Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ralston on MSD, IRD, EFA.....

Bill Ralston takes his acid-laced pen to the spinmeisters at the Ministry of Social Development in his Herald on Sunday column the morning:

"There are now more media communications and public relations staff working for the Ministry of Social Development than there are journalists working in individual newsrooms for media organisations across the country.

The MSD apparently employs 61.5 media staff. Quite what the half person does is not clear but the rest appear to be trying to put a positive spin on everything the department does. All appear to be failing spectacularly."

He then turns his angst on the screeds of policy advisers at MSD, before revealing his REAL target:

"Actually, I suspect the 350 policy advisers are too busy with the 61.5 media people working out how to spend your money telling you that they are working hard for you. Last year, the MSD budgeted 15 million taxpayer dollars to promote, for example, the Working for Families scheme this election year. The Government is anxious to remind you that it is looking after you - even if you don't want to be looked after.

With this in mind, the Government last year published, at your expense, a brochure subtly called We're Making a Difference. It is designed to tell you how good the Labour Government has been for you and, not surprisingly, the courts and Electoral Office came to the conclusion it was campaign advertising for the Labour Party under the Government's stunningly stupid Electoral Finance Act.

However, last week the Government started ducking and diving in Parliament about whether the brochure would be counted against Labour's spending cap for the election. Labour Party secretary Mike Smith has been telling the Electoral Office that the breach of the act wasn't committed by the Labour Party, it was committed by the Labour Government, or more precisely, the Prime Minister's Office, which is entirely different, says Mr Smith.

Quite how the Labour Party's Prime Minister and the Labour Government is divorced from the Labour Party is not clear, but members of the Labour Party must be wondering if this is final confirmation of what they have felt for years, the party's parliamentary wing is a law unto itself and no longer has any connection with its rank and file."

That's an interesting point. IF (and it's a big "if", hence the capitals, there is no relationship between the Labour Party and its Parliamentary cousin, the Labour government, why did Labour's President, Mike Williams offer his resignation (more than once!) to Helen Clark? Perhaps kindred blogger Jafapete, who has much more knowledge of matters Labour than I do, may be able to fill this gap in my knowledge!

Meanwhile, Ralston lastly takes a swipe at Annette King:

"Under questioning from National's Bill English, Justice Minister Annette King fudged the issue. Instead, she gave us an insight into the amazing pettiness that drives the Government's thinking behind the Electoral Finance Act. Apparently referring to National's quite effective and often funny billboard campaign before the last election, she dismissed English's questions, instead talking of "the whining and whingeing from the National Party because it cannot spend the millions of dollars that it had planned to spend on its election campaign, right up to three months before the election, pretending that it did not count as election advertising. Its billboards would have been right around New Zealand. National is not able to do that. What we get now is its whingeing and snivelling about it."

What she is saying is that the Government rammed through an act of Parliament, put the Electoral Office to enormous expense, tied up endless amounts of police time investigating alleged breaches of the act, and further troubled the overburdened court system with litigation about the meaning of the act because Labour was worried National might put up billboards attacking the Government this election year."

Labour has created the mess which the Electoral Finance Act has become. It is only fitting that they should be the party having the most trouble complying with their own law.


adamsmith1922 said...

You may find the post referenced above of some interest, as we have both looked at the same topic.

Inventory2 said...

Cheers Adam - have just commented on your post as well. It will be interesting to see what, if any, further elucidation JP can provide.

jafapete said...

Hi Inventory,

Sorry, but explaining Mike William's brain explosions is quite beyond me.

Strictly speaking they are separate entities. Our experience of the 1980s, when the relationship was strained, underlines that. At one point, Roger Douglas' office was collecting money from corporates and the wealthy and not turning it over to the Party, just in case it needed to fight an election without the Party. But it would still have been campaigning in support of the Labour candidates, unless it fielded another set.

The separation is greater at the present time because the Govt is technically a coalition government, albeit with the Progs.

That said, in legal terms it is the Party that fights the election as it is fielding the candidates. The Electoral Act is structured on that basis.

There are two ways to look at william's argument. You could get all legalistic. Or you could look at the bottom line. Even if the Electoral Commission and the courts accepted this distinction, the public gets the final say. Williams seems to have forgotten this.

One last thought. Williams doesn't have much, if any, control over what happens in the PM's Office. On that point he is deserving of some sympathy.

Inventory2 said...

Cheers for that Pete - whichever way it goes, it looks as though the public's verdict on Labour is not going to be a pleasant one.

jafapete said...

Thanks, I could just have said, "Let the Law of Common Sense" apply. Of course it will, in due course.

I see that it was Mike Smith who was making that argument, though Williams would have cleared it.

jafapete said...

Graeme Edgeler has blogged on the EFA and the separation of party and Parliamentary wing...,