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April 17, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

EFA a time to reflect

The Electoral Finance Act (2007) has done many things. Confused politicians, party staff, lawyers, the public, journalists, pretty much everyone. This in itself does not mean it is a bad law. I am sure most people would not understand tax law if you whacked the Income Tax Act (2004) in front of them, gave them a highlighter and crayons.

Having to have a test case does not even make it a bad law. All laws have to come in with no previous point of reference for what may happen. Thats what courts do they interpret the law as laid down by parliament.

What the law points out to me, is the need for New Zealand to extend the term of Parliament from three years to four years. Peter Dunne said that there is hardly any time to get a review of the EFA moved up the order paper, so that changes can go through before the election period starts.

If we were to have a longer term it would mean less elections, less money spent on election advertising over the long term, allow governments and oppositions to settle into their roles and get some decent quality legislation passed. MP’s would not feel the need to be on constant point scoring attack. It would also give the media time adequately explain legislation, the electoral system, and their own biases. It also gives the public time to get a good feel for the people involved in government, so instead of just voting them out for the other fulla, they weigh up the total sum of the positive and negative aspects of their term.

The three year term is good for the fact that it supposedly keeps our MP’s honest, because they know that come election time they will probably be voted out. This creates a fear, a fear that makes governments stick to the middle road. Taking popular measures when intelligent measures are what is needed.

We have seen this fear in Labours eyes this term. They desperatly wanted a piece of legislation passed that would protect them from the exclusive brethren, and big money buying elections. They sort of got it. It is hard to tell if it will actually work because of the smoke screen that National is now putting up challenging it at every turn. A longer term would have allowed Labour to sit back, and draft a better piece of legislation that could have been agreed to by both sides of the house.


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The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (3)

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  1. If you whacked the Income Tax Act in front of a lawyer, they’d have a fair idea of what it was saying. NO-ONE can make sense of the EFA. Insiders from all parties have shown nothing but confusion, fear and loathing for interpreting the EFA. All of them desperately want to comply, fearful of a contested election result.

    Meantime, there’s a variation of interpretations by the offices charged with overseeing the EFA. The Chief Electoral Officer is offering differing definitions from the Electoral Commission’s. Crown Law is still looking into the balloon. The EFA is an undeserved workload for the offices charged with making sure we get the fairest election possible. They want to be fair, but fair go.

    Four-yearly terms are a more stable alternative, but successive referenda on the matter have been thrashed by voters. Clearly, the price is not right. The current three-yearly cycle goes roughly thusly; one year to settle in, a year of actual work, a year gearing up for the public seduction.

    By lengthening the term of government, we would improve the productivity of the select committees significantly. Outside general elections, select committees are the best way for the public to sink into their representatives’ insular existence.

    A four-yearly term is possible, but only if the public get some minimum performance issues sorted with the politicians. The short sitting days for this year, as well as an even thinner Order Paper than last year’s anorexic model. That can’t go on. We require a lot more effort from that constipated select committee list of business.

    A fixed term for elections would also be a goer, a sweetener.

    And please stop it with the Big Money and the EB. As the EPMU ruling has shown, you could fly a Cessna through the third party definition. Not forgetting the guerilla posterers and stencillers, who don’t give a flying wombat’s about the EFA. Chaos reigns.

  2. Jackson Wood says:

    “Four-yearly terms are a more stable alternative, but successive referenda on the matter have been thrashed by voters.”

    Point taken, but referenda don’t really mean much, because most people still don’t comprehend MMP, or politics in general, and are not enlightened like you and I Will. (Shades of Obama coming through here). Which isn’t totally their fault, but that is another blog post.

    I do agree with your points about a 4 year term, and about fixed terms with election dates being set. Wouldn’t that be awesome, but if Victoria University can leave the exam time table roster up to the last minute, why can’t the government?

    I mentioned big money in terms of what Labour was scared of… EPMU is fucking big money.

  3. graeme edgeler says:

    Jackson – those referenda mean something. It wasn’t some airy-fairy, not fully thought through proposal like the 99 MP or criminal justice referenda.

    The lenght of the parliamentary term is entrenched, and people know enough to decide one way or the other…

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