Remember 2008 and the Electoral Finance Act? Remember “Democracy Under Attack!”? Remember the hate filled comparisons of Helen Clark to Hitler? Remember David Farrar’s shameful series of billboards comparing Clark to various violent dictators? Yeah, me too.
And then National became the government and decided to keep most of the EFA. While the Act itself was repealed in February 2009, the interim legislation that replaced it kept the EFA’s rules around disclosure (which the Nats voted against while in opposition). To develop a permanent replacement National began a consultation process (and full credit to them for handling this much better than Labour handled their reform), with a discussion document and then a proposal document in September 2009. Legal academic and constitutional expert Andrew Geddis commented:
Electoral finance reform: back to the future?
Stage two of National’s electoral finance reform proposals is out—and it looks oddly familiar
The revelation that National is still considering limits on third party (sorry, “parallel campaigner”) expenditure attracted no more than a pro-forma “tsk tsk” from the Herald’s (regular) editorial slot. …
We may even end up with an “EFA-lite”, which would be a supreme irony given the wailing and gnashing of teeth that took place from late 2007 through 2008.
The right wing bloggers went ballistic: “National Socialists Sell Out Again!”, and “National to reintroduce EFA-lite”, and so on. In February 2010 the actual proposals were released, to strangely muted reaction. Andrew Geddis again:
The Government has announced what it plans to do with the law on electoral financing. Not all that much, actually.
First of all, the Government actually doesn’t propose very much reform at all to the existing law on election financing. …
The proposals have since been turned into various electoral bills which which are making their way through bowels of Parliament. One of these Bills — the “Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill” — passed an interesting milestone yesterday when the select committee reported back:
The Government will limit what lobby groups can spend on election campaigning in its redraft of election finance laws despite strongly objecting to such a limit in 2008.
Interesting isn’t it how the responsibilities of government mean that the Nats have to repudiate so much of their irresponsible opposition rhetoric! Kudos to National for retaining limits, albeit set too high. But some of National’s spinsters — less cynical and more crazy than the MPs themselves — are taking this latest development badly. Here’s DPF:
Return of the EFA
God I am pissed off. The Electoral (Finance and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill has been reported back, and National and Labour have voted for introducing a cap on third party spending.
I really wonder sometimes why we bother changing Governments, when the new Government adopts so many politics of the old Government – especially a policy that was a big part of why they got thrown out. …
I think many of those who protested against the EFA will feel a sense of betrayal with this bill. National has put the desire to be bipartisan with electoral law (which is commendable) ahead of doing what is right.
DPF’s problem is that he actually believed the batshit crazy anti EFA propaganda that served the Nats electoral purposes in 2008. The party itself is much more “pragmatic”, and has dropped that posturing like a hot rock, the same way they dropped their Iwi/Kiwi racist tactics and their reluctance to deal with Winston Peters. While I applaud the more pragmatic perspective on the responsibilities of government, I abhor the cynical propaganda that got them there.
So, meet the new EFA, same as the old EFA. And next time the Nats unleash a tirade of self-serving propaganda on some topic, if we the people remember how expediently they change their tune when it suits them, perhaps we Won’t get fooled again.