Jun 22, 2008

Bill Ralston On The EFA

The HOS is full of stories about people with backbone, prepared to stand up to attempts at Government interference. Fran O'Sullivan lauds John Palmer. Bill Ralston lauds IRD. But he laments that all Government agencies are not so willing to push back.

Sadly, other Government departments don't have the same strong backbone. Just look at your TV tonight and count the commercials that carry a departmental logo as they push some marvellous initiative.

Ralston's focus is on MSD with its 61.5 media staff.

On the EFA Ralston has the following to say:

With this in mind, the Government last year published, at your expense, a brochure subtly called We're Making a Difference. It is designed to tell you how good the Labour Government has been for you and, not surprisingly, the courts and Electoral Office came to the conclusion it was campaign advertising for the Labour Party under the Government's stunningly stupid Electoral Finance Act.
However, last week the Government started ducking and diving in Parliament about whether the brochure would be counted against Labour's spending cap for the election. Labour Party secretary Mike Smith has been telling the Electoral Office that the breach of the act wasn't committed by the Labour Party, it was committed by the Labour Government, or more precisely, the Prime Minister's Office, which is entirely different, says Mr Smith.
Quite how the Labour Party's Prime Minister and the Labour Government is divorced from the Labour Party is not clear, but members of the Labour Party must be wondering if this is final confirmation of what they have felt for years, the party's parliamentary wing is a law unto itself and no longer has any connection with its rank and file.

Under questioning from National's Bill English, Justice Minister Annette King fudged the issue. Instead, she gave us an insight into the amazing pettiness that drives the Government's thinking behind the Electoral Finance Act. Apparently referring to National's quite effective and often funny billboard campaign before the last election, she dismissed English's questions, instead talking of "the whining and whingeing from the National Party because it cannot spend the millions of dollars that it had planned to spend on its election campaign, right up to three months before the election, pretending that it did not count as election advertising. Its billboards would have been right around New Zealand. National is not able to do that. What we get now is its whingeing and snivelling about it."
What she is saying is that the Government rammed through an act of Parliament, put the Electoral Office to enormous expense, tied up endless amounts of police time investigating alleged breaches of the act, and further troubled the overburdened court system with litigation about the meaning of the act because Labour was worried National might put up billboards attacking the Government this election year.