EFA’s effect on 3rd parties


Bryce Edwards continues his analysis of the 2009 election with a look at the effect of the EFA on third parties.

He concludes:

It is beyond the scope of this chapter to ascertain the EFA’s effectiveness in achieving its stated objectives, but it is worth nothing that part of the EFA’s stated purpose was to ‘ensure that the controls on the conduct of election campaigns: (i) are effective; and (ii) are clear; and (iii) can be efficiently administered, complied with, and enforced’ (EFA 2007, s 3). Yet the experience of many participants showed that these goals were not achieved. A second major stated purpose of the EFA was to encourage participation in elections, but as this paper has shown, there is evidence to suggest that the opposite occurred in terms of the participation of third parties.

It is notable that after its election loss, the Labour Party not only voted with National in Parliament to abolish the EFA, but also later made a submission to the Ministry of Justice on electoral law that advocated that third parties should be subjected to much looser regulation during elections. In an indication of how unpopular the regulation of third parties was in 2008,

He also continues his analysis of the party’s which campaigned in last year’s election with a look at New Zealand First.

Three strikes and . . .?


First there was the accusation that Attonrey General Michael Cullen let us down  over the EFA.

Second there was the accusation that he misled cabinet. over the Canadian attempt to buy Auckland Airport.

Now we have a third accusation that he’s using dodgy figures on Trans Tasman wage comparisons against Treasury advice.

That’s three strikes today but we’ve got five weeks until we can rule him out – and then only if enough voters see the light.

EFA bad for our health


Okay, that’s a silly headline but it’s also a silly Act because it’s constraining the Ministry of Health’s advertising programme about the cervical cancer vaccine.

The new electoral law has forced the Ministry of Health to keep its advertising for the cervical cancer vaccination programme at a low level until after the election.

The human papilloma virus vaccination programme starts next month.

The ministry acknowledged yesterday that because of nervousness about falling foul of the Electoral Finance Act, it was sticking to just brochures and posters for primary health care centres – until after the poll.

Not until November and December will it crank up its full promotional campaign, including TV, radio, print and online advertising, for its vaccination programme with Gardasil, which protects against four strains of HPV, two of which are linked to 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

… The ministry’s deputy director of public health, Fran McGrath, said last night that in developing its promotion of the vaccination programme, it took guidance from the commission and Office of the Auditor-General, plus legal advice.

“The content and timing of what the ministry planned did not need to be changed.”

No? Then why wait until after the election to crank up the campaign?

Mike Taylor, country manager of CSL Biotherapies New Zealand, which supplies the vaccine  said that the company had consulted lawyers to ensure its advertisements wouldn’t be considered political.

“[Our legal] advice is we do need to be careful: as long as we are not referring to the Government, and not connecting them to this campaign, we should be okay.”

When the law becomes farcial the Act is an ass. So too are Labour and its allies who designed it and  steamrolled it through parliament over soundly based objections from people and organisations across the political spectrum and many  others without poltical bias

Hat tip: Inquiring Mind

Winners & losers in donations saga


Gordon Campbell sorts out the winenrs and losers in the NZ First donations saga:

At half time in the Winston Peters latest scandal – which seems to involve several money trails complex enough to merit inclusion in the Winebox – likely winners are beginning to emerge. And the main beneficiary is undoubtedly….the much reviled Electoral Finance Act. If New Zealand First’s shenanigans don’t make a convincing case for cleaning up the system by which political donations were formerly made in New Zealand, then nothing will. Unfortunately, most of the nanny state mileage has already been wrung out of the EFA – but at least the Act may now be spared further pounding during the election campaign.

Most opponents of the EFA accepted there were problems with the old system which needed to be addressed. But replacing an Act with flaws with a flawed Act created more problems than it solved.

Will the whole affair end up hurting Peters? It depends in which capacity. Peters has two levels of concern : seeing NZF get over 5 % nationwide, and winning back his seat in Tauranga. I think this affair will hurt him in Tauranga by making him look even more like the old, tainted goods that he was already portrayed as by Simon Bridges, the young National candidate and former Crown prosecutor standing against him. It is less clear the affair will hurt his party’s chances of getting over the 5 % MMP threshold in the election.

How so ? Peters will spin the criticism over the donations in exactly the same way that he spins the criticisms he gets over racism. Normally, around this point in the election cycle, Peters plays his triennial race card, and will attack ‘Asian’ migration – lumping together in the process Asians of all nationalities, brown people and Arabs into the same suspect category.

The donations affair has the same media dynamic. Conveniently for Peters, the media handling of his race gambit habitually assumes that Winston’s supporters are a bunch of rednecks, waiting only for the master manipulator to throw the switch. In fact, it is the response to this criticism that lifts New Zealand First’s boat, not the racism per se. What unites NZF supporters is their tribal dislike of Peters’ opponents, who are legion, and who include the big corporates and media commentariat. The trigger that fires up NZF’s poll ratings is the sense of persecution that these voters hold in common, rather than a shared belief system.

In previous decades, they used to call this the Citizens for Rowling syndrome. It entails an elite holding forth, unaware of how much it is disliked by the people that it aims to influence and enlighten. Rob Muldoon, Peters avowed mentor, would play those kind of critiques like a violin.

Peters is equally adept at fiddling though he’s striking more than a few wrong notes with this piece.

As the race tightens, the prospect is that a National-led government may become beholden to Peters once again, jeopardising any revolutionary centre-right agenda. John Key can probably take care of his enemies – but what is he telling the boardrooms about how he proposes to handle his budding friend from Tauranga, post election? This week, Key is telling the public is that he will wait for the election result. Thereby, National will be able to blame the public for landing him with the necessity of making an arrangement with Peters. In fact, both major parties can claim a reluctance to deal with Peters in future, but invoke democracy as the rationale for doing so. Neat.

So at half time and in a Graham Henry sense, who are the winners and losers?

Winners. for the reasons stated : New Zealand First, the Electoral Finance Act, and Winston Peters as party leader. Rodney Hide, who gets to play the indignant touch judge, in a situation where neither Helen Clark nor John Key can afford to complain directly to the ref. National, who were just starting to get stick for not releasing any substantive policy, when this affair obligingly swept everything else off the political agenda.

Losers: Winston Peters, as Tauranga candidate, for the reasons stated. Also : the New Zealand Herald, and the Dominion-Post. Both newspapers railed against the EFA, and – with a straight face – have now railed against the kind of arrangements practiced by NZF ( and in all likelihood, by other political parties who were laundering anonymous donations via trusts) that made the EFA, or legislation akin to it, essential. And oh, the public.

And oh, the truth which gets buried deeper by the day.

Poll: 62% say Peters should resign


It’s not scientific – but the poll on Decision 08 asking if Winston Peters should design shows 62% of people saying yes and 38% saying no.

Another poll shows 56% of people would support a reversal of the EFA, 31% opposing that and 13% registering as don’t knows.

Labour’s Next Leader


Dene Mackenzine looks at the people who could be the next Labour leader:

The contest to replace Prime Minister Helen Clark might be less brutal and more clear cut than previous leadership challenges, depending on the outcome of the election this year.

Less brutal leadership change? Now there’s an oxymoron.

If, as Miss Clark continues to believe, Labour can cobble together a coalition government, then she remains safe and can leave in her own time, having taken Labour to a historic fourth-term win.

But if Labour loses and the election result is close, party sources believe Trade Minister Phil Goff is the principal candidate for the job.

He is seen as a safe replacement who would not shift Labour markedly away from its centre-left position.

Although he is tainted with having been an MP in the Rogernomics era, many of Labour’s supporters are too young to remember Sir Roger Douglas and his ideas in the David Lange-led government.

If a week is a long time in politics, two decades is ancient history.

Police Minister Annette King is seen as the logical deputy leader for Mr Goff, to give the party a gender balance and an Auckland-Wellington split.

Pity about the mess she created in health, the EFA and last week’s Road User Charge debacle. And let’s not forget blaming crime on the full moon and sunny weather.

The last four opinion polls published show National’s support at more than 50% and its lead over Labour at more than 20 points.

If the polls hold up, Labour could lose up to 18 MPs, including electorate members.

Polls usually tighten before an election – although this time Labour might be where National was in 2002.

If the defeat is not too broad, Mr Goff will be challenged by Health Minister David Cunliffe and Labour Minister Trevor Mallard.

Both would bring with them an image problem.

Mr Cunliffe was identified early in his career as a potential leader, but has earned the disdain of some colleagues for his “superior” attitude.

That has mellowed somewhat and as health minister, and also as communications minister, he has shown a preparedness to take a hands-on approach to his portfolios.

But over at Craig Foss we see that those hands haven’t always done the right thing.

However, that’s another story so back to the ODT:

Mr Mallard was demoted for punching National Party MP Tau Henare, but retains strong friendships in the Labour caucus and is deputy finance minister.

As a former chief whip, he knows how to gather the numbers for a close vote.

A decimation of Labour will see other candidates chancing their arm in the belief that it will take Labour six years, or two terms, to win office.

Energy Minister David Parker and Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove will mount challenges.

Neither is particularly popular with colleagues, and Mr Cosgrove will be a fiercer competitor than Mr Parker.

Mr Cosgrove has been a member of the party since he was 14, and is a protege of former prime minister Mike Moore.

Mr Parker is seen more in the mould of former prime minister Sir Wallace (Bill) Rowling, and would offer a leadership style out of step with modern politics.

That’s the one who looked more surprised than anyone else when he won Otago in 2002 and few were surprised when he lost it to Jacqui Dean three years later.

Also in the mix at this level will be Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones, a Maori MP of whom was expected great things.

He is said to be “hugely bright” but pompous and obviously ambitious.

Not a good combination if you’re trying to win a leaderhsip contest.

Clark successors?

•Labour wins: Helen Clark stays as prime minister.

•Labour loses narrowly: Phil Goff takes over early next year.

•Labour loses moderately: Mr Goff, David Cunliffe and Trevor Mallard fight it out.

•Labour thumped: Free for all, with David Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Shane Jones fancying their chances.

All very interesting, but the really fascinating point is that this discussion is being had at all. A few months ago leadership change woudn’t have been on anyone’s radar.

Update: Bill of Rights Court Decision


Kiwiblog has more details and a link to a copy of the judgement on the court challenge over Bill of Rights issues when the Electoral Finance Bill was being debated in parliament.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, the computer keyboard is the modern weapon for those who fight for freedom of expression. As a republican Davd Farrar would no doubt turn down a knighthood (if they still existed), but he certainly deserves recognition for his determined, intelligent and prolific opposition to the EFA 🙂

EFA Opponents’ Court Bid Fails


The bid for a judicial review of the Attorney General’s decision not to raise BIll of Rights issues in the EFA when it was considered by Parliament, has been struck out by the High Court.

Update: Kiwiblog has a fuller report and response.

IRD Doesn’t Trust Labour with EFA


Oh dear – even the IRD is wary  of Labour contravening the EFA.

Inland Revenue canned a KiwiSaver brochure because of fears it would be used for electioneering, despite at the time saying it was pulled for commercial reasons.

 National Party deputy leader Bill English tabled in Parliament today IRD emails that showed the brochures were pulled because they were deemed to be to political.

“I remain concerned that in the current environment it (the KiwiSaver brochure) leans too far towards the promotional,” one IRD adviser said in an email.

The emails show that officials were concerned about the possibility of politicians using IRD material for electioneering.

In response to questions from the media, IRD decided to say it was producing material as usual and to not reveal the reasons it had canned the brochure.

To add to Labour’s woes, the Electoral Commission is being asked whether press releases on the Beehive website contravene the EFA.

As No Minister  says: But what fun that such a dogs breakfast of an act is biting most the very people responsible for it!

EFA Will Go But Not Soon Enough


If the answer results in confusion, more red tape and the potential for litigation, you’ve asked the wrong question and that’s what Labour and its allies did with the Electoral Finance Act.

 Instead of asking how to improve our electoral law, they tried to handicap National and in doing trampled over the freedom of speech of individuals and groups. The only good thing about it is that in the process they’ve hamstrung themselves.

The Herald  editorial and John Armstrong detail some of the Act’s many shortcomings and note that regardless of who wins the election the Act will not survive. That is cold comfort for those who find their freedom of speech is badly constrained.

The shortcomings aren’t helped by the uncertainty over interpretation of the Act, much of which won’t be cleared up until after the election. I liken it to playing a game knowing the referree won’t tell you the rules until after the final whistle is blown; and a friend who is a lawyer reckons it’s more like being handed a noose to put round your neck and being told to jump without knowing how long the rope is.


Another Labour EFA Breach?


Does this appear to be words or graphics which might persuade someone to vote for a party? It’s in the exhibitors’ product listings in the Fieldays catelogue under the heading Labour Members of Parliament:

The NZ Labour Party has launched NZ Fast Forward, the largest ever boost to research, development and innovation in New Zealand’s history with $700 million dollars (sic) of new funding. It is part of the Labour-led Government’s commitment to transforming New Zealand’s primary industries to meet future challenges. In Government, the NZ Labour Party will continue to work alongside farmers to ensure the coninual growth and prosperity of the primary sector and rural communities, and that rural people have the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. Find out more about our rural policies – www.labour.org.nz This is funded by the Parlimaentary Service.

A Hamilton PO Box number and phone number follow – but there is no authorisation statement.

Then there’s this for New Zealand First:

New Zealand First is Parliament’s third largest and most dynamic party. It has led the debate in New Zealand on immigration, the Treaty, a fair go for senior citizens, law and order and owning our own country for more than 10 years. We will be seeking your party vote this year to continue this fight.

It has a Hamilton street address, phone number and fax but no authorisation statement.

And this for Libertarianz:

Libertarianz is the first and only political party in NZ to have an explicit individualistic philosophy. We are committed to shrinking the power an influence of the Government in every area of our lives, and are committeed to the concept of a free society with a free marekt economy. We offer you a unique opportunity to influence the future political direction of our nation. Join us and say no to OSH, RMA, NZQA and all other Government nanying!

It was followed by an Auckland PO Box & fax number, mobile phone number and website address but again no authorisation.

And National? It had this:

Take this opportunity to visit our site and meet a Member of Parliament. During the four days we will have several MPs manning the stand and they will be available to discuss issues of interest to people. Come along and have a chat and give your views. National is very interested in hearing what people really think. This is your chance to have a lively exchange of ideas.

It was followed by a Hamilton PO Box and phone number and no authorisation but I don’t think you could say the words were soliciting votes so it didn’t need one.


 Then there were the sites. Labours had two big red banners saying Labour, with the party logo and parliamentary crest; and a couple of bright red banners saying Waikato Labour MPs with a website address.

There was no authorisation. So are the Labour Party MPs acting separately from the party? And does Labour have to account for a donation from parliamentary services for the costs of the fieldays stand and banners in the same way Bill English suggested it might have to with the Prime Minsiter’s office over funding the budget brochure? (Keeping Stock comments on that here)

The NZ First site had authorisation statements and parliamentary crests on its posters.

I didn’t notice if posters at the Libertaianz site were authorised, but did enjoy a discussion with the bloke handing out pamphlets 🙂 and the National site was set up like an MP’s office, with nothing promoting National.

So three out of four statements in the catelogue appear to breach the EFA because they don’t have authorisation statements and Labour’s site as a whole appeared to be advertising the party with public money and without authorisation statements.

We’re Paying For Budget Brochure


They just don’t learn do they? In spite of Labour’s contention the pledge card (remember the one they spent our money on illegally then changed the law to make it legal in retrospect?) was just a belt-way issue when it wasn’t they’re snubbing their noses at public opinion again – spending our money on their budget brochure.

Labour is dipping into taxpayers’ money to produce leaflets on the May Budget – publicity that is almost certainly election advertising under its new Electoral Finance Act and will have to be counted in its election expenses.

That means large sums of public money will again have gone towards a Labour election campaign. The cost of the leaflet may also have to be declared as a donation by Parliament to the Labour Party under the troublesome new law, which is not how Labour intended it to work.

Oh dear – they’re having problems with their own bad law.

The leaflet does not breach Parliament’s own spending laws because they have been liberalised and it does not breach the Electoral Finance Act because it is authorised. But there may be a post-election sting in it for Labour.

The party will almost certainly have to declare the leaflet in its election expenses return to the Electoral Commission and deduct its cost from its $2.4 million cap.

Wellington electoral law specialist Graeme Edgeler said last night the leaflet met the definition of election advertisement under the Electoral Finance Act.

“It doesn’t say vote Labour, but that is the clear implication.”

It had party colours, the Labour logo, and the party’s tax-cut promises this year and in the future. He did not believe it could be considered under the exception given to an MP producing material in their capacity as MP.

“This is a Labour Party promotional leaflet.”  It was “almost certainly” an election advertisement and as such should be declared in the party’s expenses.

And as such will almost certainly rile voters who also happen to be taxpayers who don’t like their money spent on political partys’ self-promotion.

Is the publisher breaching the EFA too?


Courier Country, a monthly paper which is delivered free to rural mailboxes from North Otago to Mid Canterbury, arrived with yesterday’s mail.


Just like its stable mate The Courier  about which I blogged last week  it has an advertisement for Timaru Labour Government MPs under a Labour logo.


I think this is breaching the EFA because there are no Labour Government MPs. It is therefore an advertisement for Labour so needs to be authorised and its cost accounted for in the party’s election return.


If I am right, is it just the party which is breaching the EFA or are the paper and the website, also falling foul of the law?

Green-Maori deal could falter because of EFA


The Greens want to strike a deal  in the Maori seats to maximise the electorate vote for the Maori Party and Party vote for the Greens.

This initiative might be complicated by the Electoral Finance Act because anything which encourages people to vote for or against a party or candidate has to be authorised and accounted for. I think this would mean both parties would have to authorise and account for any spending on material in which either party sought either electorate or party votes for the other.

A post on kiwiblog  noted David Benson-Pope might have similiar problems with the Act if he ran as an independent while seeking party votes for Labour – Mike Smith would have to authorise, and account for the expense of, any material which said vote Labour.

Who are the Timaru Labour Government MPs?


At the left of the masthead for The Courier  is an advertisement for Aoraki MP Jo Goodhew with her contact details and the Parliamentary crest and a small National logo which is the sort of thing an electorate MP routinely does.


At the right of the same masthead is an advertisement in which the Labour logo takes up a third of the space and under this is “Timaru Government MPs’ office, your link to Government” with an address, and both a Timaru and 0800 phone number. It also carries the parliamentary crest.


Trouble is there is no person who is the Government MP for Timaru (and the placement of the apostrophe after the s means it’s referring to more than one Timaru Government MP). This means it can’t be a constituency or list MP’s or MPs’ advertisement so it must be an election advertisement – so why does it have the Parliamentary crest (which means you and I have paid for it) and why doesn’t it have authorisation as required by the EFA?


The central vetting committee which Audrey Young  reports has been set up to inspect every proposed publication by every Labour MP and candidate can’t have seen this, unless they think Labour Government MPs don’t count. Of maybe the law of common sense doesn’t apply here.


For the record, I rang both numbers and got an answer phone telling me I’d phoned the Timaru Labour Government MP’s (or maybe MPs’) office. Just wondering if you and I pay for that too.

Still no verdict in EFA logo deliberation


In March the ODT published a photo of Green MP Metiria Turei completing her third triathlon in a bathing suit emblazoned with Green Party logos. The accompanying story quoted her saying she chose not to swim in a wetsuit, preferring a swimsuit with logos because “it’s always good to get your message out there”.


I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out that the suit ought to have had authorisation including the name and residential address of the Party financial agent and the cost would have to be counted in the election return.


She responded that logos didn’t count so I emailed the Electoral Commission recounting the exchange and asking for an opinion. The reply from Helena Catt said it wasn’t clear that a logo by itself met the definition of an election advertisement.


As the commission was then considering whether a Labour logo on a balloon met the definition I asked her to reconsider the issue. When I hadn’t had a reply by the end of April I resent the email. The response said when the commission considered the balloon they would consider all instances of logos which had been sent to them.


The Herald reports today the commission members are divided over whether logos are advertisements under the EFA.

“… we have not yet received Crown Law opinion on the relationship between logos and election advertisements,” Dr Catt said.

“We are aware that this is a pressing issue but it is not an easy issue so we have to work through differing views.”

I’d have thought if it was used to get “your message out there” it would be, in the words of the Act, “any form of words or graphics or both that can reasonably be regarded encouraging or persuading voters to do either or both of the following:  a) to vote for the party (whether or not the name of the party is stated) …  Why else would they do it? But it obviously isn’t that simple.

…Dr Catt said while it was desirable that the Chief Electoral Office, which regulates candidates’ election advertising, and the Electoral Commission, which regulates parties’ advertising, held the same view about logos, it was possible that they could differ.

As David Farrar  points out this is another victory for the law of common sense.


 The trouble is common sense won’t be a defence for anyone who breeches the EFA so until a decision is made candidates and parties must take a very precautionary appraoch to the use of a logo on anything.


Is it just an ad for a ute?


A couple of farmers are driving across a paddock in a red ute. There’s a bump, they stop, get out and realise they’ve hit a bull.


The driver turns to his mate and says, “Should ‘ve got a blue one.”


The mate grins and nods.


It’s an ad for Ford courier. But is there a subliminal political message there – and if so is it contravening the EFA?



We need Fed Farmers


Agriculture was one of my rounds when I started my journalism career in 1981 so I covered the monthly meetings of Federated Farmers. They were regularly attended by more than 30 people and the annual conference attracted nearly 200.


These days small provinces like North Otago no longer have monthly meetings and last week’s AGM had a disappointing attendance in spite of the promise of an entertaining night with the chance to debate MPs from National (Otago MP & Waitaki candidate Jacqui Dean & Agriculture spokesman David Carter); NZ First (Doug Woollerton) and Labour candidate for Rangitata (Julian Blanchard who was contravening the EFA by wearing a party rosette which wasn’t authorised).


I’d better confess I’ve got this information second hand. I wasn’t there; but that was because I was flying back from a conference in Auckland, not because I wasn’t interested. No doubt many others had equally valid reasons for not going, but the organisers would have also been battling the problem facing so many others – it’s hard to get people to meetings even if it doesn’t conflict with other engagements.


Service groups, sports or cultural clubs, churches … almost every organisation is struggling to attract and retain members; and to get those it has to participate regularly. It particularly concerns me that Federated Farmers is among them because it is one of few voices left which speaks rural New Zealand in general and farmers in particular. And as the urban-rural divide widens it is even more important that we ensure that voice is strong.


Federated Farmers has often been called the National Party in gumboots. Some members may also be members of National, some of its beliefs, for example in the importance of property rights, may coincide with those of National; but Feds is politically independent which is one of its strengths. Unlike unions which are affiliated to Labour, Fed Farmers acts in its members’ best interests and takes positions on issues uncontaminated by political ideology.


Feds led the campaign against the fart tax; it won the battle to exempt farm dogs free from electronic tags; it led the fight about unfettered access to farm land; and it is continually monitoring legislation from local and Central Government to ensure the rights and needs of farmers and rural New Zealand are protected.


We need Federated Farmers and the organisation deserves our support because of that.

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