Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: I have this theory

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    On a related topic, is the $158k that NZ First are trying to dump on any charity that will take it "election spending"?

    I'd reckon it is - as it's an attempt to curry favour with the electorate.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Rich - it's not.

    Election spending is the cost of advertising. This doesn't count.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    I have another theory on NZ first...

    If you owe me $20, and then tell me you gave the $20 to charity.... You still owe me the $20.

    If you beg/borrow/cajole $158k from your supporters to pay a debt, and then spend it elsewhere, you're going to have to beg/borrow/cajole another $158k to pay the debt.... and at least some of those supporters may not be too happy to stump up a second time...

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 786 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Quite right Fletcher, but I don't owe you $20.

    :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    The initiator can only be the authorisor. It cannot be said to have been done if it was not authorised. Once authorised, the impetus for it being done rests with the authorisor who allowed it to happen legally.

    The point being contested is a confusion f the practical with the legal.

    A person composing content and ordering paper and printing for leaflets isn't the "initiator"l if acting on authorisation to do so - or (arguably) the expectation of authorisation - from the person or body who can authorise it. Nothing has actually occurred until the material is composed and distributed having been authorised form.

    I could sit down right now and do everything short of distribution but gain authorisation. If I do not gain authorisation, clearly I am the initiator. if I do gain authorisation then the burden of initiating must shft to the person who has taken responsibility for it by athoritising it...otherwise what does athorising mean? Nothing.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Graham,

    Mike Smith? I presume you mean Mike Williams!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 195 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I suspect that if National do know what they're doing, they've decided it's worth it. And I suspect they're right; given how the major newsmedia have played electoral finance issues so far, the damage to Labour would invariably be greater, and in this equation that's all that matters.

    And then they'll claim something like "a great victory for democracy".

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Steve - that is the only way the law will work (so I think it will fly) but there is an argument there - but like I say, a dangerous one.

    I can make a "Vote Labour" sign (I won't be spending $12,000+ so I'm entitled without registering). I will need to obtain the authorisation (i.e. permission) of Mike Smith but while Labour must account for the cost, I am the promoter and it is my name and address that need to be on it. Even though the Labour financial agent has authorised it, in that circumstance he is not the promoter. Bill English is arguing that this situation is analogous.

    Mike Graham - I mean Mike Smith (the Labour Party Secretary and its financial agent). Mike Williams is the Labour Party President. They only get confused by people who haven't met them :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I'm done with the EFA for this election cycle, and it hasn't even started yet. I know you're trying hard to make it understandable for humans Graeme, but my eyes started to glaze over there.

    Previously I've somewhat argued for it. Now I think I need do get a couple of law degrees to understand it in practice.

    Surely it can't be this difficult to write laws to make elections fair?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6150 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I know you're trying hard to make it understandable for humans Graeme, but my eyes started to glaze over there.

    I was actually in a bit of a hurry today.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    If National is serious, they're not just trying to embarrass Labour, they're trying to break the system.

    And I don't actually think that's a bad thing if a Key-lead government finds itself (intentionally or not) in a position where it has to do what the EFA should have done -- get rid of the nudge-nudge, wink-wink 'startegic ambiguity' where we have de facto public funding of party political propaganda, and everyone disingenuously pretending that black is white, fire is wet and shit doesn't stink.

    I'm absolutely opposed to de jure state funding of political parties, but if we're going to have let's be honest about it.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11784 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Graham,

    Graeme - sorry, I'm just highlighting my ignorance. When I hear 'Mike Smith' I think of a chain-saw and a hill in Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 195 posts Report Reply

  • Nick D'Angelo,

    I have another theory on NZ first...

    If you owe me $20, and then tell me you gave the $20 to charity.... You still owe me the $20.

    Yes, It's amazing how Winston has pulled this off. The media have seemed to have written it off as "Canny Winston pulls another savvy political trick" complete with video of person-on-street saying__ "I think it's wrong, but that Winston, eh? He knows how to play the game". __So its a free pass for Winston.

    I wonder if taxpayers/media would be so forgiving if it was the Muslim First party and the money was given to a charity in the Urewera's to fund a Madrass? Or a Christians First party and the money was given to a charity to fund Abortion Law Reform? etc etc

    Winston defends himself by saying Parliamentary Services signed off on the spending in the first place so NZ First did nothing wrong. That's an issue that needs following up.

    Simon Laan • Since May 2008 • 156 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Discussing Winston, bear in mind that all the spending was retrospectively legalised by parliament. There was an 'expectation' that everyone would pay it back but I don't think Winston every accepted it.

    So we're talking about a moral and political issue.

    OTOH seems most people don't seem to follow that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I was actually in a bit of a hurry today.

    Yeah I'm definitely not shooting the messenger. You can only work with what you've been given.

    Yes, It's amazing how Winston has pulled this off.

    I don't get how there's no legal redress. He's just making up stupid shit and getting away with it and looking cute. Shouldn't the law at minimum say that he should have to give the damn money back, like Labour did?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6150 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Yes, It's amazing how Winston has pulled this off. The media have seemed to have written it off as "Canny Winston pulls another savvy political trick" complete with video of person-on-street saying "I think it's wrong, but that Winston, eh? He knows how to play the game". So its a free pass for Winston.

    Well, Nick, it looks like the Cystic Fibrosis Association isn't quite so sanguine -- and who would blame any charity for not wanting to be used as a political laundry for Winston Peters?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11784 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    And I'm just trying to work out whether they've thought this through. Using the Electoral Finance Act to stop Parliamentary spending makes sense from National's perspective, but the implicit allegation of offending that this attack necessarily entails could backfire. Any complaint about Labour's Mike Smith-approved, but potentially not Mike Smith-initiated, advertising could likely be levelled at every parliamentary party.

    Legally it might be of concern, but politically it is no lose for National. Like Kyle says this is minutae of law and the law was written by Labour.

    If Labour are caught out they are obviously acting with criminal intent to circumvent the law. Obvious, because they wrote the law and therefore must know what it means. Labour cannot viably claim the law is unclear.

    National if caught out can claim that the law is unclear and badly written. In this case they can point to it infringing upon previously accepted electoral advertising practice - making the law seem unfair.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Winston defends himself by saying Parliamentary Services signed off on the spending in the first place so NZ First did nothing wrong. That's an issue that needs following up.

    Nick: ITA with you, because there's also been some very strong allegations made against the Auditor General. I know Winston has a long track record of making allegation that just don't pan out with no consequences, but in my book MPs accusing an officer of Parliament of "colluding" with the National Party to "bring down the Government" is a very serious charge indeed. Even (and I'm sure our resident Legal Beagle will correct me if I'm wrong) a contempt of Parliament?

    As for the specific defence you cited, didn't Graeme specifically rebutt that a while back? If something is unlawful, I don't see how getting it signed off by PS makes it all A-OK.

    Yeah I'm definitely not shooting the messenger. You can only work with what you've been given.

    And would be cynical to suggest that all this complexity was no accident. After all, the more complex something is the less likely the media are to pursue it or the voters to care. Move along, there's nothing to see through all this dry ice fog. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11784 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    National if caught out can claim that the law is unclear and badly written. In this case they can point to it infringing upon previously accepted electoral advertising practice - making the law seem unfair.

    Its a brilliant tactic, and they've played it well. It allows them to put Labour on the defensive, arguing about things that aren't important, rather than what Labour has achieved, and what National plans to do. How long they can continue with this cynical game, I don't know, but I reckon they can continue on to the election without media recrimination. At the very least they've got a free pass from the Herald on this that I don't see running out anytime soon.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    And would be cynical to suggest that all this complexity was no accident.

    I'm sure it was designed to have grey areas.... But I doubt the designers expected to get bitten on the bum by their own attack dog.

    I'm certainly enjoying a bit of schadenfreude seeing the politicians hoist on their own petard.

    Clue for Labour.... if you dont wait till the last minute to rush through parliament something that should have been done as a cross party accord.... then if it turns out to have all sorts of snags from poor drafting, you might find a bit more leniency from your opponents if they'd agreed to the basic aims and helped write it, no?

    Electoral finance reform was definitely needed...

    This particular act.... Labour are reaping what they have sown...

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 786 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    ... should have to give the damn money back, like Labour did?

    While I'm throwing in random historical facts, that would be (offhand) "like Labour, National*, United Future, The Greens and the Maori Party did". The Progressives didn't have any to pay and NZ First just didn't. Not, as above, that they 'had' to. They just did.

    *but not the GST?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    Most hilarious thing ever.

    National deliberately breaks the law by overspending at an election, but no one investigates, time runs out, so never mind.

    In addition, National spends the same money everyone else does on the same stuff, but does it a couple weeks earlier, and the law gets retrospectively reinterpreted to neatly make everyone but National's spending suddenly out of bounds in a way that requires a quick parliamentary fix. Even though everyone else spent the right amount, and National blatantly cheated.

    It's tidied up to make the technicalities reflect several cycles of practice by all, but National's high price media campaign plays it that the money was "taxpayer money" and should be returned, except for the same money that National spent a few weeks earlier than everyone else, which was equally legal but more "OK". Ha. National breaks the law, but everyone else is at fault.

    Only it catches on, and they all pay it back, though there's no legal requirement whatsoever to do so. The media literally say "no, they don't have to, but public opinion wouldn't like it", but which they mean, "shit this is funny, look at us make the monkeys dance".

    Only Winston does his own dance steps. So now it's "Huh, we never would make that one do the same steps as the other monkeys, I wonder if anyone will notice how much bullshit this all was the first time".

    And now we return you to your regular election year monkey antics.

    Since Nov 2006 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    National deliberately breaks the law by overspending at an election, but no one investigates, time runs out, so never mind.

    They did? How?

    In addition, National spends the same money everyone else does on the same stuff, but does it a couple weeks earlier, and the law gets retrospectively reinterpreted to neatly make everyone but National's spending suddenly out of bounds in a way that requires a quick parliamentary fix. Even though everyone else spent the right amount, and National blatantly cheated.

    They did? I'm reasonable confident they actually spent it on different things. You might recall that the ban in the Speaker's Directions is a ban on spending money provided by the Parliamentary Service on electioneering advertising. There wasn't and isn't so explicit a ban on spending the money on electioneering staff, or polling, which I understand is the general assumption of where National spent its parliamentary funds. If they'd spent the money on early advertising we'd have known - the Parliamentary Service wouldn't have paid the bill for any advertising which didn't bear the Parliamentary Crest, and someone - anyone - would have found it by now.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    So what defence do we have against publications like the Herald running a campaign?
    It seems to me that it would be far too easy for National to win the election on the backing of the Herald alone on a nod and a wink through the "Old Boy's" Network.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Steve - we get to vote.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

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