Under the Electoral Finance Bill this editorial would be illegal.
[quote]WHEN the present Government departs office, it will do so with the martyr’s sigh that it has been profoundly misunderstood. There will be no recriminations and there will be no insightful reflections. There will be just the pious conviction that the electorate had got it hopelessly wrong.
It is that zealous commitment to one’s self that sustains politicians – of all stripes.
The election law is just such a case. Nothing in New Zealand’s recent political history has been so comprehensively panned as that partisan piece of legislation. Even the accountants’ professional body was moved to condemn it.
The Electoral Finance Bill was inspired by an instinctive hatred of personal wealth (especially when it benefits political opposition, as witnessed by the Exclusive Brethren’s ridiculous attack on Labour and the Greens) and resentment by the Government that it was unable to steal public funds for its election campaigning. However, the overarching impulse, revealed in the desire to raise the weights of any opposition, has been to legislate to remain in power.
Of course, the bill has been characterised as a struggle between simple goodness and the dark forces of mammon, or as Prime Minister Helen Clark put it “to get the hollow men and secret money out of politics”. It does neither.
In its revised form, the bill moderates the naked desire to clear the decks of political dissent. Plans to give Government advertising campaigns immunity and to suppress pressure groups were ditched (though the use of megaphones falls under the bill’s ambit and an 11-month restriction on political expression before an election is the longest for any western democracy).
But while the bill meets its intentions of hurting National, which received $1.7 million through trusts in the last election, “anonymous” donations of up to $240,000 are still allowed (tellingly, not far short of Labour’s anonymous donation haul in the last election).
If concerns about secret political funding were genuine – as they deserved to be – the bill’s ambition would have been for full and complete transparency of donations instead of a Byzantine contraption to kneecap political opponents.
Perversely, to the righteous, any opposition to such an enterprise merely endorses it. When political survival is predicated on the need to be self-serving, it is difficult to attribute any other motive to one’s critics. To the corrupt, all are corrupt.
Despite the changes to what many of its critics correctly deemed irredeemable, the bill remains an obnoxious piece of lawmaking for what has driven it, for the disdain it has shown to the principles of freedom of expression and fairness and for the loathing and contempt that it generates for those who, in principle anyway, we ought to be able to show at least a modicum of respect. [/quote]
As the public becomes more and more aware, this type of Editorial will become more common.
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