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After-thought talks no answer for election law

Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader

30 November 2007

After-thought talks no answer to flawed election law

National Party Deputy Leader Bill English says after-thought talks between parties on what the Electoral Finance Bill actually means are no substitute for decent law.

"Electoral law should be made under the bright lights of Parliament, with plenty of opportunity for public input, not made in cosy back-room deals between political parties. The last opportunity to make the law clear will be next week when Parliament debates the details of the bill.

“If those parties supporting this bill don’t know what it means in practice, and the Electoral Commission doesn't know what it means in practice, how on earth are the public supposed to understand it?”

Mr English says that from the outset, National was prepared to deal with Labour and other parties to get a set of rules that had genuine cross-party support. Labour did not approach National to build such a consensus.

“That was the convention. Instead, Labour rallied its allies and set about writing a set of self-serving rules that heavily restrict free speech for one year in every three.

“At the same time, Labour is planning an election year blitz with taxpayer money, where multimillion-dollar departmental budgets will be used as part of the incumbent’s propaganda war.

“If the Greens, New Zealand First and United Future were truly serious about maintaining our democracy and protecting free speech, they would vote against the Electoral Finance Bill. Watchdogs, including the Human Rights Commission, say the bill is now so fundamentally changed that it should have further public consultation.

“Labour has refused. Instead, there’ll be a series of last gasp amendments to patch up some of the gaping holes that have been found to date.

“Electoral law and democracy is too important for a self-serving rush job just before Christmas. Labour should kill the bill.”

ENDS

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