The National-led government repealed much of Labour’s Electoral Finance Act and is now asking the public what should be in a new law on election finances. Please take some time to write a submission backing greater fairness and openness in financing of election campaigns.
All you need to do is:
- head up an e-mail or sheet of paper with your name and address and “Submission on the Electoral Finance Reform issues paper”
- write your views (we suggest some key points below)
- Send it by Friday, 26 June 2009 to
or by post to
Freepost Authority No 224498,
Electoral Finance Reform,
Ministry of Justice,
c/- PO Box 180, Wellington 6140.
Key points you could make:
Transparency, equity, accountability and legitimacy are the most important principles. Freedom of speech is also important. But reducing the distorting effects of wealth (where some election participants can use advertising to get more influence than others) is more important than protecting the ‘freedom of speech’ of wealthy interests to buy unlimited advertising space.
- New Zealand will never have a credible, transparent electoral system while politicians and parties can receive substantial sums of money from undisclosed donors. No anonymous donations should be allowed above $1000, whether given directly to candidates or parties, indirectly via another person or secret trust, or via the current “protected disclosure scheme”. Essentially, openness and transparency around political donations are so important that they outweigh issues of individual privacy.
- Parties should have to disclose the names and addresses of donors for all donations above $1000.
- Only New Zealand citizens and permanent residents should be able to make election donations, just as they are the only ones who can vote. Democracy is about citizens voting, not companies or organisation; and the New Zealand election is for New Zealanders.
- New Zealand already has some public funding of election campaigning (the “broadcast allocation”, MPs travel budgets etc). This should be increased — by raising the broadcasting allocation, say 50%, and extending it to all forms of advertising — to cover for reduced private donations following the restrictions on anonymous donating and donations from non-New Zealanders recommended above. But this does not mean public funding of parties, which implies annual funding whether or not it’s election time. It is merely a continuation and increase of election-time funding of election activities. It would require a relatively small three-yearly public cost to remove the unhealthy influence of anonymous money in our elections.
- We should retain the current restrictions on how much TV and radio advertising a party can do. One of the good things about our elections is not being deluged with broadcast advertisements.
- Elections are all about candidates and political parties. The focus should remain on them. It is ridiculous to control spending and donations for election participants and then allow wealthy lobby groups to participate without any controls. There should therefore be stricter restrictions on “parallel campaigns” than there are on candidates and parties. This should include: a total spending limit during election year of $50,000, including on negative advertising, registering in advance with the Electoral Commission if they will spend over $2000. We should also retain the current restrictions on parallel campaigns using TV and radio advertising. Parallel campaigners will retain the freedom of speech to say whatever they like, just not the uncontrolled right to spend as much as they like.
- Spending regulations should apply from 1 January of the election year up until the election. If there is only a short regulated period (as at present) wealthier parties can hugely outspend other parties before the official election campaign period, giving them the unfair electoral advantage which election spending controls are trying to avoid.