Read blow by blow debate on the electoral bill

By Paula Oliver

Political reporter Paula Oliver will be filing regular updates throughout the final reading of the Electoral Finance Bill before it is expected to pass into law today. Refresh your page to get her latest post.

6.30pm - Selected quotes from today's debate on the third reading of the Electoral Finance Bill.

* "This bill does not restrict free speech. It simply restricts the right to purchase speech through advertising." - Associate Justice Minister Annette King.

* "This is being done to safeguard our democracy by keeping to a minimum the undue influence of money in politics." - Ms King.

* "History will mark this day. This is the day that Helen Clark arrogantly inflicted upon the people of New Zealand an anti-democratic piece of legislation and the collective focus of New Zealand knew once and for all, it's time for a change." - National leader John Key.

* "It sticks in the throat a bit to hear so many people striking a high moral tone when their own hands are not clean in this matter. The National Party cannot get up in this House and demurely claim it is interested only in democracy when it flouted the electoral laws in the last election itself." - Progressive leader Jim Anderton, who said his was the only party that did not flout the law in 2005.

" This piece of legislation is all about entrenching the right of Government and the political establishment to use big public money to buy elections and no one will be able to stop them." - National deputy leader Bill English.


- NZPA

4.51pm - Act leader Rodney Hide said people should be standing up for free speech and voting against the Electoral Finance Bill.

He said "all the great campaigns of history" would have had to have been registered with the Government if the Electoral Finance Bill had been enacted in the relevant countries at the time.

"They're saying the campaigns to free the slaves, to abolish slavery, to give women the vote _ they would have to register with the Government first," Mr Hide is telling Parliament.

He then asked New Zealand First, the Greens and Labour to "listen to the people" and not pass the bill.

4.32pm - United Future leader Peter Dunne has announced his party will not vote for the Electoral Finance Bill.

In a surprise turnaround from his party's previous position, Mr Dunne is telling Parliament today that after listening carefully to the views and feelings of New Zealanders, "we can no longer support" the Electoral Finance Bill.

Mr Dunne says his party supported the development and introduction of the bill because it believed it was important to tidy up the "excesses of the last election".

But United Future would have strongly preferred a "genuinely multiparty" involvement in the development of the legislation.

"I have been struck by the messages from individuals with no special political axe to grind who genuinely fear that this bill will limit their rights to freedom of speech and expression," Mr Dunne says.

No matter what the bill said, in the court of public opinion it was seen as a "self-serving attack on the freedom of our electoral process".

4.24pm - Maori Party MP Hone Harawira is delivering a very strong speech against the Electoral Finance Bill, saying his party opposes it despite "not having a bean to our name".

Mr Harawira says despite what Helen Clark might argue, the bill is actually being opposed by people other than those who have millions of dollars to donate to parties.

The Maori Party was angry with the divisive "Iwi/Kiwi" advertisements run by the National Party before the 2005 election, and knew it didn't have the money to counter the campaign.

"But we still are opposed to the bill," Mr Harawira said.

"We stand free in this House, uncompromised by shady deals with either of the two big parties," he said.

He then referred to the amount of money poured into the last presidential campaign in the United States, to try to get George W Bush out of the White House.

"It didn't work too well, did it?" he said.

Mr Harawira launched a stinging attack on Labour, saying the bill was an "arrogant dismissal" of the rights of the public to participate in an election, and was driven by the "sweet scent of power and lust for control".

He went as far as to say that there was a "refusal to accept the reality of impending defeat" in Labour.

4.15pm - New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has spoken in support of the Electoral Finance Bill, arguing there is myriad free speech in New Zealand and that will continue after the passing of the legislation.

"There is so much free speech around, that we are swamped with it," Mr Peters, whose party is voting for the bill, told Parliament.

"Listen to talkback shows. There's enough free speech to keep a small town going, 24 hours a day, everyone's got a view," Mr Peters said.

"From the All Blacks to dare I say it Nicky Watson."

He is also challenging the National Party to reveal its policies, particularly on the sale of state assets.

"We want to know who's backing you," he called to National's MPs.

Mr Peters said Mr English's legal views on what the bill would do "aren't worth the piece of paper they're written on".

4.06pm - National Party deputy leader Bill English is using his speech to go through the "ridiculous" details of the Electoral Finance Bill.

Seizing on the advertisements placed recently by Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt against funding cuts to his local polytechnic, Mr English is warning that such campaigns will be affected by the bill that will today be passed.

Mr English has also addressed Mr Anderton's attack on the Herald by saying he has "never heard such vitriol" about the news media.

"Where is the leadership of the Labour Party?," Mr English has asked, referring to the absence from the House of Helen Clark, as he spoke.

4.00pm - Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton says the Electoral Finance Bill comes down to who should own New Zealand's democracy.

"Big money, or the people of New Zealand?," Mr Anderton is telling Parliament this afternoon.

"You can't have both".

Mr Anderton has also reserved a considerable portion of his third reading speech to attack the Herald's coverage of the Electoral Finance Bill.

He says the newspaper is "letting its greed get in the way of its objectivity" in its opposition to the legislation.

The Herald had accepted advertising "big money" and then sat compromised to the core of its soul, he claimed.

"If newspapers won't do the job of making elections fair, someone has to," he said.

The Wigram MP said it "sticks in the throat" to hear the National Party say it cares about democracy.

The Exclusive Brethren had waltzed into his electorate and put out an advertisement the day before the 2005 election with a fake address, Mr Anderton said.

It told lies about his record and positions, and was distributed too late to respond.

"How is that fair and democratic?"

3.40pm - National Party leader John Key says the Electoral Finance Bill is being passed this afternoon for only one reason "so Helen Clark can try to cling onto power".

In his speech for the bill's third reading, Mr Key is telling Parliament that the legislation is opposed by the majority of New Zealanders and a number of groups including the Law Society and Human Rights Commission.

"National will repeal this legislation," Mr Key said.

"Electoral law is not owned by the Labour Party for the benefit of the Labour Party. Electoral law is owned by the people of New Zealand."

Mr Key said National would return to a bi-partisan approach to altering electoral law, and get independent recommendations on what to do.

"History will mark this day," Mr Key said.

"This is the day Helen Clark arrogantly inflicted upon the people of New Zealand an anti-democratic piece of legislation, and the collective voters knew once and for all it's time for a change."

He then received a standing ovation from his own MPs, which went on too long for the liking of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who is now complaining.

3.27pm - Justice Minister Annette King says the Electoral Finance Bill does not restrict free speech, but instead restricts the right to purchase speech.

In her speech for the bill's third and final reading, which has just begun in Parliament, Ms King said the legislation had been the subject of contentious and acrimonious debate.

There had been a "campaign of misinformation" about what the bill did, she said, singling out the Herald's stance against it and questioning the motives behind it.

"We don't want to see the Americanisation of our political system," she told Parliament, arguing the Electoral Finance Bill was being passed to protect democracy and prevent the "undue influence of money in politics".

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