OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Summer of Shadbolt

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    absolute nonsense. the Herald and Listener publish letters from unverifiable sources on a daily basis. do you really think they have the staffing resources to check letters' provenance, or the inclination to do so when they provide pro-editorial copy?

    Well, nanoplanet, I actually have a received a perfectly pleasant call from The Herald checking out my supplied contact details were accurate, before printing a letter that was supportive (with qualifications) of an op-ed column. Don't know if they do this in every case, but it would be a prudent course of action considering publishers are actually liable for the contents of every letter, on-line comment and column they publish.

    As for identity disclosure of bloggers and commentators. Well, the anonymous wanker on Kiwibog who repeatedly accused me of "supporting [a] pedophile" wasn't providing "contentious information"; it was an ugly, baseless and outright defamatory lie. It's perfectly fair comment to ask whether this kind of fucktard (and there's all too many on both the loony left and the rabid right) would be quite so brave if they were unable to hide behind pseudonyms.

    Pardon me if I don't have a grain of sympathy for scumbags and liars who try and wrap themselves in the mantle of brave tellers of truth to power, and victims of censorship. They're nothing of the kind.

    Disclosure isn't a perfect accountability mechanism, but its a good start. I'm no saint, but at least when I play the devil I've got the courage of my convictions - and the sheer common decency -- to put my name to what I say. Graeme Greene defended his friend Evelyn Waugh against a posthumous attack by saying that whatever his other flaws, he'd always choose (figuratively) to spit in your face rather than stab you in the back, or piss on your grave.

    Would be nice if a few folks in the Kiwi blogisphere had a little of Waugh's integrity.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11933 posts Report Reply

  • Philip Wilkie,

    Keith,

    The last para in your post interested me:

    These things are, by definition, restrictions on our freedoms. Laws are, by definition, restrictions on our freedoms. But not all restrictions on freedoms are sinister, and they have to be weighed up and judged with open eyes.

    It is a curious thing that in moderation, laws and regulations, far from restricting our freedoms... actually increase them. Our society functions as relatively well as it does because of myriad layers of them. Without them in fact, if left totally free to do whatever we felt we could "get away with", our nation as we know it would rapidly degenerate into barbarism. And that in itself would amount to huge loss to us all. There is in fact no such thing as "absolute liberty", save perhaps that attained by those characters of literature stranded on desert islands.

    A very simple illustration is afforded by that set of "restrictions" which comprise the Road Code. Sure they take away your "freedom" to drive on whichever side of the road takes your personal fancy.... but in return you gain a much larger freedom to actually use the roads to move about from place to place in relative safety.

    The EFB has tightened restrictions around the ability of individuals to anonymously publish electioneering material, but in return we are ALL better informed and are better placed to judge the credibility and motives behind these exhortations. In sum I can see very little detriment to the individual, and a very real gain to the collective.

    It's a no brainer really.

    Since Mar 2007 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Phil - I appreciate the trade-off that you're talking about, but we don't trade freedom for other freedoms, we trade freedom for our safety, for security, for prosperity, for rights.

    Freedom is the lack of restriction on our actions. Being better informed is something that's good, and it contributes to our capacity to participate in a democracy, but it's not freedom.

    (Sometimes, however, we do trade freedoms for other freedoms. e.g. We can't coerce, blackmail or enslave other people.)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    The EFB has tightened restrictions around the ability of individuals to anonymously publish electioneering material, but in return we are ALL better informed and are better placed to judge the credibility and motives behind these exhortations. In sum I can see very little detriment to the individual, and a very real gain to the collective.

    It's a no brainer really.

    The EFB doesn't really compromise any of my freedoms at all, since I'm unlikely to ever publish electioneering material, anonymous or otherwise. It still seems staggeringly unethical to me though, simply because it involves the present government rewriting the countries election laws to convenience themselves and hamstring their opponents.

    After the last election there was an obvious need to revisit the current election laws - there was evident corruption and illegality on the part of both of our largest political parties. However, the responsible thing for the government to do would have been to convene a commission, throw an ex-GG and a couple of retired judges at the problem and try and build cross-party support to adopt their recommendations.

    Instead they've come up with legislation that totally undermined whatever moral high ground the Labour Party may have enjoyed in the wake of Nationals Hollow Men debacle AND given the opposition a gigantic stick to beat them with all throughout the election year.

    And the media will gleefully help them out with this - although the Herald have gotten pretty silly with their 'assault on free-speech' scaremongering, many political reporters seem pretty sickened by the hypocrisy behind the EFB - especially the notion that nobody in the Labour Party was charged over the pledge cards scam yet this year we're likely to see members of the public charged with utterly trivial violations of election funding law. It stinks.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Seeing as we're still here, Steven Price has a post predicting the EFA will not produce a swag of litigation.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    That's a pretty fair summation of the situation Danyl. A bit of a plague on both your houses really.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6166 posts Report Reply

  • Philip Wilkie,

    Danyl,

    After the last election there was an obvious need to revisit the current election laws - there was evident corruption and illegality on the part of both of our largest political parties

    I'm not so sure that's really so accurate. National's breaches of the intent of the 1992 Electoral Act via the use of anonymous trusts, and the parallel EB campaign are clearly established. I'm much less convinced that O'Brady's rulings that caught out ALL the other parties seems were reasonable and fair interpretations of Parliament's intent at all.

    <quote>Instead they've come up with legislation that totally undermined whatever moral high ground the Labour Party may have enjoyed in the wake of Nationals Hollow Men debacle</quote.

    Actually the new EFB seems to have emerged from the Parlimentary process in fair shape. All the major loopholes that National drove a fleet of Mack trucks through have been closed off, and the purpose and intent of a spending cap as enshrined in long established legislation has protected.

    It's easy to say that a "commission" would have been better, but it really begs the question of whether they may have reached a radically different outcome, one that was consistent with existing legislation and one that could have implemented in time for the 2008 election.

    If the EFB is shown to have shortcomings, they do apply equally to all the Parties, and with experience a future Parliament can always amend it.

    Since Mar 2007 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • MikeE,

    Am I the only one who sees the irony in

    a) most of the time its blogs which are posted under psudenoms that support the EFA.
    b) when commenting on the EFA, those who support it on blogs tend to comment as anonymous
    c) There appears to be more on the political left who post comment as "anon" on NZ based political blogs.

    Kingsland • Since Nov 2006 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • Philip Wilkie,

    Keith,

    Freedom is the lack of restriction on our actions. Being better informed is something that's good, and it contributes to our capacity to participate in a democracy, but it's not freedom.

    I see your point, but you are using a rather narrow and literal definition of "freedom". Every result springs from three things; knowledge, volition and then action. Without knowledge (and well informed knowledge at that) then regardless of any "lack of restriction on our actions", the end result will be mis-directed.

    Or to put it more simply, I'm not sure how ignorance is much of a freedom.

    Since Mar 2007 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm not so sure that's really so accurate. National's breaches of the intent of the 1992 Electoral Act via the use of anonymous trusts, and the parallel EB campaign are clearly established. I'm much less convinced that O'Brady's rulings that caught out ALL the other parties seems were reasonable and fair interpretations of Parliament's intent at all.

    Well, Philip, that's the problem isn't it - " Parliament's intent" sure seems to have a hell of a lot of, shall we say, useful strategic ambiguity to it. Seems a little rich for the people who designed the framework to bitch and whinge when the Auditor-General (who happens to be an Officer of Parliament, BTW) comes up with an interpretation they find politically inconvenient.

    And with all due respect to the hardly disinterested reading of some parties, if Kevin Brady really is such an incompetent Tory hack (as some have alleged) you've got to ask these questions:

    1) Why the fuck was he appointed Controller and Auditor-General in 2002, in the first place?

    2) Why has there been no legal or Parliamentary challenge made to the report or Brady continuing in the post? Don't know about you, but I actually take very seriously indeed any allegation that the Auditor-General shows any degree of partiality.

    If the EFB is shown to have shortcomings, they do apply equally to all the Parties, and with experience a future Parliament can always amend it.

    I'm sure it will, and I'll be keeping a very close eye on the next National-led government to make sure the urge to deliver some righteous payback Old Testament-stylee is resisted. But if it isn't, lets just say I'm going to be a little short of sympathy for any complaints from the Opposition benches. As they like to say in Texas political circles: You dance with the one who brung you.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11933 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Going back to the title of the post, why does Tim Shadbolt think breaking the act in a way that would have broken the previous legislation is a good way of demonstrating EFA "unfairness".

    He seems to be saying that by not getting authorisation from National for his "Vote National Candidate" adverts he will be in breach of the EFA. Correct, but authorisation has always been required.

    Surely, if one wants to demonstrate these new "attacks on freedom of speech" it is the *new* bits that should be highlighted, not the old bits.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I'm not so sure that's really so accurate. National's breaches of the intent of the 1992 Electoral Act via the use of anonymous trusts, and the parallel EB campaign are clearly established. I'm much less convinced that O'Brady's rulings that caught out ALL the other parties seems were reasonable and fair interpretations of Parliament's intent at all.

    The thing is, it wasn't just that mean old Kevin Brady who decided Labour's activities were illegal - the Electoral Commission explicitly warned Labour that the use of Parliamentary Service funds to pay for their pledge card would be illegal before they did it. They spent the money anyway. The police then investigated and found their was sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of an offense.

    Naturally Labour supporters prefer to ignore all of these bothersome points and imagine that their party was as pure as the driven snow while those evil right-wing Nats tried to buy the election. And National Party apparatchiks entertain the same fantasies about their own team. From my viewpoint its hard to see how either party acted with any ethics whatsoever.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Danyl, there was one mitigating feature about Labour's use of money and it is this...They declared it.

    From then on public scrutiny came into play and in general it was rightly aghast. To imagine that Labour hasn't been punished and won't be punished at the next election is naive.

    We saw what happened and can make a character judgment based on that information.

    What the EBs and many others tried to do at the last election was hide their participation, their collusion, cover their tracks and keep mum about their sources of funds etc. I do find this far more worrying. Indeed, Shadbolt is trying to challenge authorisation rules that have been around for donkeys years and without which our elections would be totally opaque.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Surely, if one wants to demonstrate these new "attacks on freedom of speech" it is the *new* bits that should be highlighted, not the old bits

    And surely the Herald shouldn't be able to misreport exactly that:

    Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt plans to break the new election finance laws this month in a bid to force a test case in the courts.

    While I think even they are going to back away from their support on this one, you'd think they'd have the editorial decency to point out such a base fact...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1721 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Danyl, there was one mitigating feature about Labour's use of money and it is this...They declared it.

    Except in 2002, and 1999, when they did the same thing, and on at least one of those occasions put words like "paid for by supporters of the Labour Party" on it.

    The major problem was never the use of Parliamentary funds, and it had nothing to do with the Auditor-General. It was that there was a $2.38m spending limit which they ignored.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Gareth - it depends what law he's trying to break.

    It seems that at least one of the laws he intends to break is that which requires him to register before spending over $1000 publishing advertising related to an electorate.

    Perhaps he should decide to put his name and business address on there - which would have been enough under that aspect of the old law.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Snowy,

    And surely the Herald shouldn't be able to misreport exactly that.... While I think even they are going to back away from their support on this one, you'd think they'd have the editorial decency to point out such a base fact

    But that's exactly how the Herald does its campaigning. Sure, eventually it'll back-off it's support as more details come to light (not usually with any help from the Herald), but by that time few will remember what the Herald said but most will remember the original framing and mis-representation as fact, or at least a significant part of the issue. Just look at their campaigns against the EFA and Section 59.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Gareth - it depends what law he's trying to break.

    Right, and I just now noticed their lovely weasel wording on it: Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt plans to break the new election finance laws
    Which I suppose he does, even if he's not going to...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1721 posts Report Reply

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