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Flavell: Electoral Finance Bill: Committee Stage

Electoral Finance Bill: Committee Stage

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Tena koe, Madam Chair, tena tatou katoa e te Whare.

In opening up our statement, the Maori 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.

So we support the need to uphold the concept of the disclosure of party donations over a specified amount.

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’ accounts to obscure the identity of donors.

We also believe that giving is a transparent act and 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.

The question that has to be asked is: 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 $9999 as a way of getting around the intricacies of this law?

So here is the thing - this legislation doesn’t 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 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 there has been money secretively 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 invention of the envelope which many of us use on marae now – the envelope and money - gifts were laid on the 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. Consider all the gifts of fine mats, for example, by our Pacific brothers and sisters, or the giving of whariki perhaps when a meeting house is opened or tukutuku panels as a whanau, hapu contribution to a new house.

That sort of generosity is apparent for all to see. It is all above board, transparent, 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 they would, but unfortunately, it has failed to do.

I turn briefly to sub-part five, 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 5000 who marched in protest this last weekend gone and just like the many thousands who marched in the hikoi to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, were treated with disdain and contempt by the Prime Minister, who dismissed the 5000-strong protest march in Auckland at the weekend as a "relatively small number of troops".

That note of contempt; the power to suppress an alternative point of view, is fundamental to our objections around this Bill.

Debate interrupted …..


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