Wednesday, 6 December 2006

National & Labour agree to pursue Duopoly

The National Party has agreed to support plans by the Labour Party to clamp down on anonymous political donations, and to ban third-party advertising that attacks other political parties.

Election law reform is on the table after overspending during the last election campaign, most notably by Labour, who illegally overspent by around $800,000 on "pledge cards" and glossy brochures.

In return for supporting the reform, National wants to have tougher penalties introduced for parties breaching the spending cap rules.

New deputy leader Bill English is also calling for a 90-day pre-election ban on advertising by government departments to promote "the pet policies of the government of the day".

This would be a major step towards a more level playing field. Labour exploited this loophole last year, spending a whopping $15 million promoting its "Working for Families" package, designed to put more of middle New Zealand on welfare.

The idea of state funding for political parties is also likely to looked it. This should be vehemently opposed by National. There is no reason why New Zealand taxpayers should be funding the advertising campaigns of political parties without their consent.

The third-party advertising issue is an interesting one, as Labour have always relied on the Unions to fund major anti-centre-right campaigns during election time. Labour will be looking for a way to leave in some loophole to allow this practice to continue.

(A media release today by Don Brash notes that the union representing many old-school and state-broadcasting journalists - the EPMU - "had members driving up and down the main streets of our major cities on the eve of the election, chanting anti-National slogans over loudspeakers".)

I personally believe banning third-party political advertising would be a breach of freedom of speech. It seems really to be an attempt by Labour and National to cement their "duopoly" in New Zealand politics, by quietening any outside voices.

* NZ Herald: National to play ball on election law reform

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