I think you have the wrong end of the stick here, Tom. Graeme blogs about Electoral Reform and other news that has legal quirks. This story did and so he wrote about it. The fact that there are other such stories is irrelevant. He chose to write about this one.
I do not believe it is
a partisan attempt to hawk a beat up
The "donor" in question had finished his innings. Dead people aren't usually scared of a lot, really.
And it doesn't strike me as particularly sinister that someone who, I understand, has been a Labour Party supporter and donor for decades might leave 'em some dosh in his will. Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why they didn't just err on the side of caution, put in a call to the Electoral Commission and prepare a return with it classed as a donation just in case. Whether it was turned out to be legal or not, why the hell risk the trouble?
Craig, what I have had enough of is exquisitely detailed attempts to beat up a story about the Labour party finances masquerading as the PAS “legal beagle”. Graeme Edgeler has managed to find the time to craft almost 1350 words on this non-issue
equally unconcerned if National has a little “Oh, but it’s so complicated” brain-fade about properly disclosing over $400K in donations, and (yet again) nobody gets prosecuted.
That was possibly the stupidest non-prosecution of the whole lot.
If National had been charged – and they should have been – I have every confidence that they’d have pleaded guilty.
I will also point to you to this story I wrote about the GST issue, where I point out that the error didn’t just put National over the broadcasting limit, but put them over the Electoral Act spending limit as well, and resulted in them filing a false election expense return.
What lies bequeath...
I too wonder how the confusion could have got that far along.
If you have a list of incoming money, each entry would have to be reconciled against some heading or other, be it Contribution or Donation - it's clearly not earnings of any sort, what else is there... Magic, maybe?
Are there any tax obligations (for either receiver and giver) on donations and bequests?
Song of the Bulgar Vote-men...
Then again we can all be grateful we aren't living in Bulgaria...
That was possibly the stupidest non-prosecution of the whole lot.
If National had been charged, I have every confidence that they’d have pleaded guilty.
And that, presumably, is somewhat at the heart of the non-prosecution: it's been lax- and now, whoever gets charged first will scream blue murder about prosecutorial 'discretion' and partisanship.
Prosecutions and decent fine or two, and you have to suspect everyone would fall into line fairly quickly. So yes- all for the letter of the law being followed.
But getting up a head of moral outrage over this seems to imply corruption- or at least bad faith- not the muddling uselessness of party bureaucrats. The Electoral Commission appear to have concluded the latter, so I guess the real beef is with them.
So why does discussion of the matter all sound so partisan? Because some people just can't help themselves...
So the actual transactions took place immediately before and just after handover to a new general secretary. Later, under the new secretary, a correct return was filed (who thought to do that? why did they decide it was best?). I'm going to infer that the newcomer faced a big pile of things to do, as you often do when someone knows they're leaving and doesn't pay as much attention as usual, and fixed the problem when they found out, possibly after some righteous swearing.
I think you have the wrong end of the stick here, Tom.
Nah, he's being partisan himself, in an attempt to redress a perceived imbalance. But the perception is pretty skewed, it's not like Graeme is some partisan hack who is always going on about the naughty wicked Labour party. He blogs on aspects of highly specific and technical interest. I don't see a big story here, really. It is, as Tom says, a fairly minor thing. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be writing it. He's allowed to write about whatever interests him, and today, this is that subject. Keeping politicians honest is a perfectly noble journalistic cause, and if the target is Labour, it is worth noting that they're hardly some poor starving beneficiary family who don't deserve attention. From time to time, they run the entire country. They're worth keeping honest, for everyone's good.
So the actual transactions took place immediately before and just after handover to a new general secretary. Later, under the new secretary, a correct return was filed (who thought to do that? why did they decide it was best?).
The first (and most important) transaction occurred in April, with the handover a little over three months later.
The correct return was filed in May this year, approximately 8 months after the handover. I understand the decision to do so was made during the process of preparing the annual return of donations, due by April 30 for the previous calendar year. Whether it was something picked up internally, or by the party's auditor, I don't know.
I can well imagine the new part secretary having a reasonable excuse for not declaring a $226.83 donation, but he's not on the hook for the earlier ones, so wouldn't be the person investigated or charged for those if it went to the police: that would be the old party secretary.
And like I say, I'd much prefer that the party itself carried any legal liability for errors like this.
Well, I think it's fair to point out that "yadiyadiyada" is not the attitude successive National and Labour governments have taken to beneficiaries, superannuatants and student loan holders.
No argument there, Craig, and I'm disappointed that the Labour Party isn't being taken to the cleaners over this. I just happened to disagree with Graeme's assertion that the "confusion" explanation must have meant they were smart enough for it to actually twig in someone's head at the time that they were doing something potentially wrong.
If it's somehow reasonable for the Labour Party to be let off for this, the logical next step for any political party wishing to follow suit, and get away with similar things, is to ensure their money isn't handled by someone with the slightest amount of legal competency.
Prosecutions and decent fine or two, and you have to suspect everyone would fall into line fairly quickly
Or they'd greet potential donors with a: "Donation? Well thanks old boy, but frankly we tend to avoid those nowadays, too much paperwork. Here, I'll leave you the details for the Business Roundtable - they'll be sure to put your money to good use"
From what I was told Labour sought clarification in mid-April, 2 weeks before its donations return was due. That was when they were told by the Electoral Commission that it counted as a donation and had to be declared as such.
Why they didn't seek that advice sooner is unclear. Tim Barnett was emphatic in his view that it was an honest mistake and there was no intent to deceive.
Below is the full statement that the Electoral Commission gave to me after I asked them about the matter:
The Labour Party’s 2012 donations return disclosed a bequest received by the party in 2012 that should have been disclosed to the Commission within 10 working days of its receipt.
Section 210C of the Electoral Act 1993 requires a party secretary to file a return with the Electoral Commission in respect of every donation, or series of donations from the same donor, in the preceding 12 months, that exceeds $30,000, within 10 working days of the donation being received by the party.
A party secretary commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $40,000 who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with section 210C.
The Commission has enquired into this breach of the Electoral Act.
The Labour Party explained the donation was the first bequest received by the Labour Party for some years and the party secretary and his predecessor, under whose charge the bequest was received, were not aware until the party sought advice from the Commission on 19 April 2013 that a bequest is treated as a donation for the purposes of the Electoral Act.
The party has advised it has since changed its financial processes to provide for the management of bequests and has filed a section 210C return for a party donation exceeding $30,000.
The Commission does not intend to take any further action in this matter.
He’s allowed to write about whatever interests him, and today, this is that subject. Keeping politicians honest is a perfectly noble journalistic cause, and if the target is Labour, it is worth noting that they’re hardly some poor starving beneficiary family who don’t deserve attention. From time to time, they run the entire country. They’re worth keeping honest, for everyone’s good.
And that, presumably, is somewhat at the heart of the non-prosecution: it’s been lax- and now, whoever gets charged first will scream blue murder about prosecutorial ‘discretion’ and partisanship.
Reality check: That would have happened anyway if National and Labour had found themselves in court after an already close and bitter general election, but at least they would have been required to answer for themselves in an open court. It would certainly have been more in the public interest than some of the *cough* injudicious and sometimes downright defamatory conspiracy theories going round from all sides.
at least they would have been required to answer for themselves in an open court. It would certainly have been more in the public interest than some of the *cough* injudicious and sometimes downright defamatory conspiracy theories going round from all sides.
Agreed! Non-partisan courts are an invaluable blessing we take for granted.