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Electoral Finance Bill—Prime Minister’s Comments

Tuesday 18 December 2007 Hansard source (external site)

Key1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Does she still stand by her statement, when asked how she expects well-intentioned, honest, ordinary New Zealanders to understand the Electoral Finance Bill, that “One expects people to read it carefully and to consult lawyers”?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) Link to this

Yes, if they expect to spend big money like the member does on electioneering.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Does the Prime Minister accept that what constitutes an electoral advertisement is so unclear and so highly debatable that groups opposed to Government policies are going to be told by their lawyers to shut up completely over the whole of the election year; and is that not exactly what the Government wanted all the way along, to silence its critics?

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Why is it her Government’s policy that for someone like Tim Shadbolt to spend $300,000 in January next year using the slogan “Bring down the Government” will constitute a corrupt practice in the law, for which Mr Shadbolt could lose his mayoralty, be sent to prison for up to 2 years, and be fined up to $100,000?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

I am sure that when Mayor Tim is more fully acquainted with the facts, there will be no such need.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Why will Tim Shadbolt not be subject to the law this Government is going to pass this afternoon, which quite clearly says that if someone, as a third party, spends over $120,000 in the electoral period using the slogan “Bring down the Government”—which the Electoral Commission has already indicated would mean the Labour Government—that person would be in breach of the law; and maybe the person who does not understand the law is not Tim Shadbolt but is actually the Prime Minister?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

I would hope that the Leader of the Opposition would be advising people to follow the law, not dodge it as he did with regard to the Exclusive Brethren.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Well, is that not exactly the point: if Mr Shadbolt follows the law he can spend $120,000, and if he spends more than $120,000 he will be subject to a fine of $40,000, will potentially go to jail for 2 years, and will lose his mayoralty; and is that because the Government cannot hack criticism any more?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

The National Party managed to exceed the allowable limit last time and, as far as I can see, the Leader of the Opposition is not in jail.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

If the Prime Minister wants New Zealanders to have freedom of speech, and if she is happy for people like Tim Shadbolt to run their cases in the court of public opinion, why is she going to have legislation passed this afternoon that will limit Tim Shadbolt’s campaign to $120,000 or less—and she should not shake her head, because she knows that that is the truth?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

What I know about the truth is that Tim Shadbolt can run as many issues as he likes.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

Does the Prime Minister agree that any concerns held by the community about campaign finance law reform are best resolved by a wide-ranging, open, and primarily democratic process of review?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

As the member knows, it is the Government’s intention, supported by the Greens and New Zealand First, I understand, and by United Future, to have a review of campaign funding.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Where has this country got to, when a blind vendetta led by her Government sees somebody like Tim Shadbolt, a man standing up for his community, potentially being packed off to jail; and is that the reason this Government is increasingly becoming so unpopular that even its own supporters do not like it any more?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

If the Leader of the Opposition wants to give the Mayor of Invercargill some advice, he should please tell him that he can spend as much as he likes on issues advertising.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why Mr Shadbolt will not be in breach of the law if next year he spends in excess of $120,000 on a campaign where his advertisements are headed with the slogan “Bring down the Government”?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

If Mayor Tim sticks to the issues, he will be within the law.

Hon Member

Pay it back.

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

You can pay the GST back now.

Hon Member

I did.

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

No, you did not, and the Inland Revenue Department should be prosecuting you. The Inland Revenue Department should be prosecuting you, because you have not paid it.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Would the member please be seated; I am on my feet. This cross-chat across the Chamber leads to disorder. Would the member please just ask his supplementary question.

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

I am very happy to—

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Do you support Tim Shadbolt?

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I have just said that that sort of behaviour leads to disorder. I will be asking members to leave the House if it happens again.

PetersRt Hon Winston Peters Link to this

Which division of law covers the issue of free speech: the electoral law, or the censorship, copyright, and defamation laws of this country; which of the two divisions are we talking about when we talk about free speech in New Zealand?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

What the electoral law talks about is paid speech. The National Party, with its secret donors and trusts, wants to be able to spend whatever it likes in order to buy an election, as Mr Key tried to do last time with the Exclusive Brethren.

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