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Speaker: Legislating in the Twilight Zone

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  • Idiot Savant,

    I should add that in a perfect world, we wouldn't be doing things this way. In a perfect world, we'd have listened to the Royal Commission on the Electoral System back in 1986 and implemented third party controls and proper transparency a long time ago. In a slightly less perfect world, National would have accepted that the problems exposed by the 2005 election were real, and worked with the government and every other party in Parliament to fix them. Or set up a royal commission or citizen's jury back in 2006, when the Justice & Electoral Committee reported back on the election, to look at solutions, and promised to back whatever they came up with. But instead, they were too busy howling and screaming about pledge cards and turning Parliament into a toxic sewer (something Labour didn't exactly help on either; OTOH the level of vitriol from the opposition benches was unprecedented). There was no political agreement then, so there's no political agrement now, so we simply have to do it without them (but with the support and input of practically everyone else, who did recognise there were problems).

    Fortunately, once this patch is applied, we'll have a chance to have such an inquiry into the broader issues and the general shape of our electoral law. I favour a citizen's jury on this, because it's our electoral system, not the politicians', but I can live with a royal commission (well, other than the name :). But regardless of its form, I have no doubt that a fair and reasoned look at the issues will come to the same conclusions as the 1986 Royal Commission into the Electoral System did: that there must be transparency, that third parties must be controlled to prevent exactly what we saw in 2005, and that there should be public funding of political parties to ensure a level playing field.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1668 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    Kyle, a law that says "you can say what you like, but only if..." really does restrict your freedom of expression. If it ends with "only if you give your name and address", then it's a much more mild restriction than it could be, but it's still a restriction. Worse ways of ending that sentence could be "only if you say who you voted for last time", or "only if you pledge allegiance to The Party".

    Again, there's thankfully a very long road for anyone who wants to replace New Zealand's current liberty with the recent, horrible oppression we've seen in Burma. But if someone is fined for talking to passers-by in the Octagon (which won't happen), then we'll be taking a very large step along that road.

    I don't know how I got into talking about such absurdly hypothetical situations. I'm sorry I ever responded to your mentioning Burma.

    I mean, I think it's silly if you have to give your name and address when making an election related speech, as my understanding was that the bill was about electoral finance, not electoral activity.

    Well, we agree on one thing.

    But I don't have high expectations of the current parliament in terms of producing quality legislation.

    Make that two.

    <><

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The government went into the EFB seeking the broadest coalition of parties it could - but the blunt fact is that if you are unwilling to contribute the numbers to help a bill pass, you get no input - it's that simple.

    OK... I don't think I'm the one who's lost the plot on the realities of MMP. Seriously, Idiot/Savant, I thought a new electoral system was supposed to end - or at least mitigate - that kind of zero sum thinking. Once again, I find it really hard to feel much sympathy for people who are too clever for their own good and don't much like the consequences.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Tim -- you can say whatever you like, as an individual (with certain restrictions that apply whether or not an election is happening, e.g. regarding threats, blackmail, libel. We could argue about whether those constitute unreasonable limits on "freedom of speech"; certainly those are also laws that need to be drafted very carefully to protect the rights of all people in a balanced way).

    But you can't broadcast or publish whatever you like with the same impunity. And again, that's true whether or not we're talking politics -- there always are greater restrictions on reaching a wider audience. (Possibly, there should be restrictions proportional to the audience size, as the larger the audience, the more importance should be given to the rights of the audience over those of the speaker.)

    That's a crucial difference. Though it is a continuum, so there is room to argue about precisely where the boundary between "speaking" and "broadcasting" should lie for legislative purposes -- e.g., as regards using a megaphone.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 933 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    As each of the 6 parties had a member on the committee considering the EFB, that means that ACT, for instance, had around 50 times as much representation per voter as Labour or National.

    Surely that renders complaints about not being able to get up on a Monday for the committee meetings a bit silly.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4501 posts Report Reply

  • David MacGregor,

    Why is there no smart, ruthless ,funny political satire in New Zealand (Snide columns in the SST don't coun't). There is so much to laugh at in this funny little place. If we can bring David Beckham to New Zealand how about Steve Colbert of John Stewart to give masterclasses. When Universities are offering degrees in bizarre subcategories why not satire?… Sorry if this seems off topic, but reading so much earnest comment and response is disappointing. Are McPhail and Gadsby still alive? Exhume them if they are not. Helen Clark deserves to be given the same prodding they gave Muldoon. The Election Reform discussion makes it seem an urgent need in the election year.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Feb 2007 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2977 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'd try Chris Carter, myself, but I don't think this is meant to be a joke.

    A young opponent of the Electoral Finance Bill was taken aback when Education Minister Chris Carter replied with a one-sentence email asking: "Are you a member of the Exclusive Brethren?"

    Simeon Brown has emailed all MPs several times asking them not to support the bill and saying it restricts freedom of speech.

    He twice got a response from Mr Carter asking if he belonged to the brethren.

    Mr Brown, 16, said he was disappointed at the response, which bordered on religious discrimination.

    "I asked him how my response to this provocative question would change his response to me. How would it be different if I was Exclusive Brethren, or just a concerned citizen, like me?

    "You don't expect that from ministers. You expect them to be a little bit helpful, and outline their reasons for supporting the legislation."

    Mr Carter did not know Mr Brown's age, or his religious affiliations - the teenager is a Reformed Baptist - but said Christianity was not part of the submissions he made.

    A spokeswoman for Mr Carter said the question was the minister's standard response to messages against the Electoral Finance Bill.

    "He was making a point about people trying to buy elections. He's trying to make the point that the Exclusive Brethren tried to influence the 2005 election secretly."

    What a knob. The only point made here is how arrogant and paranoid some folks really are...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I've never written to an MP, but I know people who've had some very "robust" responses back.

    I suppose it's more honest than just emailing back with:
    "the Minister thanks you for your comments, which have been noted"

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4501 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I suppose it's more honest than just emailing back with:
    "the Minister thanks you for your comments, which have been noted"

    Well, Rich, I guess I draw a line between being 'honest' and 'robust' and needing some time out on the naughty step to consider the appropriate tone for a Minister of the Crown to take when communicating with citizens. As I've said elsewhere, I don't think it requires any imagination if an opponent of the CUB responded to e-mails in favour with "Are you a queer?"

    Forget about buying elections. Perhaps someone should buy Carter sone Fair Trade decaf and a copy of a basic guide to etiquette and/or customer service.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A spokeswoman for Mr Carter said the question was the minister's standard response to messages against the Electoral Finance Bill.

    "He was making a point about people trying to buy elections. He's trying to make the point that the Exclusive Brethren tried to influence the 2005 election secretly."

    I dunno about the naughty step Craig, if we start instituting that then half of parliament will be sitting on it.... wait. Yeah I like that idea. Instead of kicking them out of the house the Speaker could make them sit quietly on a step in the corner for half an hour.

    But not a very well thought out message at all.

    I presume it's the same Simeon Brown who posted here against the S59 bill.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    I think it comes down more to arrogance than anything else. His reply (despite his spokeswoman's spin) is essentially "f@ck you, we won, you lost, ha ha - f@ck off". And is anyone surprised since Labour have got the numbers to push this bill through? Unfortunately for Mr Carter his glib response was sent to a school boy!! (duh duh duhhhh)

    This legislation really is a sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut response to the EB failing to put their name to a pamphlet (which wasn't illegal at the time they published it).

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

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