May 16, 2008
EPMU clarifies media reports
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says media reports that the union has called for the Electoral Commission to prevent the public from objecting to the registration of third parties are incorrect.
The EPMU appreciates the Dominion Post's moves to correct the story today and the New Zealand Herald's undertaking to do so in due course.
The inaccurate reports arose out of a High Court hearing this week in which the National Party challenged the union's right to register as a third party under the Electoral Finance Act.
The EPMU, as part of its case, argued that the Electoral Commission should follow a proper procedure in dealing with public concerns over registration.
The union's argument was that the legislation did not allow the Electoral Commission to take unsolicited objections or comments from the public before deciding to register a third party, but could consider issues afterwards using its inquiry powers, or if someone applied for judicial review.
Following the High Court hearing, several media stories focussed on the single issue of the correct procedure for handling objections to registration. The issue was variously characterised as:
"Labour's biggest union ally wants the public stopped from raising concerns about the political links of groups seeking to run big spending campaigns on behalf of political parties...The [EPMU] has asked the High Court to rule that the public has no right to object to [third] parties applying...[there should be] no room for public objections." (Dominion Post)
"Ironically, the EPMU is now arguing the public has no right to object to groups seeking third party status if they believe they have strong links to a political party - a strange position given the law was supposed to encourage public participation and greater transparency in the democratic process." (Inside the Beltway blog, Stuff.co.nz)
"The [EPMU] wants to prevent the Electoral Commission from considering public objections to registration of third parties..." (NZ Herald).
The EPMU's position is clear. We have not argued that the public should be prevented from raising objections to or issues with third party applicants.
The union has argued that the requirements of the legislation should be followed, namely that the Electoral Commission must satisfy itself on the basis of any application that an applicant is eligible or not ineligible. Once a third party is registered, and notified on the Commission's website, then there is a process under the Commission's powers of inquiry to deal with any public concerns and, if necessary, to deregister a third party.
Statements that the union is trying to prevent public concerns being raised are simply not correct.