25 July 2007

Electoral Finance Bill

> Electoral Finance Bill (pdf) Quick thoughts: 1. The failure to address anonymous donations by still allowing donations from trusts is just daft! It's encouraging though to hear that Winston reckons it won't survive the Select Committee. 2. The third party provisions are unduly restrictive. I've never really been concerned about third party involvement per se. I think the issue is more about their transparency rather than their involvement. Unfortunately the extremely low cap is likely to make any involvement nugatory. $60,000 doesn't go far at all... In fact, if anything, I think third party involvement helps, rather than hinders, the "contest of ideas". It's useful for a third party group to analysis the positions of the parties and to say this is the position of the various parties on, say, same-sex marriage, sustainability, early childhood education. The difficulties arise when they aren't up-front about who they are or when they misrepresent things. The answer in my view is to insist on transparency (which I understand the bill does) and prohibit any third party advertising in the last 72 hours before the election (allowing time for any problematic or inaccurate propaganda to be dealt with by the "ideas" process). That would have addressed the concerns about the Exclusive Brethren from last election that seem to be the catalyst for these changes. With these controls in place, I think a more realistic cap could be set: say $200,000 or so?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't the problem with having unrestricted third party advertising that supporters will be encouraged to give their money to third parties, who can then launch "issue" advertisements that effectively attack the other side.

For example, a third party advertisement could say "Tell John Key to support Complementary Medicines." This effectively says that John Key does not support those medicines, and therefore implicitly attacks Key -- something that helps opposing parties, but which does not need to be included in their spending limits.

The US Campaign Finance laws put 30 and 60 day limits on these ads a couple of years ago. The Supreme Court ruled a month ago that those limts were unconstitutional.


Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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