In recent days, National has come under attack for leaving TVNZ and other broadcasters to foot the bill for their "accidental" overspending during the 2005 election. Somehow, National "accidently" forgot to include GST in its broadcasting spending limit, meaning that they spent $125,000 more than they were entitled to. Then they claimed that they could not actually pay the money to the broadcasters, because doing so would breach the Broadcasting Act. The result is that TVNZ and other broadcasters have been left out of pocket, while National has benefitted from free, illegal election advertising.
Now National is proposing to do something about it. Don Brash has introduced a Member's Bill, the Broadcasting (2005 Election Broadcasting Reimbursement) Amendment Bill, which would make a one-off law change to allow National to pay its bills, via the intermediary of the Electoral Commission. The bill would not retroactively legalise the overspending (it is too late to prosecute anyway), but would simply ensure that no-one was left out of pocket.
I'd far rather see Brash introduce a comprehensive bill to tighten spending restrictions, introduce greater transparency, extend time limits for prosecution and introduce strict liability for corporate entities for electoral offences - but that aside, this isn't a bad bill, and it will correct one of the injustices of the 2005 election spending debacle. Hopefully Brash will ask for leave to debate the bill the moment Parliament returns in June, and hopefully Parliament will give its consent and pass it quickly.