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Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill

Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill; Third Reading

Rahui Katene; MP for Te Tai Tonga

Wednesday 15 December 2010; 3.40pm

The Maori Party is pleased to support the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill; – and in doing so we support reform of the Electoral Finance Act, and the associated guidance it will provide political parties; our supporters and parallel campaigners regarding that precious issue of funding for spending on election advertising.

Of course the really big question that we would have liked this Bill to have addressed is exactly how political parties achieve the levels of funding that they do! If you look at the Maori Party – it appears to be an area where the Maori Party continues to rely the miracle of five loaves of bread and two small fish to feed the multitudes – as indeed so many whanau Maori are used to doing.

That aside, we want to acknowledge the leadership of Minister Power in establishing that the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill will progress reforms only where there is broad consensus.

There have been a few occasions this year across the House where consensus has been largely achieved – I am thinking in particular of the tobacco reforms introduced by my colleague Tariana Turia, and the Canterbury earthquake response where parties across the House worked together for the greater good.

I have drawn on that precedent in calling for a cross-party accord on child poverty – similar in effect to the one on National Super - so that members of parliament consider policies for children as sacrosanct as policy for older people are. It is a challenge I hope that all members will consider over the summer break.

But in coming back to this Bill, the Maori Party is confident that this bill will establish a regime that is fair and transparent to all groups and individuals – as is vital for the operations of democracy.

The Māori Party supports the range of electoral finance reforms, contained in the legislation, including a register that is publically available to record the contributions of third party promoters in terms of their investment in election advertising. We think this will ensure openness and transparency concerning the identities of third party promoters.

We have agreed with the proposed increase in the amount of money that parties and candidates can spend on election campaigning and agree that this should be set at the rate of inflation for each general election.

In the interests of greater transparency for the general public it would, however, be useful to know why there needs to be twice as much funding available for a by-election campaign – and given the events of yesterday, we would recommend such information be circulated before the 5 March byelection in Botany.

We believe that these changes ensure that everything spent on behalf of, or towards political parties is above board and open.

The Māori Party has also supported the call of the public for greater transparency, in order to desist from the practice of using Trusts or Lawyers accounts to obscure the identity of donors. The Māori Party supports reforms, which ensure greater certainty and transparency in the conduct of the electoral process.

We were particularly pleased that the reforms remove the requirement for advance voters to make a written declaration before election day. From an administrative point of view this is helpful in removing another layer of costs from the schedule but more importantly, it removes a barrier to participation; and we are hopeful that the Maori voting public will be able to take advantage of this mechanism.

I want to just touch on the move to introduce more certainty to what counts as 'election advertising' by modernising the definition. But we would like to see that the issue of unethical advertising is addressed in the implementation of the Bill.

Consider the appalling way in which some parties and advertisers have used Maori as negative fodder during election campaigning. We should never again return to the era where politicians gamble on national identity and threaten the unity that has been so desperately sought by pitching campaigns to create unnatural divisions between iwi vs kiwi.

Finally, while we supported the SOP keeping broadcasting out of this bill – the Māori Party is disappointed that there is nothing on the agenda signalling reform to the broadcasting regime that has existed since 1990. Whilst we can understand that there were widely held views about this, we cannot forget the issues that have arisen in the past over varying interpretation of rules over the broadcasting spend.

We thank the Minister for his leadership throughout this Bill,we thank the Chair of the Committee and I want to thank all the members of this committee who made it such a useful way of dealing with this matter.

We note also the cooperation right across this House, to ensure this Bill was able to proceed without further delay. 2011 is just around the corner, and I am in no doubt that the drive for an effective; efficient and equitable electoral system will continue to remain a priority for all parties in this House.

ENDS

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