Govt playing fast and loose with referendum process

November 13, 2019

The government is taking power from parliament with its approach to next year referendum process:

The Government’s Referendum Bill which was reported back to Parliament last night from the Justice Select Committee is unfair and undemocratic, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The Government is playing fast and loose with referendum at next year’s election. It is manipulating the rules to satisfy NZ First and the Greens and to get the referendum result it wants.

Why bother with the expense of a referendum if the government’s ensuring the result before we vote?

“It is wrong that this Referendum Bill transfers the decision on the topics and wording of referendum at next year’s election from Parliament to Cabinet. Every previous referendum since 1853 held at a general election has been determined by Parliament.

The Government’s justification for this change that ‘Parliament cannot be trusted’ is deeply concerning.

Many might agree that parliament isn’t to be trusted but that lack of trust will extend as much, possibly more,  to Cabinet.

At least if parliament determines the process, it does so in public and not behind closed doors as Cabinet will.

“The Government’s own officials said the Bill is contrary to ‘free and fair elections’. While former MP Peter Dunne has described the bill as ‘Putin-esque’ and ‘reminiscent of the plebiscite approach adopted in countries where democracy in any form is but the thinnest of veneers.’

“It is inconsistent for the Government to be supporting a referendum on euthanasia but not on abortion, when both are sensitive life and death issues at the beginning and end of life. It is also inconsistent that Parliament is having a say on the topic and wording on the euthanasia referendum, but being excluded from any input on the referendum for recreational cannabis.

The hypocrisy of the Referendum Bill is that it only applies to the 2020 Election. This is the Government writing the election’s rules to suit itself but not wanting any future Government to have these new powers.

If the government can’t trust future government’s with these powers, we can’t trust this one with them.

“It is also inappropriate for the Government to be setting up a new unit in the Ministry of Justice to manage and monitor the public debate on these referendum. The Government has a clear preference of outcome on these referendum and any controls on free speech need to be completely independent such as the Electoral Commission.

National wants a consistent and principled approach. We need to respect our democratic traditions. The topics and wording of questions for referendum at General Elections needs to be subject to a proper public and parliamentary process.”

The government’s inconsistent and unprincipled approach to the process is an affront to democracy and undermines the integrity of referendums.

It’s bad enough that the government wouldn’t leave the decision on these issues to MPs who ought to have been fully informed on all sides of the debate.

That it is now undermining the process and potentially biasing the question and therefore pre-determining  makes it even worse.


Dowry update

July 4, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union says Winston’s dowry continues to grow:

It was revealed last week, that the tax break for racing industry bloodstock is expected to cost significantly more than previously anticipated. The tax breaks for the racing industry have faced ridicule as the only tax cut in Budget 2018. 

That’s not surprising: the racing industry has historically been a strong supporter of New Zealand First. The Electoral Commission recently found that Sir Patrick Hogan was in breach of the Electoral Act when he funded a full page ad in support of the party prior to the General Election last year. 

At Budget 2018, the cost of the tax break was expected to equal $4.8 million over the next four years, however IRD officials expect the tax break will cost up to $40 million – a 733% increase in the cost of the policy. That means taxpayers will be on the line for an additional $35.2 million over the next four years, which is all added onto Winston’s Dowry!

Winston’s Dowry as at 2 July: $5.168 billion ($2989 per household)

The total cost so far is $5.168 billion – or $2989 for the average New Zealand household, although if officials continue to increase the expected cost of policies, this figure will grow. 

“The Dowry” to date:

  • Provincial Growth Fund: $3 billion or $1735 per household
  • Additional funding for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: $1.144 billion or $661 per household
  • Additional funding for the Ministry of Defence: $426 million or $246 per household
  • Additional funding for learning support: $272.8 million or $157 per household
  • Additional funding for Oranga Tamariki: $269.9 million or $156 per household 
  • Adjusted ‘Hot horses’ tax break, the new Forestry Hub, and a rename for the Ministry of Children: $55.4 million or $32.05 per household

Some of that spend could be necessary and provide value for money.

But hot-horse tax breaks? Neigh!


Electoral law isn’t working

May 23, 2018

The Electoral Commission is investigating an advertisement exhorting people to vote for New Zealand First.

It’s not hard to join the dots between tax breaks for fast horses and racing interests who back New Zealand First.

. . . Winston Peters has repaid the electoral support of the racing industry with changes to the bloodstock tax rules and plans for an all-weather track. 

Peters announced $4.8m for tax deductions towards the cost of breeding high quality horses, in Thursday’s budget. The change would encourage new investment in the breeding industry, he said, enhancing the country’s racing stock and making it a more financially attractive industry.  . . 

NZ First has not disclosed its party donors in the annual declarations to the Electoral Commission, this month, but Peters did have outspoken support at last year’s election from the Waikato thoroughbred and bloodstock industry.  . . 

Industry leaders were vocal in their support of NZ First, with thoroughbred breeders Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan taking out a full-page advertisement in industry newspaper The Informant to encourage racing participants to party vote NZ First in September last year.  . . .

It is permissible for people or groups to advertise in support of a party but Andrew Geddis raises some questions about this advertisement:

The advertisement definitely encouraged people to vote for New Zealand First. It was here on Sunday but if you click that link now you’ll get access denied. However it is in the link to the story at Stuff above and says:

There is only one horse to back, it’s New Zealand First. It has the race record.  It’s now imperative that you all take this opportunity to have what we want by  making our PARTY VOTE IN FAVOUR OF NEW ZEALAND FIRST.. . 

And under the signatures it says:

PLACE YOUR PARTY VOTE FOR NEW ZEALAND FRIST

It’s possible the Hogans and the industry magazine didn’t know the electoral law about third party promotion but ignorance isn’t a defence.

Although, like far too many instances when questions are raised about possible breaches of electoral law, the investigation is far too late, this horse has well and truly bolted.

Months after the election is far too late so whether or not there has been a breach of electoral law, this yet again raises questions about the effectiveness of the law.

However, it’s not too late to address any conflict the issue of Peters as Racing Minister.

David Farrar points out:

Jacinda Ardern said NZ First Ministers can’t be Minister of Fisheries due to their donations from the fishing industry. Yet she makes Winston Minister of Racing despite figures in the racing industry running advertisements campaigning for NZ First. . . 

If NZ First MPs can’t be Ministers of Fisheries because of donations from the fishing industry, this advertisement should disqualify Peters from being Racing Minister.


Greenpeace ad is electioneering

September 8, 2014

The High Court has supported the Electoral Commission’s contention that a Greenpeace advertisement is electioneering.

The High Court in Wellington has today released a judgment in two cases filed concerning decisions of the Electoral Commission (Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc & Ors v Electoral Commission CIV-2014-485-8997) and (Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc v Electoral Commission CIV-2014-485-8998).

In the first case, Greenpeace and others were seeking a statutory declaration that the Climate Voter website was not an election advertisement under section 3A of the Electoral Act 1993. The Court rejected Greenpeace’s arguments and said that the website that the Electoral Commission considered when providing its advisory opinion was an election advertisement for the purposes of the Electoral Act.

In the second case, regarding a Greenpeace website criticising Simon Bridges, the Court has declared that the website was not an election advertisement as it related to his role as Minister of Energy and could not reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading people not to vote for a candidate or party.

The Electoral Commission will need to carefully consider the judgment and discuss the implications of the decision further with Greenpeace and others.

No further comment will be made while the judgment is under consideration . . .

Of course the advertisement was electioneering.

It was clearly aimed at persuading people to vote the way Greenpeace and its fellow travellers wanted them to.


Party and candidate lists

August 27, 2014

The Electoral Commission has released the party and candidate lists for next month’s election.

The registered parties seeking the party vote are:

ACT New Zealand

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

Ban1080

Conservative

Democrats for Social Credit

Focus New Zealand

Green Party

Internet MANA

Labour Party

Māori Party

National Party

New Zealand First Party

NZ Independent Coalition

The Civilian Party

United Future

13 registered political parties contested the general election in 2011.

Candidates

A total of 554 candidates (electorate and list) are standing in this year’s election. This compares with 544 candidates in the 2011 election.

71 candidates are on the party list only and 114 are standing as electorate candidates only.  38 electorate candidates are standing as independents or representing unregistered parties (only registered parties are eligible to contest the party vote).

The number of candidates standing both as an electorate candidate and on a party list is 369.

The electorates with the most candidates are Epsom and Tauranga with 11 and the electorate with the lowest number of candidates is Hauraki-Waikato with 3.

390 men and 164 women are standing in the 2014 General Election. In 2011 there were 397 men and 147 women standing.

The elections website www.elections.org.nz has full information by electorate including candidates, advance voting places and election day voting places at

www.elections.org.nz/events/2014-general-election/information-voters-who-when-and-where

The party lists are available at www.elections.org.nz/2014partylists

Party

Number of Candidates

List Candidates

Electorate Candidates

ACT New Zealand

44

41

39

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

13

13

10

Ban1080

9

9

5

Conservative

64

20

64

Democrats for Social Credit

35

35

30

Focus New Zealand

8

8

2

Green Party

60

59

57

Internet MANA (figures include Electorate Candidates standing for MANA Movement or Internet Party)

35

32

Internet Party – 15

MANA Movement – 18

Labour Party

85

64

71

Māori Party

27

24

24

National Party

75

75

64

New Zealand First Party

32

31

31

NZ Independent Coalition

10

10

4

The Civilian Party

8

8

0

United Future

11

11

11

Unregistered party and independent candidates

38

N/A

38

Total

554

440

483

To see the break-down of list and electorate candidates click on the link at the top of the page.

Does anyone know why only 65 candidates appear on the published list when a few parties have more than that number of candidates?


Civilan Party regsitered

August 13, 2014

The Civilian Party has met the membership and other criteria necessary to be registered as a political party:

On 11 August 2014 the Electoral Commission determined applications made under Part 4 of the Electoral Act 1993 to register the following political party and logo:

Party: The Civilian Party

Logo:

The Electoral Commission determined that the party and logo be registered in accordance with sections 67 and 71F of the Electoral Act 1993. The Register of Political Parties and logos has been updated accordingly.

I admire this party because it knows it and its policies are jokes.

There are several other parties without the required self-knowledge to realise they are too – though none of them is nearly as funny.


113 breaches referred 0 prosecutions?

July 2, 2014

The Electoral Commission has referred 113 breaches of the electoral Act to police in the last three years and none has resulted in a prosecution:

Figures supplied by the Electoral Commission reveal 113 cases have been referred to police for investigation since the beginning of 2011 – not one has resulted in a prosecution.

Daljit Singh, a Labour Party candidate in Auckland’s first Super City elections, was convicted of electoral fraud earlier this year but the actions on which the charge of electoral fraud were based  took place more than three years ago.

Back to the original story:

It’s a figure Justice Minister Judith Collins wasn’t aware of.

Ms Collins doesn’t know the basis on which the Electoral Commission referred the cases to police, and says it’s something she’d have to find out more about before she could express an opinion.

While surprised at the figure, Ms Collins remains critical of opposition party calls for the Electoral Commission to be given the power to prosecute breaches of electoral laws.

“That would be an interesting situation since as I recall it’s mostly their parties that are actually responsible for most of the breaches, but that would be very interesting. That would be turkeys voting for an early Christmas wouldn’t it.” . . .

It would be very interesting and that might not be the answer.

But all those referrals and not a single prosecution is a very strong indication that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Alleged breaches need to be taken seriously and dealt with quickly – preferably before the election which might be affected by them.


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