Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Election funding: public funding dead

So, the government's plans for public funding seem to be dead. I expected this - it was apparent two weeks ago when Winston effectively vetoed it - and while I support public funding as a way of getting a more level playing field in our democracy and reducing the rich's ability to buy themselves influence and power, if the votes aren't there, they're not there.

However, that doesn't mean we should just let the issue die. There's a good case to be made, and if the government can't make it in a highly politicised environment against the backdrop of its own misdeeds over pledge cards, it should look at using a more neutral forum. Some sort of public inquiry process, similar to the Royal Commission into the Electoral System, would be a perfect vehicle for doing this. Meanwhile, what's important is that they press on with the necessary reforms around transparency, third-party campaigning and enforcement and get a much tougher regime in place before the next election, so we don't see the sorts of abuses we saw in 2005.


Many years ago when Winston formed New Zealand First, there was an extremely nasty backroom deal on campaign expenditure. As a new party, NZF was denied broadcasting funding. Then National and Labour quickly agreed that parties couldn't spend their own money to supplement their broadcasting allocation either.

The result: despite strong poll support, NZF could not legally advertise during the election. That was an extremely cynical and anti-democratic move by Labour and National, and I'm sure Winston hasn't forgotten how he was shafted.

Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, eh?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/17/2007 01:03:00 PM

KD - good piece of history that. I had almost forgotten.

I/S - I like your idea of a separate commission or independent group. It's a shame the govt didn't do that straight after the last election. One option would be to really boost the power of the Electoral Commission and give them complete control over the entire electoral process. As part of that, you could tie in an independent review after the first election they have run.

Posted by Chris : 4/17/2007 08:53:00 PM

Chris: It's a shame the govt didn't do that straight after the last election.

No-one was calling for it then. Instead, they were too busy crying "pay it back".

We can set up the merger of the various electoral bodies, but I don't think it can be properly done by 2008 (not if we want them to properly run an election). but we can probably sort out prosecutorial power before then if we turn our minds to it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/17/2007 11:53:00 PM