- Debate resumed from 4 December.
Part 2 Election campaigns
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National)
: What a shambles we are getting from Annette King. Labour is not getting on with the people’s business at all. Part 2 shows that it is getting on with Labour’s business, and Labour’s business is anything it can do to stay in Government.
When the House rose last night I was looking at the provision that exempts MPs from the coverage of the Electoral Finance Bill. National takes issue with that. Why are MPs exempt from the rules that apply to everybody else? There is a simple reason. Labour knows that MPs can spend money on things that average citizens cannot, so it has changed the rules to make sure that MPs can go ahead and spend public money on things that any other New Zealander cannot.
This is the provision that legalises the pledge card. Therefore, one would have thought that the Government knew what it was talking about when it made this provision. But the Minister of Justice has demonstrated to the House each day for the last couple of weeks that she has no idea what the Government was talking about when it exempted MPs from the coverage of the Electoral Finance Bill. Well, she ought to know, because every other New Zealander wants to know why something that is published by the Labour Party, a community organisation, or an individual citizen could be illegal, but if published by an MP, would be legal. That is not one law for everybody; that is giving MPs a privileged position. So what does that mean?
The chief executive of the Electoral Commission said that she did not know. The Minister of Justice then grossly overstepped her capacity by coming to Parliament and saying that she would read into the record what it means to have an MP’s exemption and tell us what MPs can do. But with the deep paranoia and arrogance of Labour, it turned out that her interpretation went like this: the Opposition cannot say anything about what it will do. If people are Opposition MPs, then they cannot say “We will cut taxes.”, because that will count as an election advertisement. That leaves the Government, of course, free to spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising what it is doing.
So the Government would be allowed to say what it is doing, but Opposition MPs would not be allowed to say what they will do. Clearly, that was stupid. I do not know what officials told the Minister, but if that is what they told her, then she should have told them they were stupid.
The bill is stupid. It is unenforceable, it is unfair, and it is ridiculous. It is so ridiculous that the Minister, who is full of bluster and certainty, came to the House and said that, yes, it was probably wrong. Where does that leave MPs who want to avoid committing a corrupt act? The Minister does not know what the legislation means, and she botched her one attempt to tell us what it means. So that means that the Electoral Commission does not know what it means.
The Minister now says that the statements she made were personal statements, despite the fact that she is a Government Minister with a Government bill. Apparently
they were personal views, which is not what she said at the time, so now the courts cannot take those statements as any kind of guidance. This Minister could not have made a worse hash of the technical aspects of this bill. This one provision, and it is only one—it is actually the one we thought might not be too complicated, but it has turned out to be endlessly complicated—must change.
KATE WILKINSON (National)
: I am pleased to take a call on this part of the bill. I sought some calls yesterday, but unfortunately I was not one of the chosen ones. I will devote my time firstly to clause 38, then, if I have time, look at the definition of “type of party” which is included in election advertisements in clause 53, I think it is.
Clause 38, “Return of party donation received from same donor exceeding $20,000”, is part of the legal minefield that this Government is creating with this bill. It is part of the confusion, part of the complexity, because this clause will require every financial agent—who will of course have to be the candidate, as nobody else will want to be a financial agent because of the onerous obligations and responsibilities—to file a return, a special return of donations, within 10 working days when a particular donor’s running total of donations for the past 12 months exceeds $20,000. As if candidates do not have enough to do without working out how many donors there are, and when their running totals will actually exceed $20,000! They have to fill in bureaucratic forms and file a return setting out the donor’s name, the address of the donor, the amount of the donation, and the date of the donation. This return has to be filed in the correct form with the Electoral Commission, and that has to be done within 10 working days of the donation being received.
Clause 38 is just one of many clauses that have been born out of paranoia that a donor will give a lot of money to a party in an election year but that this fact will not be revealed until the annual return of donations that comes out the year after the election. Donations exceeding $20,000 are hardly uncommon. In 2005 only 16 percent of Labour’s total revealed donations were donations of $20,000 or less. Most of Labour’s revealed donations exceeded $20,000.
This bill is pure bureaucracy at its worst, and even more of a bureaucratic burden on financial agents—and for what? I would like the Minister to tell us how many more staff will be required in the Electoral Commission office not only to deal with anonymous donations—to be the receptacle of a bank account for anonymous donations—but now to receive files and to note all the returns from financial agents for donations where the running total exceeds $20,000. This clause is not needed, which is why there is a Supplementary Order Paper from my colleague Chris Finlayson, deleting it in its entirety.
This bill has been drafted in undue haste and its implications have obviously been poorly considered, if considered at all. But, as has been said, it is a great example of how, when it comes to making law, more haste can actually mean less speed.
I turn now to clause 53 of this part, which defines election advertisements. I do that because I want to refer back to the interpretation clause, and in particular to the phrase “type of party”. I ask what is actually meant by “type of party”. As a comparison, I say if one builds a house and the foundations for that house are not right, the house will never be right. In a sense, the law is like that. The definition clauses and the interpretation of a bill are the foundations of that legislation, and these definitions are flawed.
In clause 5(1)(a), which talks about “election advertisement” and refers to “words or graphics” to encourage “voters to vote, or not to vote”, the particular words I am interested in are “for a type of party”. I would like to know, for example, what a “type of party” is. The question that has been asked is whether the Government is a type of party. Does “type of party” mean centre parties, Opposition parties, or Government
parties? We know that the Electoral Commission has said that given that there is more than one party in Government, then, yes, a Government party is a type of party. However, the Minister has answered the question in the Chamber with the response: “I certainly do not believe that this is the case. It depends on the context in which the advertisement is used.” And then she said “It is not my job to interpret that.” But it is the Minister’s job to ensure that legislation passed under her watch is clear, unambiguous, and certain, and this has not happened in relation to this clause, or in fact in relation to many other clauses.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I would like to make a contribution on the interpretation of clauses 58, 80, and 81, in relation to spending undertaken by members of Parliament in their roles as members of Parliament rather than as candidates. I draw the Committee’s attention to the current section 213 of the Electoral Act 1993, which relevantly provides that “election activity, in relation to a candidate at an election in any district, means an activity … (c) which—(i) relates to the campaign for the return of the candidate in the candidate’s capacity as a candidate for the district and not to the candidate—(A) in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament or as the holder of any other office;”. That is the law at the moment.
The Electoral Finance Bill will repeal this provision and re-enact it as regards candidates in clause 58, and then go on to replicate it in summary form in clauses 80 and 81, concerning party expenses. This will ensure that members of Parliament can continue to carry out their obligations to communicate with their constituents—
Chris Auchinvole: Your heart’s not in it.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: Members opposite may not think that it is important to communicate with constituents, but members on this side of the Chamber do, and take that responsibility very seriously.
There is no clear legislative definition of “in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament”, and in my view it would actually be undesirable to try to define too tightly what MPs can appropriately do as MPs. The situation will always be evolving. But the lack of a clear definition does not mean there is no guidance available to MPs or to those interpreting the legislation. Let me just cite three sources, for the benefit of the Committee, where assistance can be derived to assist in interpreting the meaning of clauses 58, 80, and 81.
The first source is the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Act, which is very recent legislation of this House. That Act specifies that MPs cannot spend parliamentary resources on material that seeks to support the election of a particular person or particular people, or that seeks to support the casting of a party vote for a particular political party or parties, or that encourages any person to become a member of a political party or parties, or that solicits subscriptions or other financial support. So any material that failed that four-part test could not properly be said to be issued in an MP’s capacity as an MP rather than as a candidate.
Let us just think about the second source, the Speaker’s directions and determinations as endorsed by the Parliamentary Service Commission. Although the legislation sets out the broad framework, the Speaker, on the advice of the Parliamentary Service Commission, has recently issued rules on the way MPs can spend parliamentary money. Material issued by an MP in his or her capacity as an MP rather than as a candidate would need to meet this test. The Auditor-General appeared before the Finance and Expenditure Committee last week. He commented on how helpful these new guidelines are and, in particular, on how useful the pre-approval process is. So there is very clear guidance from that quarter as to what constitutes material put out by MPs in their capacity as MPs.
Finally, there is practice. This provision has been substantially part of our law since 1956. It is not an innovation that the Electoral Commission has to grapple with, and we should not pretend that it is. The law in this area is actually relatively well settled. Let us not make a storm in a teacup about it.
RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)
: I will be quick, because with the way this is going through I am not sure we will get a second chance to speak to this part. I want to speak to two things. The first is my amendments to increase the limits that candidates are able to spend, from $20,000 to $30,000 in an election, and from $40,000 to $60,000 in a by-election. I put those amendments forward in the hope that they will get support. I have calculated what the limits would be if adjusted by the approximate purchasing power parity from what they were when first set in 1995. It is no aim on my part, given the will of Parliament, to increase the amounts; it is actually just to adjust them for inflation to be exactly equivalent to what they were in 1995. Quite frankly, the $20,000 limit is a bit ludicrous when we think of what things cost now compared with what they did in 1995. I look to the Minister in the hope that we can gain some support for those amendments. It certainly would have made a difference to me in the last election campaign, when I was up against it in Epsom.
I have a point of clarification. I think it is fair to say that I do not like this bill. The ACT party does not like this bill and we struggle to grasp it fully. With the Supplementary Order Papers we struggle to grasp it fully. I am not ashamed to admit that, and I think everyone will be struggling with this bill for some time.
Christopher Finlayson: My Supplementary Order Papers are OK.
RODNEY HIDE: Yes; I trust Mr Finlayson with my life! I refer to page 3 of Supplementary Order Paper 162 in the name of the Hon Annette King, where it is proposed that the word “person” in clause 53(1) be changed to “promoter”, as though that helps in any way. But I still think the provision affects any citizen, because “promoter”, under paragraph (a) of the definition “promoter” in clause 4, “means a person on whose initiative an election advertisement is published;” and includes ya-di-ya. It seems to me that it is not just promoters who will have to state their names and addresses but also the general public. The actual Supplementary Order Paper, then, has no real effect. It seems to me that if, for example, someone sent out a mass email asking people to vote for parties that supported tax cuts or flat taxes, then he or she would be defined as publishing, and under this legislation he or she would have to state his or her address.
Here is an interesting case, which I am sure every MP is familiar with. As a matter of safety, women who take out protection orders against abusive husbands, and who may be staying in a women’s refuge, are entitled to be off the electoral roll. It is quite conceivable that such a woman would want our laws toughened up or have a political view she wanted to express. The absurdity of it is that if that woman said anything to the public, such as asking people to vote for parties that would get tough on family violence, or whatever, then under this legislation she would have to publish her full name and address. She would not have to publish her full name and address to vote, because we are offering her that protection, but if she wanted to be a promoter of a particular policy in election year, then she could not do it.
It seems to me that we are denying people left, right, and centre an opportunity to express their political views, but inadvertently in our rush with this legislation we are overriding other provisions Parliament has legislated for, to protect people’s identities so that they can take part in the democracy of this country—that is to say, to vote without revealing where they live for reasons of self-protection. With this bill, if they want to express their political views on something they have deep experience of and feel passionate about, the very legislation we are passing requires them to publish their
names and addresses. That is clearly not the will of this Parliament, and I ask the Greens, New Zealand First, the Minister, and the Labour Party first of all hopefully to address my concern and explain whether I have it wrong, and, if I have not—and I am sure that that is the case—to fix it, please.
METIRIA TUREI (Green)
: In 2005 the Labour Party received $400,000 in anonymous donations, and the National Party received $2.2 million from secret trusts—including the Waitemata Trust, for example, from which it received $1.2 million. These, of course, are only donations that are over $10,000, so who knows how much money either of those parties receive in lots under $10,000? The public simply does not know. What we do know is that with the National Party, for example, many of its donors, through secret trusts and by other secret measures, were Business Roundtable members. Millions of dollars were funnelled to the National Party by these means. Names that have been bandied around include those of Alan Gibbs, David Richwhite, Doug Myers, and Peter Shirtcliffe. People of that ilk have been donating to the National Party.
In the US and Australia, large secret donors expect payback for the money they contribute to political parties. In Australia just last year that was made more obvious by a former Premier of Victoria who said that in his country, Australia, $10,000 would buy one a meeting with the Prime Minister. This is corruption—cancerous corruption. It arises because either there are flawed controls on secret money being funnelled to political parties or, indeed, there are no controls on secret money being funnelled to political parties.
Unfortunately, in New Zealand at the moment there are no controls on secret money flowing to political parties, so hence the $1.2 million sent to the National Party by people who had be revealed by other means. This is a very poor system for a country that prides itself on its transparent democracy—a very poor system. So the Greens are very proud that in the negotiations and in the select committee work around this bill we have severely restricted the anonymous donations and secret money that parties can receive during election campaigns. The Greens have made sure, to the best of our ability, that we have inoculated our electoral system against that cancerous corruption that the National Party is so desperate to protect. We have set up in the bill a protected disclosure regime. This is not our policy. We would prefer to see a ban on all anonymous donations over $1,000, but this protected disclosure regime goes quite some way towards that policy objective.
Some people do have good reasons—family reasons—why they have to keep their donations to political parties secret from the party and the public. So, recognising that there may be some legitimate reasons, we have a system whereby if people want to donate more than $1,000 to a political party but do not want the party or the public to know, then they give it to the Electoral Commission, they say whom they want the money to go to, and they give their names and addresses. The Electoral Commission will then send that money on to the political party at various times during the 3 years between elections. That is a way of keeping the donor and the political party separate, so the party cannot pretend to not know who gave the money. Parties cannot pretend not to know, which is what happened in previous elections. Parties pretended they did not know who gave them money when in fact they did, but they did not have to declare it to the public.
We have also made sure in the bill that there are limits on donations, so that parties do not become dependent on very large donors as we have seen happen in Australia and the US. For example, under this regime an individual may donate up to $36,000 secretly through the Electoral Commission’s protected disclosure process. That process limits how much an individual can give, and a party may receive only $240,000 of secret money funnelled through the Electoral Commission process. The reason for that is that
$240,000 is 10 percent of the maximum amount that a party can spend in an election campaign.
What the Greens have done is to make sure that a party cannot acquire more than 10 percent of its total spending cap through secret means. This is a mechanism for keeping those large secret donors, like Business Roundtable members, from secretly funnelling into political parties millions of dollars that the public does not know about. We expect that the system will work well. It is similar to a system used in other jurisdictions. One must remember that National receives nearly 100 percent of its total spending cap from anonymous donations. Last election it received, in total, $2.2 million in secret money.
CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National)
: That was
the Green member Metiria Turei. Dr Worth mentioned to me a day or so ago that he once hired her and she was very good then, but what is apparent is that she obviously left Simpson Grierson because she was not very hot on the law of trusts. It is apparent from her work in the Justice and Electoral Committee that she does not understand fundamental principles of trust law, and that will become apparent in the course of the debate in the Committee stage—after all, she is the person who wanted to ban donations from cake stalls.
As we know, Part 2 is a very important part of the Electoral Finance Bill, and indeed the National Party has identified 28 key points that it wishes to address in the course of a clause by clause analysis. It was quite heartening to hear from the Minister in the chair, the Hon Annette King, this afternoon that she too wants there to be a full debate on clause 80(d), so that she can obtain guidance on the roles and responsibilities of members of Parliament.
I think it is very important, before I get into my particular clause by clause analysis, to say a word or two about procedural matters. From the way the Minister was talking yesterday, it seemed that the donations regime had been part of this bill from day one. That is not in fact the case. It is quite clear that the new donations regime was dreamt up at the eleventh hour during the course of the select committee considerations. It was dreamt up by the Greens and was presented to members of the select committee as a fait accompli.
Let me just recount, for the purpose of the record, that at the meeting on 29 October Metiria Turei proposed that the bill be amended to provide for a donations regime affecting political parties and candidates. No papers were provided by Ms Turei, although she admitted she had prepared an outline of the proposed scheme, which she would not provide to the National members of the committee. So much for the committee working together! The chairperson instructed the advisers to proceed to draft the proposal that very day. Then, at the meeting of 1 November, a summary of the donations regime and of the proposed draft clauses was tabled. The donations regime had been cobbled together in 2 days, and it had been agreed to in a backroom deal entered into between the Greens and the majority members of the committee. It is a very important point that it was a secret deal—and Metiria Turei is always very concerned about secret deals and secret payments from trusts. Well, this was a secret deal instigated by that worldwide expert in trust law, Metiria Turei! There has been no public consultation on these proposals. They were not in the bill as introduced, and there was little, or no, consultation with members of the select committee.
Before people such as Metiria Turei and other members of Parliament complain about what they say is the obstructive attitude of the National Party, they should reflect on the complete lack of consideration when it comes to the issue of donations. The National Party had made it quite clear that if issues about transparency were concerning the public, they would be addressed and the National Party would not get in the way of that process. Instead, we had this highly regulatory regime cobbled together in 2 days and imposed on the minority, without any consultation, under the outstanding chairing
of the committee by Lynne Pillay. What is more, the select committee minority wanted these proposals to go back out to the public for a further round of consultation, and the public were essentially told to go and see a taxidermist, because that would not happen. I say it is very poor lawmaking to have this kind of regime introduced without proper consideration. To say that 600 submissions were made to the select committee and that 100 people were heard is misleading. On key aspects of the bill, and particularly on the new donations regime, there was no public consultation whatsoever.
That provides the background for how Subparts 1 and 1A and Subparts 2 to 4 of this part were introduced into this legislation.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: I want to concentrate, firstly, on something that the Rt Hon Winston Peters said yesterday. He talked about those 5,000 people who marched in Auckland the other day, and he said: “I’ve had more people at my meetings.” Well, Winston Peters has never had 5,000 people at any one meeting with New Zealand First.
Judith Collins: He might have had 5,000 mirrors.
Hon TAU HENARE: He might have had 5,000 mirrors, but he did not have 5,000 people. I would love for him to come down to the Chamber and tell members where, and when, those 5,000 people went to a New Zealand First meeting.
I will concentrate specifically on clause 25A, which I hear has been referred to as the “crayfish clause”. It is ironic that I speak about the “crayfish clause” because I love crayfish so much. The wording of this clause provides that any anonymous donation of over $1,000 has to be paid to the Electoral Commission or the Chief Electoral Officer. But my point is that donations can be anything; they do not necessarily have to be cash. They can be crayfish, they can be pigs, they can be pāua, and they can be all sorts of things. The donations must be paid over within 20 working days, but how one would get pigs worth over $1,000 to the Electoral Commission or Chief Electoral Officer within 20 working days is beyond me. The clause talks about $1,000 or “its value”. I might add that Mr Finlayson has put forward an amendment on Supplementary Order Paper 166 to amend clause 25A. It may seem like an exercise in semantics, but it is not. The amendment is trying to fix a clause that should have been put together a hell of a lot better in the first place. We need to change the amount of the donation or “its value” to “the value of the donation”. I think that clears it up in a nutshell. The value of a dozen crayfish could be anything between $45 and $4,500; it could be anything. But the value of that donation should then be left with the Chief Electoral Officer or the Electoral Commission within 20 working days.
It says to me that this bill is being rushed through. I refer to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, who said today in question time that this bill was not being rushed through. It is being rushed through and there are a couple of things staring us right in the face that tell us that this bill is being rushed. One is the number of Government amendments to the bill after it has been through the select committee process—150-odd amendments, and there are more to come. That suggests one thing to me, which is that this bill has not been thought out properly. It has not been drafted properly, because the intent, basically, is to stop the other side from having a fair crack of the whip.
I have heard the Greens and New Zealand First prattle on about the rich people in this nation, or the people who actually want to give money to a political party.
Metiria Turei: Secretly.
Hon TAU HENARE: Secretly or otherwise, it is their money, for goodness’ sake! It is their money. [Interruption] Oh no, we know that the Service and Food Workers Union took $250,000 last election—$250,000—from its members. It stole $250,000 from the Service and Food Workers Union members.
Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore)
: I want the Committee and the public of New Zealand to know that back in February this year Bill English made an offer to the Government. That offer was to talk about the electoral law and, in particular, donations. That offer has been standing for months and months. We have to ask ourselves this question: why has Labour never offered a genuine multiparty conference on electoral law? That offer has been standing for over 1 year, and the smug member for the Green Party Metiria Turei knows the truth of that. I can tell members why Labour has refused to do that. The reason is that Labour members never intended that there would be any kind of bipartisan approach. That was not their purpose. What they wanted to do, and what they are attempting to do today, is to have a partisan, self-serving law to meet their own ends. They knew they could not do that if they talked to the National Party. They knew that if they talked to us, then there would have been a consensus, just like there was in 1993 and in 1956.
In the past, this country has always created its electoral law on a consensus basis, but that did not serve the purposes of the Government this time, because it knows perfectly well that it wants its own law to suit its own purposes. I would turn the Government’s attention specifically to anonymous donations. It is all very well for Green Party members to say that they have done something around that and have fixed it up, and so forth, but the Green Party, in coalition with its mates in Labour, has deliberately designed a manoeuvre that is intended to stop all donations. Those members know perfectly well that if someone is required to give the money to the Government—because, effectively, they desire that the money be given to a Government bureaucracy—then that will stop.
What is wrong with trusting people? We were prepared to have a reasonable regime around anonymous donations, but surely people should be able to donate to parties, even anonymously, and, of course, subject to reasonable rules. The amount of money raised that was mentioned by Metiria Turei, $36,000, is probably reasonable, but the device of deliberately inserting the Electoral Commission as the recipient is designed to chill contributions made by the public. Those members know that that will be the effect, and that is why they have done it in that way. They did not get involved in a discussion with the National Party, because they knew we would not agree with such a self-serving, shallow approach to electoral law.
So this bill is actually all about petty payback. I have sat in this Chamber over the last couple of days and heard those members prattle on about Nicky Hager’s book as if it is some kind of testament as to why this law is necessary, and that actually shows their motivation, does it not? Those members’ motivation is petty payback. I say to the Government that one does not construct constitutional law on that basis. I say to the Green Party, which always says that it believes in integrity and in consensus, that this law will not endure, because those members have gone about it in a self-serving, selfish way for their own purposes. I tell the Government that it did not have to have the
New Zealand Herald
running a whole campaign against it, because it has brought that on itself by the construction of this law and the donations regime in it. In truth, by doing that and by serving its own purposes, it will be defeated.
NATHAN GUY (Junior Whip—National)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Chairperson. The Minister in the chair, Annette King, was interjecting during my colleague’s very good speech. I would ask you to remind the Minister that when she is sitting in that chair, it is my understanding that she cannot interject.
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): The member is quite right, and I had not realised it was so overt.
JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon)
: I will deal specifically with clause 22 of the bill, and I propose that there be an amendment in relation to anonymous
donations. But before I deal with that I need to correct some of the statements made this afternoon, particularly by the Green Party contributor, in relation to anonymous donations.
Metiria Turei has referred to anonymous donations as if they are some sort of evil that needs to be dealt with and sorted out. Well, I have some news for her—that is, as a candidate and as the Clevedon electorate MP, I can tell her that I do not want to know who has contributed to my campaign. I do not want to know for the very good reason that I never want anyone to be able to walk into my office and say that he or she paid me X amount of money so that I have to do something for that person. I never want to be in the situation of being an MP in the dock because I have been involved in some bribery case. I think that that Green MP over there, who has never been an electorate MP, might want to consider that. We never ever want to be in that situation, and that is why in my party we prefer our candidates never to know where their donations come from. Well, we might have an idea, but we never really want to know.
There is an old story, which is true, of a National Prime Minister who was approached by someone who had been a big donor. He said to that Prime Minister “I want to have this. This is why I donated for you.”, and he was ordered out of the Prime Minister’s office right then and there. And that is the way it should be. If people donate to a party they should not expect anything in return, because if they do that is actually buying politics. That is not what our people want us to do. They want us to do the best we can for New Zealand in the way that we have told New Zealanders we are going to do that.
But in clause 22 we have a situation where there could be unintended consequences. Even though the Minister of Justice would like to believe there is such a thing as the law of common sense, I can tell her that there is not. But there is, I think, a law of unintended consequences. One of the things that will happen is that under the anonymous donations clauses, by the way the bill has been drafted, a lot of donations will continue to be anonymous in that they will be put through trusts and unions. Anybody can donate to a union. The union can then go off and donate—oh gosh, what—$170,000 to the Labour Party, and Labour will declare the donation as union funds. Where did the funds come from? They might have come from the membership, but an awful lot will come through as secret donations. So it will not make a scrap of difference, except that with the financial controller rules a lot of candidates will be required to know where these donations have come from. The provision will be anti-democratic, not pro-democratic.
To show just how badly thought-out this provision is, I tell members that when we turn to the definition of “anonymous” in clause 22(2), we see that it means “a donation that is made in such a way that the financial agent who receives the donation—(a) does not know the identity of the donor; or (b) could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor”. It should not be “or”; it should be “and”; otherwise, it is just an utter nonsense. We will have people who say: “Well, I couldn’t in the circumstances be reasonably expected to know, but, yes, I do know.”, in which case they will not be dealt with under this particular provision. So I suggest that the Minister consider that amendment and change the “or” to an “and”. Otherwise, I think we will have a difficult situation.
Hon Annette King: Clause 22?
JUDITH COLLINS: It is in clause 22(2)(a) and (b).
Hon Annette King: The “and” and the “or”?
JUDITH COLLINS: I will show the Minister after my speech. This is a very, very important bill. It has been around, really, since the last election—for the last 2 years—and here we are, right now in the Committee, with the Minister and others coming up
with proposals and changes, and looking at what the National Party is asking to be done and saying: “Oh, yes, that might help.”
The fact is that this legislation is too important to be left to the last moment. It is too important to be left until an urgency motion next week. It is far too important to be left as the sort of legislation the Green Party would like us to put forward, where apparently everyone will be named and shamed for donating to the National Party. We have seen from this Government what happens to people when they stand up to the Labour Party. We have seen what happened to the women who worked in the communications area in the Ministry for the Environment. We have seen what happens. Other people have seen it, as well. This is an anti-democratic bill; it is not pro-democratic.
METIRIA TUREI (Green)
: I will not try to rebut all of the misrepresentations made by National Party members. It would take all day and it is not really necessary, because what we are really hearing from them all is the sad pain of their realisation that they are losing millions and millions of dollars of secret money, dribbling out of their back pockets. It is an understandable pain. I accept that they need to express it. I do not really need to address it much more than that.
I want to remind the people in this Chamber, and also those outside this Chamber, about the way that some of the secret money was used. I refer to the billboard campaign prior to the last election. One of the ways that some of the secret money was used—and we are trying to ban secret money through the protected donations disclosure regime—and also one of the areas of parliamentary spending by the National Party, was on the billboard campaign that occurred during the period from about March to the election in 2005. National spent $600,000 on billboard sites within just the 3 months of the regulated period. But, in fact, its billboard campaign began much earlier in the year than that. I refer particularly to the “Iwi/Kiwi” billboard campaign that began late in April. This campaign was built on the Ōrewa speech, which was designed to feed prejudices and fears by casting Māori as corrupt and reinventing beliefs for pecuniary gain. That is what Don Brash said—that Māori were cast as corrupt and reinventing beliefs for pecuniary gain. He vowed to put an end to Māori special privilege and used Māori specifically to generate fear, anger, and resentment in order to boost his poll rating.
National did not believe any of those things, but thought the campaign might be a good way of getting votes. It turned out that it was. In order to build on the momentum from Ōrewa, National did the “Iwi/Kiwi” billboard. We know that Bryan Sinclair, who was working with the National Party, was talking with members of Parliament, particularly Maurice Williamson, about issues around the “Iwi/Kiwi” billboard campaign. He said that National needed to “slosh those funds around”, that National had to “spend to win votes”, and that the billboard campaign was a “credible area in which to open the cheque book”. This is what he said to Maurice Williamson.
National used 90 billboard sites around the country to run the “Iwi/Kiwi” campaign, and it was arguably the most successful billboard campaign. I hope that the Māori Party and others out there are reminded about the issues around the “Iwi/Kiwi” campaign. It was arguably the most successful of that billboard campaign because it was deeply dishonest. It was calculated emotional manipulation. Those “Iwi/Kiwi” billboards were established to meet the need to portray simple messages that had emotional resonance with National Party voters. It encouraged non-Māori to feel separate, to feel threatened by Māori, and to feel that Māori wanted to take away their beaches and threaten the Kiwi culture around the oceans, even though that was never the risk. The “Iwi/Kiwi” billboard was designed to drive a wedge between Māori and Pākehā specifically so that the National Party could gain votes.
There were other similar billboards. Members might remember the one about Government spending that said: “Hip hop tours, welfare bribes, prisoner compo,
singalong courses, taniwha”. That one worked in particular because many of those little aspects—taniwha, the prisoner compo, and singalong courses—were specifically about Māori issues or Māori people that were in the media at the time. So this was a way of saying that the Government was spending all that money on “those Māoris”, and not on the ordinary people of New Zealand, thereby again driving a wedge between Pākehā and Māori.
This was the way that the National Party was spending that secret money—the millions of dollars of secret money that it was getting. This was the way it was spending its parliamentary money, as well—on those kinds of billboard campaigns. This is the kind of divisive, false, dishonest, manipulative politics that this country does not deserve. This country does not deserve to have that kind of politics. Neither does it deserve—[Interruption]
Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Madam Chairperson.
METIRIA TUREI: Does Chris not like that?
Christopher Finlayson: It is not a question of whether I like it; it is a question of whether it is relevant. We are dealing with a part by part analysis and a clause by clause analysis. This is a general speech. This is exactly the point—
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): The member will be seated.
Christopher Finlayson: Can I finish?
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): No, I am going to rule on the point of order. Mr Finlayson, I certainly say to you that that is a debating point. I think every speech has had that sort of debate in it.
METIRIA TUREI: Of course, I am talking about the reason why it is so important to have a control on the secret money that flows to political parties, because if we do not know where that money is coming from, parties can use it for such nefarious purposes.
Dr RICHARD WORTH (National)
: I am glad that the Minister Annette King is here, because I would like to focus on a particular provision and strongly urge that it be looked at afresh by her and her officials. The particular clause is clause 84(1), which is headed “Maximum amount of party’s election expenses”. It is a deceptively simple provision, but there has, in my view, been a drafting slip. I know that view is shared by others including Mr Finlayson, because he has a Supplementary Order Paper that is calculated to deal with the issue. When rights are involved I would say there must be precision in language, and this is such a case because democratic rights are involved with this legislation and with this particular provision. Clause 84(1) purports to set some maxima. It reads: “Where a party is listed in the part of the ballot paper that relates to the party vote, the party’s election expenses in respect of any regulated period must not exceed—(a) the amount of $1,000,000; and (b) the amount of $20,000 for each electoral district contested by a candidate for the party.”
The courts have a very straightforward way of approaching issues of statutory interpretation. One of the starting points is to look at provisions that are set out in the Interpretation Act 1999. Section 5 of that Act is headed “Ascertaining meaning of legislation”. The legislation states: “The meaning of an enactment must be ascertained from its text and in the light of its purpose.” Section 5(2) states: “The matters that may be considered in ascertaining the meaning of an enactment include the indications provided in the enactment.” Section 5(3) provides examples of those indications.
The issue centres on the word “and” in clause 84(1)(a) of the Electoral Finance Bill. The use of “and” in statutory drafting can often give rise to ambiguity. That is what has happened in this particular case. The use of the word “and” in this setting can mean one of two quite different things. Does it mean a cumulative amount or is it setting separate tests? Clause 84(1)(a) states that a “party’s election expenses in respect of any regulated period must not exceed—(a) the amount of $1,000,000; and (b) the amount of $20,000
for each electoral district contested by a candidate for the party.” The ambiguity around the word “and” is that it could be read as meaning that a party’s expenses must not exceed $1,000,000 and must not exceed $20,000 for each electoral district. Clearly, that is not what was intended.
If one goes back to the predecessor legislation, which is section 214B of the Electoral Act, one sees that it states that the limit is $1,000,000 plus $20,000 for each constituency contested by a candidate for the party. If this issue arose in a court setting, the judges would look at the predecessor legislation and see the wording change that has occurred, and they would draw from that an inference that change was intended. But that is not what is intended. It is intended that “and” means “plus”, or that “and” means “together with”. That has not been said. I urge the Minister to look critically at this issue, because there has been a significant change and that is reflected in the predecessor legislation. It is a little like what Humpty-Dumpty said in
Alice in Wonderland in that memorable line “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” This issue of “and” and what it can mean in various settings has been the subject of academic writing.
R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First)
: One of the things that has concerned me about this debate is that we have had Mr Bill English going around this country, talking about how much money different political parties spend out of the public purse. He has pointed the finger at New Zealand First and the Labour Party in particular, knowing full well that the biggest spender of public funds is the National Party. In total, the National Party has spent each year something in the vicinity of $7 million of public money.
Ron Mark: How much?
R DOUG WOOLERTON: It has spent $7 million. The story with regard to that, and what is wrong about it, is that Mr English is going around telling the public—
Paula Bennett: We didn’t win. Money obviously doesn’t buy an election.
R DOUG WOOLERTON: If Ms Bennett is worried about this issue, I cannot help that. But the fact is that her deputy leader has been going around this country, talking about the money being used to run our electorate offices. That is what he is talking about.
Because the National Party has the second-highest number of people in this House and it does not have any Ministers, it spends the most money. But Mr English is not saying anything like that. He is not explaining how that works. He is not telling people like John Boscawen that that is how the job works, and those people are ignorant of these matters. Mr English is perpetuating an incorrect statement. The National Party is then going to its friends at the
New Zealand Herald, which is further perpetuating these wrong statements and misleading the public.
What I will talk mainly about today, and what I had to leave off talking about yesterday, is the Minister’s invitation to clarify what MPs do. It needs clarification.
Rodney Hide: You still don’t know, Doug?
R DOUG WOOLERTON: I know what Rodney does. I know that he walks up Queen Street with duct tape over his mouth, which he should actually do more of. I liked that. We know that he goes on
Dancing with the Stars. We know that he is not here very much. We know that he rarely turns up at select committees. But, apart from that, I do not know much more about what he does.
I certainly know what MPs do, but we are actually talking about defining what MPs do. People should know that when they expect MPs to turn up in different parts of the country all in the same week, those MPs will have to expend some energy and jet fuel and will have to take a plane to get there. Hence, MPs have free air travel.
MPs have to stand up on a platform and tell people what their parties are about. MPs have to explain the policies of their particular party. In the case of ACT member
Rodney Hide, he is particularly blessed, because that will take him only a couple of minutes and he can get back to eating sponges and drinking soda water. But in New Zealand First’s case, explaining our policies takes a wee while. We need to define how that is done. We need to define and to put in place explanations that give effect to that process and reflect that we are indeed needed to go around this country. MPs are invited to explain what we do and what we intend to do. We have to be able to do that without it being called electioneering.
Of course, there comes a time when we do go out and electioneer. Those situations can usually be defined quite clearly by our asking for votes. We go out and say clearly to people: “We want you to vote for us because we think we can do this, this, and this better than other parties.” When we are doing that we are clearly electioneering. But if we are not asking for a vote, then I suggest to members that we are going about our normal business.
This has been a problem ever since I have been in Parliament. It has been the subject of debate, and people have misconstrued what electioneering is and what it is not. To me, it is quite clear. I hope the Minister is able to put it on paper.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
PAULA BENNETT (National)
: I will speak particularly on clause 55B. I am quite delighted that the Minister, Annette King, is actually in the chair, because I have some questions about the clause, as well. So I am looking forward to going down that track on the actual clause.
The clause quite adamantly states that Government departments, State-owned enterprises, Crown entities, Crown-owned companies and other instruments of the Crown cannot promote an election advertisement. I am not really sure why this clause was put into the bill, and I would be interested in hearing from the Minister the reason for that. I presume it was to try to dispel the National Party’s absolute concerns that those State-owned enterprises and Government departments were going to be advertising, by stealth, political advertisements of the Labour Party, by pretending the advertisements were policy, and using the funds for that. We have been taking quite an interest in the communications budgets of those departments to see whether that is true.
But the Government has finally twigged that this provision would include Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand, and there was the fear that it would prevent them from broadcasting campaign openings and closings. So the Government has introduced a Supplementary Order Paper, to avoid doubt, with an amendment that does not prevent any broadcaster from broadcasting an election programme, or prevent TVNZ or Radio New Zealand from broadcasting opening and closing addresses. So the Government has tried to cover up the issue with that Supplementary Order Paper, and I note that that is why it has done that.
I wanted to ask the Minister why there was no regulatory period. This regulation could run continuously not just for the 3 years but overall, because the legislation does not specify any regulatory period. Reading the legislation, I have some real concerns that it could mean that certain persons and bodies may not promote an election advertisement.
I think what is most important about this clause, though, is the determining of what an election advertisement is. That has to be a key point, and it is certainly one that is ambiguous and one that should be causing us all a bit of concern. Election advertisements can cover the opening and closing of a campaign and it can be the ones we pay for and in which we are restricted on what we can show on TV. Well, we already have those provisions; that law is already there. What parties can spend on election advertising via the media is very clear. Spending is regulated, and the regulations have been working. Certainly, we have had some minor upsets in the past
with some of the smaller parties and candidates feeling they were not getting as fair a go as others, but the regulations have been working and I cannot see the need for us to be regulating further on that.
So this provision has to be about what an election advertisement is. And there is the absolute belief that in election advertisements we will see Labour spending the Government’s money, and spending it via Government departments, to push its own advertising and its own message. But New Zealand has woken up to this and New Zealand will no longer be treated like a fool. It will no longer sit back and say that it is perfectly acceptable for the Labour Party to spread its message via the Government message—via the farce of “20 hours’ free”, via the KiwiSaver messages we have seen, and via the increase in communications budgets that has come through and that we are seeing in the estimates for next year.
It is not a big surprise to anyone that there has been a huge leap in communications personnel in Government departments. I ask the Minister whether we understand, in relation to this advertising by stealth, that this was the sort of advertising that Clare Curran was going to do. One has to ask whether that is the sort of spin that was going to go through, which the Labour Party wanted to push via Government departments. Evidence of that is coming out on a daily basis; we are hearing that that is the type of message that the Minister for the Environment wanted to be pushed through the ministry. He wanted his message of Labour Party propaganda to be pushed via that department, and that is indeed what Clare Curran was employed for.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National)
: I will take a call just to focus on clause 25A(2). This was inserted by the majority of Justice and Electoral Committee members over the objections of National members, and states: “If an anonymous party donation exceeding $1,000 is received by a party’s financial agent, the financial agent must, within 20 working days of receipt of the donation, pay to the Electoral Commission the amount of the donation, … less $1,000.” That is the way the clause will work.
But it is important to note that my Supplementary Order Paper suggests that the amount in question should be $4,000, and I want to tell the Committee how I reach that figure. The officials’ advice for anonymous party donations was that something between the figure of $2,000 and $5,000 should be permitted. We have gone for $4,000 for the simple fact that it is somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000. But it is important to recount just what exactly the Ministry of Justice advice said. The ministry’s advice was that there are strong reasons for setting the cap on anonymous donations at a somewhat higher level for political parties than for candidates and third parties.
The reasons are reasonably straightforward. First, the bill allows political parties, obviously, to spend significantly more on campaign expenditure than third parties and candidates. Setting the same threshold for donations across the board does not recognise this obvious fact. Secondly, there are legitimate arguments around freedom of speech and privacy. Political parties traditionally obtain a certain level of support through donations, and the argument, essentially, is that individuals should be able to give monetary support to a particular political party directly without being identified. The third matter—and it is obviously one that the National Party has been stressing time and time again in the course of this debate as we confront this bureaucratic nightmare—is the bureaucratic cost in compliance to political parties, which also needs to be considered. In terms of cost to the Public Service, the Electoral Commission has to handle all these anonymous donations, and it imposes a bureaucratic cost that can be circumvented if parties receive a higher proportion of donations directly. That is also a factor that impacts on the cost to political parties.
So for those reasons—[Interruption]—and I hear Mr Woolerton squawking. It was the ministry’s advice, not my advice, I say to Mr Woolerton, that the Committee should consider the threshold for anonymous donations to third parties and candidates at a lower level than that for political parties. That is why we have gone for that figure of $4,000.
I will say something next about clause 25C, because it raises an important practical matter that the Minister may want to reflect on. Mr Ryall has spoken about the “Owen Glenn clause”, clause 25C(1)(a), referring to that Labour Party luvvy from Rose Bay in that very safe Liberal seat of Wentworth held by the excellent Malcolm Turnbull. When I made that comment last week, of course, Mr Chauvel interjected and said: “Not for much longer”. Well, I think Mr Chauvel will recognise that it is still a good, safe, Liberal seat. But I do not want to upset Mr Chauvel unnecessarily.
Another provision needs to be referred to, and that is subclause (b). I will focus on subclause (b), which deals with body corporates “incorporated outside New Zealand;”. My understanding is that a number of companies are incorporated in Australia, although they may be based in New Zealand. I am not sure about Sky City; I have an idea that it may well be incorporated in Australia but that it gives to a number of political parties in New Zealand. I am just concerned that if one takes the interpretation “body corporate incorporated outside New Zealand”, it could unwittingly catch a number of companies that are based in New Zealand and that currently give to both the National Party and the Labour Party, and it could limit the amount they are able to give. So that is why we make that change.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Madam Chair, tēnā tātou katoa e te Whare. The Māori Party is willing, at long last, having listened to much of the debate, to contribute as a starting point for probably the rest of the evening, and we appreciate very much the comments made by a large number of the members across the Chamber in respect of the various parts of this bill. In opening up our statement, the Māori Party would say that we support the need to uphold the concept of disclosure of party donations over a specified amount, and I am specifically referring to Subpart 4, “Disclosure of third party donations”. We endorse the call for greater transparency, as we would hope that this would ensure that political parties desist from the devious use of trusts or lawyers and their accounts to obscure the identity of donors. We also believe that giving is a transparent act and that it should be honoured as such. We support the changes to tighten the rules on anonymous donations, with details to be disclosed to the Chief Electoral Officer.
It has to be asked whose interests are served by covering up the use of wealth in a political party context. The general public’s? Yeah, right! The practice of third-party donations being submerged under the existing categories has been a longstanding habit of many of the political parties in this Chamber and may likely continue. We note, for example, that there is a $10,000 limit, so what is to stop people from getting to the magic figure of $9,999 as a way of getting around the intricacies of this law?
So here is the thing: this legislation does not give the transparency we are after. Nor does it open up the trusts as Labour promised it would. We know that this bill requires a degree of electoral finance literacy and sophistication that some groups might not have, and that will limit their participation. The Hon Bill English has over the past couple of weeks identified many of the loopholes he can see, and he has identified many of the views as to how this law could be interpreted. So does it address the problem of hidden trusts? We say no.
I remember the words of Martin Luther King. He said something like this: “It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people but the appalling silence of the so-called good
people.” So the question we might ask in this House is this: who will fess up now about the means and mechanisms by which the good people of this House know their party coffers bloom? Who would fess up? I do not hear too many calls, because everybody is talking, but, that aside, we all know that money has been secretly pocketed away in trust accounts with the assistance of lawyers and solicitors to make it all kosher, if you like. In the context of political donations, if people do not wish to be identified, then perhaps they should not give.
In a cultural sense, and in the cultural context of koha, before the intervention of the envelope, which many of us use on marae now—the envelope and money—gifts were laid on marae for all to see. So before the use of the envelope and money, it was a transparent exercise of putting things down in front of everybody so they could see it. I see this issue in very much the same way.
Let us consider all the gifts of fine mats, for example, by our Pacific brothers and sisters, the giving of whāriki, perhaps, when a meeting house is opened, or of tukutuku panels as a whānau or hapū contribution to a new house. That sort of generosity is apparent for all to see. It is all above board, transparent, and accountable. It is perhaps the model that the Government could have considered if it had had the courage to blow open the secret trusts as it originally said it would, but, unfortunately, it has failed to do so.
I turn briefly to Subpart 5, which is about the general rules on election advertising. The meaning of the term “election advertisement” is at the very heart of the adverse reaction from New Zealanders to this bill. New Zealanders, like the 5,000 who marched in protest last weekend, and just like the many thousands who marched in the hīkoi to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, were treated with an element of disdain and contempt by the Prime Minister.
RON MARK (NZ First)
: It is a pleasure to take my first call in this debate. I have spent most of my time watching it on the television and chuckling—at best chuckling and laughing, but at worst shaking my head in absolute disbelief at some of the things I heard. I heard, for example, Judith Collins saying: “We don’t want our candidates to know where the money came from.”, and “I don’t want to know.” Whatever! We could chisel that one on the side of Parliament Buildings and no one in the country would believe it.
I want to give those National members of Parliament who are sitting here right now an opportunity. I ask the ones who are sitting here right now whether they received a donation for their campaign funds from the local branch of the Exclusive Brethren. Chris Tremain? No. Lindsay Tisch? He will not answer me. Kate Wilkinson?
Kate Wilkinson: No.
RON MARK: They did not give the member any money in Rangiora?
Kate Wilkinson: No.
RON MARK: None at all?
Kate Wilkinson: No.
RON MARK: Well, there we go. They have no qualms whatsoever in giving us an answer here, so what is the big deal about fulfilling the requirements of clause 24? What is the big deal?
R Doug Woolerton: Not a problem.
RON MARK: It is not a problem. A lot of us down in Christchurch want to know from Nicky Wagner whether she received money from the Brethren to fight against Tim Barnett in Christchurch Central. Hello? No answer! Well, there we go. She might not want to give us an answer in the House today as to whether she got any help from the Brethren in fighting Tim Barnett, but this clause is eminently sensible and it does not seem to pose a problem for Kate Wilkinson and Chris Tremain. It is interesting that
Lindsay Tisch would not answer, is it not? But clause 24 does not seem to pose a problem for those people, so any of the arguments that have been put up so far are spurious nonsense.
I have heard the argument from Mr Nick Smith that MPs spend $64,000 on promoting themselves. That is what he said. Well, I say: “Shame on Nick Smith!” He should resign his portfolio and get the hell out of this House, because he is not doing the job he was sent here to do. For a start, he is wrong—he has misled the House. Tau Henare does not get $64,000 a year to promote himself, even if he wanted to do that. He gets $40,000 because he is a list MP. But of course Judith Collins made her views of list MPs very clear in this Chamber just a short moment ago when she denigrated them. Rather derogatory statements came out of her mouth, which tends to be par for the course for Judith Collins.
Let us be clear about one thing. We have heard a lot of criticism from National Party speakers about people who spend taxpayers’ money, and we have heard a lot of questions about the jobs an MP does. What is the job description? Well, let me ask National members why their leader gets $233,000 of taxpayers’ money a year, when other party leaders in this House get $139,000. Why? You see, Mr Key is listed as the Leader of the Opposition. Pray tell me, what the heck is the “Leader of the Opposition”? He leads nobody except his own gaggle. He does not have meetings regularly with Rodney Hide, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Winston Peters, or Peter Dunne. He does not lead the Māori Party. He does not lead the ACT party. He does not lead a united caucus of Opposition parties. But he sticks his hand out and takes an extra $100,000 of taxpayers’ money—not that he needs it—and does not say boo. And he gets a limo to boot. There is all this criticism from National members about Ministers running around in big limousines, but their own damn leader rides around in one. And he gets an extra $100,000.
Where is the job description for the Leader of the Opposition? There is none. There is nothing. Talk about getting money under false pretences! If he were employed out there in the street and rocked up to the boss, saying “Hey, I want to work for you as the leader of the gang.”, the boss would look around and say “But you’re the only one in the working gang.” And if he then said “And I want an extra $100,000 a year for it.”, the boss would tell him to blow off. He would say: “Get outta here! You’re joking—go away!”. Well, here he is, and not only does he tout himself as the great Leader of the Opposition but he gets an extra $100,000 a year over and above the salary for that job. Do we hear him telling the media that? Pray tell me, what consultation does he do as the great Leader of the Opposition with all the other leaders of the Opposition that means he deserves another $100,000 of taxpayers’ money every year? None!
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice)
: I just wish to make a few comments, and to table a new Subpart 9 in Part 2, which concerns the indexation of limits. But first of all I thank the Hon Tau Henare for his contribution. He raised the issue of the crayfish donation. I can tell him that a technical amendment does address the issue he raised. The donations made under Subpart 1A and Subpart 2 are donations of money only, paid by way of cash, cheque, or bank draft. I think that clarifies the issue he raised.
Judith Collins also spoke to clause 22, “Interpretation”. An amendment in the name of Christopher Finlayson is on his Supplementary Order Paper and is one that has been accepted by the Government; we will no doubt vote on that in due course. Paula Bennett raised the matter of clause 55B, which is the clause making it clear that Government departments, Crown entities, and State-owned enterprises cannot promote election advertisements, and she asked whether that was just for a particular period. In fact,
those departments can never promote election advertisements, and that is made clear for the purpose of the departments, and also for the members in this Committee.
As I said, there is a new amendment in my name, a proposed new Subpart 9 to Part 2, around the indexation of limits. The supbpart creates a mechanism whereby political party, candidate, or third party expenditure limits will increase at the rate of inflation, rounded up to the next whole $1,000. The total donation amounts that political parties and third parties can receive through the Electoral Commission will also increase at the same rate. This increase will occur once every 3 years by an Order in Council that will come into force on 1 October in the year before Parliament is due to expire. The threshold expenditure over which listing as a third party is required will also increase at the rate of inflation, but will be rounded up to the next whole $100, which reflects the low end of this threshold.
The mechanism that is being proposed here was originally proposed to the Royal Commission on the Electoral System, and the royal commission in its report raised the issue and recommended that the Electoral Commission ensured that the expenditure permitted to each candidate kept pace with inflation. That was contained in that report going way back then. It was also contained in the departmental report on the bill from the Electoral Commission. The commission advised the Justice and Electoral Committee to adopt a proposal like that in relation to election expenditure. Mr Christopher Finlayson put forward an amendment to this end, and I would like to thank him warmly for that. I asked officials to consider his amendment and to come back with a regime reflecting his proposal that is consistent with the broader drafting conventions.
The amendment that I have put forward, though, does not index donation thresholds in this bill, which was something that neither the royal commission nor the Electoral Commission recommended. However, the amendment will mean that the amounts in the bill retain their value over time, and I understand that a number of parties support this approach.
ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast)
: I will speak on a couple of amendments to the Electoral Finance Bill in the name of Christopher Finlayson, first of all to clause 53(2)(d) and, second, to clause 103(1)(b). Both of these clauses are around what the Labour Party terms third parties—that is, those people who are taking part in an election who are not political parties or candidates, which is the wider group of New Zealanders, the people to whom elections actually belong. However, the Labour Party has called this group of people third parties and has set some rules around what they can and cannot do.
In particular, those two clauses, first of all clause 52(2)(d), deal with the threshold over which a third party would have to register. We had a great deal of discussion about this issue, because this is the opportunity for New Zealanders, whether they are an individual or with an organisation, to take part in an election campaign. In its wisdom, the Labour Party—aided by the Greens, of course—decided that the threshold of either group spending or individual spending should be $12,000.
Quite interestingly, the Electoral Commission disagreed with that decision at the Justice and Electoral Committee. It said that the threshold should be set at $40,000. Further, the commission had given some very serious consideration as to why we should be setting a threshold. I will refer to the very thoughtful work that the commission did, which I have to say was totally ignored by the Government.
The commission had two reasons for suggesting the level of $40,000. First of all, that amount would mean that a campaign could be run using, say, a number of radio stations, newspapers, or magazines. A group, an organisation, or an individual could run a reasonable sort of a campaign—nothing major, but a reasonable sort of a campaign—for a reasonably small amount of money and not have to go through the hoops of registering as a third party.
Secondly, the commission said that an individual or group spending more than $40,000 would be easily recognised by it. It said that that would be easily detected in the community without there needing to be any sort of major bureaucracy hunting through community newspapers and checking up on what groups were doing throughout New Zealand. The amendment in the name of Christopher Finlayson, first of all to clause 53(2)(d), changes that threshold to $40,000, in line with the recommendation from the commission.
Then, of course, we had the spending limit for a third party, which is in clause 103(1)(b). Again, the commission, using that same process and rationale, recommended an expenditure cap of between $250,000 and $300,000 overall. The commission had worked out quite carefully with some research that that amount allowed for, say, a 2-week campaign by an organisation. For instance, the commission gave an example of a campaign that was targeting young people with cinema ads. The commission had a very clear rationale behind its suggestions. They were sensible suggestions, and Christopher Finlayson’s amendment addresses those suggestions.
But that was not good enough for the Greens. The Greens said in the select committee that that sort of expenditure might drown out their voices and they did not think that was reasonable.
Metiria Turei: Don’t tell fibs.
ANNE TOLLEY: That is not telling fibs. The member said that: that it might challenge some of the smaller parties in Parliament who do not spend that amount of money. We had select committee members making decisions on what third parties should be able to spend in an election campaign based on committee members’ ability or inability to raise funds for their own campaigns. I think that is outrageous. I think that the commission actually had a very sensible rationale behind its suggestions around the expenditure threshold and the expenditure caps for third parties.
It is totally outrageous that a member of a select committee should be using his or her own position to manipulate the levels for third parties and their ability to take part in an election campaign.
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty)
: I have moved a number of amendments in my name in respect of the returns that need to be made by candidates. The legislation provides that candidates’ financial agents can provide returns and certification to the authorities. As we know, a financial agent can be the candidate or an appointed person. Frankly, I believe that any undertakings or certifications given in respect of a candidate’s campaign should be signed by the candidates themselves and not the financial agent if the financial agent is someone other than the candidate. I have moved a number of amendments providing that in respect of a candidate’s campaign—both expenditure and donations returns—it should be the candidate who puts it on the line by attesting and signing the document; it should not be the financial agent if the financial agent is separate from the candidate. I have made a number of amendments on that because I think that when it comes to a candidate’s campaign, the candidate should be the person who puts it on the line rather than the financial agent, as proposed here.
There are a number of other amendments, in the name of our colleague Mr Chris Finlayson, that I would also like to support. Those amendments boil down to the issue of disclosure. It is very important for the public to have confidence in the electoral system, and that is one of the goals of this legislation. One of the purposes set out in Part 1 is to try to improve public confidence in the electoral system, which is not
necessarily the case with this legislation. But there are requirements for the Electoral Commission to make available for public inspection lists of third party donations, candidate donations, and party donations. The Electoral Finance Bill requires that those donations be published in a manner that the Chief Electoral Officer considers appropriate. I do not know whether anyone in this Chamber has ever sought to see that information, but one has to go to the Electoral Commission to get it. For the candidate spending returns one has to go to the Chief Electoral Officer to see them. I have done that regularly after elections. I go down there and check the opposition candidates’ spending returns, as everyone else does, together with their donor returns, but there is only one spot to do that, and that is the office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
I have moved a number of amendments to improve transparency and the availability of information so that those returns, particularly those relating to candidate and electoral district campaigns, should be available for inspection in the offices of the registrars of electors. People in a local community who want to see that information should not have to travel to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer in Wellington to get it. I have moved a number of amendments, which I hope other parties will support, so that the Chief Electoral Officer, when it comes to candidates’ donation returns and spending returns, should be able to make those available in the offices of registrars of electors, which are the nearest electoral-related offices for most ordinary New Zealanders. People would be able to go to the registrar and actually look at the returns, which would give a level of scrutiny we have never had in the electoral system before. I think that parties across the board would want to support that.
I also propose that in respect of party returns, they too should be made available in the offices of registrars of electors.
Hon Member: Hard copies.
Hon TONY RYALL: Hard copies of those returns should be made available so that ordinary people can go down and look at them. If one of the purposes of this legislation is to enhance public knowledge of donations, then a hard copy of that information should be available for ordinary people to go and look at. Right now it is just not easy. I think the Electoral Commission is making some information available on its website now that never used to be available, but when it comes to the returns of individual candidates, they are not available on the website and one has to come to Wellington to see them. I think that Parliament should support my amendment in respect of that change.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Chairperson. I recognise that you are of a mind to consider that this debate should be concluded, but I make the point to you that the National Party has prepared a large number of amendments to this particular part. I can tell you, Madam Chairperson, that we have proposed numerous amendments that have not yet been spoken on. You will know, Madam Chairperson, how the form is with these things. Parties can choose to put up frivolous amendments that see us voting for hours and hours, but that has not happened in this debate. We have put up genuine amendments—
Hon Annette King: Ha, ha!
GERRY BROWNLEE: The Minister in the chair may laugh—by and large that is what her party is doing to the whole of the New Zealand public with this bill, anyway—but the reality is that the Government is picking up some of the amendments that have been moved. The Minister has mentioned that this evening.
A number of our people have prepared contributions on each of the amendments. We are not seeking an opportunity to speak just for the sake of it. I do not think it would be
at all reasonable for anyone to accuse any of our speakers to date of having made speeches of a general nature. They have confined themselves to particular clauses.
I know that Mr Tisch wishes to speak particularly on a matter brought up by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand, and I think that the points the institute wanted to make should be aired in the Committee. There is an amendment that would give effect to some of the recommendations the institute made, and, perhaps, as with many of the other amendments, the Government may be moved to support it.
Although it may be the desire of some in the Committee to see the debate closed down, I would argue strongly that the comments in the debate so far have been of a very specific nature on each occasion. We have made an effort to make sure that this debate is not seen as frivolous. It seems to me to be entirely unparliamentary to shut down this debate after such a short period of time. We have heard—
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): I have heard the member; thank you very much. I think you have made your points quite clearly. We have had 27 speeches and there have certainly been a lot of speeches covering the whole spectrum of this part. I am now going to put the closure.
Sandra Goudie: Point of order—
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): Is the point of order on this matter? I have made my decision on it.
Sandra Goudie: It is following Gerry Brownlee’s point of order.
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): I am sorry, but I have made the decision.
Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—
The CHAIRPERSON (Ann Hartley): Please be seated. Can I just make the point that I have heard your point of order and I have made my decision. If it is on the same point—
GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)
: I would not dare to relitigate it with you, Madam Chairperson. I move,
That the Speaker be recalled.
- Motion agreed to.
- House resumed.