Thursday, February 16, 2006

National's hypocrisy is no excuse

That didn't take long. Yesterday in Question Time, Helen Clark managed to turn National's attack on its election overspending into an embarrassment by producing a National Party leaflet entitled "What National Stands For" funded out of the leader's budget. But while this is embarrassing for National, and shows them to be hypocritical on the use of public funds for electioneering, it doesn't get Labour off the hook in any way whatsoever.

There are two issues commingled here. The first is that Labour paid for its pre-election pledge card and accompanying pamphlet with Helen Clark's leader's budget. This is not what the money is supposed to be used for - but Parliamentary Services funds are widely abused in this fashion (witness this ACT ad), and the cards may technically have been within the rules. Communicating with your constituents and informing the public about party policy is OK; touting for votes or funds is not. The problem is that it is almost impossible to do any general public information campaign without it also being an indirect solicitation of electoral support. And while politicians will gleefully point the finger at each other when anyone does this, they steadfastly refuse to tighten the rules to prevent it, or to bite the bullet and accept public funding. The only way this unseemly hypocrisy will be ended is if we make Parliament (or at minimum Parliamentary Services) subject to the Official Information Act, so we can watch and humiliate anyone who steps out of line. Unfortunately, the chances of our self-interested politicians doing this are about as great as their disavowing the right to spend public money on self-promotion in the first place - or allowing an uncensored camera feed in the House to show us how they really behave in our names.

The second issue is that Labour's pledge-cards pushed their election spending over the legal limit. This is the actually serious bit; Labour's party secretary and possibly others within the party seemingly broke the law. Worse, they seem to have done it knowingly and willingly, and then dared the Electoral Commission to do something about it. And National's hypocrisy on Parliamentary budgets doesn't excuse that in the slightest.


somehow "but you broke the law too - to a lesser degree"
seems a stupid excuse particularly when most people just become annoyed at both of them.
anyway what I want to see is concequences.

Posted by Genius : 2/16/2006 06:43:00 PM

Also the National pamphlet was actually produce 18 months before the election. Also the National pamphlet is a generic pamphlet talking about general policy themes and philosphy which is far far less an obvious election material than a re-election pledge card.

Posted by David Farrar : 2/16/2006 08:35:00 PM

yes. i agree. the national pamphlet was far less about the election.

besides the fact it was printed for the election, and released during the election, for the express purpose of helping national to win this exact same election.

otherwise it was very generic, and could have just been a little reminder for people that national is a really spiffy party.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/16/2006 09:40:00 PM

The national pamphlet shown on TV came in a pack with a blatent vote national tick on it. Just as obnoxious as the exclusive bretheran (who the fuck are they anyway, CIA front?) garbage.

Labour? Ditto, typical of Clark.

Questions. Any parties that aren't screwing the system here? What the hell are you supposed to do with a leaders budget come election time, other than promote party policy?

Posted by tussock : 2/17/2006 03:49:00 AM