Today Justice Minister Annette King tabled 150 amendments to the government’s highly controversial Electoral Finance Bill. A couple of these amendments “urge the Electoral Commission, which deals with parties, and the Chief Electoral Officer, who deals with individuals, to use their discretion to not refer ‘inconsequential’ cases to the police for prosecution.”
This is a very slick trick. Instead of putting in all the tiresome effort required to put together a coherent piece of legislation the government is proposing to ram through a thoroughly hashed up law that people will then be invited to ignore.
Were this simply a case of governmental ineptitude it might be forgivable, however the this particular legislative boondoggle may well have a chilling effect on future political campaigns. What constitutes a ‘consequential’ breech is going be a highly subjective judgment with serious political implications. Would anyone be surprised if, in the midst of future elections, the government demonstrates extraordinary enthusiasm for investigating possibly ‘consequential’ breeches on the part of the opposition?