Title: Instituting Smokescreens? Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 10th September 2007 - 12:10pm1189383000 Article: 4907 Rights
After prolonged silence, the Maxim Institute has announced its opposition to the Electoral Finance Reform Bill, which is typical Christian Right propaganda for the National Opposition, and little substance. Let's put it this way. If Andrew Geddis and other electoral finance law professionals have made substantive criticisms of the content and design of this bill, then those criticisms are valid and should be incorporated into the final design of the bill itself. These are disinterested sources, whose professional expertise in these matters should be heeded and warranted, and will result in better legislative drafting. However, there is quite another, ideologically driven current of pathological anti-democratic opposition to this benchmark piece of legislation, which is intended to insure greater electoral transparency and accountability in donor finances, donor identity disclosure and caps on donor advertising andspending. None of the above is an attack on 'free speech,' because the National Party and its Christian Right accomplices aren't really interested in free speech per se. None of the above proposed measures will prove any obstacle to lobby organisations that want to participate in making submissions, lobbying for or against specific legislative proposals, or providing limited advertising on such matters, as long as they disclose their identities beforehand. Surely rational and substantive free speech can only be enhanced if one is aware that a particular speaker is communicating their particular viewpoint from a particular philosophical or religious viewpoint, so that opponents of that viewpoint can prepare similar rational and substantive rebuttals? The Electoral Finance Reform Bill promotes that through its donor registration and advertising limits, so that both sides of contentious issues can get their say on issues of merit, instead of the Exclusive Brethren's behaviour during the last general election two years ago. During that campaign, this right-wing anti-gay and anti-union sect engaged in stealth advertising and pamphleteering, and it has similarly interfered in Tasmania's state election, to the detriment of centre-left parties there. The Exclusive Brethren's actions compromised New Zealand's tradition of transparent and accountable politics. It threw money at the National Opposition to get many of its members to vote against the Civil Union Bill, and then it repeatedly and anonymously met with ex- Leader of the Opposition Don Brash and other Opposition MPs and candidates until the disclosure of this grossly unethical, corrupt behaviour shortly before the previous general election. Nicky Hager exhaustively documented that in The Hollow Men, which was enough to drive Don Brash from power, and even triggered erstwhile remorse on the Opposition benches for a time. At the very moment that the Exclusive Brethren has resurfaced across the Tasman, is it then any surprise whatsoever that the National Opposition has flip-flopped on this issue for nothing other than the most puerile of partisan reasons? Why? The Exclusive Brethren doesn't like it. However, nor do the Maxim Institute, Family First and ex-ACT MP and social conservative Muriel Newman's so-called New Zealand Centre for Political Research. Why doesn't the Christian Right like it? Well, look at the United States, which has no such checks, balances and safeguards on powerful lobby groups engaging in anonymous smear advertising against individuals and political parties in this context. Of course, the US Christian Right has been one of the chief beneficiaries of such purchasing of influence over the last three decades. However, if one looks closely at the United States, one would note that massive Republican Party conflicts of interest, corruption scandals and purchasing of influence have severely backfired on the centre-right. To be blunt, the National Party and its Christian Right sycophants need to stop posturing about non-existent 'threats to free speech' and admit that hey, it's all about the money, to the exclusion of ethical standards and transparent and accountable conduct in democratic procedures. Which leaves one with Mike Moore. I have no axe to grind against Mike, and I hope he realises that. He has deep expertise in the field of international trade, and his consummate professionalism on such matters is rightly respected. As an LGBT rights activist, I have no ill will against someone who was a steadfast ally of our communities while in Parliament. However, having said that, I am afraid that much like his ALP counterpart Kim Beazley, Mike Moore's tenure as Leader of the Opposition was handicapped by his populism and lack of strategic focus, and his bitterness at Helen Clark's ascendancy unnecessarily fed the fires of factionalism within Labour for three years. When he reconciled with Clark, I was relieved, and when he became WTO Director, I thought that to be much-deservedrecognition for his outstanding work in the international trade arena. Unfortunately, he has returned to his old ways- not that he has as much influence as he did. With all due respect to Mike, he is wrong on this issue. The Electoral Finance Reform Bill will enhance free speech, not erode it. It will supplement New Zealand's already high reputation as a transparent and open political jurisdiction and economy, which the National Opposition and Exclusive Brethren sought to undermine. One only need look at current controversies in the United States to see where that sort of pork-barrelling can go. Apart from thegenuinely misguided Mike Moore, no-one normal is opposing this bill outright besides our benighted Opposition- except for the same tiresome ranks of anti-left, anti-democratic andanti-inclusive militant fundamentalists. Recommended: Nicky Hager: Hollow Men: Nelson: Craig Potton: 2006. Coalition for Open Government: Not Recommended: Maxim Institute New Zealand Centre for Political Research (Muriel Newman) Craig Young - 10th September 2007    
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