Jim Anderton: Why I support the Electoral Finance Bill

Electoral Finance Bill 3rd reading speech

Read what Jim Anderton said in the debate on the Electoral Finance Bill:

I want to address this debate because I represent the only party in this House that did not breach the electoral expenditure rules and laws at the last election.

So 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 at the last election.

It cannot claim to be pure, when it has a record showing that it set aside the electoral laws that didn't suit it.

Only one party didn't flout the law, and I am leading it in this House.

We didn't use public money to pay for our ads.

We didn't run a GST rort.

We didn't try to use public money voted for one purpose to pay for our own purposes.

The Progressives were undoubtedly disadvantaged because we opted to play within the rules.

I haven't come into this Chamber and trumpeted that we are alone in obeying the rules, because we did only what was right.

But it sticks in the throat to hear the National Party pretending it cares about democracy when its record is sleazy and opportunistic.

So do not get on your high horse in here about democracy, until you have clean hands.

This Bill makes a simple choice about our democracy: Who should own our democracy  big money, or the people of New Zealand?

You can't have it both ways.

Where the anonymous, big money goes, the interests of the people come second.

I want to ask everyone who is opposed to this Bill a question: Why should anyone be allowed to do what the Exclusive Brethren did in my electorate at the last election?

They came into my electorate on the Friday before the election that Saturday.

They bought a full page ad in the local newspaper.

The ad told lies about me. They distributed that false advertisement to every household.

The address given for the ad was fake.

The people behind it tried to remain anonymous.

But we found out they were church people!

This was an ad published the day before the election, when it was far too late to respond in reply.

This was an attempt to buy an election with money, instead of with truth and with ideas.

I want to know: how is that fair?

How is that democratic?

How is it fair and democratic that people who don't identify themselves can spend as much as they like to sway the result of an election?

I support the Electoral Finance Bill because elections should not be decided by the largest wallet.

I support this Bill because it is about ensuring no one can buy an election result.

I support this Bill because the best ideas should win, not the best funded ones.

I want to remind this House what happened when money had its way in New Zealand in the eighties and nineties.

We saw a fire-sale of our assets.

Was it just a coincidence that the people who were buying those assets at knock-down firesale prices were the same people who handed out tens of thousands  and even hundreds of thousands of dollars  to the political parties doing the selling?

We saw the interests of New Zealand put in second place and we're still paying the price for it.

Some of us sat here in this Chamber right through that period.

John Key might have been off at overseas cocktail parties with the donors he now wants to let buy as many votes as they can afford. Some of us were not.

But we haven't forgotten what was done to New Zealand, and the enormous cost of it.

What an amazing coincidence that the same people who bought the assets were the people who paid enormous sums of money to the political parties of the day.

What a coincidence that whatever those donors wanted, they got.

The interests of New Zealanders were relegated behind the interests of the companies of the rich buyers of our assets.

And even if you don't believe policy was bought, look at the perceptions that policy followed money.

Look at the damage those perceptions did to the fabric of our democracy and to respect for the political process.

That sort of politics has no place in New Zealand.

This Bill helps to erect a wall against anti-democratic sale and purchase of electoral influence.

This Bill says to the parties that take huge secret donations: Tell us to whom you are in hock.

Tell us who you owe favours to.

Tell us what you're doing in order to get the money.

When Deep Throat exposed Richard Nixon and Watergate, he told the reporters on the Washington Post, 'Follow the money.'

This principle is as old as wisdom. We used to say, 'he who pays the piper calls the tune.'

We want to know who is paying, so then we might better understand what the electoral tune is.

If Watergate happened here, the New Zealand Herald would have praised the money that paid for the conspiracy.

Instead of Woodward and Bernstein, we would have had editorials praising the president for protecting the rights of anyone to buy political favours.

Instead of sending reporters out to expose the scandal, the Herald's editor would have sent a sales team to ask for a cut.

I wish we could rely on an independent news media to expose the influence of big money in this country.

But the record shows we can't.

The record shows that the newspapers take the money in advertising, and then shut up about it.

Look at the Herald, letting its greed get in the way of its objectivity.

The Herald campaigns to let anyone buy elections.

The Herald campaigns because they know on what side their bread is buttered.

They don't raise concerns when their own pages are being used to buy votes.

They don't object when their own pages are used unfairly.

They take thirty pieces of silver and sit compromised to the very core of their souls. If you look at the editorials of the Herald over 100 years, you'll find they didn't do it then and they don't do it now.

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

We need to limit the role of big money to protect our democracy.

This Bill puts a cap on the amount of money anyone can spend to lobby for their point of view.

So it poses a question to opponents of the Bill  how much money is too much to spend influencing an election?

A million?

Five million?

Ten million?

Twenty million?

If there is no cap on the amount that should be spent, then we are saying our democracy should be for sale.

If there is no cap, then you do not have a democracy, you have an auction.

If there is no cap on election spending, then we might as well turn parliament over to Trade Me.

And if you accept there should be some limit to the amount people can spend, then we are merely debating the quantum.

And you cannot tell me fundamental issues of democracy are at stake if I say the limit should be $1 and you say it should $2.

No, the fundamental issue is whether there should be any cap at all.

And I want the National Party to state plainly that it believes there should be no limit to anonymous donations.

That there should be no limit to what can be bought with those sacks full of cash.

I wonder what the National party has in mind?

It's no coincidence that National has only announced one policy for next year's election: Selling assets.

Here we go again.

Unlimited money in our politics, and an unlimited fire"-sale of the public's family silver.

The pigs are trying to get into the trough again and they can't wait to get their noses into it.

The National Party has already sold its policy.

When National says it will repeal this Bill  what does it mean?

Does it mean it will not have any electoral finance laws at all?

Does it mean anyone will be able to spend as much as they want?

Does it mean anyone will be able to give any amount of cash to the National Party without declaring it?

I wonder why National wants that!

If you are saying there should not be some limit on the ability of anonymous people to buy elections, then you have no place talking about democracy in this House.

If you are saying you should be able to spend what you like on an election, then you are saying people who spend more should have more say.

That is not democracy  that is a disgrace against the most fundamental ideas of civilised organisation.

This Bill should be supported by all members of this House.

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