Publicly Funded Broadcasting Allocation Condemned
09 June 2020
A joint press release from:
Social Credit Party
New Conservative Party
NZ Outdoors Party
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
The just announced allocation of publicly funded money to parties for broadcasting for the election campaign is unjust, unfair, and an affront to voters.
National and Labour have been given $2.5 million between them (even more than last election) with the remaining $1.65 million spread over 17 other parties.
Even the Labour party agree that it is unfair, complaining that is has been short changed by $82,915 – vastly more than most of the parties outside parliament have even been allocated.
The criteria used by the Electoral Commission are a joke. They blatantly cement in the two party system making it almost impossible for parties outside parliament to get their policies heard.
We’re calling on the Electoral Commission to cancel its determination and on the Government to urgently revisit the allocation criteria so that they are more in line with the needs of voters in a democracy to be able to find out what alternatives are available.
The committee of parliament that allocates public money to parties for election broadcasting is dominated by National and Labour and they allocate themselves the vast majority of the money.
At the launch of her book "Promises Promises - 80 years of wooing New Zealand voters , Massey University professor of communication design Claire Robinson said "Not only do National and Labour gift themselves a war chest from public funds but they also have substantial sums donated by big business and wealthy individuals."
"This confers on them a massive advantage to be able to retain the dominant position they already have in New Zealand's political landscape."
Professor Robinson said she thinks the allocation of public broadcasting funds should be turned on its head so that the smaller parties got the funding they needed to provide people with the information on which to base an informed vote.
"New ideas don't come from the centre where National and Labour reside but from the margins which are the home of the smaller parties."
In her book she points out as an example that the change to proportional representation came about largely because of public mistrust in the 1978 and 1981 election outcomes in which Social Credit gained 16.1% in 1978 but only one seat, and 20.7% in 1981 but only two seats. It had campaigned on proportional representation for many years previously.
A radical reform of the rules is required, encompassing political donations, parliamentary services spending, and public funding for election broadcasting.
In addition to taxpayer money for broadcasting, the parties in parliament already use about $50 million each year of taxpayer funds for research and media staff, newsletters, focus groups, surveys, MPs and staff travel and accommodation and a plethora of other services – many of which are used by them to build their public profile.
If that’s not bad enough National and Labour leaders have refused to debate on television with other party leaders and this has been supported by the state media who have allowed the two bigger parties to dictate the terms of debate forums.
Elections should be about providing information so that voters can, in their view, make the best choice for them. To do that they need to know what is being offered.
National and Labour having a stranglehold on that process is not serving voters or democracy.
The broadcasting allocation should be shared equally across all parties that stood 7 or more candidates at the previous election, but with a small allocation for new parties that meet the registration qualifications.
We don’t condone the passing of legislation under urgency without proper public consultation, but if the government can pass urgent legislation on gun laws and the granting of extraordinary powers for officials and police relating to Corona virus health measures, then it can pass urgent legislation to give all established political parties equal public funding for election broadcasts for this and
There won’t be any public outcry at the passing of such legislation, in fact the public would welcome such a move which would confirm that the government is commitment to fairness and democracy.
For it not to do so, or find a reason why there is not enough time to do so, would confirm the exact opposite.