Richard Long sticks the knife in and twists

Bill tops a disastrous year – Opinion: views on the news on Stuff.co.nz

So good here it is in its entirety.
[quote]It seems somehow fitting that Labour will today climax a disastrous political year by forcing through the reviled Electoral Finance Bill, introducing electioneering hurdles for Opposition parties and pressure groups, but freeing up endless taxpayer money for promoting the Government’s good deeds.

Without a doubt public concern and parliamentary debate over the bill ? described by former Labour leader Mike Moore at the weekend as a fatally flawed sledge-hammer to smash a few nutters ? has had a major influence on the electorate.

That was reflected in the weekend television opinion polls: TV One’s putting National almost 19 points ahead of Labour and TV3’s showing a 15-point gap.

Both elevated National leader John Key to the status of preferred prime minister, ahead of Helen Clark.

National’s private polling is understood to reflect a similar seismic shift.

None of this is surprising considering the Government’s constant nanny state “we know best” approach and general ministerial clumsiness.

What is surprising is that Labour, with its own state-of-the- art polling system, did not pull the plug on the Electoral Finance Bill before it was too late.

Pure political obstinacy?

Partly. Miss Clark and deputy Michael Cullen have placed their credibility on the line and have not been willing to admit failure, though they did back down eventually on the $800,000 of illegal election spending in the last election after arguing for weeks that they were in the right and the auditor-general and other authorities had got it wrong.

But this time the equation is mightily complicated by Labour’s unholy alliance with the Greens, NZ First and UnitedFuture.

Labour and the Greens, for example, would have been happy to plump for a bill which introduced official state funding ? rather than the de facto variety which they adopted last time and which got them into trouble.

But NZ First leader Winston Peters, who usually has a pretty good ear for the electorate, was not going to have a bar of official state funding as he detected that would bring an almighty backlash.

Accordingly we ended up with the camel that will be shoved through the eye of the parliamentary needle today, the humps being made much worse by Labour’s need to pacify the Greens after Mr Peters’ rejection of state funding.

Just what the self-styled Mr Sensible, Peter Dunne, is doing supporting this nonsense is a mystery as it can’t be much of a vote-winner in Wellington’s most well-heeled electorate.

And while Mr Peters made the right political call in rejecting state funding, he made a major miscalculation last week in sending the reimbursement cheque for NZ First’s misspending last election to Starship hospital rather than returning the money to the public purse.

That move was condemned as a cheap political stunt and the cheque was rejected by Starship. But this exercise simply focused attention, once again, on the way public funds had been misappropriated by Government parties in the last election.

That in turn magnified the criticisms of the poorly drafted Electoral Finance Bill, being forced through without the consensus that is supposed to accompany electoral changes.

Talkback land was fuming with callers seeing the message in the straightforward terms that some politicians seem unable to grasp. With the Peters precedent, it was suggested, all taxpayers should be able to direct their payments to charities of choice rather than Inland Revenue.

Apart from the third party collapse, another aspect of the polling which is worrying for Labour is that Wellington is starting to turn against the Government.

That is staggering because Wellington is traditionally a Labour town. The Government’s vast expansion of the bureaucracy has helped cement this loyalty amid fears that an incoming National government will apply cuts.

One of the big poll influencers here, it is thought, was State Service Minister Trevor Mallard’s attack on the public servant who blew the whistle on the Beehive’s desire to influence departmental staff appointments in a bid to control the propaganda flow.

Whacking another politician is one thing. Attacking the credibility and professionalism of a whistle-blowing public servant is quite another and leaves the target practically unemployable in Wellington.

Mr Mallard’s warning shots may silence further public servant outspokenness in election year ? which may have been his ultimate intention ? but in the process he has turned many Wellington voters against the Government.[/quote]

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