Electoral finance revamp looks shaky

Last updated 00:00 18/10/2007

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The Government's overhaul of electoral finance laws is looking shaky after a key ally lambasted the legislation as KGB-like.

A rewrite is now under way to salvage the bill, but the latest missive by UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne suggests the Government is under mounting pressure to incorporate a clamp on anonymous donations if the legislation is to survive.

Writing in yesterday's Dominion Post, Mr Dunne said the bill had major flaws, including the definition of third-party advertisers, which was too wide; the $60,000 cap on the amount that could be spent by third parties on election advertising was too low; and the legislation failed to address the need for more transparency around donations to political parties.

He also called for a look at the rules surrounding official government advertising.

A parliamentary select committee considering the legislation is expected to recommend sweeping changes, which are understood to include significantly loosening the rules and definitions surrounding third-party advertisers and raising the $60,000 cap.

But the select committee is not expected to recommend any change to January 1 as the start date from which political advertising counts toward the statutory limit imposed on election-year spending.

The Government may have to step in with further changes if it wants to keep the Greens and UnitedFuture onside and get the legislation passed before Christmas, in time for the January 1 kickoff for election advertising rules.

Otherwise, it will not have the numbers to pass the bill; only NZ First is looking likely to support it.

The most pressure is expected to come over anonymous donations, with the Greens lobbying heavily to include strict disclosure rules.

Labour had ruled out more transparency without compensatory state funding.

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- The Dominion Post

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