Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Election funding: Dunne on the EFB

United Future leader Peter Dunne has an op-ed piece in today's Dominion Post on the government's Electoral Finance Bill. The supporters of the rich being able to buy elections will no doubt focus on his comments that the bill is flawed and must be "radically rewritten" if it is to gain his support, but the specifics of his views are rather more interesting. Dunne identifies three key problems with the bill:

  • The definition of third parties - he thinks it is too broad and captures "almost any group that dares to express an opinion that could be construed as political (in that it reflects upon the policies of one or other political party)". He wants to see the definition narrowed to include only groups who are genuinely trying to affect the outcome of an election (though given his example, many of his objections would be dealt with by a change in the definition of election advertising as well).
  • The definition of election advertising is too broad. This point has been noted even by supporters of the bill, and it is likely to be narrowed. Dunne seemingly supports a definition which only covers positive advertising, leaving third parties free to spend unlimited amounts on negative, Brethren-style campaigns, but he's unlikely to get that much change. The obectionable subclause (iii), covering taking a position on an issue associated with a party is almost certain to go.
  • The low spending limit for third-parties. Again, this has been highlighted even by supporters of the bill, and is also likely to change.
What's more interesting is that he doesn't criticise the extension of the regulated period to one year, and that he supports greater transparency around donations. There's a chance then for Dunne to get together with the Greens and NZ First and offer a select committee and Parliamentary majority to National on transparency, and challenge them to live up to their rhetoric.

Update: Added link to article on UF website [Hat tip: Dave Crampton]