|Given their fixation on "tax cuts", New Zealand's mainstream news and television outlets are failing the public by ignoring the Electoral Finance Bill currently before Parliament.
To remedy matters, here's an objective perspective on what's going on at present. The law reform select committee is churning through the submissions- and it should come as no surprise that the trade unions and virtually all of the NZUSA student unions support the bill, business organisations oppose it, as do the only two Christian Right organisations to submit, the Maxim Institute and Family First, and sock con ideologues like the Sensible Sentencing Trust, New Zealand Centre for Political Research/Muriel Newman, Investigrunt magazine, and Greypower. There are 'dud left' exceptions like the National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Anti-Vivisection Society also opposed, but their lack of strategic organisation renders their opposition problematic.
Apart from the three aforementioned exceptions, why has the Christian Right been so reticent? At one time, the anti-abortionists would have climbed onboard, but they've long since ceased to be able to run effective electoral campaigns on their own, and try to obstruct abortion access through the courts these days. As for Destiny Church and Future New Zealand, they're probably too obsessed with the new fundamentalist party fiasco to bother.
It has to be said that despite its clumsy Kill the Bill Campaign front group, the National Party and other opponents have largely failed to mobilise significant opposition to this bill apart from their business contacts and fundamentalist and sock con cronies. Labour is determined to have this legislation passed, and the Exclusive Brethren didn't help matters by issuing scurrilous anti-Green pamphlets and trying to undermine New Zealand First caucus solidarity after the election. Moreover, given that Gordon Copeland was its former UFNZ liaison, the Exclusive Brethren are out on a limb there. The Exclusive Brethren themselves are too busy over the Clive Petrie child sexual abuse allegation court case, and is in no position to fight back itself.
There is every prospect that this bill will be passed and will be in place when the next general election takes place. Moreover, the Opposition may wish to reconsider its stance, given its recent string of clumsy privatisation-related policy launches, which seem to have ground to a halt after adverse public reaction.
As long as the government and its allies make the suggested positive amendments recommended from Andrew Geddis, Nicky Hager and the Campaign for Open Government, the bill will enhance New Zealand's democratic accountability and transparency. It will render it impossible for well-heeled pressure groups to resort to under-the-table deals to buy influence within susceptible political parties, and insure a level playing field for both sides of contentious public issues through imposing spending caps on would-be political donors.
If the Opposition is still hellbent on pandering to its fairweather fundamentalist, New Right business allies, and oddball sock con pressure group camp followers, then there will need to be some sort of countervailing interest group established to counteract their attempt to reverse this necessary legislation.
The LGBT community must play our own part in safeguarding the democratic process from predatory pressure groups that have no regard for accountability, transparency and open electoral and issue-based campaigning.
Andrew Geddis: Electoral Law in New Zealand: Policy and Practice: Wellington: Lexis/Nexis: 2007.
Nicky Hager: The Hollow Men: Nelson: Craig Potton: 2006 Craig Young - 14th October 2007