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Kiwi Party Challenges Electoral Finance Law

Kiwi Party Challenges Electoral Finance Law

The Kiwi Party
Press Release
3 November, 2009

Kiwi Party President Gordon Copeland and Party Leader Larry Baldock to day released a copy of their submission on the reform of the electoral finance law.

They call inter alia, for wide ranging reforms, including a clear separation between funding provided by Parliamentary Services for parliamentary services and the funding of electioneering by parties, a much fairer way of using the taxpayer funded Broadcasting Allocation and the prohibition of support by unions and companies for political parties on ethical grounds.

A full copy of the submission is set out below.

Mr Copeland and Mr Baldock, both of whom are former MPs, believe that the electoral finance rules need to be reformed if all parties, not just National and Labour, are to be treated fairly.

“For too long the incumbents have written the rules, including those for the use of taxpayer funds through Parliamentary Services and the Broadcasting Allocation, to their own advantage” said Mr Copeland

“This has both tilted the playing field in their favour and handicapped the ability of the smaller parties, including those not represented in parliament, to get their message across, to the detriment of our democracy. It is time for that to change”

Submission on the Electoral Finance Law

Purpose Section of the New Legislation

1. We agree that the principles set out should be incorporated in the purpose section of the new legislation. However we want to comment on one aspect of the word “legitimacy”.

We submit that is unethical for unions or companies either to donate money to political parties or to engage in parallel campaigning.

Clearly the members of a union will be voting, in any general election, for any and all of the contesting parties and candidates. It is therefore ethically wrong for any funds held by their union, including those collected by way of membership fees, to be used by the union’s leaders to support, directly or indirectly, the election of any one party (as distinct from general advocacy on behalf of members to all parties) or candidate.

A similar situation applies to companies. Shareholders are the proprietors of a company and all funds are held on their behalf. Shareholders too will be voting in a general election for any and all of the contesting parties and candidates. It is therefore unethical for the Board of a company to take shareholders’ funds and use them to make a donation to one or more political parties.

In these circumstances it is illegitimate for either unions or companies to make political donations or engage in parallel campaigning, whether negative or positive.

We understand that such activities are now illegal in both the USA and Canada and submit that they should likewise be made illegal in New Zealand.

2. We propose that the word “certainty” be added as an additional principle to the purpose section.

Broadcasting Allocation Funds

We submit that the present Broadcasting Allocation system needs to be radically overhauled.

Under the present system the funding provided by the taxpayer is allocated by a politically appointed Commission which allocates the bulk of that sum to either National or Labour depending on which of those parties lead the Government of the day. The other parties get the scraps!

We submit that this system is fundamentally flawed and should be replaced before the 2011 elections based on the principles which the Government intends to incorporate in the purpose section of the new law.

All parties fielding an equal number of candidates in the election should be treated equitably.

Each election should be viewed as a new electoral contest and the representation or otherwise of parties in Parliament at the time of its dissolution, in preparation for the election of a new House of Representatives, should be completely disregarded. The election campaign should begin with a blank sheet of paper which the voters alone, not the retiring Government, should fill in by casting their vote at the ballot box on Election Day. The electoral finance rules should then treat all registered parties in an equitable manner during the election campaign so that voters are well informed on the issues.

However, we do support the provision of a broadcasting allocation amount from the taxpayer. A limitation on the amount that can be spent on TV or radio is a valid concept, and serves to ensure that we do not end up with an American type media war between the parties, conducted on television.

It is the fair allocation of those funds which is our immediate concern, and in that regard we have the following specific suggestions:
1. All registered political parties be limited by a cap on TV or radio advertising for the party vote. We suggest that the 2011 cap be $500,000 per party, adjusted for inflation at each successive election.
2. That each registered party with candidates in every electorate receive $50,000 of Broadcasting Allocation (BA), but can spend up to the $500,000 cap by using up to $450,000 of funds raised by the party.
3. That the BA for parties with candidates in 75% (or more) of electorates, but not in every electorate, be reduced to $40,000; 50% to 75% of electorates to $30,000; 10% to 50% to $20,000; and less than 10% to $10,000. In all cases the cap would remain at $500,000, with the balance paid from party funds.

In addition, all broadcasters, whether TV or radio, receiving taxpayer funding, would be required to hold televised debates that include the leaders (or a person nominated by the leader) of all parties who have received BA. Such debates could be separated between major and minor party leaders based on objective criteria such as party membership and average polling results, but must always include all the registered parties not represented in the previous Parliament.

In a democracy like New Zealand’s, it is vitally important that voters have the opportunity to hear all points of view, not just those of the major established parties, before they go to the ballot box.

Parliamentary Activities to be Separate from Electioneering Activities.

We strongly support a clear separation between these completely different activities.

It is completely unjust to allow, in any shape or form, funding provided through Parliamentary Services to be used, directly or indirectly, for electioneering.

This injustice particularly affects registered political parties who are not represented in Parliament. It is difficult enough for such parties to establish themselves and finance an election campaign, without the additional handicap of having to compete with established parties who are able to use taxpayers’ funds to pay staff and provide office space etc. etc., for electioneering activities. Justice demands a level playing field for all registered parties.

We submit that there must be a clear line of separation between the two, and that will only be achieved if there is a legal stipulation that all electioneering expenses are to be paid using party funds only.

Specifically, we submit that for the duration of the election period, all expenses which contribute to a party’s campaign, whether directly or indirectly, must be paid from the parties own funds. This includes the airfares of sitting MPs (except those for Ministers and then only in respect of their official duties; not electioneering), salaries of support staff, accommodation, office rental, stationery and all other costs.

We submit that parties already in parliament should, in that respect, be called to electioneer on exactly the same basis as parties who are contesting the elections without parliamentary representation.

Donation Limits

We agree with Government’s proposal to retain the existing regime.

Limits on Campaign Expenditure

We submit that the present limits should be adjusted to reflect inflation since 1995 for the 2011 elections, and be similarly adjusted in the future.

Regulated Campaign Period

Our preference would be writ day followed by the 1st August. This will avoid the problem of uncertainty and the retrospective nature of the present regulations, which should be avoided.

For that reason we also submit that the regulated period should commence on the date that the election date is announced, where an early election is called.

Election Advertisements

We support the Government’s proposal.

Disclosure of Identity of the Promoter

We support the Government’s proposal.

Regulation of Parallel Campaigning

As set out above we submit that it is unethical for unions or companies to be involved in parallel campaigning.

Indeed, when it comes to positive advertising, we submit that this form of parallel campaigning should be restricted, in principle, to individuals or collections of individuals.

Charities, for example, or non-charitable “blind” trusts, should not be permitted to undertake positive parallel campaigning. Charities, especially those who solicit funding from sections of the public, will have contributors who vote for different political parties, so an ethical issue again arises if they use those funds in support of a particular political party.

The principle should be total transparency. New Zealanders are, we submit, happy to see individuals exercise their right to freedom of expression and participation in the electoral process, provided, at the same time, they are prepared to clearly identify themselves as the promoters of that activity. On the other hand, New Zealanders are, rightly so, deeply suspicious of any form of covert or clandestine electioneering.

The publication of the name(s) of those behind these activities, and the name and address of the promoter, should therefore always be required

We also submit that parallel campaigning should be restricted, by law, to New Zealand citizens and organisations.

Parallel Election Advertising on Radio or Television

We support the Government’s proportionate regulation proposal for those who wish to advertise on radio or television, in the interest of transparency and accountability. The Register of those involved should be a public document.

The Publication of Guidance and the Provision of Advisory Opinions

We support the Government’s proposals. This will create certainty, and that is important to ensure that people do not inadvertently break the law.


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