Media Release: For Immediate Release
19 November 2007
Coalition for Open Government welcomes revised Electoral Finance Bill
The Coalition for Open Government welcomes the revised the Electoral Finance Bill, saying it is greatly improved by the changes announced today.
“We are particularly pleased to see that the bill now abolishes secret trusts and tackles anonymous donations,” said Steven Price, spokesperson for the Coalition.
The Coalition also welcomes the tightening of the definition of “election advertisement”, and believes the bill now strikes a much better balance between freedom of expression and the need to protect the democratic system from the corrupting influence of big money.
The Coalition notes few people will have to undergo the administrative burden of registering, because it will only apply to those who want to spend more than $12,000 on electioneering (though the threshold for electioneering about constituency candidates is $1000). What’s more, hardly anyone will want to spend so much money that they’ll be affected by the $120,000 cap.
“The bill is not about trammelling people’s right to free speech,” said Price. “The revised bill clearly supports democracy by requiring greater transparency of donors and levelling the playing field so that groups like the Exclusive Brethren can’t use their big chequebooks to swing elections.”
The Coalition is also glad that the bill now:
* restricts overseas donations;
* further increases the penalties for almost all the electoral offences;
* no longer requires people to sign statutory declaration before engaging in electioneering; and
* allows third parties like Forest and Bird to protect the identities of their donors who aren’t trying to influence the election.
However, the Coalition calls on parties to tighten the rules for anonymous donations even further.
“The bill makes real progress in dealing with the huge sums given to political parties in secret,” said Price. “Still, we think the restrictions on anonymous donations should be tighter.”
Under the bill, a political party would still not have to tell the public the name of someone who gave it $30,000 in an election cycle.
“A simple solution would be to get rid of the new process by which anonymous donations can be funnelled through the Electoral Commission,” said Price. That would effectively ban all anonymous donations over $1000.