seats in the house.

    Your comments on Michael Cullen show more than a little naivety he was told by treasury in 2005 to give tax cuts he called this an ideological burp.

    He was wrong any tax cuts he gives now appear and are disingenuous to the public. He is ideologically opposed to tax cuts.

    It takes more than sarcasm and snide remarks to be a good Minister of Finance people see through it after a while.

    The public are voting with their feet they want to get Off Helen’s and H2s Fabian Socialist Red Bus trip. The Social Engineering experiment has failed!!

    The tipping point has been more than reached. Its time for fresh Vision for Accountability and Personal Responsibility to be part of New Zealand again.

    As I go I am reminded of the famous quote about Socialism
    “Socialism is the plundering of a countries resources by those who will never be held accountable”

    Good luck I hope that not too many of your Red Balloons are popped on Election Day.

    By the way I am nothing to do with Crosby Textor I am just a voting Joe Bloggs some of the masses have brains and can think for themselves without indoctrination.

  289. lprent 290

    fake Rob: Well I for one think you’re just bullshitting.

    I’ve been a member of the NZLP for a long time. I’ve never seen a cake stall being used for fund raising. Cakes are expensive to make (just go and buy one) and wouldn’t give a good return.

    Sounds like someone who only has a vague idea of what goes on at the front-line. You look like you’re running a line that we see here reasonably frequently. I’ll add that to the programming list for after the election.

    Has anyone ever seen cake stalls used in the last 20 years?

  290. burt 291

    Rob

    You are not talking to people who are completely objective about this.

    Yes parliament has extraordinary powers, it’s parliament so that’s a given. However, supporting parliament acting on behalf of the judiciary to determine if people have broken laws is supporting the unconventional use of conventionally separated powers. Further, not surprisingly I guess, having shown comfort with parliament assuming the role of the judiciary these people then suggest it’s valid for parliament to assume the role of the Crown to judge a cases suitability for Court.

    Now this position these people take (to defend actions that on the face of it are extremely questionable) is all very well (in their minds) when they are living under a govt that they personally have complete confidence in.

    You could ask them how would they fell about parliament exercising all the conventionally separate powers of the state when there is a govt they don’t like and/or trust. How would they feel about National with 75 seats governing alone making rulings conventionally made by the courts, or assuming the role of the Crown to decide when a case can be tried…

    I don’t they will put there feet in those shoes whole heartedly and think about it objectively, it would be unthinkable for them to have a National govt running unchecked by the conventions that enable us to call our system a democracy, but they defend it for now because in their minds the current govt is doing nothing wrong.

    The genie has been let free from the bottle, it’s all good when we are the ones asking for the wishes and holding the lamp, how powerless are people who oppose me now… how would I fell about it when people who would rather I were silent are holding the lamp?

    Do you think we could get govt funding to make a play with this thread ?

  291. r0b 292

    Rob who is not r0b, if you wouldn’t mind, your comments are fairly generic and could be taken to any active thread. This thread has been scheduled for termination!

    Anita, if you’re about, could you please read the proposal for winding this up at about 11:54pm above. If you’re agreeable, I will try and post a summary late tonight, then it’s Burt’s turn.

    Burt I might be at Drinking Liberally one night, I’ll be the guy handing out bananas

    If I’m ever there Burt (not likely) I will surely buy you a beer.

    Cheers all.

  292. Rob 293

    Iprent

    Can tell you it has happened in Nelson these are your core supporters that are leaving the party now. The Maori vote is all so dissipating. They want more aspirational Leadership they want to know that their lot is not being on the Welfare or DPP

  293. RedLogix 294

    Fake Rob,

    Your comments on Michael Cullen show more than a little naivety he was told by treasury in 2005 to give tax cuts he called this an ideological burp.

    He was wrong any tax cuts he gives now appear and are disingenuous to the public. He is ideologically opposed to tax cuts.

    Your reading comprehension skills are evidently poor. I will spell this out slowly. Dr Cullen is a Keynsian.

    This means that govt keeps taxes and public sector savings high during the good times.

    And then relaxes these settings during difficult times as a counterbalancing moderation to the natural business cycle that would otherwise experience much larger and more damaging swings.

    Your accusation that he is ONLY doing cutting taxes because it is an election year is nonsense. One in every three years is an election year. All you are doing is repeating John Key who is attacking EVERYTHING this govt is doing at the moment because “it’s election year”. It’s lazy, dishonest muddled thinking.

    Still in all of your rhetoric against the Labour Party, you have still failed to tell us what you think the National Party will do.

    Oh… aspirational Leadership… you really have swallowed the Blue Pill haven’t you?

  294. Rob 295

    Red Logix

    There is a major problem with your theory on trying to rationalise Cullen’s stuff up. He didn’t keep Government spending under control as already noted by most political commentators and the IMF. Noticed you haven’t mentioned Labours Economic vision because they don’t have one. We have dropped down the OECD ladder despite Helen’s assurances we would go up the ratings. I believe Key will change the RMA ,compliance costs are hideous I see that Wellington City Council has just increased Building permit cost by 40% again this year what a joke!!. He will cut back on government spending and bureaucracy there is plenty of that. Will bring in privately operated prisons,restucture Acc again. Make it easier for businesses to work in New Zealand again, attract foreign investment.Decrease taxes.Improve the quality of Health spend. Get tough on crime instead of the wishy washy aproach we have at the moment. Oh so much to do to do what a mess to pick up!!

  295. RedLogix 296

    I believe Key will change the RMA ,compliance costs are hideous I see that Wellington City Council has just increased Building permit cost by 40% again this year what a joke!!.

    The cost of the permit is usually a small portion of the total build. The big question is usually the cost of delays and the consequent finance costs. The delays are caused by a shortage of skilled staff in this areas, and extra risks Councils have had to assume after National triggered the “leaky building” syndrome with their dismantling of controls inthe 90’s.

    Still if you want the RMA gutted, just don’t come whining here if someone builds a waste fish reprocessing plant over the road and upwind of your place.

    He will cut back on government spending and bureaucracy there is plenty of that.

    Discussed and dealt to previously. At most Key has identified about $500m of possble savings, while crippling his govts ability to actually implement any new initiatives.

    Will bring in privately operated prisons,restucture Acc again.

    Along with PPP’s have been proven from overseas experience a recipe for massive theft of public monies and assets. The private entity gets the cash, the public is landed with the risks.

    Make it easier for businesses to work in New Zealand again,

    New Zealand is routinely rated by the IMF as one of the easiest places in the world for businesses. Running this line tells me that you have NEVER worked commercially overseas.

    attract foreign investment.

    It is widely recognised that New Zealand already suffers from a massive structural imbalance in this respect. Far too much of NZ is already owned overseas, and these companies repatriating profits is the MAJOR (>85%) of our No1 economic problem, the current account deficit.

    Why did you mot mention NZ investing overseas?

    Decrease taxes.
    By how much? This claim means nothing without numbers, costs and specifics. Raise your game.

    Improve the quality of Health spend.
    Yes and we all love apple pie too. Again, how? What specifics do you have in mind? What has National said that convinces you they know how to manage this large and difficult portfolio better than Labour?

    Get tough on crime instead of the wishy washy aproach we have at the moment.

    You are just spewing up standard election year rhetoric. No solutions, just a hateful dishonest slogan.

    Oh so much to do to do what a mess to pick up!!

    By all real measures NZ has never been better off. You’ve swallowed the John Key “New Zealand sucks” campaign.

  296. Rob 297

    Red logix

    I guess you have put it so well that is why all those people wont vote Labour this time. As like you they cant see that they have done anything wrong in fact they must have been a perfect Government that is why they are polling so well at the moment. How does the old saying go “Knowing our mistakes is half our cure” I guess if you never knew you made any you will just keep on doing it until one day you aren’t the Government.

  297. Anita 298

    r0b/burt,

    Yes ok 🙂 Sorry for the delay, looong day at work.

  298. r0b 299

    Yes ok Sorry for the delay, looong day at work.

    Thanks! Sympathies (I’m still there).

    Burt, I had a dig into why ACT didn’t vote for DvC (for the amendment to allow it to proceed). In the Hansard records of the debate you can find a comment from Rodney Hide that appears to be relevant here:

    There is a reason for that: we do not want the courts looking into Parliament and at how it spends the money. That is why we have never put it on the statute book; it is for Parliament itself to decide.

    Burt, you may want to reconsider either your “an unchecked parliament = NZ is a banana republic” line, or your support for ACT.

    Anyway – summary tonight (late, sorry).

  299. r0b 300

    Anyway – summary tonight (late, sorry).

    I should have said of course, we’re not in any rush to get this done.

    (Comment 300 in this thread!).

  300. Anita 301

    r0b,

    From the Committee stage:

    PETER BROWN (Whip—NZ First) : I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. As the vote was taken I listened very keenly, and I noticed that the Clerk was not calling for the ACT vote. Mr Chairperson, can you confirm that those members have disappeared or are not voting, or whatever?

    They don’t seem to have voted on any of that (enormous) series of amendments, but voted on the Part 2 vote immediately afterwards. Either they couldn’t be bothered keeping anyone in the House for the amendments, or they didn’t want their votes to be recorded.

  301. r0b 302

    The plot thickens!

    I’m off home. Will try and post my first draft of the summary (much) later tonight. No one is under any obligation to follow up quickly, I think the world has moved on…

  302. burt 303

    rOb

    I think that snippet is hard to put into context against other things Rodney said in that same speech, perhaps that only talks to the misappropriated spending not the alleged illegal spending, I’ll read some more from various people on that page and digest it some more.

    Rodney also said.

    What I found particularly distasteful was Ministers of the Crown, including the Prime Minister, attempting to bully the Auditor-General and to attack the Auditor-General, because I think that brings his office into question. I certainly believe that it undermines the authority of our Parliament, because every other New Zealander apart from the 121 MPs in this House, when found to be operating unlawfully, cannot rush off and change the law. They cannot turn round and abuse the referee. There are consequences for doing that.

    Here are we, making the laws for the rest of New Zealand to follow, attempting to uphold our justice system, and, indeed, offering some integrity to the way in which taxpayers’ hard-earned money is spent, yet we saw the Prime Minister and Ministers of the Crown attack the Auditor-General in a way that we would not accept from any other New Zealander. We have seen Ministers of the Crown, including the Prime Minister, attempt to say that there are no rules for how they spend hard-working taxpayers’ money. Well, that cannot be right.

    Now we find ourselves in Parliament changing the law to make lawful what the Auditor-General found to be unlawful. I will make it plain what we are saying here: MPs have unlawfully spent money that was hard-earned by taxpayers, so what will we do? We will use the special privilege and special power we have to change that law in order to make what was unlawful lawful. That is wrong.

    It is wrong that we are doing it, and it is wrong that we are doing it in such haste. We can think of all the issues that confront New Zealanders, and our Government and our Parliament say that they are too busy to deal with them, but when it comes to our politicians’ own self-interest—wow! Suddenly Parliament has time. And we are rushing it through under urgency so that the public, whose money it is that is being spent—by us—does not have a say, and so that when we are found in breach of the rules that we expect all New Zealanders to follow and all civil servants to follow and uphold at their peril, we do not worry. No, under Helen Clark’s Government, we rush in with the legislator’s pen, we stop Parliament in its tracks, we bring legislation into the House, and we pass it under urgency.

    That cannot be a right process, and the easiest thing to do is for us to pay the money back. I value United Future’s position that those members will pay it back; I value the Labour Party’s position that it will pay it back. I think that that is the right thing for us to do, as much as it pains us. But it cannot be right that we are here under urgency, changing the law, and I will make it plain.

    Later…

    just like the spending that Helen Clark did was unlawful and just as the spending that the National MPs did was unlawful—and it should just stand. It does not need validating legislation. Helen Clark’s motorcade sped through the South Island at breakneck speed. That, too, was unlawful. We did not rush off to change the law to say that we will make lawful what was unlawful. Ruth Dyson was caught having had too much to drink then driving. We did not rush to change the law—no! Members of Parliament have to accept the consequences of the rules. They cannot use their special position of power and privilege to change the law.

    This is sounding more like the principled man I think parliament needs more of 😉

  303. burt 304

    I love Dunne’s comment about “electioneering”.

    The next aspect of the legislation that is important is to clarify the definition of “electioneering’. We may not be in election mode at the moment, but it is unclear, arising out of the Auditor-General’s report—and particularly if one relies on the advice of the Solicitor-General, then looks at the conflicting advice from Mr Hodder—what actually constitutes electioneering at the present time. One thing we can say is that a majority of parties in this House, if not all, have historically had a view about what one can and cannot say, and that view is challenged in the Auditor-General’s report. So at the very least, an argument emerges that we need to codify what it is that constitutes election spending, and that is what this bill does by taking a very conservative approach in that it effectively replicates what most of us have understood to be the status quo.

    Let me paraphrase…

    We are kinda stuck here because the way we have always done it, precious status quo, well, ummm… that broke the laws we wrote for ourselves… Bit of a blast that but laws can be confusing when there are elections to win, so we excusing everything for 14 years, NOW because it’s urgent with an election 2 years away.

    Seriously, it’s gold – Write, enact, abuse, validate! I guess we can’t be a banana republic, if we were parliament wouldn’t bother to write a big word like “electioneering” into it’s laws because words like that are very confusing. Although not having election finance laws would help parliament convincing people that it knows what it’s doing because it wouldn’t need to say it can’t understand it’s own laws when status quo and what’s written down diverge.

  304. burt 305

    rOb

    To save crashing lprent’s server, how about emailing me the draft, I’ll email it back to you and we can exchange the drafts that way. Might keep a little dirty linen out of the blog sphere as any explaining to each other what we mean is less restricted, as it’s not a public exchange.

    You can mail me at.

    p r i n c p l e [underscore] c r u s a d e r (at)
    y a h o o (dot)
    c o (dot)
    n z

    Feel free to attach the draft as a word doc or html file etc. Oh, BTW, The ‘I’d buy you a beer’ is mutual. 🙂

  305. burt 306

    I do wonder some times if parliament ever thinks through the logical consequences of it’s actions. By exercising RV for election funding years over 14 years parliament can say: No electoral funding law have been broken in the last 14 years.

    Their actions in passing the RV logically equates to.

    No electoral funding laws have been followed in the last 14 years.

    I did some digging around about the separation of powers, in a reference I have (The New Zealand Legal System – Structures, processes and legal theory – 1995)

    A short section on the judiciary role of parliament talks about parliament overruling the court (yes – specifically the court, not passed judgment in advance of a court decision) on parliamentary privilege. I think it’s reasonable for parliament to define it’s ‘privilege’ because it’s ‘privilege’ is it’s own right and/or property, unlike public money which it the Crown’s.

    It’s a bit like me saying I can say WTF I like in my own house, but it’s not to say I can hide stolen property in it with impunity.

    But at the end of the day, parliament can do what parliament wants and it’s not illegal so – who am I to say it should follow conventions.

  306. burt 307

    Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be misleading about the judicial powers of parliament. The test says: “”Parliament, on occasions, exercises an apparent judicial function. Once such occasion… ”

    A single example which references the court of appeal being overridden by parliament refers to parliamentary privilege. I don’t assert from that that there has never been other instances, but I can infer there is no specified description of that role for parliament. (according to the text I have).

  307. r0b 308

    Note to readers: this is an old thread where an old debate is winding up. You’ll find the active threads on the front page.

    As discussed above, this comment is the first draft of a summary of the discussion. This is r0b’s summary, to be edited by Burt (please use your nice strikethrough edits so Anita can see), Anita will do a final edit (thanks!) and that’s it.

    Links in this version are in plain text so Burt and Anita can edit. Maybe when Burt and Anita are finished, Lynne could (if he feels like it) do a retrospective edit of the final version to declutter and turn the links into nice clickable words.

    === summary begins ===

    This long strange thread strayed far from its original topic. Around about here

    Helen, stop critiquing polls


    it started to morph into an exploration of one of the several funding controversies surrounding the 2005 election (summaries here and here):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_New_Zealand_election_funding_controversy
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/feature/story.cfm?c_id=1501118&objectid=10405611&pnum=0
    Of these many controversies the issue that we explored was the nature of the spending that that the Auditor General (in 2006) identified as improper, and the focus in particular was the nature of the retrospective validation of government spending that followed. Much of the thread is a discussion between Burt, who regarded the validation as unacceptable, and r0b, who defended it. There were many valuable contributions from many other participants.

    This summary describes the more-or-less agreed state of play when we gave up. The final wording of the summary (since she emerged as a good referee) is Antia’s. Many issues were clarified and we’re pretty confident of them. Some issues weren’t covered in depth, we ran out of energy to pursue it further. None of us are lawyers or politicians or particular experts – this is just people chatting on a blog. But here is the summary (for what it’s worth).

    The urban legend

    The story that many people believe goes something like this. During the 2005 election the political parties spent taxpayer money illegally. In 2006 the Auditor General (AG) caught them out. At that point the governing parties retrospectively changed the law to get themselves out of legal trouble. But the public outcry (“Pay it back!”) forced them to pay back the stolen money too.

    What actually happened was more complicated and ambiguous than that.

    The legal situation

    Political parties are allowed to spend a certain amount of public / government money on communicating with the electorate. This is not supposed to be used for “electioneering” (which used to mean asking for money or votes). The process is administered by a branch of government called Parliamentary Services (PS) and falls under a law called the Public Finance Act.

    During the 2005 election all parties used this money on various newsletters and advertisements. In a 2006 review of the spending in the three months prior to the 2005 election The Auditor General (AG) found that Parliamentary Services (PS) had approved spending on many items that the AG deemed to be electioneering, and therefore inappropriate. Technically PS had spent outside their “appropriation”.

    It is not infrequent for branches of government to spend outside their appropriation, often to the tune of many millions of dollars (usually for spending relating to unexpected events). The standard fix is a process called “validation”, or “retrospective validation”, to later OK the spending. (Laws are never supposed to apply retrospectively – you can’t “create crimes in the past” – but retrospective validation is regarded as a special case which actually strengthens the law, see here).

    Helen, stop critiquing polls

    The AGs rulings in 2006 created a situation where the Government’s “books” were possibly in an unlawful state. This was fixed by the usual practice of retrospective validation of unappropriated spend; but this case was unusual in that it was rushed and that it validated (because of the timing of the relevant laws) over 15 years of possible unappropriated spend. This was done at the advice of Treasury,
    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf
    and legally it related to the Public Finance Act. It had nothing to do with electoral law.

    Related legal issues

    There are other legal issues relating to the 2005 election. One of these was the spending cap for each party and whether it was breached. This is a matter of electoral law, but it has absolutely nothing to do (legally) with the issues described above. Separate laws and separate issues.

    Another related legal matter is the Darnton vs Clark court case described below.

    Moral issues

    With respect to the political parties there were (for the events we are discussing) no legal complications. They did not break the law, and the retrospective validation did not absolve them of anything. But these events all took place within the fundamental democratic process of an election. As well as legal issues there are another set of considerations that for want of a better word we can call moral issues.

    “The case for the prosecution” would note that all of the parties (except The Progressives) received funding for items that that AG regarded as electioneering, in some cases blatant electioneering. They “pushed the envelope” hard, and placed Parliamentary Services in a difficult position. All parties were explicitly warned by the AG to be careful, and all parties (except The Progressives) got it wrong.

    “The case for the defence” would note that the fact that all parties got it wrong suggests that either all parties actively decided to break the rules, or that the rules (as interpreted by the AG in 2006) were not clear to the parties in 2005. Some parties argued that the AGs interpretation was in fact wrong, and noted that Rod Donald, the MP most responsible for writing them, was judged to have got them wrong (when the AG identified inappropriate items from The Greens). None the less, all parties agreed to abide by the AGs ruling.

    In some sense parties admitted their moral culpability, and somewhat made amends, when they agreed to pay the money back. The electorate also applied its own punishment to some parties (but not others!) in the opinion polls.

    Events following the AGs report

    The AG detailed the inappropriate spending for all parties. He noted that Parliamentary Services (PS) was responsible, and had not interpreted the rules correctly. But he did not hold PS to blame, noting that they were placed in a situation where they could not exercise their judgement effectively, and that the whole accountability framework was confused and lacked transparency. In short, it was a systems failure. He recommended a review of all systems.

    Parliament moved quickly (“under urgency”) to pass legislation that did two things: (1) set in place temporary rules and a process for reviewing and creating new permanent rules, and (2) retrospectively validate the unappropriated spending as described above. Point 1 had to happen quickly so that the government could continue to function. Point 2 had to happen at some point, and it was logistically convenient for the government to act as it did and handle 1 and 2 together (as per the Treasury advice linked above). But the fact that 2 (retrospective validation) happened quickly relates now to another aspect of the controversy, Darnton cs Clark.

    Darnton vs Clark

    This is a legal issue that none of us had any background in, and we were running out of steam, so we don’t know much. During the period within which the government books were illegal a court case began. According to Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Darnton
    “Bernard Darnton [leader of the Libertarianz Party] filed proceedings in the High Court, suing Helen Clark for allegedly misappropriating public funds to pay for the Labour Party’s pledge cards during the 2005 election. Some commentators labelled the lawsuit a stunt, although it received some media coverage as concern about the “pledge card” funding grew.”

    One of the effects of the retrospective validation was to remove the legal grounds for the case – to “kill it off”. Some have suggested that the reason that the validation process was rushed was to deliberately kill this case.

    When the validation legislation was debated in Parliament an amendment was proposed to allow this case to continue after validation. Only the National Party voted for the amendment, which was lost, so that validation killed the case. In effect, Parliament made a separate explicit decision not to allow the case to go forward. Some would suggest that they saw no merit in it, and that the issues it raised were being handled by the internal reviews. Others would suggest that Parliament was hiding itself from the scrutiny of the courts. Whichever, Parliament was perfectly within its rights, as it is the ultimate legal authority in NZ.

    Helen, stop critiquing polls

    Conclusion

    The urban legend version of events is very far from true. The legal issues were complicated and related only to Parliamentary Services. The moral issues probably came out in the wash of public opinion. However, there is enough complexity and ambiguity that some can still reasonably believe that “something fishy went on”.

    The whole affair illustrates the complexity of electoral funding, and there is a whole story (untold in this summary) about the interaction between private party funding and public funding in this affair. Some would argue that such controversies illustrate the need for a much simpler and more transparent system of public or “state funding” of political parties (see some debate on this beginning here).

    Helen, stop critiquing polls

    As a final comment, it was an interesting discussion, I think we all learned a lot. And while we might not have achieved world peace, at least we managed to have a pretty constructive discussion.

  308. r0b 309

    Hey Burt.

    I just tried to post my first draft of the summary. It seems to have been eaten by the spam trap (too many links – but it will probably appear at some point). Then I saw your comment:

    To save crashing lprent’s server, how about emailing me the draft,

    I don’t think we could crash Lynne’s server, I don’t think he’d let us!

    I’m happy to stick to the process we agreed, you pick up the text here and do a strike-through edit version for Anita, she does the final version. But if you think (when you see the text here) that won’t work then I am certainly happy to email it to you.

    I agree that the Hansard debates are a rich source of quotable snippets, but I’m not going to engage further, this needs to end at some point. I would ponder your banana republic rhetoric vs ACTs position on parliament though if I was you.

    Goodnight.

    [lprent: right]

  309. burt 310

    rOb

    I would ponder your banana republic rhetoric vs ACTs position on parliament though if I was you.

    You are now quoting Rodney out of context, Rodney is saying how it is – now. The line immediately before your attempt to spin what he said

    “But the way to tidy up the rules is not to rush legislation through Parliament. It is not actually Parliament’s legislation that defines how we can spend the money. There is a reason for that: [INSERT OUT OF CONTEXT QUOTE HERE DESCRIBING WHAT RV ACHIEVES] So what we should be doing, rather than rushing in here in Parliament to change the rules…”

    I would have thought that context was pretty obvious seeing it was in a paragraph that started…

    “I listened most carefully to Dr Michael Cullen’s reasons…” and he did say The public has a right to know how we spend its money. many many times, that must have also been a clue that Rodney was describing something other than his desired position.

    You have lost some credibility by quoting out of context so blatantly to attack his principles.

    But yes, lets get to the summary, because you quoted Rodney out of context, I’ll show no mercy 🙂

  310. r0b 311

    Morning Burt.

    Re Rodney, the “out of context quote” was only about not wanting the courts messing with parliament:

    There is a reason for that: we do not want the courts looking into Parliament and at how it spends the money. That is why we have never put it on the statute book; it is for Parliament itself to decide.

    I don’t see how the context material changes anything about Rodney’s opinion on the fact that the courts should not judge parliament. Combine that with the greater context, ACT effectively abstained on the DvC vote, and it seems to me that Rodney’s views on this are very clear indeed.

    But whatever, I’ll repost the summary below (very slightly tidied from last night so don’t use the old one if it appears). I have slightly tweaked the links – [h]ttp – so hopefully this doesn’t get caught by the spam trap.

    I’ll show no mercy

    Wasn’t expecting any! Here we go (I hope)…

  311. r0b 312

    Note to readers: this is an old thread where an old debate is winding up. You’ll find the active threads on the front page.

    As discussed above, this comment is the first draft of a summary of the discussion. This is r0b’s summary, to be edited by Burt (please use your nice strikethrough edits so Anita can see), Anita will do a final edit (thanks!) and that’s it.

    Links in this version are in plain text so Burt and Anita can edit. Maybe when Burt and Anita are finished, Lynne could (if he feels like it) do a retrospective edit of the final version to declutter and turn the links into nice clickable words.

    === summary begins ===

    This long strange thread strayed far from its original topic. Around about here
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-63642
    it started to morph into an exploration of one of the several funding controversies surrounding the 2005 election (summaries here and here):
    [h]ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_New_Zealand_election_funding_controversy
    [h]ttp://www.nzherald.co.nz/feature/story.cfm?c_id=1501118&objectid=10405611&pnum=0
    Of these many controversies the issue that we explored was the nature of the spending that that the Auditor General (in 2006) identified as improper, and the focus in particular was the nature of the retrospective validation of government spending that followed. Much of the thread is a discussion between Burt, who regarded the validation as unacceptable, and r0b, who defended it. There were many valuable contributions from many other participants.

    This summary describes the more-or-less agreed state of play when we gave up. The final wording of the summary (since she emerged as a good referee) is Antia’s. Many issues were clarified and we’re pretty confident of them. Some issues weren’t covered in depth, we ran out of energy to pursue it further. None of us are lawyers or politicians or particular experts – this is just people chatting on a blog. But here is the summary (for what it’s worth).

    The urban legend

    The story that many people believe goes something like this. During the 2005 election the political parties spent taxpayer money illegally. In 2006 the Auditor General (AG) caught them out. At that point the governing parties retrospectively changed the law to get themselves out of legal trouble. But the public outcry (“Pay it back!”) forced them to pay back the stolen money too.

    What actually happened was more complicated and ambiguous than that.

    The legal situation

    Political parties are allowed to spend a certain amount of public / government money on communicating with the electorate. This is not supposed to be used for “electioneering” (which used to mean asking for money or votes). The process is administered by a branch of government called Parliamentary Services (PS) and falls under a law called the Public Finance Act.

    During the 2005 election all parties used this money on various newsletters and advertisements. In a 2006 review of the spending in the three months prior to the 2005 election The Auditor General (AG) found that Parliamentary Services (PS) had approved spending on many items that the AG deemed to be electioneering, and therefore inappropriate. Technically PS had spent outside their “appropriation”.

    It is not infrequent for branches of government to spend outside their appropriation, often to the tune of many millions of dollars (usually for spending relating to unexpected events). The standard fix is a process called “validation”, or “retrospective validation”, to later OK the spending. (Laws are never supposed to apply retrospectively – you can’t “create crimes in the past” – but retrospective validation is regarded as a special case which actually strengthens the law, see here).
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-64639

    The AGs rulings in 2006 created a situation where the Government’s “books” were possibly in an unlawful state. This was fixed by the usual practice of retrospective validation of unappropriated spend; but this case was unusual in that it was rushed and that it validated (because of the timing of the relevant laws) over 15 years of possible unappropriated spend. This was done at the advice of Treasury,
    [h]ttp://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf
    and legally it related to the Public Finance Act. It had nothing to do with electoral law.

    Related legal issues

    There are other legal issues relating to the 2005 election. One of these was the spending cap for each party and whether it was breached. This is a matter of electoral law, but it has absolutely nothing to do (legally) with the issues described above. Separate laws and separate issues.

    Another related legal matter is the Darnton vs Clark court case described below.

    Moral issues

    With respect to the political parties there were (for the events we are discussing) no legal complications. They did not break the law, and the retrospective validation did not absolve them of anything. But these events all took place within the fundamental democratic process of an election. As well as legal issues there are another set of considerations that for want of a better word we can call moral issues.

    “The case for the prosecution” would note that all of the parties (except The Progressives) received funding for items that that AG regarded as electioneering, in some cases blatant electioneering. They “pushed the envelope” hard, and placed Parliamentary Services in a difficult position. All parties were explicitly warned by the AG to be careful, and all parties (except The Progressives) got it wrong.

    “The case for the defence” would note that the fact that all parties got it wrong suggests that either all parties actively decided to break the rules, or that the rules (as interpreted by the AG in 2006) were not clear to the parties in 2005. Some parties argued that the AGs interpretation was in fact wrong, and noted that Rod Donald, the MP most responsible for writing them, was judged to have got them wrong (when the AG identified inappropriate items from The Greens). None the less, all parties agreed to abide by the AGs ruling.

    In some sense parties admitted their moral culpability, and somewhat made amends, when they agreed to pay the money back. The electorate also applied its own punishment to some parties (but not others!) in the opinion polls.

    Events following the AGs report

    The AG detailed the inappropriate spending for all parties. He noted that Parliamentary Services (PS) was responsible, and had not interpreted the rules correctly. But he did not hold PS to blame, noting that they were placed in a situation where they could not exercise their judgement effectively, and that the whole accountability framework was confused and lacked transparency. In short, it was a systems failure. He recommended a review of all systems.

    Parliament moved quickly (“under urgency”) to pass legislation that did two things: (1) set in place temporary rules and a process for reviewing and creating new permanent rules, and (2) retrospectively validate the unappropriated spending as described above. Point 1 had to happen quickly so that the government could continue to function. Point 2 had to happen at some point, and it was logistically convenient for the government to act as it did and handle 1 and 2 together (as per the Treasury advice linked above). But the fact that 2 (retrospective validation) happened quickly relates now to another aspect of the controversy, Darnton cs Clark.

    Darnton vs Clark

    This is a legal issue that none of us had any background in, and we were running out of steam, so we don’t know much. During the period within which the government books were illegal a court case began. According to Wikipedia:
    [h]ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Darnton
    “Bernard Darnton [leader of the Libertarianz Party] filed proceedings in the High Court, suing Helen Clark for allegedly misappropriating public funds to pay for the Labour Party’s pledge cards during the 2005 election. Some commentators labelled the lawsuit a stunt, although it received some media coverage as concern about the “pledge card” funding grew.”

    One of the effects of the retrospective validation was to remove the legal grounds for the case – to “kill it off”. Some have suggested that the reason that the validation process was rushed was to deliberately kill this case.

    When the validation legislation was debated in Parliament an amendment was proposed to allow this case to continue after validation. Only the National Party voted for the amendment, which was lost, so that validation killed the case. In effect, Parliament made a separate explicit decision not to allow the case to go forward. Some would suggest that they saw no merit in it, and that the issues it raised were being handled by the internal reviews. Others would suggest that Parliament was hiding itself from the scrutiny of the courts. Whichever, Parliament was perfectly within its rights, as it is the ultimate legal authority in NZ.
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-64806

    Conclusion

    The urban legend version of events is very far from true. The legal issues were complicated and related only to Parliamentary Services. The moral issues probably came out in the wash of public opinion. However, there is enough complexity and ambiguity that some can still reasonably believe that “something fishy went on”.

    The whole affair illustrates the complexity of electoral funding, and there is a back-story (untold in this summary) about the interaction between private party funding and public funding. Some would argue that such controversies illustrate the need for a much simpler and more transparent system of public or “state funding” of political parties (see some debate on this beginning here).
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-64492

    As a final comment, it was an interesting discussion, I think we all learned a lot. And while we might not have achieved world peace, at least we managed to have a pretty constructive debate.

  312. burt 313

    Note to readers: this is an old very interesting thread where an old fascinating debate is winding up. You’ll find the active threads on the front page.

    As discussed above, this comment is the firstsecond draft of a summary of the discussion. This is r0b’sburt’s summary, to be edited by Burt (please use your nice strikethrough edits so Anita can see), Anita will do a final edit (thanks!) and that’s it.

    Links in this version are in plain text so Burt and Anita can edit. Maybe when Burt and Anita are finished, Lynne could (if he feels like it) do a retrospective edit of the final version to declutter and turn the links into nice clickable words.

    === summary begins ===

    This long strange thread strayed far from its original topic. Around about here
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-63642
    it started to morph into an exploration of one of the several funding controversies surrounding the 2005 election (summaries here and here):
    [h]ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_New_Zealand_election_funding_controversy
    [h]ttp://www.nzherald.co.nz/feature/story.cfm?c_id=1501118&objectid=10405611&pnum=0
    Of these many controversies the issue that we explored was the nature of the spending that that the Auditor General (in 2006) identified as improper, and the focus in particular was the nature of the retrospective validation of government spending that followed. Much of the thread is a discussion between Burt, who regarded the validation as unacceptableindefensible, and r0b, who defended it. There were many valuable contributions from many other participants.

    This summary describes the more-or-less agreed state of play when we gave up decided it was time to summarise. The final wording of the summary (since she emerged as a good referee) is Antia’s. Many issues were clarified and we’re pretty confident of them. Some issues weren’t covered in depth, we ran out of energy to pursue it further. None of us are lawyers or politicians or particular experts – this is just people chatting on a blog. But here is the summary (for what it’s worth).

    The urban legend

    The story that many people believe goes something like this. During the 2005 election the political parties spent taxpayer money illegally. In 2006 the Auditor General (AG) caught them out. At that point the governing parties retrospectively changed the law to get themselves out of legal trouble. But the public outcry (‘Pay it back!’) forced them to pay back the stolen money too.

    What actually happened was more complicated and ambiguous than that.

    The legal situation

    Political parties are allowed to spend a certain amount of public / government money on communicating with the electorate. This is not supposed to be used for “electioneering’ (which used to mean asking for money or votes). The process is administered by a branch of government called Parliamentary Services (PS) and falls under a law called the Public Finance Act.

    During the 2005 election all parties used this money on various newsletters and advertisements. In a 2006 review of the spending in the three months prior to the 2005 election The Auditor General (AG) found that Parliamentary Services (PS) had approved spending on many items that the AG deemed to be electioneering, and therefore inappropriate. Technically PS had spent outside their “appropriation’.

    It is not infrequent for branches of government to spend outside their appropriation, often to the tune of many millions of dollars (usually for spending relating to unexpected events). The standard fix is a process called “validation’, or “retrospective validation’, to later OK the spending. (Laws are never supposed to apply retrospectively – you can’t “create crimes in the past’ – but retrospective validation is regarded as a special case which actually strengthens the law, see here).
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-64639

    The AGs rulings in 2006 created a situation where the Government’s “books’ were possibly in an unlawful state. This was fixed by the usual practice of retrospective validation of unappropriated spend; but this case was unusual in that it was rushed and that it validated (because of the timing of the relevant laws) over 15 years of possible unappropriated spend. This was done at the advice of Treasury,
    [h]ttp://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0610/TreasPSCab.pdf
    and legally it related to the Public Finance Act. It had nothing to do with electoral law. Treasury did not (and can not) tell parliament that it should make illegal spending legal via RV, rather that misappropriated money by PS should be validated.

    Related legal issues

    There are other legal issues relating to the 2005 election. One of these was the spending cap for each party and whether it was breached. This is a matter of electoral law, but it has absolutely nothing to do (legally) with the issues described above. Separate laws and separate issues.

    Another related legal matter is the Darnton vs Clark court case described below.

    Moral issues

    With respect to the political parties there were (for the events we are discussing) no legal complications. They did not break the law, and the retrospective validation did notappears to the public to absolve them of anything legal consequences under the laws they wrote. But these events all took place within the fundamental democratic process of an election. As well as legal issues there are another set of considerations that for want of a better word we can call moral issues.

    “The case for the prosecution’ would note that all of the parties (except The Progressives) received funding for items that that AG regarded as electioneering, in some cases blatant electioneering. They “pushed the envelope’ hard, and placed Parliamentary Services in a difficult position. All parties were explicitly warned by the AG to be careful, and all parties (except The Progressives) got it wrong.

    “The case for the defence’ would note that the fact that nearly all parties got it wrong suggests that either all parties actively decided to break the rules they wrote, or that the rules (as interpreted by the AG in 2006) were not clear to the parties in 2005. Some parties argued that the AGs interpretation was in fact wrong, and noted that Rod Donald, the MP most responsible for writing them, was judged to have got them wrong (when the AG identified inappropriate items from The Greens). None the less, all parties agreed to abide by the AGs ruling.

    In some sense parties admitted their moral culpability, and somewhat made amends, when they agreed to pay the money back. The electorate also applied its own punishment to some parties (but not others!) in the opinion polls.

    Events following the AGs report

    The AG detailed the inappropriate spending for all parties. He noted that Parliamentary Services (PS) was responsible, and had not interpreted the rules correctly. But he did not hold PS to blame, noting that they were placed in a situation where they could not exercise their judgement effectively, and that the whole accountability framework was confused and lacked transparency. In short, it was a systems failure. He recommended a review of all systems.

    Parliament moved quickly (‘under urgency’) to pass legislation that did two things: (1) set in place temporary rules and a process for reviewing and creating new permanent rules, and (2) retrospectively validate the unappropriated spending as described above. Point 1 had to happen quickly so that the government could continue to function. Point 2 had to happen at some point, and it was logistically convenient for the government to act as it did and handle 1 and 2 together (as per the Treasury advice linked above with ). But the fact that 2 (retrospective validation) happened quickly relates now to another aspect of the controversy, Darnton cs Clark.

    Darnton vs Clark

    This is a legal issue that none of us had any background in, and we were running out of steam, so we don’t know much. During the period within which the government books were illegal a court case began. According to Wikipedia:
    [h]ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Darnton
    “Bernard Darnton [leader of the Libertarianz Party] filed proceedings in the High Court, suing Helen Clark for allegedly misappropriating public funds to pay for the Labour Party’s pledge cards during the 2005 election. Some commentatorsappologists labelled the lawsuit a stunt, although it received some media coverage as concern about the “pledge card’ funding grew.’

    One of the effects of the retrospective validation was to remove the legal grounds for the case – to “kill it off’. Some have suggested that the reason that the validation process was rushed was to deliberately kill this case.

    When the validation legislation was debated in Parliament an amendment was proposed to allow this case to continue after validation. Only the National Party voted for the amendment, which was lost, so that validation killed the case. In effect, Parliament made a separate explicit decision not to allow the case to go forward. Some would suggest that they saw no merit in it, and that the issues it raised were being handled by the internal reviews. Others would suggest that Parliament was hiding itself from the scrutiny of the courts. Whichever, Parliament was perfectly legally within its rights, as it is the ultimate legal authority in NZ, although by convention parliament should not judge peoples actions under the law.
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-64806

    Conclusion

    The urban legend version of events is very far from truewhat rOb is defending. The legal issues were complicated and related only to Parliamentary Services, because parliament used it’s power to create any law it wants to retrospectively state it did not breach electoral funding law. The moral issues probably came out in the wash of public opinion. However, there is enough complexity and ambiguity that some can still reasonably believe that “something fishy went on’.

    The whole affair illustrates the complexity of electoral funding, and there is a back-story (untold in this summary) about the interaction between private party funding and public funding. Some would argue that such controversies illustrate the need for a much simpler and more transparent system of public or “state funding’ of political parties (see some debate on this beginning here).
    [h]ttp://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2289#comment-64492

    As a final comment, it was an interesting discussion, I think we all learned a lot. And while we might not have achieved world peace, at least we managed to have a pretty constructive debate.

    The govt did not explicitly provide a reason as to why it used it’s undefined role of acting as the judiciary adjudicating over alleged breaches of it’s own laws, other than it was legal for it to do so. Parliaments undefined role to overrule the judiciary has been used before. In one known instance it was used to defend MP’s parliamentary privilege against a court ruling. It appears it has never been used before to defend parliament against allegations of spending public money illegally.

    In the absence of a valid reason (other than reminding us that it is legally was entitled to do so) there appears to be no defense other than it was legal and convenient at that time.

  313. r0b 314

    That was quick Burt! Over to Anita…

  314. r0b 315

    Ahhh – one technical note, Burt you have one edit in a quote from Wikipedia – can’t do that!

  315. burt 316

    rOb

    I could say wiki is public domain, shall I go and edit it there as well to validate myself 🙂

    RE: your 8:40 am comment.

    Re Rodney, the “out of context quote’ was only about not wanting the courts messing with parliament:

    There is a reason for that: we do not want the courts looking into Parliament and at how it spends the money. That is why we have never put it on the statute book; it is for Parliament itself to decide.

    Yes, but we need to understand “that”, loosely it’s defined as “the thing you are pointing at” The dictionary definition is quite verbose.

    So was Rodney pointing to RV or laws for spending public money?

    “There is a reason for thatRV: we do not want the courts looking into Parliament and at how it spends the money…”

    OR:

    “There is a reason for thatElectoral funding laws: we do not want the courts looking into Parliament and at how it spends the money…”

  316. r0b 317

    I could say wiki is public domain, shall I go and edit it there as well to validate myself

    Heh! Nice one.

    Re Rodney quote, OK I can see your case, you can argue the words ambiguous. Hard to argue the fact that ACT didn’t vote for the DvC amendment though.

    If you ever bump in to Rodney you should ask him!

  317. Anita 318

    burt,

    I do wonder some times if parliament ever thinks through the logical consequences of it’s actions. By exercising RV for election funding years over 14 years parliament can say: No electoral funding law have been broken in the last 14 years.

    The retrospective validation did not apply to electoral laws (funding or otherwise). So if the pledge card meant Labour broke the electoral spending cap, parliament did not validate that, if their conduct was unlawful it remained unlawful. (Ditto for all the other parties which also has dubious spending by PS).

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    An average kiwiBy admin@averagekiwi.com
    5 days ago
  • A climate of tyranny
    For the past week, Extinction Rebellion has been peacefully protesting in London to demand action on climate change. The British government's response? Ban their protests:Police have banned Extinction Rebellion protests from continuing anywhere in London, as they moved in almost without warning to clear protesters who remained at the movement’s ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • Collins crushes climate
    An essay by Judith Collins MP reported on Carbon News yesterday seems to show an alarming shift in attitude within the National Party. Collins argues against the Zero Carbon Bill, the Paris Agreement, and downplays the magnitude of climate impacts. The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015 and ratified ...
    SciBlogsBy Robert McLachlan
    5 days ago
  • More disappointment
    When they were running for election, Labour promised to overhaul the Employment Relations Act and introduce fair pay agreements to set basic pay and conditions on an industry level, preventing bad employers from undercutting good ones. They followed this up by establishing a working group, which reported back in January ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • What do these mother-child studies really say about fluoridation?
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    5 days ago
  • Losing Labour’s Mills-Tone.
    Nothing Left To Say: Labour's pollster, Stephen Mills, remains swaddled-up in the comforting myths of the 1980s. As if the experience of Roger Douglas’s genuinely radical post-Muldoon policy agenda was literally a once-in-a-lifetime thing – as much as the party could possibly absorb for at least the next 50 years.MEMO ...
    5 days ago
  • Speaker: Disability and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse
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    5 days ago
  • Spain is not a democracy
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • UK Conservatives hate democracy
    With an unfair voting system, uneven electorates and an un-elected upper house, the UK's "democracy" is barely worthy of the name. But now the government wants to make it worse:The government has been accused of suppressing voters’ rights with the potential disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of people after plans ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • What is wrong with our building industry?
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Local bodies
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • A future of government
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    SciBlogsBy Robert Hickson
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Catalonia, interrupted
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    1 week ago
  • Sage Decisions Unwisely Over-Ruled.
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    1 week ago
  • Government may ban voting in effort to get more people to do it
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    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Woman: Deleted.
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    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • The Hollowest of Men Ride Again… SURPRISE!
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    exhALANtBy exhalantblog
    1 week ago
  • Barbaric
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Fighting Monsters.
    Freedom Of Speech? The Säuberung (cleansing by fire) was the work of the German Student Union which, on 10 May 1933, under the watchful eye of the Nazi Reichminister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, consigned 25,000 books to the flames in a ritual exorcism of “un-German thought”. According to the logic of the ...
    1 week ago
  • The next wave of kaupapa Māori politics: its constitutional, it must be.
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    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Night lights of NZ from orbit
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    SciBlogsBy Duncan Steel
    1 week ago
  • Reporters deliver uplifting news to fleeing Japanese residents: they won’t miss any rugby
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    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Government in contentious discussions about whether to put surplus on red or black
    Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is the only Cabinet member in favour of putting it all on green. As Finance Minister Grant Robertson finds himself with an enormous $7.5 billion surplus, the Government has begun intense, at times contentious conversations about whether to put the money on red or black at ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Jordanian teachers’ successful strike has lessons for here
    by Susanne Kemp At the start of September close to 100,000 school teachers went on strike in Jordan.  They demanded a 50% pay rise.  A pay rise actually agreed to by the regime back in 2014. In early October, however, in the face of government repression and threats, the teachers’ ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Why some people still think climate change isn’t real
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    SciBlogsBy Guest Author
    1 week ago
  • The SIS unlawfully spied on Nicky Hager
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • October 2019 – Newsletter
    https://mailchi.mp/7d9133add053/closing-the-gap-october-2019-newsletter ...
    Closing the GapBy Tracey Sharp
    1 week ago
  • And they wonder why we think they’re environmental vandals…
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Paying the price in California
    Last year, California burned. This year, to stop it happening again (or rather, to stop themselves from being found liable if it happens again), Pacific Gas and Electric is cutting power to half the state for a week:Schools are closed. Traffic lights down. Tunnels dark. Businesses unopened. Hospitals running on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Let’s Hear It For Up-Close-And-Personal, Hard-Copy Democracy!
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    1 week ago
  • 10/10: World Day Against the Death Penalty
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Talking Freer Lives: a Marxist gender-critical perspective from Australia
    Among the great new bunch of political friends we have been making recently is the excellent Australian-based Marxist gender-critical site, Freer Lives.  So we asked the comrade who set up that blog to write something for Redline on the blog, himself, his analysis of the rise of gender politics and ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Government spin accepted by union leadership
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    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Forbidden Thoughts
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    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Much love to my loyal Ukrainian readership
    For some reasons, my post about the mystery message from inside the Downing Street bunker seemed to catch people's attention.  Quite a lot of hits from NZ (unsurprisingly) and the USA (a bit more puzzlingly, but hi there, USAians!!) and 76 views from the Ukraine.I've celebrated my Ukrainian readers in ...
    1 week ago
  • Another day of bonkers GNUmours (again, sorry)
    First, almost a score of Labour MPs seem to have sent a letter to the EU basically begging them to accept a deal - any deal - just so Britain can get the Heck on with Brexiting instead of being trapped in limbo:
    To avoid no deal, deliver on the ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour vs working class immigrants – again!
    by Phil Duncan In 2016 the National-led government suspended the Parent Visa Category, through which migrants were able to bring their parents into New Zealand.  Since then over 5,700 people have been in immigration limbo, stuck on the visa wait list. Labour is now bringing back the scheme.  Well, sort ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women press statement: on Massey University and Feminism 2020
    The following was released yesterday (Tues, October 8) by the women’s liberation organisation Speak Up for Women. On 23 September Speak Up For Women announced that we would be holding an event at the Massey University Theaterette in Wellington. The event is called Feminism 2020. The intention of the event ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Farmers support dirty rivers
    The government is currently consulting on plans to improve freshwater quality. So naturally, farmers oppose it:South Taranaki farmers are preparing to fight proposed national freshwater changes that some fear will bankrupt them. The Government's proposed National Environment Standard on Freshwater Management, released in September, rated the Waingongoro River as one ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • No-one cares about local government
    Yesterday was the last day for (reliably) posting your vote away in local body elections. Turnouts are mostly much lower than the equivalent time last year (Palmerston North is down 2.3%), and so naturally people are pushing their online-voting snake oil again. Because the online census worked so well, lets ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The political ghosts of eugenics may matter more than the genetic
    This essay, on the political legacy of the eugenics movement, by Kenan Malik was originally published in the Observer on 6 October 2019, under the headline ‘The spirit of eugenics is still with us, as immigrants know to their cost’. Birth control. Intelligence tests. Town planning. Immigration controls. It’s striking how ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • “Surplus” again
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Inside the Downing Street bunker
    James Forsyth at The Spectator (I know, I know) has tapped one of his contacts inside Number Ten for an insight into the Johnson administration's thinking and strategy.It is fascinating, unsettling and quite, quite mad.  Some key points:Negotiations have stalled and the Johnson administration are keen to blame the EU: ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Taking Control Of The Nation’s Story.
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    2 weeks ago
  • Are GNUs extinct?
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    2 weeks ago
  • Labour chickens out again
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Transgender extremism, violence at work against feminist meeting at British Labour Party conference
    by Nick Rogers The debate around the meaning of sex and gender made an appearance at this year’s British Labour Party conference in Brighton. Women’s Place UK – an organisation that questions the demand that biological males who self-identify as woman should have access to women’s spaces, to all-women shortlists, ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Rebelling in Wellington
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

  • Methane reducing cattle feed one step closer
    The Government today announced its support for a project that could substantially reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from cattle. The announcement was made as part of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s visit to Nelson’s Cawthron Aquaculture Park. The Cawthron Institute will receive $100,000 from the Government’s ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Bill to refresh superannuation system passes first reading
    Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has welcomed the first reading of the New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension Legislation Amendment Bill. “Every New Zealander has a stake in New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension,” says Carmel Sepuloni. “They are our most common form of social assistance – nearly 800,000 New ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government announces next steps in fight against measles
    Babies in Auckland aged six months and over can receive a free vaccination and children will all have access to vaccines, Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter announced today at Papatoetoe High School.   The move comes as part of Government efforts to step up the fight against measles. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, Pacific Futures: Connections, Identity...
    ***Check against delivery*** Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here, and to have the honour of opening this important conference on behalf of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs. Let us take the opportunity to acknowledge all the people who have helped make today possible, including our special ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Police trial new response to high risk events
    Police Minister Stuart Nash says the safety of frontline officers and members of the public will be the focus of a new trial of specialist Police response teams in three of our largest urban centres. Police have this morning released details of an initiative to be trialled in Counties Manukau, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New awards celebrate fisheries sustainability
    The Minister of Fisheries is calling for entries for a new public award to celebrate innovation in our seafood sector. “I have established the Seafood Sustainability Awards to recognise and celebrate those throughout industry, tangata whenua and communities who demonstrate outstanding dedication and innovation towards the sustainability of New Zealand’s ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • More progress for women and we can do more
    Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter welcomes leaders in the private sector taking action on closing their gender pay gaps to ensure a fairer workplace for all New Zealanders. Ms Genter today launched a new report, Addressing the gender pay gap and driving women’s representation in senior leadership, from the Champions for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Proposals to curb environmental damage help our coasts and the oceans
    Government Ministers today welcomed the release of a marine environment report highlighting the four key issues affecting our oceans, estuaries and coastlines.  The release underlines the importance of government proposals to combat climate pollution, ensure clean freshwater, protect biodiversity, make land use more sustainable, and reduce waste and plastic.    Environment ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New mental health facility for Waikato
    The Government has approved funding for a new acute mental health facility for Waikato which will provide better care and support to people with mental health and addiction issues. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Dr David Clark announced the $100 million project to replace the aging Henry Rongomau ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • 500 new te reo Māori champions in our classrooms
    The Government is making progress on its goal to integrate te reo Māori into education by 2025, with over 500 teachers and support staff already graduating from Te Ahu o te Reo Māori,  Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis announced today. Kelvin Davis made the announcement at an awards ceremony in Waikanae today, for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Minister James Shaw welcomes 2018 Census first release
    Statistics Minister James Shaw has welcomed the first release of 2018 Census data. The first release of data today, 23 September, includes key data on population, regional growth, the number of homes and the size of different ethnic groups in New Zealand. Data from the 2018 Census will support the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Driving transparency, ethics and accountability in government use of algorithms
    Minister for Statistics James Shaw today announced a public consultation on a proposed algorithm charter for government agencies. The charter has been developed by the Government Chief Data Steward in response to growing calls for more transparency in government use of data. Computer algorithms – procedures or formulas for solving ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New Zealand and the Netherlands working together on climate change
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, Climate Change Minister James Shaw and visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte co-hosted a business roundtable in Auckland this morning focused on working together to address climate change.  “The Netherlands is an important partner for New Zealand. We share a strong agricultural history. Sustainable agribusiness and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Protecting fairness for workers and businesses
    The Government is taking action to build an inclusive economy where more of us receive our fair share at work and businesses can compete on great products and services, not undercutting wages and conditions, Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says. Two consultations launched today seek feedback ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Indigenous Freshwater Fish Bill Passes
    The future for New Zealand’s threatened indigenous freshwater fish looks brighter with the passing of the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill in Parliament today said Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage. “Until now, our freshwater fish legislation has been 20 years out of date. We have lacked effective tools to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Kiwis to take part in world’s biggest earthquake drill
    At 1.30pm tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of Kiwis will join about 65 million people around the globe in ShakeOut, the world’s biggest earthquake drill. The annual drill is to remind people of the right action to take during an earthquake which is to Drop, Cover, Hold, and to practise their ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Rising wages and low inflation supporting Kiwis
    Kiwis are benefiting from higher wage growth and low inflation under the Coalition Government. Stats NZ data out today shows the rise in the cost of living remains low, as annual Consumers Price Index (CPI) inflation fell to 1.5% in September from 1.7% in June. “The low inflation comes as ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • NZ economy strong amid global headwinds
    New Zealand’s economic strength and resilience has been recognised in a major update on the state of the global economy. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook released overnight shows a reduced global growth forecast over the next two years as issues like the US-China trade war and Brexit take hold. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Keeping New Zealanders safer with better counter-terrorism laws
    Justice Minister Andrew Little has today introduced a new Bill to prevent terrorism and support the de-radicalisation of New Zealanders returning from overseas. The Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill gives the New Zealand Police the ability to apply to the High Court to impose control orders on New Zealanders who ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Improved succession and dispute resolution core of Ture Whenua changes
    A Bill that proposes targeted changes to simplify the processes for Māori land owners when engaging with the Māori Land Court has had its First Reading today. “The approach taken by the Government is to ensure that the protection of Māori land remains a priority as we seek to improve ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Speech to CTU Biennial Conference
    Let me first thank all the new unionists and members in the room. There is nothing more important to improving people’s working lives than people making the decision to care, to get on board and help, to take up the reins and get involved. Congratulations to you. You bring the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Minister ensures continued Whenuapai flight operations
    Minister of Defence Ron Mark has signed a certificate exempting the activity of engine testing at Whenuapai Airbase from the Resource Management Act 1991. The Act gives the Minister of Defence the power to exempt activities for the purposes of national security.  The certificate will mean the recent Environment Court ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • NZ joins Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action
    Finance Minister Grant Robertson has announced New Zealand will join the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action while attending APEC meetings in Chile. The objective of the 39 member Coalition is to share information and promote action to tackle climate change. It was formed in April this year, in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Feedback Sought – Section 71 – Lyttelton Parking
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Feedback Sought – Section 71 – Hagley Oval
    Hon Minister Poto Williams Associate Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration   MEDIA STATEMENT       Tuesday 15 October 2019 Feedback sought – Hagley Oval The Associate Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Poto Williams, is seeking feedback on a proposal about Hagley Oval. The proposal was developed by Regenerate Christchurch ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • CTU speech – DPM
    Ladies and gentlemen, NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff, members of respective unions – thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. This might be preaching to the choir, but the importance of trade unions in New Zealand’s historical arch is difficult to understate. And it is my belief that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Police Association Annual Conference
    "Let’s start by acknowledging that it has been a huge year. " Police Association Annual Conference James Cook Grand Chancellor Hotel Wellington Nau mai, haere mai. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, ka nui te mihi, ki a koutou katoa. President of the Police Association, Chris Cahill; Members of the Association and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Zealand announces a further P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark have announced the New Zealand Government’s decision to again deploy a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea. New ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Zealand deeply concerned at developments in north-east Syria
    Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand continues to have serious concerns for peace and stability in north-east Syria. “Recent reports that hundreds of ISIS-affiliated families have fled from a camp are deeply concerning from a humanitarian and security perspective”, Mr Peters says. “While we acknowledge Turkey’s domestic security ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Government on high alert for stink bugs
    Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor is warning travelling Kiwis to be vigilant as the high-season for the crop-eating brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is under way. “We’re on high alert to stop BMSB arriving in NZ. The high season runs until April 30 and we’ve strengthened our measures to stop stink ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Better protections for students in halls of residence
    The Government is moving swiftly to change the law to improve the welfare and pastoral care of students living in university halls of residence and other tertiary hostels. Cabinet has agreed to several changes, including creating a new mandatory Code of Practice that sets out the duty of pastoral care ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New trapping guide for community and expert trappers alike
    The Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage has launched a new comprehensive trapping guide for community trappers to help them protect our native birds, plants and other wildlife, at Zealandia in Wellington today. ‘A practical guide to trapping’, has been developed by the Department of Conservation (DOC), and was launched during ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Widening Access to Contraceptives Welcomed
    Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter welcomes PHARMAC’s move to improve access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). PHARMAC has today announced it will fund the full cost of Mirena and Jaydess for anyone seeking long term contraception, lifting previous restrictions on access to Mirena. “I welcome women having greater choices ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Major upgrade for Taranaki Base Hospital
    The Government has approved the next stage of a major redevelopment of Taranaki Base Hospital, which will deliver new and improved facilities for patients. Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced details of a $300 million dollar project to build a new East Wing at the New Plymouth hospital. It ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Extra support for rural families
    Extra funding will allow Rural Support Trusts to help farming families, says Minister for Rural Communities and Agriculture Damien O’Connor. “I know that rural families are worried about some of the challenges facing them, including the ongoing uncertainty created by the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. “Those concerns sit alongside ongoing worries ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
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