Saturday, August 19, 2006



Not the practice

Anyone doubting that the Acting Solicitor-General's claim that Parliamentary Services does not vet spending or make decisions, but only "administers funding", should check out Peter Dunne's reported comments in this morning's Herald. Dunne attacks both the Auditor-General and Acting Solicitor-General for not bothering to talk to MP's first about how Parliamentary funds were actually used - which Dunne notes is contrary to Natural Justice. But he also has this to say:

[Dunne] took issue with statements by Acting Solicitor-General Cheryl Gwyn over a private legal challenge to Labour's pledge card spending that Parliament's bureaucrats, the Parliamentary Service, did not have an opportunity to vet advertising expenditure before it was incurred, and had no statutory power of decision-making - merely administration.

If that was the law, Mr Dunne said, it was not the practise.

"Every advertisement we placed, or any other activity we undertook that was the subject of parliamentary funding, we had signed off in advance by the Parliamentary Service."

(Emphasis added).

So, why should political parties be held responsible for acting in a way they were assured by the relevant authorities was legal? There is a significant aspect of unfairness here, and one that will probably require retrospective validation to fix (though again, I doubt this applies to the pledge cards, which were apparently not run past Parliamentary Services first).

Meanwhile, Tony Milne points out that Don Brash's blatantly electioneering, post-budget "lemonade girl" leaflets bear a Parliamentary crest, and so were taxpayer funded. A case of "do as I say, not do as I do"...?

10 comments:

Re Dunnes comments in general - note "[Dunne] took issue with statements by Acting Solicitor-General Cheryl Gwyn over a private legal challenge to Labour's pledge card spending "

he then says

""Every advertisement we placed, or any other activity we undertook that was the subject of parliamentary funding, we had signed off in advance by the Parliamentary Service."

and you say

"(though again, I doubt this applies to the pledge cards, which were apparently not run past Parliamentary Services first)."

so is Dunne intentionally trying to mix the two issues? (aside from the fact that I think he should fix it anyway the point is he was speaking to the PLEDGE CARD issue)

Re: lemonade girl

Didn't national pay back that money?
Besides this "they broke the law too" argument is irritating. Any other breaches of the law are worthy of being addressed but are not excuses, and those parties as I understand it are doing a "mea culpa" as they should.

Anyway - if that was an excuse, we would never convict anyone of anything.
eg "speeding isn't illegal because Helen did it" or "Helen can drive at 180 kmph because Bob down the street drove at 111 kmph".

you could adjust the speed limit to match how fast people are driving retrospectively but doing that just to let bob (or Helen) off would be bad policy what might be reasonable is to let bob off with a warning and give Helen a big fine.

Posted by Genius : 8/19/2006 12:28:00 PM

I'll consider posting on other points in the future, but I'm pretty sure the lemonade stand wasn't electioneering.

Unless the Chief Justice dissolved Parliament and only told Dr Brash, that is.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 8/19/2006 12:29:00 PM

Genius: The ASG's comments were broader than just the pledge cards, and applied to spending by all parties, not just Labour.

As for the lemonade girl, no, National hasn't repaid that money - they've repaid around $10,000; the leaflets in question cost $90,000. And its a bit of a problem for their "principled stand" that parties shouldn't use parliamentary funding for political purposes.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/19/2006 12:45:00 PM

Graham: it is, however, effectively soliciting for votes.

This is the problem with barring the use of Parliamentary funding for political purposes: everything Parliament does is political. The clear subtext of a leaflet attacking government policies or promoting your own is "vote for me". And it would be a lot healthier if we ended the pretence that it wasn't.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/19/2006 12:47:00 PM

1) This is still confusing the issues by talking about both at the same time, they should probably be separated.

2) I think I am just confusing my timelines. This seems to be a THIRD issue relating to how you are allowed to spend parliamentary money in non-election periods (ie where it is less clearly effecting voting).

I don’t think they should be allowed to spend on those cards but we can make that call another time since presumably at the present moment they are (if they aren’t obviously they should pay it back). I think I could easily live in a world where I didn’t receive stupid post cards like that in my mailbox and most of the public were probably under the impression that that sort of thing would be paid for by the party.

so we have
1) "are you allowed to spend money without PS approval after being informed it is illegal
2) are you allowed to breach election laws during an election period if PS approves it.
3) are you allowed to spend PS money on electioneering if PS approves it during periods when election laws don’t apply

and
1) NO and you should be prosecuted and given a sufficient deterrent
2) NO and you should pay it back - a bit like if you are overpaid a benefit.
3) Maybe but you shouldn't be allowed to

Posted by Genius : 8/19/2006 03:56:00 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but going before a court and saying "XYZ might be the law, but it's not the practise" would perhaps be a really dreadful defence?

M'lud

Posted by Anonymous : 8/19/2006 08:38:00 PM

M'Lud: depends on who the parties are. Parliamentary Services would be in trouble - but its an interesting question as to whether political parties should be held to liable for their failure to apply the rules as written.

In the battle for a political solution, OTOH, it seems fairly decisive - and if the ASG says that the law is different, the politicians can (and arguably should) just change the law.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/19/2006 09:36:00 PM

I/S:

As I've said before, I think (and my PArliamentary sources suggest) Mr Dunne is being, at best, spectacularly disingenuous. I've e-mailed Dunne and asked whether he can point to specific cases of any party pulling advertising, or any other activity, in the face of PS threatening to flat out refuse to clear the invoice and eagerly await the response.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/21/2006 10:07:00 AM

Oh, and just as a sidebar, I wonder how the Revenue Minister would react to a large corporate saying "well, it might be the tax code - but the practice is rather different." Not so long ago, this Government was making it clear that the IRD would be busting corporates and Rich Listers who have been running dodgy tax rorts hiding for years. And doing so actively, agressively and without apology.

What's changed, Mr Dunne?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/21/2006 10:13:00 AM

Thanks Craig for starting the appropriate rebuttal of this absolute tripe.

"So, why should political parties be held responsible for acting in a way they were assured by the relevant authorities was legal?"
Quite simply No Right Turn because if I get legal advice from appropriatly qualified lawyers that then turns out to be "wrong" or challanged by EG the IRD having got that advice is no defence. I also can't go after the lawyer (or accountant for that matter...) for having given false or even negligent advice.

This is the situation *everyone* else has to put up with that has been instituted by our political parties.
It is about time they started living in the same world as everyone else and *then* we might see some changes towards sense and sensibility.

Posted by iiq374 : 8/23/2006 08:29:00 AM