Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some "analysis"

Today the government introduced its Electoral Referendum Bill, providing for a referendum on MMP. In accordance with their policy of suppression, the Regulatory Impact Statement for the bill was hidden away on the web to make it difficult for MPs to read it while debating the bill. There followed the extraordinary scene of the government objecting to the RIS being tabled in the House.

And no wonder. The rules on advertising during the referendum are highly controversial, amounting to no restriction on the power of the rich to buy the result. So what does the RIS have to say about this?

The rationale for regulating advertising is to avoid the influence of wealth on the outcome by overwhelming other voices, in particular, the public information campaign. On the other hand, the influence that wealth can have on the outcome of a referendum is debatable.
(Emphasis added).

Yeah right. Lest anyone forget, polling in the 1993 MMP referendum showed a clear majority for change. Peter Shirtcliffe threw his millions at it, and almost won as a result. Its a perfect example of why spending caps are necessary: to prevent, in the words of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System [PDF], "some in the community us[ing] their relative wealth to exercise disproportionate influence in determining who is to govern and what policies are to be pursued".

The Ministry of Justice's "analysis" of this issue is simply inadequate, reflecting the ideological biases of the government rather than reality. Our public servants are supposed to offer free and frank advice without fear or favour. In this case, they have failed us.