I’ve always liked Punch magazine’s famous cartoon “True humility” where the curate assures his bishop who notices his egg is bad that “parts of it are excellent.”
Most discussion on Little’s Bill has focused on the bad bits regarding donations. The good bit requires all political ads online to be attributed.
The only effect of the ban of foreign donations to candidates or political parties over $50 will be to make the life of political party secretaries even more difficult than it already is to manage the minefield of convoluted electoral law. Party secretaries now have to scrutinise any donation over $50 to make sure that it did not come from a foreign source.
In reality this provision will be easy to work around for donors. So Little’s rushed Bill is more of a public relations exercise than a real attempt to improve the law. A major fault when it comes to foreign influence is to limit the scope to political parties and candidates. Lord Ashcroft didn’t fly out to New Zealand in his private jet twice immediately before elections here just to have a cup of tea with John Key. I believe he spoke the truth when he told journalists he didn’t donate to the National Party, but he runs a huge polling company and would likely have given them considerable assistance directly or indirectly. I made this point in my submission to the select Committee.
Henry Cooke of Stuff describes the Bill as “Good politics but terrible lawmaking”and suggests that we need another Royal Commission like the one in 1987 that brought in MMP. He may not be aware that that Commission canvassed the matter thoroughly and recommended State funding of political parties. It is the answer and support for it is growing.
The good bit in the Bill is the requirement for all political advertising on the internet media to carry attribution. Hopefully that will limit the Cambridge Analytica stye of under-the-radar advertising used in the Brexit referendum.