State funding

One of the big issues of electoral law, which was ignored by the Electoral Finance Act, as Labour had it in the “too hard basket” politically, is the issue of state funding of political parties. One of the realities, is that we have de-facto, if not de-jure state funding of political parties, as shown by taxpayer funding of a NZ First election advertisement recently.

I have posted my thoughts on Electoral Finance laws here, but in that post did not disscuss the issue of state-funding.

Under current law, there are two types of state funding for political parties:

1) The broadcasting allocation. This is money that political parties recieve from the taxpayer, to pay for TV and radio broadcasting promoting their party. The money is allocated by the Electoral Commission. Last elections allocations can be seen here. Parties are not allowed to spend money, other than that allocated on broadcasting. There was considerable controversy (largely overshadowed by the pledge card) when it was discovered after the last election, that National had spent more than it was allocated, as it (claimed to) not realise that the allocation was GST inclusive, and couldn’t pay the GST as it would involve overspending.

2) “Parliamentary communications” which involve telling people to vote for you. This was done illegally by Labour last election (the pledge card being the prime example), and all other parties, except the Progressives to some extent. Now, it is perfectly legal. A little known fact, is that at the same time Labour passed the Electoral Finance Bill, Labour passed another insidious piece of legislation, the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill, which legalised the spending of parties (total $14.6 million) parliamentary budget on anything that does not explitly ask people to vote for that party legally, thus legalising the pledge card and NZ First’s recent election advertisement. This, combined with the EFA, is an astonishing gerrymander of our electoral laws, which allows the incumbents (i.e. Labour) to use huge amounts of de-facto state funding to protect themselves, while tight spending limits apply to their opponents. A good example is how under this law, and the Electoral Finance Act, an incumbent MP can use $60 000 of taxpayers money, telling their constituents what a good job they are doing for that electorate (as well as $20 000 of their own money), while his opponent can only spend $20 000. Talk about an unfair election. More information on this legislation can be found here.

For those interested in a basic sumary of this legislation, under the Bill, temporary definitions of what can be spent by parliamentary service (which are anything which does not explicitly solicit votes, ask for money or membership of a party, is legal, so the pledge card, because it did not say “vote Labour” on it, is legal) are extended until June 2009 (after the election), enabling Labour to legally steal $5.4 million of taxpayers money for its 2008 election campaign. You can see here the amounts of money parties can legally steal from the taxpayer for their election campaigns. Although all political parties can legally steal this money, the parties which won the most votes last election get the most free money (which protects the incumbents, and disadvantages those parties not in office). While National gets a slightly bigger parliamentary services budget to steal from than Labour, this is because it has to fund press secretaries e.t.c out of its parliamentary services budget, while Labour cabinet ministers don’t, so Labour probably has more money left over. Further, the legislation helps Labours partisan political advantage more, because it had to pay back (thanks to public pressure) $800 000 it stole previously from the taxpayer for its 2005 election campaign, leaving it short of money and in desperate need of free money to fund its 2008 campaign.

But this is not all. Worse, Labour inserted a clause into the Electoral Finance Act (clause 81(2)(g), saying that election advertising “does not include anything done in relation to a member of Parliament in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament”, which means that anything paid for by Parliamentary service, including advertising like the pledge card, is exempt from the spending cap. So Labour can legally steal $5.4 million of taxpayers money this election, and not have it count as part of their election campaign expenses (and thus be exempt from the spending cap). So Labour can this election, spend $2.4 million of their own money, and another $5.4 million of taxpayers money on their election campiagn, while their opponents (outside Parliament) are only allowed $2.4 million, with not one cent from the taxpayer. Talk about unfair.

It is facts like these that really make me wonder if there is any limit to the corruption in the Labour Party.

3) Sadly, this is not the end of taxpayer funding of the Labour Party election campaigns. There is a third type of state funding: Government advertising. This is mostly innocent things, like anti-drink driving and speeding campaigns, defence force recruitment and so forth, when the Government provides information to its citizens. However, they can be used for partisan political purposes. For instance, last election, large amounts of money was spent to infrom people of working for families (WFF). This policy was closely associated with Labour, which had made extending WFF a key election bribe. Last Australian election, the coalition used millions of taxpayers money to promote Workchoices, and improve its image, no doubt for partisan political purposes. Although the money can not be used for direct political advertising, and thus can’t fund anything like the pledge card, it can still be used for partisan purposes. The intention of Labour to do so was made clear last year, with the sacking of Ms Setchell from the Enviroment Ministry. Watch out for Government advertising on Kiwisaver and carbon neutrality this year.


Explore posts in the same categories: Anti-Free Speech Bill, attack on Democracy, Electoral Law

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