Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Rightwinger comes clean

Garth McVicar managed a remarkable feat in the New Zealand Herald. Talking about Labour's attempts to reform the rules around electoral spending (1), the head of the Sensible Sentencing Trust described the current bill as "a corrupt piece of legislation" (2).

Nothing wrong with that. the Electoral Finance Bill is a misbigotten creature that deserves pretty much every ounce of opprobrium heaped upon it. McVicar doesn't stop there, however, bragging about the power of his pressure group and how it is above the law:

McVicar wasn't sure whether it would have been under the $60,000 because many of his trust's campaigns get heavy discounts from media outlets as a "charity of choice".

"A $100,000 campaign costs us $5000 because of the discount we get as a charity of choice."

He said the trust did two or three campaigns that would have cost $200,000 or $300,000 at market value "and actually cost us $15,000".

McVicar said the trust's board of advisers was "very smart around this type of area" and would be working out ways for the trust to comply with the new law, perhaps through other trusts.

"We won't be hampered in our message just because Parliament says so." (3)

Let's consider the implications of this. First of all, McVicar has revealled the power of his - and presumably other - rightwing organisations. Backed by the business community - frequently they are the business community - they have massive resources to promote their agendum. This is why electoral reform is needed, and it needs to address the difficult issue of third party organisations. Otherwise, something akin to the situation in the USA will evolve, where political parties are in thall to pressure groups possessed of huge funds and influence. Essentially, it will allow conservative and business interests wto dominate, because that is where the money is. And the media.

Second, the arrogant disregard for parliament revealed in the last line of Mc Vicar's statement - "We won't be hampered in our message just because Parliament says so." Parliament, you may recall, is elected by us to run the country on our behalf. Sensible Sentencing is not elected by us or accountable to us. And he has just announced sensible Sentencing will ignore any attempt by parliament to control the trust's activity. Basically, McVicar thinks his organisation is above the law, and his contempt for parliament is passed on to us. New Zealanders don't want shadowy non-governmental organisations buying elections - that is why they rejected Brash and the National Party last time around.

McVicar is probably wondering why he shot his mouth off like that. He'd reminded us of the power of unelected pressure groups, at a time when people were just begining to file the Exclusive Brethern fiasco under 'old and uninteresting.'
1 - "Electoral bill no one wants," by Audrey Young in the NZ HErald, 11th
of August, 2007. (
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.


Peter Jenkins said...

I wish that the Sensible Sentencing Trust had the power, influence and wealthy backers you seem to thinks it has. We would have achieved wonders by now if that were the case! And it could afford to pay the people who work for it, which it doesn't - we are all volunteers.... some of whom also put money into the trust to help pay costs. The truth is that the money comes largely from it's membership and a few small companies, none of them big names on the Stock Exchange! It has no more money or power than any other small non-profit organisation, and does not have "insiders" within Government pulling strings on our behalf either as some other organisations seem to. Everything we have managed to achieve has been through long hours of hard graft on the part of it's unpaid volunteers.

Perhaps you should also contemplate why it is that the Sensible Sentencing Trust is the "charity of choice" for these media outlets. It is because they actually support what we are trying to do, and know that their audiences feel the same way. If they knew that we were going against the wishes of the majority they wouldn't give us the time of day, let alone a discount!

That is the only real power or influence we do actually have - that we have support from "the people" regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. We are accountable to them, and they will let us know if they do not like anything we do, believe you me! (When the Dominion published an erroneous story a few years back saying that we wanted to bring back the death penalty that is exactly what happened) If we announce some policy or another and we get a flood of complaints from membership and supporters about it, then we re-evaluate it smartly. Would that the Government would do the same...

Peter Jenkins
webmaster for Sensible Sentencing Trust

lurgee said...

I don't actually think that Sensible Sentencing is some malevolent force Hell bent on controlling the country, Protocols of Zion style. It is more a symptom of a condition, where a lot of power, wealth and influence is dispersed through non-governmental organisations, who are promoting (generally) a conservative, right-wing agenda.

The fact that business people tend to choose Sensible Sentencing as their charity of choice shows that the business community is also generally conservative and right-wing, which should come as news to no-one.

I'm very concerned about the influence of pressure groups on political parties - the Exclusive Brethern are the most obvious example, but the recent Kamikaze position of the Greens on the Therapuetic Products and Medicines Bill shows that it isn't just mysterious cults or conservative advocacy groups.

If I seem too focused on rightwing groups, that is in part because my malfeasance antenna is more acutely tuned to right-wing skullduggery (which is a failing on my part) and because the righties are generally better at it than the lefties, having on the whole more business acumen and resources.

As I described in the main post, I'm concerned about the development of an American style of political pressure groups, where the political parties have become shells for outside interests - who even pay off both sides, so the political process becomes a sham.

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