Mike Moore on where Labour has lost it

Mike Moore: Repeal electoral act … that’s progress – 31 Jan 2008 – Politics: New Zealand Political News, Analysis and Comment – NZ Herald

Mike Moore gives us a brief history of the Labour movement and in the process highlights just where they have gone off the rails. Unusually for him it isn’t just a collection of waffle and sound bites.

  • There were many Australian-born ministers in the first NZ Labour Cabinet – dissenters, trade unionists, who were hounded out of Australia.
  • Christianity played a huge role in the beliefs of early Labour, we owed more to Methodism than to Marx. Branches of my union, the Printers Union, were called ‘chapels’
  • Our first Labour Prime Minister, Savage, was a strong Catholic; Nash, a lay preacher; Nordmeyer a Presbyterian Minister; Kirk a young Salvation Army member; and Lange, initially a devout Methodist. Labour’s relationship with the Ratana Church was the key to holding power in Maoridom for generations.
  • Paddy Webb, later a minister, was stripped of his parliamentary seat and lost his civil rights for 10 years because of his opposition to conscription during World War I.
  • Tim Armstrong, Bob Semple and Peter Fraser were jailed for seditious behaviour. Walter Nash was fined for importing seditious material. That’s two future Labour Prime Ministers with criminal convictions.
  • One current minister was ejected physically from the parliamentary gallery for protesting against the extension of the powers of the Security Intelligence Service.

[quote]This short history of democratic Labour and dissent is to remind people of Labour’s traditions. Why and how we stand on the shoulders of others in our historic commitment to human rights; freedom at home and abroad.

Early Labour took unpopular, minority stands, attacking the Government of the day for their imperialist slaughter of Samoans in an early independence uprising. These are the historic planks that made our platform.

Why then the problem now with Christians? Is it because we don’t approve of their brand of Christianity?

Why then this historic blunder of the Electoral Finance Act, which contradicts this fine tradition?

Why the silence of the lambs in the civil rights movement who so publicly condemned me when I suggested we should merge tax and social benefit numbers to prevent fraud?

Geoffrey Palmer was at his thundering best when he attacked Muldoon for his retrospective and fast-track legislation, and for using SIS files on opponents.

There’s a cost to disagreeing, as I found when I published an article comparing all this to Muldoonism. The response was furious and focused. Civil Rights groups have been eerily silent. The Human Rights Commissioner, bravely and almost alone, has spoken out.

Is it all a cock-up or a conspiracy that we have enacted such a repressive, unworkable, flawed law to cover election year activists?

Bit of both. Traumatised by the Brethren, who the Government believed were prepared to use private detectives to check out family members and spend millions, the Government has used the hammer of the state to smash a few nutters.

We are all affected by the heavy-handed response. The consequence has been legislation that will be tested in court and be found to be unworkable. Good.

Why should you have to register with the state if you want to oppose or support a political party, or promote public policy? Lawyers have suggested that cartoonists who seek to persuade readers could be covered, even theatre.

You may have to ask permission of a candidate to email or write a letter in their support, but not if you rubbish them. A private poster on your own wall is covered – is graffiti?

Someone could set up a free giveaway paper, lose a million dollars, go broke, and that’s not covered. Even MPs who voted for the legislation can’t work out how to spend their own electorate allowances.

People are going to test this law, perhaps get a terminally-ill person in a hospice to be an agent. A heroic defence was suggested, that is the law of common sense. Unique in world jurisprudence – tell that to the judge or electoral commissioner who closed down an anti-Government webpage. The blogger wouldn’t give his address because he lived at home and might upset mom. Is this silly or sinister? Both.

My plea to the party I love is to just repeal the act. Accept it’s wrong in substance and principle before it hurts us further and does the exact opposite of what’s intended by encouraging big money to circumvent this law. J’Accuse.[/quote]

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