The corruption of politics in New Zealand

Bryce Edwards has been compiling a daily political collation and aggregation of political and topical news stories in election year.

He adds an editorial?component?at the beginning and yesterday’s was a real doozy.

As I mentioned yesterday, allegations about political finance, corruption and scandal are now the key electoral weapon of modern New Zealand politics. The political rhetoric about corruption, political funding, misuse of taxpayer funds, and personal political behavior are now one of the most salient forms of electioneering in what is now a permanent campaign. As with rhetoric around more perennial issues such as law and order, parties and politicians now trade heavily on claims, accusations and complaints relating to these issues. Yet New Zealand politics has not traditionally been characterised by political finance, corruption and scandals. So why has this type of negative campaigning suddenly become so central to New Zealand politics? Quite simply, problematic issues of political finance and political corruption have actually existed for a long time in New Zealand politics but have only recently become visible due to a variety of factors relating to the shift to a proportion representation electoral system, the breakdown of the party system and ?cartel?, and ideological convergence in the party system. Most significantly, the increasing visibility of apparent political finance and political corruption is due to the sudden propensity of political parties to use such allegations as a rhetorical weapon against opponents, creating an escalating battle over political integrity in which words such as ?corrupt? and ?corruption? are increasingly used. I?ll be explaining all of this in a paper I?m giving at the Political Rhetoric conference being held at Parliament over the next couple of days (and blogging it in the near future).

I wish I had known earlier about the Political Rhetoric conference as I would have loved to have gone to listen to Bryce talk about the growing political corruption we are seeing.

I disagree with Bryce that the allegations are rhetorical weapons. That would only be true of the allegations had no substance. These allegations however now have real substance with the Labour party in particular creating a legacy of regularly and?willfully?breaking?electoral?laws. Worse still though is Labour’s propensity to blame others, and when finally caught and embarrassed they resort to retrospective legislation to shamefully right that which was wrong.

No party is squeaky clean, but in the abscence of any action by the Police or the parliament to clean it up it has been left up to bloggers in the main to draw attention to the issues with the few tools available to them, the OIA, complaints to the Speaker and Electoral Commission.

Parliament and the vested interests have shown a distinct unwillingness to address the issues and until they do?politicians and?parties can suffer the ignominy of constantly being caught, outed and castigated as cheats, liars and corrupt. Labour are yet to show any contrition for their acts of willful disregard of the rules.

If parties and?politicians?cannot follow the laws that they write and pass then we really can’t trust them to reform anything. We have some serious constitutional issues before us with a referendum on the future of MMP and the?politicians?that say “trust us” to reform MMP are the very same?politicians?breaking electoral law.

It is high time for us to mimic Australia and establish a?Independent?Commission against Corruption so that the politicians, parties and bureaucrats can truly be held to account.