The Government, panicking at the huge volume of cash reportedly flowing into the National Party’s coffers, have proposed dropping the amount at which individual donors must be named to a ridiculous $5,000. Presumably they believe this will deter some donors and they may well be right.
The underlying principle of political parties revealing who funds them is sound. Its purpose is to expose any link between a donor’s interests and government actions helpful to the donor. But to suggest that a $5,000 donation would influence a government’s action is plainly absurd.
If Labour had their way they would back government funding of political parties and ban private donations.
In fact that’s a terrible idea as essentially it favours existing Parties and cements their continuing existence. Every election sees a spate of new parties, which only sometimes are effective (The NZ Party in 1984) but can go on to become permanent fixtures (The Greens). Most fall by the wayside.
Nevertheless, how would a funding authority allocate cash to encompass new start-ups plus determine the difference in amounts between existing mainstream parties?
We have this equity problem now with the allocation of free television. The larger the party, the more time it’s given which is obviously unfair in favouring the incumbent. There’s no easy answer although resorting to current polling is an option but still unsatisfactory as nowadays polling bears no relationship to actual election outcomes.
Look how a single leaders debate in 2002 saw Peter Dunne’s new Party, scarcely registering in the polls, suddenly end up with 8 seats, admittedly from a record low voter turnout.
That led to a great Tom Scott political cartoon. It showed a plainly dumfounded and wide-eyed Peter, a finger in his mouth, sitting on a stool, participating in a quiz. Opposite him sat the quizmaster who said, “Your name is Peter Dunne. You have 20 seconds to answer. Name your MPs?”
Needless to say they were all gone by the next election.
I recollect arguing with Ian Cross in 1984, he then boss of TVNZ, about the little television time he’d allocated The NZ Party. It was riding high in the polls but was a newcomer and thus received a tiny allocation.
Ian was a decent man but made it clear he was at a loss as to a fair modus operandi in this exercise.
The assumption that wealthy folk support National is wrong. In 1987 the Labour government was flooded with cash in appreciation for their long overdue structural reforms and the Nats were ignored, both by donors and voters. Good God, Labour almost won Fendleton and Remuera which reflected a watershed in our post-war politics, namely the weakening of traditional Party affiliations and in its place, a more open-minded electorate.
There are two main reasons money is currently pouring into National, thus now panicking the government.
First, a wide-spread recognition that they’re the most incompetent of our post-war governments on so many counts, but particularly their disgraceful racist policies. They will go out in a landslide next year so as said, ignore the polls which for a number of reasons, simply don’t work any more.
The other reason is more fascinating. That is the Nats have the huge advantage of the greatest political fund-raiser in our history. His name is David Parker.