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Nats’ attack on union hits High Court

Written By: - Date published: 9:46 am, May 14th, 2008 - 47 comments
Categories: election funding, national, workers' rights - Tags: ,

Today National will be explaining to the High Court why it wants the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s 50,000 members to be denied the chance to campaign for their work rights this election. I’m expecting that they will continue to claim they are only “testing the law” but given the EPMU’s record of showing National up for its attacks on Kiwi workers I doubt many will buy that excuse.

I would imagine that there will be a reserved decision on the case but I suspect that part of National’s plan is to inoculate the union movement’s campaigns by trying to imply they are sockpuppets for Labour.

Interestingly National’s sockpuppets, including the Sensible Sentencing Trust, will be taking their case against the EFA tomorrow. The Trust is not registered as a third party of course so this action is obviously not politically motivated.

I predicted at the start of this year that the right would try to get around the EFA and spend its vast campaign war-chest through a PR campaign of politically motivated legal actions. I guess I was right.

As an aside it should be noted that Bill English is doing the legwork on this. They obviously don’t want “Clean John” getting his brand dirty.

47 comments on “Nats’ attack on union hits High Court”

  1. Surely if Labour & its partners hadn’t created the EFA then National wouldn’t now be using it ?

  2. IrishBill 2

    In my opinion the Nats are misusing it. National is welcome to spend its campaign surplus on vexatious legal PR games if they want. Personally I think it will be counterproductive and I think the media will be very cynical about National’s motives.

  3. higherstandard 3

    IB

    Come off it – all and sundry slated this as unworkable poor legislation prior to it being passed in the house, to now attack National, who voted against it, as using it to their advantage is pathetic.

  4. higherstandard 4

    And on another point clearly the Unions are sock puppets of Labour and will generally support Labour policies in any communication they make prior to the election just as the Business Roundtable and such like will do for the policies of National – surely the public are not so thick as to believe that these groups aren’t supportive of one or other of the political parties.

  5. insider 5

    I dunno, when you have Mallard’s van declared an ad, when you have Mike Williams touting Andrew Little as a future president of Labour and that is as much to do with what he is as well as who he is, there is a lot of murkiness in the law and the relationships between parties.

    It would not be the first time Crown Law opinions have been wrong when tested. We have courts to arbitrate on the law, we don’t rely solely on the views of advocates. Crown Law is an advocate for its client, the Govt, so to treat their opinion as gospel is like believing the person in the dock is a ‘good boy and bit of a wag’ because defence counsel said so.

  6. IrishBill 6

    The electoral act of ’93 had as many gray areas as the EFA. The only reason this law is considered unworkable compared to the ’93 act is that vested interests including National are doing their damnedest to work against it.

  7. higherstandard 7

    Poppycock

  8. insider 8

    A couple of other things:

    The only thing that will deny the EPMU a voice is the law. Blame the people who passed the law if you have a problem with the outcome. To blame National for asking that the law be enforced is like blaming me for starving your children by going to the courts to enforce a contract you had reneged on.

    Bill English has fronted this campaign from the start; why would John Key suddenly step in? If Helen Clark stepped in in similar circumstances, it would usually be a signal that things were going seriously wrong, eg climate change policy this week.

  9. IrishBill 9

    I’m sorry HS, but was that a rebuttal?

  10. higherstandard 10

    IB

    Yes.

    For a fullrebuttal I suggest you refer to Hansard wherein politicians from all sides seem to have no idea what’s going on.

    eg Ms King

    ‘I think the best thing to do, for every member, whether a Minister or a member of Parliament, is go to where he or she can get proper advice, and it is certainly not from me.’

  11. Felix 11

    Bill English has fronted this campaign from the start precisely because they knew (intended) it would get dirty.

  12. IrishBill 12

    Insider, of course Bill has fronted it from the start, this was always going to be dirty work. As for your claim that the law will stop the unions from registering I beg to differ. The Electoral Commission made a decision the EPMU could register and National chose to challenge that. I doubt very much whether the court will cut across the EC’s decision but if it does it will only be because National has spent serious money in its legal campaign to achieve that outcome.

    I suspect that if the campaign period was shortened to the three months National wanted it to be they would be spending that money on “non-election” advertising and wouldn’t give a damn about the EPMU’s third-party status.

  13. george 13

    It seems strange to me that a party that is against the EFA because it claims that it silences people are now trying to use it to silence people.Don’t you find that a little bit hypocritical ?
    If national are proved wrong (that the act in fact does not silence people but only makes it clear who is saying what and who funds them) will they acknowledge that fact?
    I some how doubt it.

  14. Felix 14

    hs
    That was a very strange comment from Ms King yesterday but the context makes it a little clearer, it was about directing legal questions to the EC as the proper authority and not to Ministers who could only give a legal opinion. It was in an answer to pretty much the same question Mr English has asked her every sitting day this year so it’s hardly surprising that her responses are getting a little weird.

    Still, she really could have phrased it a little better, I laughed out loud when I heard it.

  15. higherstandard 15

    Felix what is clear from the idiocy of what is an isn’t advertsing and MPs being pinged for balloons, cars emails etc is that this is a very poorly put together piece of vexatious legislation and to point the finger at National is absurd

  16. insider 16

    Bill

    without knowing the detail I suspect it is a bit more than that. I wonder if there was a general ‘understanding’ of the old act’s grey areas and so they were not contentious, however Labour escalated the political rhetoric around the reasons for the EFA and downplayed its contradictions and impacts, while the Nats have emphasised them. It’s fair enough for you to argue also that the NAts broke any understandings and pushed the boundaries of the grey areas.

    The result it is a highly political law and grey areas cannot be left unchallenged in that environment. Labour have very badly managed the politics around this from the start and so only have themselves to blame if they and their supporters are now wearing the embarrassment of its many flaws.

  17. insider 17

    “I doubt very much whether the court will cut across the EC’s decision but if it does it will only be because National has spent serious money in its legal campaign to achieve that outcome.”

    Never considered the prospect that the court might say the law is clear and that Crown Law got their advice wrong, or that it is unclear but the intent of lawmakers was otherwise?

    IrishBill says: yes, of course it’s a possibility but I’m making a prediction that it won’t happen like that. You never know, I might be proved wrong.

  18. Tane 18

    Insider, I’m noticing among the political right and some of the more partisan journalists (particularly in the Herald) a sense that National can do no wrong on the EFA. Labour lost the PR war on this one and it’s almost as if the media has given National a free pass – do whatever you like, no matter how petty or hypocritical, and we’ll let you off cos it’s all Labour’s fault anyway. Of course, that’s just my perception. Would you agree that this is the case?

  19. IrishBill 19

    HS, it’s interesting you use election advertising as an example. Under the old law the balloons could have been challenged as election advertising as could the car but nobody was silly enough to concern themselves with such trivial things. That they are now indicated the political motivation of those engaged in such silliness.

    Insider, I think the law was needed because I don’t like the idea of elections campaigns turning into competitions over who can spend the most. If National had got their way over the campaign period they would be spending huge money right now based on the premise we are not in a campaign period. Tell me, do you think parties are not currently campaigning?

  20. mike 20

    National are rubbing Labours nose in their stupid law, its as simple as that.
    I can’t see what the left have to cry about

  21. Get back to work Mike, you’re embarrassing yourself and stealing from your boss.

  22. Oh and it’s “Labour’s” not “Labours” – the apostrophe signals possession as in “belonging to Labour”. Moron.

  23. insider 23

    Tane

    National didn;t support the bill or write it so I;m unsure what responsibility they bear for its outcomes that they can be given a free pass on. They have been proven right on a number of issues regarding the drafting of the bill and its unintended consequences.

    I think everyone including the parties will tire of the petty stuff over cars and newsletters and it will stop or be clarified in an amendment to the act. It didn’t stop Annette King waving a two year old policy document around and claiming it was a breach.

  24. mike 24

    I am the boss, Sod off off Robin before you get your wings clipped again.

  25. No you’re not mike. You’ve previously alluded to the fact that you are middle management and that makes you a house-boy. Nice to see you identifying with the boss-class however. Now if you could just stop stealing from them they might give you and even bigger pat on the head…

  26. dave 26

    If you want to write a good blog post on the EFA, you could always write about Trevor Mallards car….. At least Natianal isnt breaking the law as rgularly as Labour does. Liarbour hypocrites. No respect for the law at all

  27. James Kearney 27

    The same article in today’s paper points out National has broken the EFA with one of its cars but no one in Labour was petty enough to take an EFA complaint.

  28. Lew 28

    I think both sides should be welcoming this opportunity to put the EFA to the test. Ultimately when you write law, you write it for the courts to interpret, and the one thing both sides can agree about with regard to the EFA is that it’s complex.

    The judiciary is the properly constituted arbiter in this case, and I say, let them have at it. Both groups are fairly well-resourced, this is the first major case of its kind on an issue of enormous significance for the country, and judicial reviews tend to be conservative (that is, they tend to side with the status quo absent compelling errors of fact, process or law). If the EFA has been properly drafted, the government and the EPMU have nothing to fear but its proper implementation, which is ostensibly what they wanted in the first place.

    Bring it on.

    L

  29. r0b 29

    National are rubbing Labours nose in their stupid law, its as simple as that. I can’t see what the left have to cry about

    The law isn’t stupid, the National Party is stupid for trying to twist the law to it’s own purposes – silencing free speech.

    The law allows the EPMU to speak (as of course it should). When National tried on a perverse reading of the law in an attempt to silence the EPMU the courts told them they were wrong, the EPMU is free to speak. But National are still trying to establish a perverse interpretation with their high court appeal.

    At the same time National followed a second legal route (an injunction) to also silence the EPMU. The injunction has nothing to do with “testing the EFA” – it’s only purpose is to prevent the EPMU from speaking out. This is unbelievably hypocritical behaviour from a party that just last year pretended to champion “free speech”.

  30. insider 30

    r0b

    No court has ruled on this issue only the Electoral Office. Their rulings are subject to court endorsement if requested. The injunction is standard as if it took 3 months to get to court, without it the EPMU could steam ahead and defeat the purpose of the court action.

  31. r0b 31

    No court has ruled on this issue only the Electoral Office.

    Begging your pardon for my sloppy language.

    The injunction is standard as if it took 3 months to get to court, without it the EPMU could steam ahead and defeat the purpose of the court action.

    True, if and only if the intention of the court action is to silence free speech. Shame!

  32. AncientGeek 32

    insider: 3 months? What planet are you living on. It took 3 months to get to what is effectively a status hearing. Ie to find out if there is a sufficient legal argument to let it go through to a full hearing, or to kick back to the EC, or to throw it out.

    What is the current delay for full hearings in the high court at present? 9 months? In that worst case, presumably the nats will attempt to maintain the injunction for that whole period.

    So if the EPMU are silenced for the election campaign, and subsequently the EC’s decision is validated (as I’d expect). Then what sort of penalty will the nats or Farrar get? Now I’d go for a prison term for wasting everyones time, but I suspect it will just be their legal costs.

    Sure the law has to be tested in the courts, but the injunction is ridiculous. Hopefully it will get lifted today.

  33. Dave 33

    And its not just Trevor Mallards car that is contravening the EFA – you`ll find that there will be pictures of other labour vehicles posted in newspapers and on websites. What a stupid law this is. Admit it, rather than defending it. It is not National that is stopping the EPMU from campaigning, it is Labour for passing this law.

  34. Dave it’s “Trevor Mallard’s” not “Mallards”. You’ve missed the possessive apostrophe. You’ve also missed the contractive apostrophe in “it’s”. Other than that you’ve not done too badly this time except for a general lack of argument, fact or sense.

    Grade: C- Dave has potential as a writer but is let down by his inability to grasp the fundamentals.

  35. Lew 35

    AncientGeek: I think we can rely on the courts not to prejudice the election so significantly.

    Dave: Actually, it’s not just Labour’s vehicles. And the thing `stopping the EPMU from campaigning’ (it’s not, really, it just changes things somewhat) is a court injunction, not either party. It’s anyone’s right to object to anything via legal action, and frivolous, baseless or unfounded legal action can be and is punished.

    IANAL, but my instinct is that the EPMU and the Labour party are plainly separate and the court will strike this down without a second thought. There’ll be wailing and gnashing of teeth and it’ll probably be spun as labour-is-corrupt-look-they-control-the-courts-too v see-national-just-have-sour-grapes-they-hate-democracy. I suspect National has more to lose than Labour on this one, and I await the PR battle with interest.

    L

  36. insider 36

    r0b

    I assume the purpose of the action is to clarify the law and the EPMU’s status under the Act. According to Labour and the Standard, the law doesn’t stifle free speech just prevents the influence of money on the election.

    Ancient

    Nats announced their appeal on April 11. The courts can bump important issues up the order I thought. I would have thought this is one that required urgency for all parties, so the law is clear and that EPMU can get on with doing whatever they want without looking over their shoulders.

    As far as I;m aware no election has been called so EPMU are not being unduly constrained; at least not unless they were wanting to coordinate their spending and actions with some other organisations.

  37. r0b 37

    It is not National that is stopping the EPMU from campaigning

    Ahh yes Dave, yes it is.

    it is Labour for passing this law.

    The law does not inhibit free speech, National is trying to twist it so that it does, shame on National.

  38. r0b 38

    insider: I assume the purpose of the action is to clarify the law and the EPMU’s status under the Act.

    Which is a barely plausible cover story except that (1) the Electoral Commission has already clarified the law, and (2) you don’t need an injunction to do that. Injunctions have only one purpose, to shut people up.

  39. AncientGeek 39

    insider: “Nats announced their appeal on April 11.”

    You’re quite correct. I was thinking of the time period since it went to the electoral commission.

    I certainly hope that the high court does either determine this one quickly, or at least removes the injunction. The courts will take their own time over any action. That is as it should be, but it does cause some time issues when you’re looking at a likely election in october or november – ie 5 to 6 months away.

    I wonder how many vexatious cases the nats and their supporters will bring forward. Personally I think they will look more and more like dickheads.

  40. insider 40

    r0b

    THe EC is a govt agency, it is not an independent entity like the courts. If you think it should be the final authority on the law, imagine the consequences if we had another mary Anne Thompson at its head….

    Interesting you are concerned about people having their voice shut down. Did you notice the EPMU seeking to deny not just 60,000 union members but everyone in NZ the right to make a complaint to the Commission. The Double Standard hoist on its own petard again.

  41. insider. The EPMU’s lawyer is just making a series of legal arguments around the challenge against the EPMU’s 60,000 members have their voice heard.

    The law may not allow for challenges to an application to be a third party, and it is perfectly valid to raise that as an argument, along with all the other arguments he will be making.

  42. Sally K 42

    I read the EPMU’s submission, insider, and it seems to me that the point the union was making was that the EC overreached its mandate by conducting an inquiry into the complaints about third party status and that that role should be in the hands of the courts which are, as you say, an independent entity.

    What’s ironic is National arguing in court yesterday that the EFA does not breach the bill of rights while its proxies are claiming the exact opposite in court today.

  43. insider 43

    Sally

    You’ve missed the bigger irony – for months the Standard has been arguing that it is a democratic outrage that this has even gone to court, and now you are saying the EPMU itself thinks the courts are the only one who can rule on this issue. This gets more hilarious by the minute.

  44. Sally K 44

    There certainly is an element of irony in that but it is a somewhat less cynical one that the irony I pointed out. It’s a little off topic I know, but why do you call yourself insider?

  45. insider 45

    Well you know lawyers Sally, black will be white unless your honour finds ‘x’ in which case white will obviously be white and could never have been anything else…

    Why? For no sinister reason. It’s the same one I;ve used for many years in many fora. Why do you call yourself Sally K? :-p

  46. Sally K 46

    I’m not sure, I think it’s got something to do with my mum and dad 🙂

  47. insider 47

    that’s right blame the parents. Where’s your sense of personal responsibility? Bleeding socialists!!

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