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Appropriation Bill: Chilling effect on democracy

Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader

9 November 2007

Appropriation Bill: Chilling effect on democracy

National Party Deputy Leader Bill English says a bill introduced to Parliament yesterday paves the way for incumbent electorate MPs to spend at least four times more money than an unelected challenger in election year.

“The Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill widens the definition of ‘electioneering’ to exempt campaigns like the pledge card – which was clearly electioneering.

“That means that current electorate MPs can call on their taxpayer-funded purse of $64,000 in an election year, plus the $20,000 they’ll be allowed to spend on campaigning under the Electoral Reform Bill.

“Meanwhile,an unelected electorate challenger will be allowed to spend a maximum of $20,000 of their own money on campaigning during the whole of election year. And that’s it.

“So while a current MP can spend up to $84,000, any challenger will be restricted to just $20,000. And that’s before any targeted contribution from the ‘Leader’s fund’ promoting policies – in the same way the pledge card did.

“This is Labour-designed democracy in action. Two standards of free speech. One law for the politicians, and another law for everyone else.

“What chance would the Greens or the Maori Party have had in their early years if the dice were loaded in favour of the incumbents in the way which is planned?

“Why are the Greens - so-called champions of free speech - so determined to limit the rights of organised individuals who might want to challenge the status quo on an equal financial footing?”

Mr English says when coupled with the Electoral Finance Bill the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill it is an “anti-democratic double whammy”.

Ends

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