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National wants bi-partisan Electoral Law Reform

Hon. Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader

6 December 2006

National wants bi-partisan Electoral Law Reform

The National Party will support moves announced by Helen Clark yesterday to reform electoral law, and it wants to take the plans further, says National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English.

“It is important the public have confidence that all parties will start equal in election campaigns under any new laws. We want to be sure that the Labour Party is going to take a bi-partisan approach to any law changes.”

Whatever rule changes are made, Mr English says National will continue to oppose state funding of political parties.

“We are happy to support moves to outlaw third-party advertising that attacks political parties, but we want to be sure that the unions - which are the prime participants in this activity going back many elections - are included in any change, and don’t get away under any loophole like ‘worker education’.

“Similarly, it is probably time to move to prevent anonymous political funding, but as well as curtailing people’s current rights to give through trusts, we must deal with the predominantly Labour Party practice of receiving large anonymous donations directly on a ‘no questions asked’ basis.”

Mr English says for the reform to be robust, it must also address all the significant issues raised out of the last election, and not just the ones that irk the Labour Party.

“There must be practical penalties for parties that breach the spending cap, like Labour did at the last election. These could include payments of fines equivalent to the amount of any over-spend or, in extreme cases, forfeiture by parties of one or more seats in Parliament, as happens when electorate campaigns are found to have exceeded spending caps.

“There is also sizeable public concern over the use of government department advertising to promote the pet policies of the government of the day leading up to an election. A legal moratorium on all non-essential advertising by government departments in the 90 days leading to an election would address that.”

Mr English stressed that the reform needed to be addressed urgently if it was to be in place by the 2008 election.

“National played by the rules at the last election, and if the rules are changed for the next election, we will change with them. However, all parties need clarity as to what the rules will be. We are only 21 months out from the next election, and it takes time to build a consensus around change of this magnitude.”

ENDS

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