INDEPENDENT NEWS

Greens welcome National’s change of heart

Published: Thu 7 Dec 2006 08:38 AM
Greens welcome National’s change of heart on campaign financing but disagree with 'outlawing' critical advertising
The Green Party has welcomed National’s belated change of heart on reforming campaign finance laws, but disagrees with National's plan to 'outlaw' advertising critical of political parties.
“It’s good news that National has finally come out in favour of getting rid of anonymous donations and placing some controls on the interventions of non-parties such as the Exclusive Brethren in the election campaign,” says Russel Norman, Green Co-Leader and Spokesperson on Electoral Matters.
“This is especially important in light of the revelations in Nicky Hager’s book, The Hollow Men, that the National Party Board and leadership were aware of the identity of the key big donors to the party even though they never appear in their Donations’ Return to the Electoral Commission, and the revelations of their close links to the Exclusive Brethren.
"However, Bill English's plan to 'outlaw' advertising by non-parties that attacks parties is undemocratic and an attack on freedom of speech.
"A much better idea is to let non-parties have a voice but make sure that they are a) transparent as to who they are, b) transparent as to who is funding them and c) place limits on how much they can spend so they don't overwhelm the democratic process and d) if they advocate voting for a particular party then that party must approve it and have it included in their spending cap.
"If organisations want to take ads that disagree with or 'attack' a political party then surely that is their democratic right.
“I would encourage National to support a cap on the amount that non-parties can spend in the campaign. This is a key issue in light of the $1 million intervention by the Exclusive Brethren. Campaigns of this size threaten to overwhelm the democratic process.
“And I would encourage National to support proposals for non-parties to be transparent as to who they really are and where their funding is coming from. Last time the Exclusive Brethren and the National Party tried to keep the role of the Exclusive Brethren secret.
“And we have yet to hear if National will support a cap on the amount that any one person or organisation can give a party in a 12 month period. We don’t want our parties beholden to a few big donors even if we know their identity.
“It is good news that the new National leadership wants to make some progress on the issue of campaign finance reform. While we probably won’t agree with National on the role of public funding there is a lot that the Greens can agree with National about.
“This is a good start but we need to finish the job.”
ends

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