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Electoral Finance Bill—Regulated Period

Thursday 20 September 2007 Hansard source (external site)

English2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) Link to this
to the Minister of Justice

Did he receive any advice from officials on his proposal to extend the regulated election period in New Zealand to up to 11 months; if so, what was that advice?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education) Link to this

[ Interruption] It is always good to get that support in when I stand up. Yes, the Minister of Justice has received advice on the regulated election period and financial spending caps in other jurisdictions.

EnglishHon Bill English Link to this

Did officials of the Ministry of Justice or of any other Government department give him any advice on the merits of extending the election period?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

As the member will know, because he has asked this question or versions of it a number of times, the advice from officials talked about the UK and Canada, and the 3-month period here, and suggested variations of that in the short paper they provided on this matter.

WoolertonR Doug Woolerton Link to this

Can the Minister confirm that the longest and loudest objections to the 1 January date have come from the one party that has the most to lose from a level playing field, given its huge war chest, and that this date in no way undermines the principle of “one person, one vote”?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

I could tell that that was a very popular understanding of the issue. I would endorse what the member has said—that the party that seems to be opposing the proposal seems to be the one that believes its war chest will be disturbed. I notice that Nicky Hager said today that The Hollow Men book that he produced is perhaps “the best-documented background to an explanation of the need for the Electoral Finance Bill.” In other words, Mr Hager supports Mr Woolerton in saying that the National Party simply wants to carry on spending in the way it has been, and that that is wrong.

EnglishHon Bill English Link to this

Can the Minister confirm that in fact there was no advice from officials of that nature to him, and that in response to Official Information Act requests for the official advice on the 1 January regulated period, he has suppressed all of the papers and released none of the advice from Government departments on the Electoral Finance Bill?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

I can advise that Cabinet was given information on the Canadian and the UK systems, on the 3-month period, and on the longer period, and it was asked by the Minister to—

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Could we just let the Minister finish?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

—go for 1 January.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to be so quick off my feet—

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Because sometimes you do not know then what is actually going to happen.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

But in this case, I was absolutely right. The Minister did not address that question. He was asked whether he could confirm that the Minister of Justice had suppressed the information supplied to him by Government departments. He then spoke about what Cabinet had received. He confirmed the information exists. Why cannot he simply confirm that he does not want the public to have the information he was given?

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I want members, please, in future to enable the Minister to complete the answer before the points of order are taken, because I could not hear, then, what the Minister’s answer was. But I will ask the Minister to address the question, please.

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

I cannot confirm any suppression of information has taken place. I can confirm that information was put forward around the UK and Canadian systems and about a variety of dates here in New Zealand.

EnglishHon Bill English Link to this

Is it not the case that if the briefings and reports from Ministers were full of glowing praise for this Draconian legislation the Minister would have released them all, but in fact he has used the Official Information Act to withhold all official advice on the Draconian Electoral Finance Bill and none of it is available to the public?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

I cannot remember anybody thinking it is Draconian other than the member and, as the author of The Hollow Men has pointed out, the position of the National Party is that it seems to want to continue a situation where it can get a large amount of money from the Brethren and have it spent on things that may well rort an election.

EnglishHon Bill English Link to this

Why is it that for this legislation, which is an important part of New Zealand’s constitutional framework, the Minister is refusing to release any of the official advice that he has received on whether it is reasonable to ban all political opinion from 1 January in an election year, unless it meets particular criteria set by the Government?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

I am sure the Minister will release the information at the appropriate time. Of course, if the member does not agree with the Minister, there is a person called the Ombudsman, and that is where he should go.

EnglishHon Bill English Link to this

Can the Minister understand that there might be some concern, particularly from groups in the community that have a political opinion, when people find that the Minister is unaware of the intense and heavy criticism of his bill in the select committee—because he thinks only National is criticising it—and when they find that the way Labour is going to shut down the National Party is to shut down every possible critic of the Government right through an election year?

MahareyHon STEVE MAHAREY Link to this

I am glad the member asked that question, because I notice that recently he has been parading Caritas Aotearoa - New Zealand as a group that might well oppose this bill. I understand that group went to the select committee this morning and said the National Party had not listened to it at all, and that this bill is badly needed to clear up the kinds of rorts that we see from the National Party.

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