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Election watchdog says law is unenforceable

Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader

3 September 2008

Election watchdog says law is unenforceable

National Party Deputy Leader Bill English says the Electoral Commission has confirmed that Labour's Electoral Finance Act is unenforceable and has had a 'chilling' impact on our democracy.

"The admissions from Dr Helena Catt at a conference yesterday are worrying in the extreme.

"As New Zealanders head to the polls, the Electoral Commission is effectively saying it is unable to promise that the law will be properly policed or applied. That is the direct consequence of Labour's decision to railroad the law into place with the support of New Zealand First and the Greens.

"The EFA, like the controversial Emissions Trading Scheme, had hundreds of amendments that the public had no chance to comment on."

Dr Catt said of the EFA that:

* Implementation planning and process development had to begin while the shape of the final legislation was unclear. The significant changes to the Bill at Select Committee, and a lack of time between enactment and commencement also meant that interpretive and practical implications could not be worth through in advance of the law being in force.

* It is clear that having uncertainty remaining within the regulated period has had a chilling effect on the extent and type of participation in political and campaign activity ... The meanings of significant sections of the legislation are obscure.

* The commission is not confident that it will be able to reach informed positions on the interpretation of some provisions within the election period, and notes that the situation is exacerbated by the legal reality that it cannot finally determine questions of whether, for instance, an item is an election advertisement.

"The Electoral Commission has confirmed National's worst fears. The voices of those who want to participate in our democracy have been silenced, and just a few months out from the election, watchdogs still don't know what an election advertisement is.

"When it came to election laws, Labour put self-serving politics ahead of good, enduring policy. With the ETS, history is repeating."

  • Dr Helena Catt's comments to the Lexis Nexis Electoral Finance Law Forum
  • ENDS

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