It appears that parliament will soon attempt to pass retrospective legislation to validate the use of state funds to produce the election pledge card in order to clear Labour in particular of its current liabilities. If this legislation is passed and previously illegal electoral behaviour becomes retrospectively legal then it will bring our parliament into disrepute.
New Zealanders have a cynical view of their politicians but even we are astounded by the governments apparent ability to break the very laws that govern elections and then declare their behaviours to be legal after the fact. This is the sort of behaviour we would expect from a country like Zimbabwae, and it concerns us greatly to see any step in that direction.
It is surely beyond dispute that the pledge cards (as well as other expenses of which the pledge card stands out as far and away the most significant) "encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for the party" as stated in the rules on electoral spending. It requires an outstanding gall, and insult to the public’s intelligence, to stand in front of the public and say that $445,000 was spent on the basis that one believed the pledge card DIDN’T encourage people to vote for Labour. Obviously, “Labour's pledge card was an integrated part of the party's election campaign”* and that is how the public perceived it.
The Auditor-General, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Commission the Solicitor-General all believe the spending on the card not only breached Parliament's rules but was unlawful as does most of New Zealand that does not have a vested interest. And the Labour party itself cannot use the defence of ignorance because it was informed by the Chief Electoral Officer that it was considered election advertising and the Auditor-General that they should not use parliamentary funds for electoral advertising before the pledge cards.
The public already perceive politicians' to have a blatant disregard for their own rules but, even then, this marks a new low point due to the blatant vested interest involved.
In the interest of maintaining the publics respect for the rule of law in this country we request that you take a principled stand and refuse to allow this law to pass.
*mike Williams Labour party president