Pansy Wong - We Won't Forget

Published: Fri 16 Nov 2007 11:52 AM
We won’t forget
The Labour Government is so predictable that it’s almost laughable.  We’re just weeks away from Christmas and they’re trying to push through two bills – one is the Electoral Finance Bill, which will put an end to free political speech, and the other will legitimise election spending on things like pledge cards.  Obviously they’re hoping all will be forgotten during the lazy, hazy days of summer.
However, we’re smarter than that and, judging by the revealing series of stories by our biggest daily newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, on the Electoral Finance Bill more and more people are getting sick of Labour lording it over the rest of us.
That bill has been cleverly designed by Labour to curtail freedom of speech.  Anyone who isn’t a political party is going to have very tough restrictions placed on any campaigns they may wish to run. They will even have to make returns to a government agency to participate in democracy.  The bill proposes that if a person were to spend more than $5,000 they would have to register and could spend no more than $60,000.
Meanwhile, Government department advertising, which pushes Labour Party policies, will not be restricted at all.  In 2005, government departments spent $69 million on advertising, which is many times more than what they would spend in a normal year.
The oppressive nature of the bill and the attitude of its authors is breathtaking.  Labour is so desperate to stay in office that they will go against the flow of public opinion and push the bill through.  The consequences will be huge. The Human Rights Commission has branded the bill a ‘dramatic assault’ on freedom of expression, and many commentators agree.
Meanwhile, another bill they are tying to also push through to allow election spending on pledge cards will also give incumbent electorate MPs the advantage of being able to spend four times more money than unelected challengers in the election year.
Labour stinks of desperation and defeat.  They’ve been in office for eight years and, as the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Helen Clark’s assurances that Labour will not use parliamentary funding for pledge cards next year is like their insistence that personal tax cuts are not affordable.
At the Labour Party conference in 2000, she said ‘tax cuts are a path to inequality … they are the promises of a visionless and intellectually bankrupt people’. Now, less than a year from the election, they have all of a sudden changed their tune.  But I doubt they have seen the light; they’re just desperate to keep up with National.
This supposed change of heart has been blamed on advice from the Treasury, with Michael Cullen saying they’ve only just been told that the surpluses are now structural.  Yet in 2003, Treasury told him that ‘this healthy fiscal position presents the Government with scope to cut taxes, increase expenditure and build up financial assets’.
It’s almost as if Labour needs to go to rehab for its addiction to power, and the revelations this week about the Madeline Setchell saga show just how far they are prepared to go.
Both Hugh Logan, the CEO of the Ministry for the Environment, and Mark Prebble, the State Services Commissioner, have admitted fault in the way this case was handled, which has lead to her being blacklisted for employment in the public service.
After she was sacked from the Ministry for the Environment, she applied for a job with MAF, where she had previously worked, and the Ministry of Education (MoE).  MAF called their Minister, Jim Anderton, to get his opinion on the matter and they subsequently turned down her application.  MoE didn’t even bother to get in touch with her.
It’s a dangerous state of affairs when a public servant can be sacked because a Minister throws a wobbly.  So what was the punishment for the wrongdoing?  Hugh Logan won’t receive a performance bonus this year based on his $300,000-plus salary. Mark Prebble has fined himself $10,000 of his $420,000 salary.  Benson-Pope lost his job but that was because he misled the Prime Minister.   All in all, that’s small change for the distress it caused Madeline Setchell, who was found to have been open with the Environment Ministry from the start.
Governing in a democracy means openness and people having a choice.   Labour is leaving all Kiwis with no choice about how elections should be funded.   National has committed to dumping this law should we be elected to Government.  We have been campaigning against the bill because of the threat it poses to the right of every New Zealander to freely express their political opinion.
Pansy Wong

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