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Title: Money talks louder than principles Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 13th December 2006 - 12:00pm1165964400 Article: 1513 Rights
 
It is refreshing that the Opposition now regards campaign donor finance reform as desirable, as does the government. So, why is this a LGBT issue? Answer: Brethrengate. It's a sign of robust democratic health in New Zealand that Nicky Hager's The Hollow Men continues to sell briskly in the shops, as there is still interest in the circumstances and background that forced Don Brash from the Leader of the Opposition's post several weeks ago. Thus far, Nicky's proposals for campaign donor finance reform haven't been met with any critical appraisal. So, what does he argue about this important democratic procedural safeguard? It is imperative that any campaign finance reform law stop pressure groups purchasing influence, as the Exclusive Brethren did against Labour and the Greens in New Zealand and Tasmania. Nicky Hager argues that anonymous contributions to political donors should be curtailed, and that it should be illegal for parties to withhold the identities of donors. In addition, there should be disclosure of the amounts involved. Incidentally, if I were the Opposition, I'd stop whingeing about the allegedly low threshold involved in proposals for disclosure. It has to be. We're quite familiar with the high thresholds that don't prevent the Exclusive Brethren from bankrolling the Australian Liberals, and we don't want that here. Nicky also suggests that donor identities and amounts should be publicised well before Election Day. There should be limits on the amounts that individuals can contribute, as well as subsidiaries of a particular organisation. While these are the core reforms, there are other proposals that are certainly well reasoned, but require further elaboration. Perhaps Nicky could write a newspaper column about whether or not overseas campaign donor finance laws have been able to stop the other abuses that he lists, or whether diligent investigative journalism would be sufficient for some of these additional elements. I believe that there should be discussion of the identity of campaign strategists that are hired to canvass and 'spin' issues of significance, but is this necessarily a legislative matter? I would argue that it is the responsibility of a free and investigative media to hold politicians to account through due and diligent scrutiny of such individuals, and would argue that the same applies to political marketing campaigns and voter databases. However, it was up to the Greens to blow the whistle on the Exclusive Brethren last year, and I do concede that while I uphold the ideal of diligent investigative journalism, practical newsroom constraints on staff, time and resources may deter journalists from adequate investigation and promotion of political transparency as best practice. Again, I'd suggest that Nicky provide us with supportive clauses from overseas legislation, perhaps within an extended media commentary, or discussion booklet. Given that the government intends to address the matter, might I also point out that this would be a positive contribution to electoral law select committee submissions? Finally, why is this an LGBT issue? Let us close with the following quotes from the former National List MP and Leader of the Opposition, Dr Donald Brash, on the civil union debate: 10 April 2004: "I certainly know of a number of people who are not gay, but who have gay friends, who would be quite offended if we adopted an antigay position and I have no inclination myself to adopt such a position in any case." June 2004: "Dr Brash remains unconvinced that the legislation devalues traditional marriage." (Standard reply). 7 November 2004: "One day, values voters will decide the election in Britain too" (Daily Telegraph): Brash's response: "I think this article is highly relevant to us in New Zealand." 2 December 2004: "This bill is seen by many New Zealanders as part of a broader government agenda to change our moral and social institutions... I don't think Parliament should be lending its support to that bill." I suspect that given the importance of Brethrengate to New Zealand's current political history, we forget these damning examples of how money talks louder than principles at our peril. Recommended: Nicky Hager: The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception: Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing: 2006. Craig Young - 13th December 2006    
 
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