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The Maori Party is pleased to support this Bill, which is, after all, a transitional measure.
The Bill is required to respond to the fact that the existing legislation, the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Act 2007, expires on 1 July 2009.
An extension of the interim meaning is needed to allow time for a permanent meaning to be considered and enacted.
This is simply part of the process which we understand to be taking place within the government’s review of electoral finance.
The new provisions in this Bill are not limited to a particular financial year, and needs to take account of the 18-month period during which this Bill is to remain in force.
This Bill is necessary to ensure this Parliament makes the appropriate investment in accountability and integrity for public money used for Parliamentary purposes.
It comes out of the shadow of a murky past.
We in the Maori Party can recall vividly the circus that fell out of the consequences of the Controller and Auditor-General’s 2006 report into advertising expenditure.
That report responded to the inconsistencies and illegalities that were a feature of the 2005 election.
A Validation Act was passed with an interim meaning, and after that an Appropriation Act was passed to extend the interim meaning.
Mr Speaker, we have no interest in rehashing arguments and issues that arose in 2005, 2006, or 2007 about the way in which the purposes of parliamentary funding were used – or misused - to promote performance by a political party for political purposes, rather than exclusively for its role and function as a parliamentary party.
It is now on the record that we supported the Electoral Amendment Bill to repeal and review the Electoral Finance Act; and within that, we would hope the definitions around what is electioneering; or what are funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes will be well and truly worked out.
However, I cannot let the opportunity go by without referring the House to an editorial this morning by the Otago Daily Times.
The editorial makes it blatantly clear that the forced disclosure of funding sources put upon political parties has to be seen as one of the problem areas that emerged under the aptly described “mysterious fog of the Electoral Finance Act” – a piece of legislation which no-one, least of all its architects fully understood.
The Editorial points out that the distance between what the major parties spent on their election campaigns and what is revealed in their donation returns, suggests there are sufficient loopholes to still enable legal exploitation.
This is a shoddy state of affairs that we can not ignore as a Parliament.
There is a specific anomaly identified, in that while the previous Electoral Finance Act was presumedly to constrain secret trusts from making large donations without declaring the source, there is nothing to prevent one entity making many donations which fell under the $10,000 disclosure barrier.
These are all excellent points of discussion which we would hope to see take place at the select committee stage of this Bill.
And there is one final statement from the editorial, which I believe is appropriate to share with the House, in supporting this debate that we are engaged in around transparency and accountability.
That is the revelation made this morning, that “the Maori Party spent a mere $222,000 but won five seats and some might argue holds the most powerful minority influence in the Government”.
Mr Speaker, this is not a question around how much money is available; what is the extent to which secret trusts and corporate donors can back political parties.
The disclosure from the official returns suggests that the level of spending had little to do with the outcome of the poll.
This Bill cuts to the very heart of what New Zealanders believe the Parliament should practice - that is the practice of a healthy democracy, where the tikanga of integrity, transparency and accountability count.
The Maori Party believe that it is such tikanga which give expression to rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga.
We accept, without reservation, the need for the prudent management of public money.
And we are happy to continue the debate around what are legitimate parliamentary purposes, as opposed to electioneering purposes.
I want to end with some rather harsh words from political commentator, Gordon McLauchlan in his book, The Big Con.
“It's not that difference of opinion on policy has engendered the anger, frustration and sense of powerlessness among New Zealanders.
We are angry because the policies were born of the dissembling, the betrayal and the lies of politicians.
People feel democracy has let them down."
The public perception of politicians is frequently described as one of contempt, or at least mistrust. The levels of dis-satisfaction with politicians has been a feature of New Zealand politics mai ra ano.
We have a chance to change this view.
This Bill - and the Electoral Amendment Bill enable us the opportunity to work co-operatively and collaboratively in consolidating definitions of parliamentary purposes to guide our future practice.
Politics is absolutely fundamental to the fabric of our society. We owe it to the people – and to the integrity of this Parliament – to make sure that we get it right – and in doing so, improve the public perception of our performance.
Na reira, tena koutou.