Audrey Young

Political editor Audrey Young blogs from Parliament

Audrey Young: Key debates the Electoral Finance Bill

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Great ironies at Parliament today.
Madam Zhu Lilan of the 10th National People's Congress of the Republic of China was talking to the education committee about advances in opening up the Chinese education system, while National leader John Key was talking to the press club about the repressive, anti-democratic Electoral Finance Bill - that of which the Gang of Four would have been proud.
Key's speech was a cracker.
But it did more than just criticise the bill and call for it to be ripped up.
It accepted the need for some change, including a cap on third party expenditure and more transparency of donations, and proposed that all parties get three months' notice of an election.
Key and deputy Bill continued their attack in the House - Key to Helen Clark - and English to the Minister of Justice, Mark Burton, who flounders day after day when asked about the detail.
The bill is a gift to National. Each day English takes just one barmy aspect of it to expose to a little attention.
Today English zero-ed in on the strange clause in the bill (14, 1 (c)) that prohibits an unincorporated body (such as a church) to register as a third party unless all of its members are registered electors ie.

aged over 18.
Yesterday English zero-ed in on blogs, in particular this type run on newspaper websites, and said they will be caught under the bill's definition of election advertising.
I don't recall seeing a Government so defeated on a bill before it has begun. It is at select committee but hearings have not yet started.
Labour has simply ceased to defend it.
Clark made an interesting comment at the end of the question, saying that if Key had come to the House today to discuss a multi-party approach on the law he may have been taken seriously.
This is the Government not only giving up on the bill, but looking like it wants National's help to pull it out of the mire.
Clark today dismissed criticism in the the New Zealand Law Journal claiming its editor, Bernard Robertson, will oppose Labour "any time, anywhere".
The journal reiterates the interesting theory that the bill was deliberately drafted in the extreme: "It is possible that some of the more bizarre provisions are there to be negotiated away so that parties in the House feel they have achieved something and vote for the amended bill.
"That should not happen. This bill is fundamentally obnoxious and should be scrapped. It will penalise private citizens who have the temerity to interfere in politics, while doing nothing to deal with the major electoral funding issue we face: the misuse of taxpayers' money on a huge scale to ensure the re-election of the incumbent Government."
There's another interesting take on National's position on No Right Turn which challenges National to put up amendments to the bill, and show an understanding of MMP rather than "squeal" about it.

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