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National dissatisfied with 2005 election inquiry

National Party Members,

Justice and Electoral Select Committee

8 September 2006

National dissatisfied with 2005 election inquiry report

Labour and Green Party members on the Justice & Electoral Select Committee have used their block voting power to stifle the inquiry into the 2005 general election.

The National Party members on the committee – Dr Richard Worth, Chris Finlayson and Nicky Wagner – are dissatisfied with the work of the committee.

National Party dissatisfaction centres on two issues:

1. The undertaking by the Minister of Justice recorded in a letter dated 18 May 2006 to the committee that the review of the Act would include consideration of the apportionment of dual-purpose advertising expenses and third-party advertising. It was the understanding of National Party members that there would be an opportunity to consider those proposals in the settling of this report.

2. The fact that the Controller and Auditor-General has not completed his report into serious irregularities in respect of election advertising.

The issue of these irregularities is a central issue that should have formed part of the work of the committee.

The committee received advice of serious allegations relating to the overspending, including:

• On 5 October 2005, the General Secretary of the Labour Party, in a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer, withdrew his offer to have amounts expended in respect of the pledge card and the associated brochure counted as an election expense.
• Legal advice contained in a report from the National Crime Manager of the Police, dated 27 February 2006, that were a criminal charge brought against Heather Simpson, the Chief of Staff to the Labour Leader’s Parliamentary office, that “such a charge would likely result in a conviction”.

The majority of the committee were not prepared to have these issues investigated in the course of the inquiry.

The National Party Minority Report also identifies a number of other issues of concern. In summary those issues are:

• The electorate organisational structure – National believes there is no need for change.
• State funding of political parties – National believes there is no justification to move to expanded state funding and, in fact, risks associated with doing so.
• Election expenditure – National believes there is a strong case for increasing the expenditure that may be spent by a candidate within 90 days of an election. The current figure of $20,000 (including GST) has remained the same for many years.
• The Maori electorate option – National believes the time has come to review the continued existence of the Maori seats.
• Voting irregularities – National believes that some form of identification for both enrolling and voting should be considered at the next election to prevent current abuse of the system. They have the impression that the entities responsible for the conduct of the election are more interested in increasing the vote than the integrity of the process, and that stricter controls on enrolling and voting are required.
• The date for closing the roll – National considers that there are inadequate safeguards to ensure that only properly qualified people are voting. This can only be secured if the cut-off time for registration as an elector is earlier than the day before the election so the roll can be carefully scrutinised.

Ends

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