Monday, May 15, 2006

A public service

DPF has begun a major series of posts delving into the records of the police investigation into Labour's overspending last election and their baffling decision not to lay charges, despite finding a prima facie case. I've said so before, but just to repeat myself, I think that decision was wrong. Given the nature of the offence, a prima facie case is a conclusive one, and while there would have been a lot of legal argument over exactly what did and did not count as election spending, Labour should have been forced to make that argument, rather than being given a free pass. Unfortunately, the police don't seem to regard electoral offences as "real" crimes (unlike burglaries or pot-smoking), and (according to Fran O'Sullivan) thought that a prosecution would undermine the integrity of the election. But protecting the integrity of elections is exactly why we have such laws in the first place, and refusing to use them in such a clear-cut case undermines that integrity far more than prosecution would have.

Unfortunately, given the six month time-limit on prosecutions, it is too late to legally do anything about it now. But what can be done is to put the information before the public, so that we can a) pressure the politicians into reforming the law and ensuring that this never happens again; and b) punish Labour at the ballot box for its corruption if we so choose. DPF is doing all of us a service by doing this.


And can this National Party member put it on the record that I believe - like O'Sullivan and, I believe, DPF - National should also have been prosecuted for the blow out of it's broadcasting allocation.

After all, doesn't everyone win when our elections are not only free and fair and conducted according to the rule of law, but seen to be free and fair and conducted according to the rule of law?

What I really regret is that these prosecutions might well have lead to public pressure for meaningful reform of some pretty dodgy rorts - and that includes the *ahem* strategic ambiguity around the use of the so-called Leader's Budgets by all parties. As far as I'm concerned, political parties (including the one I belong to) can pump out all the party propaganda they like. Just not with public money.

It's also pretty degrading to see the Police pretty much say the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Office don't know jack shit about the legislation they're charged to administer. While I've some big problems with electoral law and campaign financing, a lack of integrity and political independence in our electoral agencies is not among them.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/15/2006 03:42:00 PM

Exactly. In response to the claim that the police couldn't be certain of a conviction, isn't it a function of the courts to interpret legislation that is cloudy or badly worded? Then we could have an interpretation of the rules for next time at least and remove any ambiguity. If the politicians don't like it they can change the rules, keeping in mind the fact that the courts will ensure that ambiguity and fudging are clarified and the new rules applied properly.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2006 12:16:00 PM