Sunday, August 06, 2006

Illegal election spending

The Sunday Star-Times reports that the Auditor-General has completed their report into the use of Parliamentary funds for election purposes - and the conclusions aren't good for any party. Thousands of dollars were illegally spent by parties across the political spectrum, and will have to be repaid. While the biggest loser is clearly Labour, who spent $446,000 from their leader's budget on pledge cards, no party gets away free. The Greens will apparantly be stuck for $20,000 for their newsletter "Green Times", and ACT is liable for a similar amount. And MPs from both National and NZ First are reportedly individually liable for thousands of dollars each.

The reason for the broad conclusion is the Auditor-General's premise that

Advertising in the final weeks before the election must be considered to have an element of electioneering unless it is of the most mundane type.

This is perfectly reasonable - as I said back when the issue was first raised, the clear implication at election-time of any ad from a political party saying "look at all the great things we've done" is "vote for us so we can continue our work" - but its also problematic, in that much of what we would consider to be ordinary communications with constituents (such as newsletters like "Green Times, for example) is covered along with the egregious abuses like pledge-cards and Winston's billboards. The upshot is that we are going to have to change the rules - either by biting the bullet and accepting that Parliamentary Services money can be used in this way (which will stick in a lot of people's craw), or by clarifying the situation so that it cannot be spent close to an election (which both invites game-playing to see how much you can spend before any cutoff date, and hands an enormous advantage to the government, as it knows when it is going to the polls and can maximise its use of Parliamentary funds).

As for the political implications, it shows once again that the police made the wrong decision in deciding not to prosecute Labour for violating the Electoral Act's spending limits, despite the existence of a prima facie case. And while Labour will try and spin it as showing that they would have been "singled out", the crime the police were investigating was electoral overspending, not misuse of public funds - and no other party was accused of that.


Maori Party appears to respect the rule of law in this country - the problems appear to arise in Lab/Nat/NZ First/United Future/Green/ACT - what we need in this country is ONE RULE OF LAW FOR ALL!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/06/2006 01:03:00 PM

Thank you.

I must say that Hides's take on this is bizarre:

This was obviously going to the outcome. The Auditor-General has been saying for years that some of the things parties were spending this money on was out of line (and I guess the Audit-G understands the laws the office enforces, unlike police, who don't understand the Electoral Act).

Paying it back is a little odd, however, the Labour Party "stole" it's money from the Labour Parliamentary Party, and the Green Party from the Green Parliamentary Party, I'm not entirely sure what is gained by having the political parties give themselves money...

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 8/06/2006 02:00:00 PM

I wonder what the implications will be for Bernard's lawsuit... hard to imagine him losing it after seeing this report.

Posted by Phil Howison : 8/07/2006 05:34:00 PM