Don’t change law, enforce it

27/05/2021

Neil Miller Taxpayers’ Union analyst says electoral laws should be enforced, not changed:

Faced with a steadily growing number of electoral finance investigations by the Serious Fraud Office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stared kindly into the camera and intoned, “we should be looking at the way our regime works. Clearly, it’s not currently, so let’s do something about that.”

The Taxpayers’ Union could not agree more that we should “do something about that.” However, the “something” is not to change the rules again or argue they are unclear (which they are not). The real “something” is to actually enforce the law. These prosecutions are proof that the regime is finally starting to work.

It is a terrible look for the Prime Minister to suggest that the electoral finance law needs to be changed so soon after her party has been charged. National was charged – the law was fine. New Zealand First was charged – the law was fine. Labour is charged and their ally the Māori Party is under investigation – the law is not working and needs to be changed. That is Banana Republic behaviour.

The law that worked for other parties now doesn’t work for Labour and its ally? Banana Republic behaviour indeed.

Of course, all parties are presumed innocent until found guilty of course, and all have pleaded innocence in relation to the charges.

Prime Minister, the problem is not the regime or the system – it is how politicians try to constantly push the boundaries of the system. They do it because it often works, there are rarely any consequences of note, and, if there are, they come long after the election affected by the activity in question. By the time any judgment is made most voters, if they were even aware of it, will have forgotten about the issue.

National and Labour are well established parties with teams constantly working on the minutiae of election finances. There are no excuses. The Māori Party is alleged to have missed deadlines for declarations which seems to be a cut and dried issue. Either they did, or they did not. There is no room for interpretation.

There is no hope of taxpayers ever seeing a cent paid back from New Zealand First – sorry, the completely separate New Zealand First Foundation – now that the organisation is essentially moribund. If Winston Peters wants to come back, he will likely disband New Zealand First (and its debts), then create the First New Zealand Party with Rt Hon Winston Peters as the leader.

Advance New Zealand’s Billy TK can plausibly plead ignorance – there is plenty of evidence of that in his public comments. His co-leader, Jami-Lee Ross, much less so. In fact, what Labour is being charged with (hiding the identity of donors and the size of the donations) is – allegedly – known in Wellington as “the JLR shuffle”.

We do need to do something and that is to support the Serious Fraud Office finally enforcing the existing laws. Parliament has not done it, the Police have shown no interest in doing it, and the Electoral Commission cannot enforce them.

All power to the Serious Fraud Office.

If anything needs changes it’s to give the Electoral Commission the power, and any necessary funding, to police the law and the ability to deal with transgressions during the pre-election period before voting starts.


Conference reflections

24/07/2012

My first National Party national conference was way back in 1996 – a few months before our first MMP election.

I was thinking about that while getting ready to go to his year’s conference and wondering if I’d been to enough and was in danger of suffering from conference fatigue.

The warmth of the welcome as I registered on Friday morning told me the answer to that was no and that was continually reinforced throughout the weekend.

As a regional chair I was privileged to sit through the candidates’ college, where I met some aspiring MPs and learned from two existing ones – first term MP Simon O’Connor and Prime Minister John Key.

The conference opened on Saturday morning. Speeches from ministers were informative and interesting with plenty of time for questions. Several workshop sessions also enabled plenty of interaction from the floor and we had the opportunity to debate seven remits too.

Saturday night’s dinner agenda included the presentation of a presidential citation to party stalwart and Super-Blue founder Bernie Poole and the Sir George Chapman Cup to retiring Young Nats president Daniel Fielding.

MC for the evening, senior whip Michael Woodhouse then introduced David Farrar who was chairing the debate for the Westminster Shield.

The moot was that the South Island should declare independence from the North.

Chris Finlayson led the affirmative team of Young Nats incoming president Sean Topham and Simon Bridges.

Nick Smith led Amy Adams and Neil Miller in putting the contrary case.

I thought of taking notes so I could repeat some of the hilarious lines but I was too busy laughing to write.

The judges were David, John Key and Bill English who almost upstaged the debaters with their humour.

The negative team won by .5 of a point.

Sunday’s programme began with an ecumenical church service followed by a session on law and order, more policy breakouts and concluded on a high with the Prime Minister’s address.

A first-time conference goer who I met at the airport was fizzing. It was a reminder to those of us who have been to several conferences that we shouldn’t take for granted the easy access to MPs, that we can still be inspired by the speeches, that the networking opportunities between formal sessions is part of the fun and that the best way to treat fears of conference-fatigue is to go to one.

It was a wonderful weekend and I’m already looking forward to next year’s.


%d bloggers like this: