OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Back! (And on the Crusading Herald)

17 Responses

  • Raymond A Francis,

    If it is all about money

    And there is transparency ie we know where it comes from
    Something Labour talk up but as yet refuse to demand

    What is the difference between using your own money or using the money you removed (somewhat in surplus to their real needs) from the tax payer

    That is supposing money/advertising will change their vote

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 545 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I haven't been paying close attention, but is there anyone on the electoral finance bill debate who's making good sense?

    From what I've seen/heard, it's just been different breeds of pigs gathering around the trough trying to get the best deal for themselves. If the name of the bill had 'democracy' in it, then it'd be in the running for 'most amusingly named bill of 2007'.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6211 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    As a free service to busy PA readers, to save you from having to wade through dozens of pages of "Your Views" on the Herald website, here they are:

    1. A quote (Niemoller, Lincoln, Acton)
    2. Another country (Hot: Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, North Korea. Not: Nicaragua, Iraq. Perennial: Nazis)
    3. Your particular hobby horse (smoking, smacking, speeding)
    4. Little or no reference to the Electoral Finance Bill
    5. ... and, of course, your plan to move to Australia.

    Some have an original touch though. My favourites:

    "What the proposed Electoral Finance Act does is put more power in the hands of political parties and drains the power of the people they are supposed to represent. ... I suggest we should ban political parties."

    "We so need a leader who is pleasant to listen to and look at!"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 787 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Apologies if this ends up appearing twice -- it vanished into the ether on my first attempt...

    Changing countries is always a disorientating experience.

    One of the few instances in which the American variant ("disorienting") might be more appropriate :-)

    Actually, Keith, you got out of Japan just in time: as of next week, they introduce new "security" measures whereby all foreigners (and only foreigners) entering Japan will have to queue for hours to be photographed and fingerprinted. Every time they re-enter (except through Narita, where an express lane will eventually allow re-entry without re-fingerprinting). Even if they've already been living and working there for 10 years.

    This is particularly galling because
    (i) all instances of terrorism in Japan to date have been carried out by Japanese nationals, not foreigners -- so this policy cannot be justified on grounds of any "anti-terrorism" measure;
    (ii) it was only in 1999 that foreign residents of Japan successfully lobbied against including fingerprints on our alien registration cards;
    (iii) Japan is otherwise supposedly trying to attract tourists, and qualified foreign workers ... unless they are foreign, this measure seems to imply.

    This is not merely a matter of Japan parroting the American "anti-terror" line (though that is a convenient excuse); rather it reflects a disturbing tendency, which has been worsening over the past few years, for right-wing nationalist politicians (and much of the mainstream media) here to paint foreigners as criminals (in an interesting parallel to media portrayal of Chinese in NZ). In the Japanese version of this fantasy, Japanese can never commit crime because that would be anti-Japanese, while foreigners (whatever country they come from: regulations don't distinguish by nationality because that would be illegal!) can never be trusted to behave properly. In fact, the only type of crime for which foreigners have a higher per capita offending rate than Japanese nationals is a crime which Japanese nationals by definition cannot commit: overstaying, which accounts for a third of all "foreign crime".

    Debito Arudou has covered these trends in a series of Japan Times articles which will seem disturbingly familiar (and familiarly disturbing) after the Metro case: "Time to come clean on foreign crime wave" (07 Oct 2003),
    "Visa villains" (29 June 2004),
    "Downloadable discrimination" (30 Mar 2004), and
    "Upping the fear factor" (20 Feb 2007).

    (Caveat: I am not sure whether unregistered users of the online JT will be able to view these articles from the links provided.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 925 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    For all its flaws, this bill – and the debate surrounding it – is about the role of money in elections, not free speech.

    Have you heard the history of the term "Public Address"? It refers to rallies held by American political speakers that would be pamphleteered and distributed widely (at some cost). In this manner interested people could learn of new ideas and trends and what is worthy of support.

    This bill restricts the amount of money anyone (other than the government) can spend expressing an idea. This bill demands that any free speech is addressed to as few as people as possible. This is a restriction on the right to free speech.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Trying to vilify anyone who supports public funding as trying to hijack the machinery of the state, and anyone who supports more private funding as trying to buy elections really doesn't help.

    The nature of political debate in general is unfortunate.

    I've caught a bit of Parliament now that it's being streamed, and come to the conclusion that whilst I'd like to think I could be a pretty good legislator, I'd probably be a pretty average MP.

    Both sides - all sides - have valid arguments on the EFB, but few people seem to be making them.

    The argument in favour of the regulation of third party electoral speech is basically two-fold:

    1. If we impose spending limits and donation disclosure on political parties, then we shouldn't allow people to subvert those rules by spending as a third party. Basically, what's the point of limiting spending by parties to $2.4m if someone can spend another $2.4m as a third party, effectively doubling the limit, and totally missing the fairness.

    2. Free speech. This sound odds, it's something the Labour defenders of the bill occasionally get close to, between screeching the words "Exclusive Brethren" and "rort", when they talk about overwhelming the voices of ordinary people - though I think that that's an unfortunate gloss to place on this argument.

    It's essentially an argument around disenfranchisement and disengagement. If lots of really rich people or organisations spend a lot of money advocating their views, the argument is that those unable to come close in ad-buying power will just disengage from the political process. They can't afford to get their message "out there" and just won't bother, thinking politics is a rich man's game. Kinda like yachting.

    Thinking their voice doesn't matter, or can't be heard - over the din of louder, better-financed voices - the already dispossessed will disengage, stop caring, stop voting. Democracy will suffer.

    Of course, the opposition free speech argument can be pretty compelling:

    The law is complex, and it's scary. Break some of the laws and you could end up in prison. People with little money, but a desire to have their say, will be discouraged from having their say. Even those who couldn't come close to the spending limit will step back, unsure, hesitant. They know there are now rules, but couldn't find them if they wanted to. Even if they find the law, they'll never understand it, and even if they do, they'll never be sure.

    They can't afford a lawyer to explain it, or check what they're doing; and scared, they won't say anything - they'll stop protesting and disengage, not because the law makes it illegal, but because the mere existence of regulation of political speech has a chilling effect - political campaigning isn't for those with money, it's for those with lawyers.

    This is where the statement:

    For all its flaws, this bill – and the debate surrounding it – is about the role of money in elections, not free speech.

    runs into problems. We'll ignore that the EFB bans political party press releases, and look at it from a purer perspective. Those who oppose regulation - any regulation - of third party speech can quite reasonably say that it's mere existence discourages political speech. They can say, yes, we recognise that big money in politics is a concern, but we are not willing to adopt a cure if it means that anyone spending more than $5000 in an election has to get advance permission from the State.

    Ignore all the "is this covered?", "does the bill go too far?" stuff, it is perfectly reasonable for someone - even the Herald - to reach the conclusion that any system that requires anyone to register with the government before speaking is objectionable.

    Those advocating regulation of third party speech can lay claim to pure motives and protecting democracy from the influence of big money, but the entirely reasonable conclusion of an entirely reasonable argument can lead their opponents to claim that "democracy is under attack". I'm not certain the Herald has made the feats of logic to necessarily reach that conclusion (they've certainly arrayed enough evidence to show problems, potentially insurmountable in the next two weeks) but I'm pretty sure those attacking them fro their stance haven't grappled with this either.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    This bill restricts the amount of money anyone (other than the government) can spend expressing an idea. This bill demands that any free speech is addressed to as few as people as possible. This is a restriction on the right to free speech.

    I would be happier with that as an argument, if everyone involved in an election had the same amount of money to spend. I don't mind restrictions on how much money people can spend, because some people start out with not very much "free speech" when they open up their wallet.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6211 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    I would be happier with that as an argument, if everyone involved in an election had the same amount of money to spend. I don't mind restrictions on how much money people can spend, because some people start out with not very much "free speech" when they open up their wallet.

    This is New Zealand, not Zimbabwe, everybody here has $1000 discretionary spending. Make the limit $1000 per person and limit organisations to $1000 per member. Fair for everyone. If 5000 poor people get together they have a pool of $5 million, but the Labour Party wants to limit their voice to that of one rich man. And someone says this will prevent disengagement, how?

    This bill enables secretive large donations to political parties, allowing the very rich can buy corrupt politicians and pocket them. No large public/audited organisation can do this without obtaining membership support, so this sort of corruption will be denied to groups of the poor. Of course this would never happen in NZ, because we have the only honest and trustworthy politicians on the planet... more disengagement.

    Stifle public debate and allow secretive payments to politicians - the EFB.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Angus as nice as it would be not everyone has $1000 burning a hole in the wallet. - Just my 2cents worth.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Victor Chou,

    The Japanese have good reason to be afraid of them terrorists - their minister of justice is just 2 degrees of Kevin Bacon away from the Bali bombers:

    http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10053265

    Since Feb 2007 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    Yea, Angus, nice idea in general, but the minimum wage is still a ways off $12.50 an hour, so at $1000 you're talking 5% of gross yearly income for a sizable chunk of the population, and 10-15% for beneficiaries or part timers. I don't see politics being worth more than $20 to most people (even if it's worth far more in real terms), and only a very few would seriously consider $200.

    Still, that some can spend thousands of times that amount or more, seeing a good return on the investment coming, is a problem that needs dealt to. Make it all publicly accountable at the very least.

    Since Nov 2006 • 484 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    Have to say I pretty much agree with Keith (haha, for a change ;-)

    But Graeme's contribution is also much appreciated. Which makes it even more annoying that the Herald seem to be making it out as a villains versus good guys b-movie.

    the Herald is truly appalling.

    and to linger:
    jees, those fascist jiminto pricks really need to be nuked. haha, just joking! already tried that once(twice). wheeled the fascists back out wholesale to stand firm against the commies five years later.

    [cheap sarcasm]now it's those evil middle easterners, supplying japan with all their evil oil. wouldn't want to get too friendly with them, now would we.[/cheap sarcasm]

    isn't it going to be fun, all this foreigners=tearzm shit.
    have a nice day!
    (if i didn't live here, i wouldn't bother coming back having to put up with that kind of shit)

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 634 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Readers ... have also been almost unanimously in support of a front page editorial today

    could more accurately have said:

    amongst a tiny minority (less that 0.1% of the electorate) of the especially opinionated, support was almost uninanimous for our editorial.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4471 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Graeme,

    The debate is about the EFB.

    The argument in favour of the regulation of third party electoral speech is basically two-fold:

    1. If we impose spending limits and donation disclosure on political parties, then we shouldn't allow people to subvert those rules by spending as a third party.

    That is a moot point when the EFB does not impose donation disclosure on political parties.

    2. Free speech...disengagement

    Conventional wisdom says politicians are lying sacks of you know what. Conventional wisdom is correct, because they have to appear to be infallible to be elected and nobody is infallible. Do we really want a political system where the only people legally able to broardcast their message are known liars?

    The EFB bans any arguments countering those of known liars who will be accepting secret payments from rich individuals. This seems disturbing.

    ----

    Tussock,

    You are probably right, still I do not think it's required that we ban groups of more than 3000 people forming political associations.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    the EFB does not impose donation disclosure on political parties.

    No, it just doesn't make them tougher than they currently are, or fix the holes you could drive a truck through; and the spending limits bit still applies.

    The EFB bans any arguments countering those of known liars

    Again, no it doesn't. It limits them; it requires that people spending more than $5000 to register in advance; it stops them being made anonymously. The only ban it imposes is on political parties issuing press releases.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    No, it just doesn't make them tougher than they currently are,

    Double negatives are hard to interpret. Please clarify. Are you agreeing or disagreeing with the statement?

    Again, no it doesn't. It limits them;

    Limits them to $60,000 with which to counter spending in the $millions.

    organisations spend a lot of money advocating their views, the argument is that those unable to come close in ad-buying power will just disengage from the political process.

    Not coming close by a legally enforced factor of greater than 20:1 will be an effective ban, right?

    My point is:

    Those advocating regulation of third party speech can lay claim to pure motives and protecting democracy from the influence of big money,...

    ...**only** if/when they produce a bill that makes similar demands on politicians.

    The EFB (& other recent reform) makes politicians a special privileged class, subject to less restriction on what they say, how they finance themselves and what they spend. This is inherently flawed and cannot be defended with pure motives.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    A note for other Tokyo-resident NZers:
    this weekend (Nov 17-18) there will be a NZ trade fair at the Roppongi Hills Arena. Free entry, free music. Refreshments NOT free, however. Further details at the NZ embassy webpage under the "New Zealand Paradise Week" heading.

    I guess I'm going, out of curiosity and homesickness as much as anything else. But I'm still ambivalent about it. Roppongi is, for me, an unknown territory. It's 2 hours away from where I live, so this event would really have to be pretty fantastic to be worth the trip. And I hate crowds (a major part of why I live so far out from central Tokyo).

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 925 posts Report Reply

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