National filibustering EFB

Written By: - Date published: 12:54 pm, December 6th, 2007 - 42 comments
Categories: election funding, national - Tags: ,

So it’s official: National is filibustering the Electoral Finance Bill. This really is childish, and it’s directly at odds with what Bill English was telling the public on Morning Report on Tuesday. These were his exact words:

“How long the debate takes will be largely up to the government. We don’t intend to filibuster…”

It’s pretty clear now that English was being economical with the truth. Today’s Questions for Oral Answer shows ten additional questions to members. Given questions to select committee chairs are so rare that you’re lucky to see one or two a week, the fact National and Act have chosen to pose ten in one day shows they’re deliberately trying to tie up Parliament because they can’t get their way on the bill.

No Right Turn has picked up on this too, and sums up the situation well:

These are not the actions of a serious, responsible party truely interested in reform. Rather, they are the actions of a self-interested party eager to please its rich mates and rort and abuse the electoral process to buy their way to power, just as they tried to do in 2005.

Fortunately the bill has the numbers to pass, and National’s deliberate bad faith over electoral reform is becoming clearer every day.

42 comments on “National filibustering EFB”

  1. Simeon 1

    If the Electoral Finance Bill is so good, why can’t it go back to the people of New Zealand for another round of consultation??

  2. Camryn 2

    NRT’s comment doesn’t sum up the situation at all. The situation at hand is the alleged filibustering. It’s a complete non sequitur to suddenly jump to their motivations.

    Wouldn’t they oppose the bill in exactly the same way if their motivation was to prevent Labour from skewing the electoral process in their favour? Or because the moon is spherical? Or any reason?

    NRT just wanted a chance to rant in a partisan fashion about their motivation and would’ve said exactly the same thing in any context.

    As to whether it’s actually ‘filibustering’ (even ignoring the misuse of the term in this context) – do you think that National has to suspend the normal business of the opposition just because Labour is also trying to ram through a law change at faster than usual speed? Or should National let Labour set the agenda and only talk about what Labour talks about? Who knows how many of those questions relate to items that National considers Labour to be saving up as items to sneak out in the Christmas lull?

    P.S. The link to the oral questions has a typo.

    [Tane: Camryn, thanks, have fixed the link]

  3. Benodic 3

    1. It’s already been through standard Parliamentary consultation. It’s unprecented to send it back to select committee.

    2. It’s supposed to come into force on January 1st so needs to be passed before the New Year.

    3. The major issues around definition of advertising that had people worried about effects on free speech have been fixed. The rest is politics.

    4. Regardless of all this, National are acting like spoilt brats who can’t get their way. It’s a rather unedifying sight to behold.

  4. Gruela 4

    This is simply another facet of the way National would like political debates conducted in New Zealand. As there is no substance to their Party, (a fact illustrated by a continuing drought of policy,) they have come to the conclusion that if they talk the longest, or shout the loudest, they will win the argument.

    The increasingly mad statements being made equating the passing of the EFB to the fall of civilization and very probably the extinction of all life on Earth is another symptom of this. If you shriek and wail like a five year old who has lost their favourite toy then maybe no-one will notice how thin your claims actually are.

  5. Camryn 5

    OK, apologies to NRT. I read his post now, and it’s actually Tane that is linking NRT’s comment to the alleged filibustering in a nonsensical fashion.

    NRT’s post, however, is basically “National opposes the EFB in it’s current form so must not be serious about reform at all” which is a completely different type of nonsense. The answer is “Nooooo… they just oppose poorly-drafted self-serving changes pushed through under urgency and without bipartisan agreement in the guise of reform and under a cloud of obscuring slander about their motivation”

  6. Benodic 6

    Camryn: there’s a difference between being a constructive opposition and deliberately tying up Parliament because you can’t get your way.

  7. Simeon 7

    Why does it “need” to be passed before the end of this year. It will be a significant change to electoral law. The Government should have introduced it to Parliament last year then.

  8. Benodic 8

    Camryn I think you may have misread the posts – Tane and NRT are making exactly the same points.

    You also seem surprisingly unfazed by the point of this post, which is that National have lied about their filibustering. They used the term. They said they wouldn’t do it. Now they are and that’s dishonest.

  9. insider 9


    They have had over two years to get this legislation consulted drafted and debated. Why was it only introduced in the last couple of months with such a tight deadline?

    They originally said it was to stop the influence of anonymous donations, yet that was missing in the original draft and has only grudgingly been brought in.

    Even one of its major supporters the Greens think it needs a review barely two months after introduction…what does that tell you about the process and the quality of the legislation?

    I’d hardly say that questions to members is going to take much time and is a filibuster. And there have been plenty of occassions where there have been a number at the end of QT, though I’ve not seen this many.

  10. Of course the Nats are fillibustering.

    That’s what you get when you stitch up legislation in secret, put up Bills affecting major constitutional change without any of the normal public consultation in the policy formation process, rush through a select committee process, ignore official advice, ignore the overwhelming position of submitters in select committee, see your legislation face unprecedented condemnation from media and civil society organisations, fail so comprehensively to articulate what the law will do, and then land 150 amendments on the House, just two weeks after the Select Committtee report back was supposed to clean up all of the issues, and even then, just two hours before those 150 amendments are due to be debated in the House.

    And the Standard has the gall to claim that the National Party misuses the parliamentary process. Tane, you really are on a hiding to nothing with that claim.

  11. Graeme Edgeler 11

    National weren’t filibustering on Tuesday, when Labour moved to close off debate on Part 1 (with the important definitions of election advertisement, party advertisement, publish, etc. and clause 17 which prohibits registering as a third party after writ day etc.) after National had had 9 5 minute slots (they ended up with 11).

    National wanted to be constructive – why is the non-commercial internet exemption only about blogs, and not YouTube or message boards? Why does the editorial exemption not apply if the editorial seeks to persuade in addition to enlightening, informing or entertaining? Etc. They didn’t even get time to ask these questions, let alone have someone from Labour answer them.

    I disagree with a number of National’s proposed amendments, but they’re constructive. Do you support their proposed amendment to allow authorities to prosecute political parties? I certainly do.

    Will anyone from Labour take a call explaining why they won’t (if, that is, they won’t)? National, I think, wanted a debate (they’ve a lot of ammunition) but Labour has refused to debate over any of the detail – a fillibuster is all that National has left.

  12. Gruela 12


    “Of course the Nats are fillibustering.”

    “We don’t intend to filibuster.”: Bill English.

    So I guess Bill English went on national radio and outright lied, then.

  13. the sprout 13

    oh no it’s not called lying when the Nats do it gruela, it’s called ‘defending democracy’. a bit like their anti-EFB posturing.

  14. Gruela 14


    I know. They really mean the best for us.

  15. No, Gruela.

    National expected a proper debate on the Bill. When the Minister in charge of the Bill can’t even explain what the crucial Clause 80 means–covering the use of MPs’ parliamentary expenditure during the election period–and never even takes a call to address any of the issues National is raising–then National is entitled to drag the debate out as long as possible to force the Government to justify itself.

    It does depend on your definition of fillibustering. If your definition is standing up and talking mindless babble, then to be fair, yes, National is doing that. If your definition is to stand up and speak ad nauseum, hammering the same points to get the Government to justify itself when it has refused to do so, then yes, National is doing that as well.

    National has very good motives. This is bad law, that has followed a fundamentally flawed process, which nobody at the Standard has been able to hold up their heads and honestly justify. To try and claim National is abusing the legislative process by holding the Government to account is the most hypocritical claim I’ve heard the Standard ever make. And there’s been enormous competition for that title.

  16. the sprout 16

    i am forever grateful for thier presence. i was especially grateful for Brash and Bush, and now after so many cock-ups and flip-flops i am beginning to realise what an unwitting force for progress Key is too.

  17. insider 17

    MAybe it is as Graeme says (who has been a voice of reason on this for some time), they tried to get good faith engagement on the substance and Labour and the Greens have decided to steamroller it through, changing the ground again. You don’t have a lot of options in such situations.

    Filibuster is a long and honorable tradition in Parliamentary systems. There has been an example here in the last couple of years where Cullen eventually had to give up forcing something through and agree to a brokered agreement. Again it was very close to the closure of the house from memory.

    Incidentally Graeme, it is disappointing that COG has been so quiet about the process and the post select committee flaws. Why the free pass after earlier being so vocal?

  18. the sprout 18

    impotent, it doesn’t matter how much you vigorously excercise yourself on here with your endlessly recycled cut and pastes, it’s just not going to get hard. you should consult a physician.

  19. Graeme Edgeler 19

    So I guess Bill English went on national radio and outright lied, then.

    No. They didn’t intend to fillibuster.

    Their intention was to debate.

    Their intention changed when Labour refused to allow them to debate, and refused to engage in debate.

    The discussion on part 1 of the EFB was really short for something so important. The discussion of part 2 – which contains 10 sub-parts – was about the same. I was appalled that Labour wouldn’t answer the serious concerns National was raising – why wouldn’t they defend the bill? Etc. They’ve got good arguments, but they didn’t want to use them.

    National have been far from constructive on the EFB at times, but they were being constructive on Tuesday, and to my great disappointment Labour didn’t rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, if Labour won’t play ball, there’s not much more than fillibustering available to National to draw attention to that fact.

  20. Gruela 20


    The EFB hasn’t even been given a chance yet, but already the various factions of the Kiwi Taliban are calling it the worst piece of legislation since Herod signed the “Kill All the Jew Kids” Bill in 3 A.D.

    Take a deep breathe, man.

  21. the sprout 21

    “National have been far from constructive on the EFB at times, but they were being constructive on Tuesday”

    gosh Graeme, perhaps Labour just didn’t really trust National on Tuesday to do anything other than showboat and continue their msm-backed populist misinformation campaign.

  22. Sam Dixon 22

    Becuase of different Parlaimentary rules, a filibuster can’t actually block a Bill in New Zealand – speaking times are limited and the House can always go into urgency for as long as needed, unlike in the States where the filibuster can be a very effective techique as speaking times are not limited as long as the speaker continues talking and times for debate are more limited (and its very hard for the legislature to do the equivilant of going into urgency).

    A successful filibuster in the US blocked changing the eleciton of Presidental to a direct popular vote among other important policies; i’m unaware of a filibuster ever affecting legislation in New Zealand.

    Given that the filibuster cannot stop the Bill and will not add anything constructive to the Bill, all Naitonal is doing is wasting poltiicans’ time and taxpayers’ money.

  23. Simeon 23

    If National was in Government and they were passing legislation to sell of all state assets, what do you think Labour would be doing?

  24. James Kearney 24

    Selling state assets doesn’t require legislation. But thanks for reminding us all of National’s most unpopular policy. I encourage you to do it more as the election nears.

  25. Graeme Edgeler 25

    gosh Graeme, perhaps Labour just didn’t really trust National on Tuesday to do anything other than showboat

    And they’d probably have been right not to. So as soon as National started time-wasting, or raising irrelevancies, etc. they could have used their majority in the House to close debate. They didn’t need to trust National while National were being constructive, because as soon as any trust was broken, that would have been it for National, and they’d have had nothing to complain about.

    Sam – that’s only the US Senate (or the House before 1842), and because of the process involved in amending the US Constitution, I’m not sure your example can be correct. A filibuster of the type where someone takes the floor and holds it can’t stop something being passed (rather, it can only delay it as long as the person is speaking – the record is just over 24 hours straight). Filibusters under Senate Rule 22 only last until cloture (closure in NZ) is successfully invoked with a three-fifths majority. Given that constitutional amendments require a higher two-thirds majority, the suggestion that a filibuster stopped direct election seems unlikely. But I’d certainly be interested in any evidence you have to the contrary (if it was many years ago under some different rules I suppose it may have been possible).

  26. Graeme Edgeler 26

    the filibuster cannot stop the Bill and will not add anything constructive to the Bill, all Naitonal is doing is wasting poltiicans’ time and taxpayers’ money.

    One thing a filibuster might do is delay a vote on a particular amendment – for example Chris Finlayson’s proposal to allow political parties – rather than just party secretaries and financial agents – to be charged with electoral law breaches.

    Such an amendment would not pass today, but if the vote was delayed until Tuesday, maybe there’d be time for you, and me and other people to try to influence the Greens to support it. That amendment is something I think most people would agree with, and it could be useful in situations similar to National’s GST breach at the last election – charge the National party, even though the police couldn’t work out exactly which individual’s fault it all was.

  27. insider 27


    speaking is not the only tool. National latched onto the use of points of order to filibuster, which drove Cullen to pull a bill (can’t remember what it was). There they kept using PoO to table endless reports and pieces of legislation. You can;t close off PoO like you can debates.

    PS Parliament’s session is being extended a week

    captcha – house handbook (spooky)

  28. Graeme Edgeler 28

    Insider – I remember that. Normally that would be be way out of line doing that with Points of Order, but in the very particular circumstance it was justified.

    Dean Knight carries the Hansard here:

    Basically, Labour, so that all their members could attend a state dinner, refused to have a minister in the chamber for part of a Members’ day. The Standing Orders require that a minister be present at all times or the House is inquorate, and can’t do anything. By withdrawing all the ministers from the House, Parliament couldn’t continue to debate the Greens’ Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill, and several hours of members time was lost.

    The following day, National objected strongly (supported by the Greens) – they couldn’t object strongly at the time because Parliament was inquorate – raising all those points of order seeking to table standing orders and Hansard pre-prints. Ultimately, the Government relented and allowed the debate on the Flexible Working Hours bill to be completed.

  29. insider 29

    Those evil nats and their filibuster. They have wasted 12 precious minutes

    Does their evil know no bounds?

  30. MikeE 30

    Interestingly enough the conseqeunece of this is that BZP will not be banned in 2007, and it won’t be voted on untill Feb 2008 🙂

  31. Tane 31

    Obviously they’re not very good at it. Who’d have thought the Nats were incompetent?

  32. insider 32

    Or maybe you saw a conspiracy where there wasn’t one….

  33. James Kearney 33

    So you’re saying Insolent Prick, Graeme Edgeler, Bill English and others were engaging in conspiracy? Nice one mate.

  34. the sprout 34

    “as soon as National started time-wasting, or raising irrelevancies, etc. they could have used their majority in the House to close debate”

    oh yes, and i wonder what National would have done then – retired gracefully or started turbo-showboating in the media?

  35. the sprout 36

    guess it isn’t the beltway he’s inside?

  36. Robinsod 37

    Interestingly enough the conseqeunece of this is that BZP will not be banned in 2007, and it won’t be voted on untill Feb 2008

    Does that mean the Nat’s have fought for our right to party? (hmmm, now I’m thinking there might be a different song for them to slap on that DVD!)

  37. Draco TB 38

    Camryn said:
    “and without bipartisan agreement”

    The bill has at least three parties supporting it so a call for bipartisan agreement is disingenuous as it seems to indicate that there’s only two parties in government that actually count. It does seem to have bipartisan condemnation though. All that’s required to get the bill passed is a simple majority in parliament and the bill has that.

  38. the sprout 39

    “three parties supporting it”

    hmm, that would make it tri-partisan support for the EFB then.
    unless of course you’re National who obviously is yet to cotton on to there being more than two parties.

  39. Nick C 40

    Wow, National took up about 10 minutes of time in the house with questions to select commitee chairs! Oh the horror.

  40. Nick C 41

    Oh and BTW with the Bi-partisan thing. Would you guys be happy for National and Act to completely alter the system if they win a majority the next election to blatantly favour them?

  41. James Kearney 42

    But their motive was clear. That just means they’re crap at filibustering.

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