Monday, November 27, 2006

National - proudly sponsored by the tobacco industry

In Chapter 14 of The Hollow Men, Nicky Hager notes that the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System argued strongly for full transparency of political donations, arguing (among other things) that this would "give valuable information to voters about the character of the parties". Indeed it would - and reading further, you can see why National is so keen to launder donations and keep the identity of their backers secret: because they accept money from some people that most voters would not want any political party to be talking to: the tobacco industry.

At the same June 2005 fundraising dinner attended by Pfizer and Diane Foreman (both of whom stood to gain substantially from National's policies), two tables were sponsored by Carrick Graham, son of former cabinet minister Doug Graham. Hagar notes:

This may have reflected Graham’s personal generosity, but another explanation could be that the event organisers decided for reasons of good taste not to write down the name of the company – British American Tobacco – for which Graham worked as corporate affairs director. He had arranged Brash’s visit to the BAT head office in Auckland a year earlier, when Brash and MP David Carter met all the top executives.

If this is correct, National had invited BAT to be part of the fundraiser and accepted tobacco industry money for the campaign...

You can judge a person by the company they keep, and you can judge a political party by who they accept money from. And on that basis, National keeps some very bad company indeed, with an industry whose business is selling cancer and death. No wonder they want to keep it all secret!

Right-wingers will say (and have been saying) "it's their money, and they can do what they like with it". Indeed they can - but it's our Parliament, and we have a right to know who is backing our parties so we can judge them accordingly. This is precisely the sort of donation the public has an interest in knowing about - and precisely why we must reform our election law to ensure total transparency and make it an offence to obscure the true source of political funding.


"it's their money, and they can do what they like with it"

That's right. It shouldn't be necessary to point out that it is not illegal for National to accept money from the tobacco industry, and (not having read the book) it appears that there is little actually illegal going on (yes, it is the EB's right to back whichever party they like), but the secrecy and cynical way that these people have been colluding to get around the relevant statutes says much more about whether we want them to lead our country.

It might not be illegal, but it is immoral.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/27/2006 02:28:00 PM

hang on, I frequently get letters from Helen Clark and other party leaders to donate funds to them, both in my personal and corporate life.

If this is the kind of conspiracies Hagar is seeing he is smoking something else.

And didn'r Labour get 500k from an Aussie who made his money trucking tobacco?

Posted by Anonymous : 11/27/2006 02:37:00 PM

Anon, do you declare all your donations over $10k or do you funnel them through a shell company, set up for th purpose of laundering that money?

Posted by Anonymous : 11/27/2006 02:47:00 PM

Pablo I don't make any. I get invited - as you probably did last year and in 2005, remember the big whip round letter, and seemingly endless begging/membership request letters from United Future and the Nats were just some I remember. I choose not to donate.

As for anonymous donations Labour and National both received substantial amounts. Check with them on the best way to manage them. Be aware some MPs prefer their donations in cash...


Posted by Anonymous : 11/27/2006 03:05:00 PM

Remember the Green Party hangs out with a Convicted Terrorist. And not convicted by some poxy corrupt judge but by the judicairy in Belguim.

Plus Zaoui never appealed, but fled the country. Hardly the actions of an innocent man.

Posted by Michael : 11/27/2006 04:03:00 PM

It is looking as though, in some eyes at least, we should have 'government of the people, by the elected representatives, for those who pay money'. It needs a principled representative to resist the pressure of the money - and how many of those exist ...?

I would rather see a system in which funding was totally transparent and could therefore be traced.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/27/2006 04:11:00 PM

Big tobacco is a legitimate corporate entity though, selling a legal product.

I agree big tobacco is selling cancer and death, but they are doing so perfectly within the law and it makes perfect sense for them to lobby politicians.

Posted by Muerk : 11/27/2006 04:29:00 PM

Holy Crap! This is a walking time-bomb, this issue!

Carrick Graham, son of former National Cabinet Minister Sir Doug Graham, was at a National fundraiser! This is utterly astonishing news.

It probably also explains why I saw Carrick at a National Party gathering a wee while back. Clearly, he was plotting to make cigarette smoking mandatory for every child under the age of 4.

Clearly, the Labour Government doesn't have any connection with either the tobacco or the liquor industry, and is ploughing ahead with plans to outlaw both.

Posted by Insolent Prick : 11/27/2006 05:07:00 PM

I'm more than a little interested to read about the Talleys' attempts to run a parallel campaign. I have always found these folk to be a little suspicious. While working in Nelson on a fishing story for a media organisation, we were contacted anonymously and told that Talleys had arranged for a number of their employees and independent private investigators to tail us and report on our activities and whereabouts. With this in mind, we were able to spot our watchers. It seemed as if these people were used to using whatever it took to achieve their objectives.

On a completely unrelated matter, Winston Peters, (a man who was once strongly in favour of investigating the actions of the fishing industry, quotas and MAF, before famously changing his mind and flipping 180 degrees) was seen being interviewed on television in front of the Talleys' fishing head offices, with a privately owned helicopter in the background...

Posted by Anonymous : 11/27/2006 08:28:00 PM

It was Talleys who jumped the gun on Ruth Richardson's Employment Contracts Act back in the early 90s, by refusing to deal with unions and demanding that employees sign new contracts dictated by the company. They were found to be in breach of the law as it stood at the time, and the union brought a successful prosecution.

As long-time subscribers to the third-world Business Rountable model of monopoly crony capitalism they no doubt felt they had a lot to gain from the new feudal age for which Brash was the poster boy.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/28/2006 06:54:00 AM


The NZ Refugee Status Appeals Authority issued a 255 page report identifying a string of procedural and other issues with Zauoi's trial and re-trial in Belgium.

You disagree with their report? On what basis? That you just don't like it?

Posted by Icehawk : 11/28/2006 08:48:00 AM

I/S - you can support individual liberty or you can back the authoritarians but you cannot have it both ways. Either you support individual choice in the use of drugs or not. given that the tobacco industry tax NPV is vastly higher than the cost of smoking what is your point exactly?

or is it just opportunistic corporate bashing?

Posted by sagenz : 11/28/2006 11:47:00 AM

Sage: This isn't about people's right to smoke (which I support) or the right of tobacco companies to lobby whoever will stoop to listen to them (which I also support). It's about political transparency and the right of the public to know who the parties offering themselves for election are being influenced by. To use a different example: if Labour were indeed being funded by communists, as Don Brash desperately alleged last week (really, can't he think of anything better than that?), wouldn't you want to know so you could cast your vote accordingly?

Who gives money to political parties is not "private business" - it's the public's business. These people want to be our government, therefore they must be accountable to us. And one of the chief methods this accountability can be exercised is through full disclosure of donations and an end to money-laundering.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/28/2006 12:02:00 PM

Muerk: Sure - and at the same time, any decent person and party will treat them like pariahs. And if a party isn't doing that, then I think the public has a right to know about it before they elect them.

We've had too many bad experiences already with parties keeping their policy agendas secret from the public. But while we can't stop politicians from lying to us about their intentions, we can force them to disclose who has been giving them money, and judge for ourselves whether that talk of a "decent society" stacks up or who is expected to be the primary beneficiary of promised prosperity.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/28/2006 12:05:00 PM

Icehawk - Zaoui was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organisation by a full court. If I call him a convicted terrorist he can't sue me. But this post is about how National is evil based on loose associations, not Zaoui.

So how about Annette Sykes, who told a Green Party Waikato Regional conference that her heart leapt in delight when she saw the planes hitting the twin towers.

So far we have a convicted terrorist (go ahead Ahmed, sue me!) and a person whose heart leapt in delight at the sight of mass-murder of Americans associated with the Greens.

Versus a group of businessmen selling a product that is legal and not compulsory to purchase.

Posted by Michael : 11/28/2006 01:18:00 PM


And what kills more New Zealanders, terrorism or tobacco? Tobacco of course.

Posted by Muerk : 11/28/2006 01:58:00 PM


"We've had too many bad experiences already with parties keeping their policy agendas secret from the public."

You know what, you're right. If we could trust governments to do what they say they will then things would be different, as it is at least if voters can see where the money's going we can make educated guesses on what's likely to happen.

I have no wish to vote for a party who accepts money from big tobacco. I find their industry morally evil and on reflection, it would be nice to know who they're cuddling up to in politics.

I would be especially interested to see where pharma and biomedical industy puts their cash.

Posted by Muerk : 11/28/2006 02:05:00 PM

right wing parties tend to suport freedom of choice - its generally part of the bargain of voting right in NZ. If we had a hard religious right we might also have a authoritarian right - but we dont.

Posted by Genius : 11/28/2006 10:31:00 PM

Murek - this is a post about how you can judge political parties by the company they keep.

I'm refuting that arguement by drawing a comparison with the Green Parties association with a convicted terrorist (who they were associated with before the RAA report) and a person who praises terrorist.

I'm not suggesting the Green Party actively support terrorism, I'm just making the point that while you can choose who you support, you can't choose who supports you.

If you want to have a debate about tobacco, post something on your blog (or create a blog) and I'll happily defend the right to choose there. (versus the chance of being killed or maimed because of something your political leaders did)

Posted by Michael : 11/29/2006 11:22:00 AM