We also have a changing political process. We have got rid of door-knocking now—that traditional practice. Instead, we have very expensive phone spamming by Canadian call centres, which will ring 70,000 households—just like that—in order to drum up support for a dying campaign. Yes, this legislation requires transparency by those who are engaged in the electioneering campaign, and the Greens are pleased we were able to expose the rort of 2005 before it could seriously contaminate the election process. This bill helps to protect us against that rort and that kind of corruption. We have obvious examples from other, similar jurisdictions overseas where corruption has infected the political system. US democracy has become a commodity that is routinely bought and sold.
Members should make no mistake: advertising works. In New Zealand the advertising industry is worth more than $2 billion a year. Nobody would spend that kind of money unless it was effective. Democracy in the US, in fact, relies on marketing for its very existence. Who can stand for election and whose message will prevail depends on the donors, and the ongoing flows of cash and donations have come to depend on the elective representatives remembering to pay the piper. It is a form of democracy that has virtually no life at all outside the classic examples, where donations determine who gets to stand and who gets to succeed.
So why do institutions and individuals donate? The driver is a hunger for money by political parties but, despite public funding in other comparable jurisdictions, the hunger explains the driver only in part, because donors want parties and, hopefully, Governments to be beholden to them and to be preferred over their business competitors. It is a neat, cosy arrangement and it grows more blatant. Parties in Australia now openly call for donations that provide access to the Prime Minister or Premier at rates of $10,000. It costs less to get to see a Minister. All of the donors want access, and, some would reasonably argue, favours.
In New Zealand we seem to have accepted that there is a situation of donations to political parties, provided that the donation, the giver, and the receiver are known—that is, disclosure is the key for us. The Greens, to the best extent we could negotiate, have ensured that we have severely restricted the capacity for anonymous donations to be made to political parties, so that the public can know more about who is funding their political representatives and their political campaigns, and can then assess their policy positions in response. We have exposed the secret trusts to the disinfectant of sunlight. We have exposed the rorts of the 2005 election and we do not want those rorts to happen again. We have closed those loopholes. For parties that are in Government, such public scrutiny of funders and policy preferences is critical, and the Greens have made that scrutiny by the public easier through the provisions in this legislation.
In these four paragraphs, Ms Turei twice refers to the "rorts of 2005". We all know what she's talking about; a series of pamphlets commissioned and paid for by members of the Exclusive Brethren, which included an authorisation. The pamphlets were completely legal under the legislation in place at the time, but the news media never seriously contested the "rorts" allegations from the parties of the Left.
Now the Greens have been embroiled in a rort of their own. National Party billboards have been vandalised; that is the word used by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman himself. The Oxford Dictionary describes vandalism thus:
Vandalism: nounaction involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property:
an act of mindless vandalism
surveillance of the building would reduce vandalism and theft
The dictionary definition of vandalism certainly describes Sunday night's escapade by a large number of activists in a number of towns and cities around New Zealand. It was co-ordinated, planned and most certainly deliberate. And apart from Russel Norman's apology on Tuesday, it has barely raised a mention.
But there is no question that criminal damage was caused, even if that was not Jolyon White and his fellow activists' intention. And that is far more serious than the opprobrium taken by the Greens towards the brochures in 2005, the contents of which have never been seriously debunked.
And whilst the police are currently preparing to execute search warrants on media outlets, we wonder if what might be found if forensic analysis was to be undertaken on the computer used by Russel Norman's EA. In the meantime Metiria Turei's words about rorts, transparency and the contamination of the electoral process now look very hollow indeed.