Monday, September 17, 2007

Election finance: more hearings, and the media narrative

The Justice and Electoral Committee is sitting all day today hearing submissions on the government's Electoral Finance Bill, and NZPA reports that the bill has come in for criticism from unions such as the PPTA and NZEI. Except when you read their actual submissions [both PDF], both organisations are in fact very supportive of the bill, and are suggesting amendments along the lines of those suggested by the Coalition for Open Government: a tighter definition of "electoral advertisement", a higher cap for third parties, public funding, and applying the disclosure regime for third parties to political parties as well (something the PPTA wryly notes would be "one rule for all") (the EPMU and PSA [both PDF] make similar points).

This sort of misrepresentation has characterised reporting on the bill - see for example the Herald's report on Andrew Geddis' opinion and compare it with his actual submission [PDF]. It seems that the media has already decided its narrative - "the bill is bad and everybody hates it" - and submissions are going to be distorted to fit with it (and never mind that suggesting amendments is part of the select committee process and indeed one of the points). Meanwhile, there has been no real effort on the part of the media to grapple with the issues raised by the bill, or the problems it is intended to address. This is a tremendous disservice to the New Zealand public, and I think we deserve better.