Thursday, April 12, 2007

Practical Application of Labour’s Electoral Act Reforms

Hand-wringing socialists are coming up with piss-poor on-line defenses of the Labour Government’s gerrymandering of the electoral act to silence its critics in election year, and provide a forum for its own friends—the unions—to launch full-on attacks against the Government’s foes.

Welcome to the law of unintended consequences. Except in this case, it is easy to believe that the Government actually intends these consequences to occur. What Labour has done is make no distinction between organisations that exist to advocate in the public’s mind on behalf of its membership—such as the Employers and Manufacturers’ Association, the Cancer Society, the Heart Foundation, and Federated Farmers; and those organisations that have the membership clout, and affiliations with the Labour Party, to significantly change public opinion merely through promoting issues among its own membership—such as trade unions.

The difference between trade unions and other interested lobby groups is one of incumbency. Trade unions already have the Government’s ear, through their dominance of the Labour Party. Andrew Little doesn’t have to mount a public campaign to get the Labour Party to listen to him: he just calls up a Labour Minister and lets them know his thoughts. The organisational advantage for the Labour Party is that through its relationship with the unions, it has a captive market of members among which to advertise Labour policies.

Not so with the Heart Foundation. The only way that it can get the Government to act in its interests is through political lobbying, and spending resources winning public hearts and minds to make it a public issue. And here lies the great gerrymander of Labour’s electoral act reforms: it favours interests that are already close to Government, while severely restricting the right of those organisations that aren’t cosy with Government to generate public interest.

Let’s look at specific examples of public lobbying by special interest groups over the last few years, and which campaigns will and won’t be allowed under Labour’s proposals:

Rev Up The Government: Remember this? A group of Auckland pro-roading interests put together a campaign promoting increased spending on roads in Auckland. Exactly the kind of public lobbying that has been used to raise awareness of public issues in election year. In 2005 the campaign received particular attention because the Labour Party hijacked the website in a patsy pro-Labour transport initiative. Now, under Labour’s proposals, the Rev Up The Government campaign would not be allowed to spend more than $60,000 in an election year. That’s five modest advertisements in the NZ Herald.

PPTA Campaign Against the National Party: The PPTA spent massive amounts of money in 2005 attacking the National Party, among its 15,000 members. All perfectly legal under Labour’s proposals.

Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind: Spends substantial amounts of resource lobbying Government for better services for its members. If it spends more than $60,000 publicly promoting better services by Government for its membership, it will break Labour’s proposed law. The RNZFB's membership already wants better services for its members. The only way they're going to get them is by either lobbying government, or publicly encouraging non-members to support policies that will further the Foundation's interests.

PSA Campaign Against the National Party: 55,000 members. Can spend as much money as it likes promoting the Labour Party to its membership.

Employers and Manufacturers Association: Spends money lobbying Government on everything from better tax treatment of research and development, industry training, and lower compliance costs for business. If it spends more than $60,000 in election year promoting these issues, it will break the law.

EPMU: 50,000 members. Unlimited spending on promoting the Labour Party to its members, and attacking National.

Federated Farmers: If the FART tax campaign had taken place in an election year under Labour’s proposals, Federated Farmers would have broken the law.

No More Rates Campaign: Spent more than $60,000 on newspaper advertising pressuring Government to limit the rating powers of local authorities. Government eventually acknowledged that it was of sufficient public concern to warrant a select committee inquiry. Would have been illegal under Labour’s proposals.

A cursory look at Scoop's Politics thread gives readers an idea of the huge number of special interest groups that spend significant resources promoting its views to bring make its issues, public issues. Some are successful in geting the public behind them; others, like the Exclusive Brethren during the 2005 election, actually hurt National. Yet in Labour's cynical move to create itself a political advantage next election, it will wipe out the ability of all of these organisations to spend more than $60,000 publicly promoting their own interests.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fuck YOU, You Thieving Bastards!

The Labour Party has managed, quite successfully over the last seven years, to introduce stalking horses for broader policy measures that suit its own interests. By framing the debate, applying its monumental spin machine to the task, and distracting the opposition off-message on trivial issues, it can then follow-up with the sucker-punch of inevitability. It is inevitable, once campaign finance laws are introduced restricting the ability of political parties to raise money, that laws providing for taxpayer funding of those political parties are introduced, to “protect democracy”.

It has been good politics until now. Now the public are sick of these lying, cheating, self-serving bastards. The National Party should take note.

The Labour Party wants to cut off National Party funding—donations from individual members—any way it knows how, while preserving its own funding base—the unions—and enshrining that in law. That is one outrage, which the National Party is focussing on.

But the main outrage is Labour’s assumption that the public will accept spending millions of dollars a year of taxpayer’s money on political parties to spend and campaign as they see fit. This is the point that National needs to consistently run home: having been caught cheating stealing taxpayers’ money at the last election that they weren’t entitled to, and having legislated it to make that spending lawful after the fact, the Labour Party now wants to keep its filthy snout in the trough.

Labour’s argument for doing this is dishonest, and yet again assumes voters are too stupid to spot self-interest where it lies. The justification for Labour’s public funding is that its donation disclosure regime will make it harder to raise money. Well, Labour can’t have it both ways. Either it is benefiting from loose donation disclosure rules at the moment—allowing it to receive, as National does, large tracts of funding from a small pool of donors, or it doesn’t.

The reality is that Labour’s funding has dried up. Its only source of money is the unions. Labour is massively in debt, following the 2005 election spending fraud. It doesn’t have any other means of raising cash. This sudden concern for the integrity of party funding—that hasn’t occurred to Labour to be an agenda item until, miraculously, it reached the stage in the political cycle where it was raising less money than National—has become a lobbying position for dipping in to taxpayers’ funds permanently.

Well, Labour: you can have all the disclosure rules you want next election. It isn’t going to stop you from being voted out of office. But the cynical vote-yourself-cash policy will be repealed by National. There is no public mandate for you to steal yet more taxpayer money and spend it on staying in office.

Labour’s exemption on unions campaigning at election-time will be short-lived: every time a union message is broadcast at election time, it will be viewed by voters for what it is: Labour Party advantage, and yet another reminder of how the Labour Party is writing the rules to suit itself. National’s only recourse, in government, will be to remove the ability of unions to campaign during election time.

And if the Labour Party becomes reliant on its taxpayer-funded base, it will be even more badly damaged by a National Government removing the trough from which Labour can feed.

This kind of selfishness from a party so desperate to stay in power is almost enough to drive a guy to sedition.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Licence to Print Money?

Have a look at this.

Section 30 of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989 reads:

Reproduction or imitation of currency

(1)No person shall, without the prior consent of the Bank,—

(a)Make, design, engrave, print, or reproduce; or

(b)Use, issue, or publish—

any article or thing resembling a bank note or coin or so nearly resembling or having such a likeness to a bank note or coin as to be likely to be confused with or mistaken for it.

Now look at this.

Did the Labour Party get permission from the Reserve Bank before printing $10 bills?

Apart from the astonishment that the Labour Party appears to have enough money to embark on this kind of expensive self-promotion while it still owes the taxpayer over $800,000, shouldn't somebody investigate whether it is also breaching the Reserve Bank Act?