Friday, October 13, 2006

A whip around

So, how are the parties hit with large bills by the Auditor-General's retrospective and arbitrary reinterpretation of the rules going to meet their obligations? Labour has announced a big whip around and is seeking donations from the public. You can either donate online here, call 0900-LABOUR, or send a cheque to

Labour Party
PO Box 784

The Greens are also soliciting public donations. You can donate online here, by online banking to Kiwibank, Branch: Wellington, Account Number: 38 9005 0440479 00, or by cheque to

The Green Party
PO Box 11 652

Repayment will be a massive task for both parties, similar in scale to pre-election fundraising. And as Peter Dunne pointed out last month, it is likely to have a serious effect on our democracy, hobbling their ability to contest the vote at the next election. Which seems to have been National's aim all along - being unable to win at the ballot box, they have sought to win at the bank instead. Which makes it all the more important that we institute public funding. Fortunately, the Auditor-General has just ensured that there will be a clear majority for it in Parliament.


Have the Greens actually said that they will pay the money back?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 02:33:00 PM

Yes - though they disagree strongly with the A-G's interpretation. And looking at the material ruled "unlawful" (linked at the bottom of the press release), I can see why. Apparantly, holding public meetings or encouraging public feedback on specific issues is now "electioneering" and out of bounds. As is running a regular newsletter informing those interested of issues and legislation the party is focussing on. With a sweep of his pen, the Auditor-General has just ruled a great chunk of an MP's daily job "unlawful". This is simply nonsensical.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/13/2006 02:49:00 PM

I agree. It makes absolutely no sense. National spent its entire leaders office budget, just not on leaflets. But why does it matter if they are leaflets or not? One thing is certain, if National had a Bill to pay back they would not be running the analysis that they are.

How long before the media realise this whole exercise has been a National Party sham?

Every time I read the AG report I get increasingly angry about this whole thing.

And what makes me even more angry is that I did two posts this week outlining future directions for our country (no comments). A post on this issue (16 comments). Ridiculous.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 03:07:00 PM

Labour's site is't accidentally go to - it appears to be a right-wing blog (didn't bother to read it). Labour should have covered its bases and registered a few more domain names.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 03:24:00 PM

Oh, give us a break Tony... I respect esprit de corps, but it's speclacularly disingenuous - if not outright hypocritical - for a member of the Labour Party's governing council to be accusing anyone else of partisan hackery.

Over the last week, I note that the Commerce Commission has agressively been agressively prosecuting banks and corporates for breeching the Fair Trade Act - including substantial fines and refunds that should piss off shareholders. I don't think I/S, or anyone else, would have much sympathy for corporates engaging in the whinging self-pity of various politicians and their hack apologists like Mr. Milne.

Now, Tony, perhaps you "anger" would be better directed at making sure the people whose poor judgement put the Labour Party in this hole are removed from any position where they could do it again.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 10/13/2006 03:28:00 PM

Tony - I'd guess that it matters because leaflets are (or at least can be) electioneering, and scientific (rather than push) polling and the others things National spent it on cannot.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/13/2006 03:29:00 PM

Graeme: OTOH, if staff are engaged in "electioneering" activities, then doesn't that make paying their salaries unlawful?

Consider for example National's various press secretaries. Their job is to issue press releases, whose very purpose is to persuade people to support their position (and hence, their party) rather than the governments. Clearly, this is electioneering, which taints everything they do, and National should pay back their salaries to the taxpayer.

It's a facetious example, but it points out the real problem with the A-G's interpretation of the rules: practically everything MPs do now counts as "electioneering". This is simply nonsensical, and so any validating legislation is also goign to have to overturn that interpretation and restore the status quo, at least until the Parliamentary Services Commission can decide on new rules.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/13/2006 03:43:00 PM


Sorry, but isn't it a little hard to feel any sympathy for the politicians now crying foul over the very ambiguities they created in the first place, and were quite happy to knowingly exploit?

I don't think it's 'simply nonsensical' of Brady to take the line he has - that label would be better applied to the 'nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more' status quo the politicians have nobody but themselves to blame for.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 10/13/2006 04:00:00 PM

Craig: I don't think they thought it was that ambiguous. Botht he Speaker's response and the A-G's report mention the clear understanding amongst politicians and parliamentary Services staff that "electioneering" was considered to include only explicit solicitation for votes, funds, or members - not the exceedingly broad interpretation used by Brady.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/13/2006 04:03:00 PM


"Sorry, but isn't it a little hard to feel any sympathy for the politicians now crying foul over the very ambiguities they created in the first place, and were quite happy to knowingly exploit?"

But the National Party is doing exactly that. Pot, meet kettle.

One thing makes sense though: since promoting your party's policy before an election was apparently illegal, it's no wonder that National had so little spending in breach of this ruling.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 04:07:00 PM


You've just shot to pieces any prior claim of yours that you're not a Labour Party stooge. Encouraging people to donate money to the Labour Party is absolutely as Helenesque as you can get.

Really love how you and Tony claim that Labour's illegal use of taxpayer money on electioneering--as defined by the Solicitor-General, the Auditor General, and the Chief Electoral officer--is a National Party plot to choke Labour at the next election.

Utterly absurd.

Must really piss you off that the Left are being held to account for their unlawful actions.

Facing the consequences just really gets to you, doesn't it?

The public simply won't stomach Labour using its unlawful activity as an excuse for public funding of parties, either. Donna Awatere-Huata didn't get a bonus for defrauding the Pipi Foundation; Labour won't be given the bonus of public funding for defrauding the taxpayer and buying itself a seat in Government in the closest election in recent history, either.

Posted by Insolent Prick : 10/13/2006 05:35:00 PM

You're exaggerating the "arbitrary" nature of the ruling, and suggesting absurd consequences. The pledge card which sparked the whole controversy, and which was by far the largest item of illegal spending: "Our pledge card and our commitment to keep our word are central to our campaign for a third term."
It's electioneering, and it was announced and obviously considered as such by Labour. That interpretation is hardly "exceedingly broad." Paying for it out of the leaders fund was knowingly breaking the rules, and not without warning.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 06:59:00 PM

Surely having a whip around to raise money is not going to be a big issue for Labour. They have the expertise and people for this type of fundraising.

Just get Philip Field onto the job.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 08:26:00 PM

I/P said You've just shot to pieces any prior claim of yours that you're not a Labour Party stooge. Encouraging people to donate money to the Labour Party is absolutely as Helenesque as you can get.

I don't think that putting up information about a site is the same as encouraging people to donate money. In any case, I/S put up information about the Green's begging site too. So is he Green, or Labour?

I/S is very upfront about being a left wing thinker, but it is possible to be left wing without necessarily being a member of, or a supporter of, any particular party.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 08:32:00 PM

IP: I am on the left. I am not part of Labour. I make no secret of or apologies for either position. During the 2005 election, I encouraged people to help out whichever party they preferred, and to party vote: left. The above is in the same vein. If people are in the mood to help out these parties, then now they know how. The choice of which, if any, to support is entirely up to them.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/13/2006 08:58:00 PM

Well they have my ding. And I am proud to do be able to do it.

National may have won this battle, will forfeited the war, as they have guaranteed that some form of democracy funding will be in place before the next election. I cring in prospect of the unholy bloody wails and rants they will put up to avoid it though.

I think that the AG was right to point out that the system had drifted off course and needed correction, but there is at the same time a deep whiff of the pre-planned ambush about all of this.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 09:46:00 PM

> hobbling their ability to contest the vote at the next election.

If it didn't do that then the law is a joke. What incentive is there for a party to play fair in an election? (besides the very limited control of voting)

Posted by Genius : 10/13/2006 10:22:00 PM

"it is possible to be left wing without necessarily being a member of, or a supporter of, any particular party."

Damn right. There's only one reason, post-millenium, for anyone to join a political party: because they were kicked at school. And in practically every case you may be sure that kicking was richly deserved. I mean, look at Trevor Mallard. Or Big Boobs Brownlee. Or Margaret Wilson. Or Rodney, a beacon of hope to the short fat bald & unprepossessing.
Whip-round? Flog them all senseless, I say. Or tar & feather them. Or both. Every single card-carrying party member, too. They'll thank us for it, once they've rediscovered the meaning of fear.

Ghod, I'm feeling left-wing this evening.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/13/2006 10:31:00 PM

I read the Speaker's response and the Chapman Tripp advice. Very interesting. Basically CT say that parliamentary business is to communicate with the electorate to defend and scrutinise government. This communication is critical for our democracy and of course it is to influence voters to a particular party's POV. Well, duh.

The scenario as I see it is that tha AG has a problem with most PS spending in the run up to an election (never mend that it does not differ from spending at other times or prior to other elections). He picked on the easiest spending to prove his point, that is anything printed. He has said that he believes other spending is also illigitimate but because he has proved his point he does not need to delve deeper into that spending. Indeed, due to a lack of audit trail it would be pretty hard to do.

Well, if I were the Minister responsible, and I had that advice, I sure as hell would be delving...Let's hear in much more detail about who National was paying and for what. How much polling did DPF do on behalf of the party? How much travelling did Richard Long to to get the vote out? Let's have a full and complete account under this interpretation.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/14/2006 02:36:00 AM

This phrase "democracy funding". Does anyone on the left realise how Orwellian it sounds? Just call it state-funding of political parties for god's sake.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/14/2006 08:35:00 PM


Joining a party allows you to influence both their list and their choice of local candidate.

I reckon that if a whole bunch of the liberal right who held their nose and voted National last election despite its caucus' generally embarrassing track record on conscience votes actually joined National they'd be a whole lot better off.

Posted by Anita : 10/14/2006 09:01:00 PM

gobsmakced that you of all people I/S think this has been a National scam. Were you taken in by it also then as one of those people who thought Labour should pay it back? So the Chief Electoral Officer, The AG and the SG are all national Party stooges?

Your left sympathies have caused you to overlook the obvious. The left stole the last election by overspending. Any extra public funding next election will either be buttressed by private spending(thus defeating the point of additional public funds on top of the $40m or do already provided) or there will be extreme limitations on freedom of speech.

Honestly, which would you prefer?

Posted by sagenz : 10/14/2006 10:02:00 PM

Sage: I don't think its a "National scam"; the A-G is acting to enforce the law as he sees it, and while I think his position is nonsensical, he's doing his job (I wish, however, that he'd get better lawyers to help him interpret the law, or bother to look at the reality of Parliamentary practice). That said, National has chosen to wage a major political campaign on this issue, and IMHO one of the reasons it did so was an effort to financially damage its political opponents, thereby enhancing its chances at the next election. Unfortunately, it may very well have just ensured that it will not be able to put together any sort of coalition in future. After all, if you had a choice, would you provide support on confidence and supply to people who'd just cost you $150,000? Would you support their legislation? I certainly wouldn't - and I don't think NZ First or United Future will be particularly inclined to either.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/14/2006 11:21:00 PM

Since it is highly likely NZ first will have no seats in the next parliment it is not a great strategy to rely upon a coalition with them. And UF looks like getting 2 seats or so (pretty close to negligable).

There is a gap for a middle party but NZ first can't fill it and I'm dubious about UF being able to do it either.

Maybe a new party? like the "john tamahere party"?

Posted by Genius : 10/15/2006 09:06:00 AM

“The left stole the last election by overspending.”

The underlying premise of this piece of blatant propaganda is that the amount of money spent on advertising translates into votes. If this were true, then why didn’t National win, given that the EBs spent far more on advertising for that purpose?

It’s clear that National is spinning this line to distract attention from the clear evidence that they lost the election because of Brash’s association with the EBs, the negative rhetoric about Maori, and their inability to put together a working majority under MMP.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/15/2006 11:19:00 AM

Couldn't agree more, Anna - but braving the massed ranks of the faithful of any party can be a stomach-churning experience, as a quick visit the the comments section of any NZ political blog will confirm. Tiny lives, traumatised in infancy by the realisation that they'd been deceived regarding the existence of Santa Claus, clutching desperately for a substitute, now dedicated to an eternity of chickenshit pointscoring.

John Tamihere, eh? His own 'people' threw the (back, not front) bum out. As the Wishart interview demonstrated, the kitten-basher can barely string a sentence together. A Tamihere comeback is pretty much a wet dream of the talkback radio rump.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/15/2006 11:33:00 AM

“The left stole the last election by overspending.”

Clearly incorrect. If you accept the Auditor-General's ruling, then all parties overspent ... except one. Namely, a party of the left, whose leader is a Cabinet minister in Helen Clark's government. Nobody else is entitled to be there, if they got there by "stealing".

If this is really an issue of principle, that principle must logically be applied to all politicans who "stole". The concept of "a little bit illegal" makes no more sense than "a little bit pregnant". Therefore all are guilty, except Jim Anderton.

But if you prefer to pick and choose your culprits, according to your partisan leanings, then it is not really an issue of high principle at all, is it? Just good old politics.

When will these newly noble right wingers start insisting that the Progressives won the election, and Anderton should be Prime Minister? On, you know ... principle.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/15/2006 06:40:00 PM

he doesnt need mot poeple to like him just a certain segment of people.


> Nobody else is entitled to be there, if they got there by "stealing".

I dont think $48 swung the election for hte maori party.

> The concept of "a little bit illegal" makes no more sense than "a little bit pregnant".

in one sense yes (just like murder and littering are both illegal) but in all the senses that matter, no.

But obviously it is ridiculous to talk about rejecting a reasonably democratic election in favour of a randomly chosen party. So I oppose anyone saying silly things like "national should be given power!" or anything like that.

Posted by Genius : 10/15/2006 07:15:00 PM


Littering/murder is the wrong analogy. Better - the same crime of murder, but worse/better because of more/fewer victims. Still guilty.

If National were saying "We are all corrupt (except Anderton), but Labour are more so", their argument would be logical (if you believe over-spending is corrupt). But instead they are saying "Labour are corrupt, National are not". This is nonsense, as both are guilty. It is not for the National party to decide how much over-spending is acceptable.

National might argue that they have paid the money back. But of course that was AFTER the election. So "paying it back" cannot affect a single vote. Therefore, they "stole" votes. According to their OWN argument.

If Labour's action before the election was corrupt, so was National's. There is no other conclusion possible.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/15/2006 08:19:00 PM

Not necessarily true anonymous at comment 29.

One can argue that Labour behaved corruptly because they knowingly overspent their election spending cap (which the Electoral Act defines as a corrupt practice).

Neither National, nor any other party, knowingly overspent their spending cap under the Electoral Act. So if this was the basis of one's claims of corruption one could legitimately sheet it home to Labour alone.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/15/2006 08:32:00 PM


neither national nor labour commited murder. Murder is treated a bit differently from crimes like tax evasion or speeding.

> Therefore, they "stole" votes. According to their OWN argument.

So you are making a absolute moral argument (as opposed to a practical one) here?
I'm not sure why anyone else should care, no one trusts politicians anyway - so our oppinion of their morals is already 'rock bottom'.

I have much more respect for a theif that opposes theft than a thief that supports theft. It would be ridicuous to take the opposite point of view.

> If Labour's action before the election was corrupt, so was National's.

you seem to be mixing two issues here. Graeme made the point above.

Posted by Genius : 10/16/2006 08:44:00 AM

BTW regarding pregnancy one might say if there was a woman who had just concieved they might be "a little bit pregnant" with implications for various decisions various parties might make.

If you are 1 week over due - you could be considered very pregnant and the moral position is different. For example the social sanctions for killing the baby would be higher.

Posted by Genius : 10/16/2006 10:39:00 AM