Government open to suggestions for electoral finance reform

By Paula Oliver

Prime Minister Helen Clark has cast doubt over the possibility that Labour will move shortly to alter its controversial electoral financing reforms.

The Electoral Finance Bill overhauls advertising rules during an election year and changes campaign financing, but it has been the subject of criticism from all angles since its introduction in July.

It was thought last week that Labour was poised to head off months of potentially negative publicity as the bill passed through a select committee, by proposing changes in a letter to the committee. But Helen Clark yesterday said she had no knowledge of such a plan.

"Obviously they're [the committee] about to hear submissions, and the Government will want to listen to that, and I guess come back through officials with some suggestions at some point," the Prime Minister said.

She had checked with the minister in charge of the bill, Mark Burton, on Sunday night and was "not aware of any letter at all".

Helen Clark indicated the Government was "perfectly open" to suggestions for improvement and refinement, and suggested the definition of election advertising could be narrowed so it was in line with what is used in Britain.

"That's one of the things that does need to be clarified," she said.

"But we're not, as I understand, at the point of putting a proposal to a select committee - which after all, hasn't even started hearings."

The committee is scheduled to start hearing oral submissions this week and the public submissions close on Friday.

Late last week, National and the Maori Party expressed concern that the Government was considering writing to the select committee, saying it would undermine the public submission process and the committee's work.

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