Archive for the ‘attack on Democracy’ category

State funding

April 11, 2008

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.

 

Irony

October 16, 2007

One of the very few good things Labour is doing at the moment is helping repeal archaic sedition laws, which have began their second reading at Parliament. Sadly, Labour’s positive contribution towards free speech is undone by its Electoral Finance  Anti-Free Speech Bill, which seeks to crinimalise free speech without registration, and all free speech involving spending more than $60 000 in an election year. Rodney Hide gave a good speech on this irony. Also interesting is which Bill passes first? The sedition Bill or Electoral Finance Anti-Free Speech Bill. I suspect the Anti-Free Speech Bill will pass first, because of Labour’s desire to silence its critics as fast as possible, and thus will be desperate to have the new law on its books before the christmass break (so it can take effect 1 January), despite Sedition being introduced in June. Labour has even gone to have the committee meet outside normal hours to speed it up. Fortunately for free speech I hope the christmass deadline will beat the Anti-Free Speech Bill, so we can enjoy another two or three months of free speech. Sadly, Labour can rush the bill through under urgency, and I’t won’t surprise me if this happens at the end of the year.

Hooray

August 23, 2007

That was my reaction to seeing the Dominion Post article heading “Nats vow to ditch law on poll spending”. The first sentence of the article by Tracy Watkins on B2 said it all. “National says it will chuck out electoral law changes clamping down on third parties if it ever comes into power”. Remember that with this Bill, National can rush through unpopular policies like bulk funding for schools, setting up a 90 day probationary period for new employees e.t.c in February of election year, and the unions will be banned from spending more than $60 000 saying anything against it. Even better, the limit would be only $5 000 if the union had one person who wasn’t enrolled to vote, under 18 or lived overseas. The 1981 Springbook tour took place during an election year. Just imagine what Muldoon could do to the anti-tour protests if the Election Finance Bill was in place then. At least there is one party in parliament that is willing to put the public intrest ahead of self intrest, and that party is not Labour.

A YouTube vieo to watch

August 17, 2007

A great parody of the famous “dancing cossacks” add of the 1975 election. this time the danger is more real with labour’s attack on free speech. Watch it here.

Democracy under threat

August 16, 2007

Not in New Zealand, but Venuzuela. It’s near dictator, Hugo Chavez, has anounced changes to the country’s constitution to give more power to himself and allow him to run for a third term.

 Update (August 17): The Economist has details of the proposed constitutional changes. My worst fears are confirmed. They include allowing the Government to arbitrarilly confiscate private property by decree (this could be a useful weapon against political opponents), removing the independence of the Central Bank (which will give Chavez the ability to spend all the country’s foreign currency reserves),  and creating new “communal councils” (dependent on Chavez) to reduce the power of provincial governors. In the hypocrisy Helen Clark will be proud of, term limits will remain on Governors and Mayors (possibly so popular opposition ones can be replaced by ones he likes when their terms expire). The Economist rightly says the constitutional amendments will “remove the last checks and balances to presidential power in Venezuela”. If any more proof was needed to show that Chavez is trying to turn Venezuela into a Cuban-style communist dictatorship thisis it.

Original: I’m not normally in favour of term limits, but when someone tries to remove term limits for themselves, it looks suspicious. Given Chavez’s record, It should be of little suprise that I suspect him of trying to establish a Cuban-style communist dictatorship. lets look at what he has already done.

His lack of repsect for democracy shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the fact he tried to otherthrow a democratically elected government in a military coup in 1992. Another indication of his lack of respect for democracy is his labbeling of Robert Mugabe a “warrior for freedom”.

In more recent years he has been “systematically hacking away at the institutional checks” on his authority, including stacking the courts with supporters. According to Amnesty International, human rights abuses in Venuzuela include frequent Police brutality, including several murders, against political opponents. Rarely do the perpetrators of this abuse get punished, as there is no independence of the Judiciary or Police. The CSIS states that his regime has been “selectively arresting opposition leaders, torturing some members of the opposition (according to human rights organizations) and encouraging, if not directing, its squads of Bolivarian Circles to beat up members of congress and intimidate voters- all with impunity. he recently got on the news for trying to shut down a TV and radio station opposing him.

Fortunately he hasn’t quite turned Venuzeala into a one party state yet. But he is heading in that dirrection.

Election auction

August 14, 2007

As a protest against the Government plan to continue to allow anonymous donations above $10 000 legal, the Coaltion for Open Government ahve put up an auction on trade me for the 2008 election. It has since been puled down, but is a great protest. The failure to ban anonymous donations in the Anti-Free Speech Bill should be highlighted as showing the complete utter abscence of principle in Labour (other than staying in power). They spent months attacking National as corrupt for allowing money to be poured into it from secret trusts, and then decided to keep the practice legal, because it would hurt their own fundraising. The hypocrisy of labour matches their willingness to stay in power but whatever means nessescary.

To be fair, I think the “buy an election” thing is taking it a bit too far. The reality is that money alone doesn’t decide elections. Yes, it can be a big help, but the media, a good campaign e.t.c. are probably more important. As for the idea of policies being being Bought, there is no doubt some truth in this, politicians are politicians after all, but I doubt money is the most important factor in devising policy. Electoral gain (i.e. votes) probably is.

Incinerate the Electoral Finance Bill

August 10, 2007

Thats not just my opinion ,but the opinion of Steven Price, the lawyer of Nicky Hager, a person who I probably disagree with on a lot of issues, and some-one who thought he would be a strong supporter of the bill. Why should we incinerate it?

 Because it will “shut down an awful lot of political speech, almost everybody’s political speech” (quote from Price). The groups that will sufer from this attack on free speech and democracy include not only the Exclusive Brethren (although they should have the same right to free speech that everyone else does), but also even the Littles Lobby, a child welfare group. And if they have one member whose not enrolled to vote, or under 18, they will be banned from spending more than $5 000 in an electtion year promoting childrens welfare.

David Farrar says (rightly) “If there ever was a bill you should do a submission on it is this. It will affect the rights of all NZers to have their say on political issues. Do not asume the MPs will magically fix it.” Personally, I doubt that Labour will change the Bill, no matter how many submissions they recive, but its a good protest and a way to slow the bill down. This Bill is the most important political issue to face New Zealand for many years, as it will end democracy in New Zealand as we know it. It must be incinerated. If passed, we will not be allowed even to set up a internet petition and promote it during an election year, without registering or signing a statutory declaration.

 Details on how to make a submission are here