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Electoral Finance Act repealed

Published: 8:50PM Tuesday February 17, 2009 Source: ONE News/NZPA/Newstalk ZB

The controversial Electoral Finance Act was repealed in Parliament on Tuesday night and, with the exception of the Greens, MPs seemed relieved to be rid of it.

MPs voted 112 to nine in favour of throwing out the controversial piece of legislation, which was brought in by the previous government in 2007.

Parliament will work through new election campaign finance reform in time for the election in 2011.

When the Bill passed into law in December 2007 it did so by a comfortable majority of 63 votes to 57.

Labour, New Zealand First, the Green Party and Jim Anderton's Progressive all voted in favour of the Act with National, the Maori Party, United Future, Act and Phillip Field opposed to it.

The Greens were the only party to vote against the Act being repealed.

Co-leader Russel Norman said his party voted for it in 2007 because it supported its principles and was not going to run away from it now.

He argued it should stay in place until new laws were drafted.

Interim solution

Justice Minister Simon Power said during debate on the bill that all parties in Parliament had agreed to take part in consultations to draft replacement electoral law.

Until that happens, the 1993 Electoral Act will be in force with clauses of the EFA dealing with donation disclosure inserted.

The EFA was drafted in response to the initially covert campaign against Labour and the Greens run by the Exclusive Brethren in the 2005 election but its wide provisions caused controversy and outrage.

It was vague definitions of election advertising that caused most of the problems, and most of the parties ran into problems during 2008's election campaign.

The Electoral Commission had difficulty enforcing its provisions and criticised the grey areas in it.

Labour MP David Parker acknowledged the government had a mandate to repeal the EFA and opposition MPs did not go out of their way to defend it.

The repealed legislation

The bill was aimed at curbing the amount political parties could spend on election campaigns in order to provide a level playing field across all parties.

It meant that people or organisations had to register as so-called third parties or lobby groups if they wanted to advertise in support of a political party or candidate. And it set third party advertising limits at $120,000.

Once a spending limit was reached, third parties could not continue with advertising that ''encouraged or persuaded'' people to vote a certain way, or even refer to a party's policy or position.

National said at the time the Act was passed that if elected, it would repeal the legislation.