For those who haven’t seen it yet, Chris Trotter had a great piece in yesterday’s Dom Post about the Electoral Finance Bill.
In it, he takes issue with the narrow legal definition of freedom of expression taken up by the Human Rights commission in its submission on the bill, and in doing so reveals the dishonesty behind the right’s claims that the bill’s spending caps are somehow an attack on our democracy.
Exactly how many superannuitants, solo mums and part-time workers does the Human Rights Commission anticipate will be scrimping and saving to spend $5000 on political activity in 2008?
It’s not the rights of the poorest New Zealanders that will be curtailed by imposing a $5000 cap on individual political advocacy (or a $60,000 cap on third-party spending); it’s the rights of New Zealand’s richest citizens.
It is their ability to take out $8000 full-page advertisements in daily newspapers; their ability to organise pamphlet drops of thousands into the letterboxes of targeted voters; their ability to organise a massive billboard campaign across the country that the Human Rights Commission has stepped forward so bravely to defend.
By setting caps on individual and third-party spending at levels that ensure those with the resources to buy a state-of-the-art sound system are not allowed to drown out the unamplified voices of their fellow citizens, the bill seeks to ensure public participation in parliamentary democracy remains practical and meaningful.
The alternative, as Trotter points out, is plutocracy, which might go some way to explain why National and its allies are so determined to put a stop to anything that threatens to end their electoral rorts and put some power back into the hands of ordinary people.