Lunatic Laws

NZ Herald Blogs My authorised version of lunatic laws at work

Audrey Young goes for it against the shenangins regarding Labour’s master plan to abrogate the need to actually raise their own funds for an election by introducing State Funding of political parties by default and by stealth.

The chances are that in a letterbox near you soon will come a pamphlet from an MP with a parliamentary crest on it (meaning it is not an election ad) and also with an authorisation of a political party secretary (meaning it is or could be an election ad).

A senior politician was last night puzzled about my interest in it, though disgust might be a better word.

Firstly because of the sheer lunacy of it.

The fact that the same pamphlet is not electioneering for parliamentary purposes but is electioneering for Election Finance Act purposes is not a quirk of history. It is the crazy outcome of two laws passed within a month of each other late last year that contained different tests for an election ad. One law was for MPs only, and one was for everyone including MPs. MPs gave themselves greater freedom than they had had and gave others less freedom.

The upshot is that while no ads funded by Parliament can be classed as election advertising, they may well be in the rest-of-the-world test of the Electoral Finance Act and, which requires ads to be authorised.

The bureaucrats and their legal advisers have come up with a new term for such ads: it is the “‘cross-over” between the two laws.

In reality it means that some parties and candidates’ election advertising will be funded by the taxpayer through Parliament. That is state funding, and state funding by stealth, which is pretty outrageous.

Now about those “cross-over” ads, are they electioneering or communications to constituents in their capacity as an MP. Well both.

Instead of accepting Brady’s findings and changing their behaviour, the MPs decided the rules needed to be changed to make it impossible to be caught like that again. Now just about anything goes so long as it doesn’t say “give me money, give me your vote or join my party.”

But don’t worry they said. It still won’t be election advertising.

Except, that is, when it says “this was authorised by [for example] Labour general secretary Mike Smith.”

Then it can be.

This is another significant development. It has unelected and unaccountable party officials outside Parliament are taking responsibility for the content of publicly funded material from Vote Parliamentary Service. Because MPs intend to produce election ads under the parliamentary crest, it means outside party officials will have to take a very close interest in the content and cost of any material produced at Parliament – none of which is available to anyone under the Official Information Act.

MPs voted an exemption for themselves when the OIA was first introduced and when Speaker Margaret Wilson raised the possibility last year of including them under its provisions, it fell on deaf ears.

I met the new general manager of Parliamentary Service this week, Geoff Thorn, who has come from the Commerce Commission. I asked if there was any way that I could regularly see some of the political advertising material approved by Parliamentary Service for parties.

There was no surprise in his answer: No.

No Indeed, we paid for them, we want the evidence. Labour has essentially, with the help of its poodle parties, passed laws that enable them to spend our money for them but we can’t spend our own with out registering. There is a name for that and the name is Fascism.

I don’t vote for Labour, the Greens, NZ First, and United Futrure so why the hell should I have to pay for their political advertising.

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