Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the
Minister of Justice: Is it Government policy that a financial agent’s authorisation on electoral advertisements should contain their residential address; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Economic Development)
on behalf of the
Minister of Justice: The responsibilities of parties, candidates, third parties, and their financial agents are set out in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. The relevant provisions reflect the decisions of Parliament in passing the legislation.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the Chief Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission that the law requires that electoral advertisements promoted by financial agents, or parties, candidates, or third parties must contain a statement setting out the name of the financial agent and the full address of the place where that person usually lives.?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen a press statement to that effect dated last week—I am not sure which day—from the Chief Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission.
Lynne Pillay: Why did the Minister introduce the Electoral Finance Bill, which Parliament subsequently passed?
Hon PETE HODGSON: For several reasons: to stop money filtering; to stop a well-to-do party from buying an electoral outcome; to stop well-to-do third parties from buying an electoral outcome, even if they themselves do not vote; and to ensure that free speech is not drowned out by paid speech.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that under the law she passed, the agency responsible for investigating breaches of the Act is the police, and should the police investigate a CD produced by the Labour Party with the wrong authorisation on it, and is the Electoral Commission the correct body to refer that CD to the police for investigation?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not entirely sure of the process, but I do know that when we discover what it precisely is, we would be better to send this CD/DVD I have in my hand off to whoever it is who needs to investigate it, because it has no address on it—none whatever. That is because it is called
Ambitious for New Zealand—Meet John Key, and we all know that that man slips from one Auckland suburb to another and has no fixed abode.
Hon Bill English: Is it Government policy that the person who put the wrong authorisation on the CD should be investigated and that that person is Mike Smith, party secretary of the Labour Party; and does she believe that the police should investigate Mike Smith, party secretary of the Labour Party, or does she believe that the law of
common sense applies to Labour and that it does not matter what it does but everyone else has to keep to the law?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member asks after Government policy, and Government policy is to be found enshrined in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. Let us just recall, however, where the requirement for a residential address came from. Back in 2005 the Exclusive Brethren spent over $1 million on pamphlets that opposed the Labour Party and the Green Party. These are the pamphlets that John Key and Gerry Brownlee claimed to have no knowledge of until evidence to the contrary arrived. Meanwhile, Jeanette Fitzsimons worked out what was going on and tried to track down the Exclusive Brethren, only to find that the addresses they used were empty house lots. When she finally did find a proper address, she was met at the front gate by security guards. It was not pretty.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm whether the police should investigate whether Mike Smith, secretary of the Labour Party, who knew the law, broke it, and then misled the media about it, is the same Mike Smith who, before the 2005 election, wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer promising to include the pledge card as part of Labour’s electoral expenses, and then 3 days after the election wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer saying he withdrew that undertaking; and why should anyone believe anything that the head of the Labour Party says about electoral law?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I repeat, for the House, that Government policy is to be found enshrined in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. If, however, we want to talk about CDs or DVDs, let us have a look at this one called
Ambitious for New Zealand—Meet John Key, which has no address on it, whatsoever. In it he is not clear whether he is ambitious about ditching the Māori seats, or selling the railways again, or whether he is ambitious about hocking off Auckland airport to a bunch of Canadians—or is his ambition limited to just trying to get through this week without making another mess of it?
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that I raised concerns about the requirements for authorisation by financial agents at the beginning of February, that Labour Party president Mike Williams responded to media concerns by saying they were a bit paranoid, and that the Labour Party knew what the requirement in law was, but Mike Smith went ahead and authorised the CD in direct contravention of the requirement of the law, knowing what it should have been; and how can we believe anything the Labour Party says when it so deliberately broke the law it had passed just a few months before?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that we have been taking a liberal approach in the House, but that member asked the Minister to take responsibility for something that he—Bill English—said, and for something that the general secretary did, neither of which is the Minister’s responsibility.
Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—
Madam SPEAKER: No, I can handle this, I think, Mr Brownlee. The Minister will answer the question in terms of the ministerial responsibility.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I repeat for the House that Government policy is to be found enshrined in the Electoral Finance Act 2007.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is Labour breaking the law?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Nick Smith asks whether the New Zealand Labour Party has broken the law. If he is intent on going tit for tat, then that is what we will do. I can advise Mr Smith that last month, at Otago University, National Party member of Parliament Dr Paul Hutchison was giving out National Party parliamentary material whilst at the same time collecting membership fees. That is clearly in breach. It is true that he got only seven memberships in the entire day, whereas students picked up 75 for
the Labour Party. But one is one too many. I do not think he even knew he was breaking the law, to be honest, but he was and I watched him doing it.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Government spokesperson on tertiary education has impugned my integrity. I would like him to make a clear statement and prove that exactly what he said was true. Can he also explain how it was that he was holding Labour Party balloons that pretty well said “Vote Labour” and had on them a parliamentary crest, which had been paid for by taxpayers.
Hon PETE HODGSON: Speaking to the point of order—
Gerry Brownlee: Were they in—
Madam SPEAKER: You will leave the Chamber, Mr Brownlee, if you interrupt. Everyone must be quiet, please.
Hon PETE HODGSON: At Otago University a few Wednesdays ago, the National Party had a stall from which people passed out parliamentary National Party material, as they are entitled to do, and at the same stall they collected memberships of students, which they are not entitled to do. I was next door to that stall, passing out Labour Party parliamentary material, including balloons. Some distance away—actually, upstairs—a whole lot of people were collecting a great deal of Labour Party memberships. That is the difference. He broke the law; I did not.
Madam SPEAKER: Two members interrupted after what I explicitly said. Dr Mapp and Pansy Wong are the two I heard; there were others. Would those members please leave the Chamber. The matters the members have raised are very interesting, but they are matters of debate, not of order.
Pansy Wong: Madam Speaker, I did not—
Madam SPEAKER: Would you please leave the Chamber. I warned members explicitly on that point of order. I allowed some to intervene, against the Standing Orders, then I in fact explicitly drew it to the attention of members. Members then chose to ignore it.
- Dr Wayne Mapp withdrew from the Chamber.
- Pansy Wong withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Labour Party spent all last year trying to push through this Draconian, complex, and impractical legislation, and that already this year it has been caught out hosting an illegal website, trying to hide an interest-free loan from a very large donor, misrepresenting the opinions of the Chief Electoral Officer to the public, and breaking the law by putting an incorrect authorisation on an item in a political advertisement; and if Labour members are the ones chiefly breaking the law, why did they bother passing it in the first place and being so moralistic about everyone else’s behaviour?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Let us do a bit of moralising, shall we? I was out of the country last week, but, as I understand it, what happened was that the Labour Party put a box number instead of a residential address on a publication—not that anyone is in any doubt about where the Labour Party is. It is in Upper Willis Street, and has been there for years. However, we have this DVD from the National Party, from John Key, called
Ambitious for New Zealand—Meet John Key. Do members know what? It does not have any address on it at all. It does not even say “somewhere in Auckland”; it does not even say that.