Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill

  • enacted

Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill

Government Bill

186—2

As reported from the Electoral Legislation Committee

Commentary

Recommendation

The Electoral Legislation Committee has examined the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill and recommends that it be passed with the amendments shown.

Introduction

This bill seeks to amend the Parliamentary Service Act 2000 and provide a permanent definition of the term funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes. The proposed definition is intended to clarify the relationship between the Parliamentary Service Act and the Electoral Act 1993, and has been developed in the context of the Government’s reform of electoral finance and the resulting legislation to amend the Electoral Act. As the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill and the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill cover related matters, we suggest that the House treat them as cognate bills and take them through their remaining stages together.

The Parliamentary Service (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Act 2009, which is due to expire on 31 December 2010, established an interim meaning for the term funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes in response to a report from the Controller and Auditor-General on advertising expenditure incurred by the Parliamentary Service in the three months before the 2005 general election. The Auditor-General found that the Parliamentary Service had authorised a substantial amount of material that, in his view, amounted to electioneering and thus constituted a significant breach of the appropriations the Parliamentary Service administered.

The bill seeks to adopt the definition of funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes in the 2009 Act, which includes among parliamentary purposes the performance by a member of Parliament or a parliamentary party of their role and function as a member or a party; the provision of travel, accommodation, and communication services; and the provision of existing benefits or privileges for former members and their families. The bill seeks to expand the definition of electioneering purposes. Funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes would not include funding for electioneering purposes.

This commentary covers the key amendments that we recommend to the bill. It does not cover minor or technical amendments.

Electioneering

The Parliamentary Service administers funding entitlements for members of Parliament and parliamentary parties, which include advertising expenses. The scope of this appropriation is limited to expenses that are incurred for a parliamentary purpose and does not include electioneering purposes.

The bill seeks to adopt the definition of electioneering in the 2009 Act, which includes communications that explicitly seek support for the election of a particular person or party, and those that solicit subscriptions or other financial support. The bill also seeks to extend the definition of electioneering to include communications that seek support in relation to a citizens-initiated or Government-initiated referendum. Electioneering would include communications that were election or referendum advertisements published during the regulated period, regardless of whether any of the related expenses were incurred or paid before, during, or after the regulated period.

The bill does not propose restricting parliamentary funding for persuasive election advertising during the regulated period for by-elections. By-elections are often called at short notice and can occur at any point in the parliamentary term. Not restricting parliamentary funding in the run-up to a by-election would allow members of Parliament and parliamentary parties to continue communicating with the public on issues of policy.

Electoral Commission

The bill would allow the advisory opinions of the Electoral Commission to be taken into account in determining whether an advertisement was an election advertisement. We considered whether the opinion of the Electoral Commission should be binding on the Parliamentary Service, but do not consider that it would be appropriate for the Electoral Commission to determine how Vote Parliamentary Service should be administered. That decision is properly the domain of the Parliamentary Service and, ultimately, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Apportionment

The bill seeks to introduce provisions for the apportionment of funding for election or referendum advertisements published both before and during the regulated period. The portion of the expenses attributed to the publication of such advertisements during the regulated period would not be treated as a funding entitlement for parliamentary purposes.

Interpretation

We recommend amending clause 5 by inserting new section 3AA, to introduce into the Act a definition of the term publish. The bill as introduced seeks to exclude election and referendum advertisements published during the regulated period from the definition of funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes. We feel it is therefore important that the Act define the term publish and ensure that is medium-neutral.

The committee reached a view that while Parliamentary Service funding should never be available to pay for electioneering, it was appropriate to specifically provide that members of Parliament could properly use parliamentary funding through the regulated period to continue to make available their contact details in the same manner they had previously. We have recommended that this is best done through an amendment to the definition of election advertisement in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill, and that definition is incorporated into this bill.

Negative communications

We recommend amending new section 3A(2) as inserted by clause 5 to prevent funding for any communication that explicitly encourages people not to vote for a candidate or party, or not to become a member of a particular party (negative advertising). The bill as introduced seeks to prevent members of Parliament and parliamentary parties from using parliamentary funding for communications that explicitly seek support for the election of a particular person or party, and those that solicit subscriptions or other financial support. Although explicitly negative, as distinct from persuasive, advertising has not to date been an issue with Parliamentary Service funding, we feel that all types of advertising should be covered. This amendment would also be consistent with the definition of election advertisement in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill. Members and parliamentary political parties would still be able to use Parliamentary Service funding outside of the regulated period for communications that promoted or critiqued policy proposals, as long as, in doing so, communications did not cross over to become explicit electioneering.

Validation of unlawful expenditure

We recommend amending new section 3B(2) by inserting proposed new paragraph (c), to prevent expenditure becoming retrospectively unlawful in situations where apportionment provisions would apply. New paragraph (c) addresses the issue of retrospective liability by establishing that the liability to repay expenses attributed to the regulated period, and the need for validation of unlawful expenditure, would begin only once the Parliamentary Service had completed the apportionment process.

In situations involving deceptive or dishonest behaviour, we note that the Parliamentary Service would have recourse to the Crimes Act 1961.

Recovery of payments

We recommend inserting new clause 7 to make it clear that any funding claimed by Members or parliamentary political parties that was subsequently found not to be a funding entitlement for parliamentary purposes would be a debt that could be recovered by the Parliamentary Service. The original intent was for the issue of repayment to be dealt with administratively by the Parliamentary Service, with members and parties undertaking to repay any funding. Including this provision in the primary legislation would provide certainty that a debt could be recovered—even when the expenditure had been validated.

Appendix

Committee process

The Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill was referred to us on 3 August 2010. The closing date for submissions was 24 August 2010. We received and considered six submissions from interested groups and individuals. We heard four submissions.

We received advice from the Parliamentary Service and the Office of the Clerk of the House or Representatives.

Committee membership

Amy Adams (Chairperson)

Hon Jim Anderton

Hon John Boscawen

Hon Lianne Dalziel

Hon Peter Dunne

Hon Pete Hodgson

Hon Darren Hughes

Rahui Katene

Hekia Parata

Paul Quinn

Chris Tremain

Metiria Turei


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Hon Gerry Brownlee

Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill

Government Bill

186—2

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1 Title
  • This Act is the Parliamentary Service Amendment Act 2010.

2 Commencement
  • This Act comes into force on 1 January 2011.

3 Principal Act amended
  • This Act amends the Parliamentary Service Act 2000.

3A New heading inserted
  • The following heading is inserted above section 3:

    Interpretation.

4 Interpretation
  • Section 3 is amended by inserting the following definitions in their appropriate alphabetical order:

    election advertisement has the meaning given to it by section 3A of the Electoral Act 1993 (as inserted by section 5 of the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010)

    electioneering means—

    • (a) a communication of the kind described in section 3A(2)(a); and

    • (b) an advertisement of the kind described in section 3A(2)(b); and

    • (c) an advertisement of the kind described in section 3A(2)(c)

    funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes has the meaning given to it by section 3A

    government initiated referendum means a binding or indicative referendum initiated by the Government

    referendum advertisement means an advertisement in any medium that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, in a particular way in a government initiated referendum

    regulated period, in relation to a general election, has the meaning given to it by section 3B(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 1993 (as inserted by section 5 of the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010)

    regulated period, in relation to a government initiated referendum, means the period (if any) specified in an enactment as being the regulated period for the referendum.

5 New sections 3A 3AA to 3D inserted
  • The following sections are inserted after section 3:

    3AA Meaning of publish in sections 3A and 3B
    • In sections 3A and 3B, publish, in relation to an election advertisement or a referendum advertisement, means to bring to the notice of a person in any manner, regardless of whether the place of publication is New Zealand or overseas,—

      • (a) including—

        • (i) displaying on any medium:

        • (ii) distributing by any means:

        • (iii) delivering to an address:

        • (iv) leaving at a place:

        • (v) sending by post or otherwise:

        • (vi) printing in a newspaper or other periodical:

        • (vii) broadcasting by any means:

        • (viii) disseminating by means of the Internet or any other electronic medium:

        • (ix) storing electronically in a way that is accessible to the public:

        • (x) incorporating in a device for use with a computer:

        • (xi) inserting in a film or video; but

      • (b) excluding addressing 1 or more persons face to face.

    3A Meaning of funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes
    • (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes includes funding for all or any of the following purposes:

      • (a) the performance by a member of Parliament of his or her role and functions as a member of Parliament:

      • (b) the performance by a recognised party of its role and functions as a recognised party:

      • (c) the provision of travel, accommodation, and attendance services in accordance with any determination made by the Speaker of the House of Representatives under section 20A of the Civil List Act 1979 or any direction given by the Speaker of the House of Representatives under this Act:

      • (d) the provision of communications services (other than services including electioneering) in accordance with any determination made by the Speaker of the House of Representatives under section 20A of the Civil List Act 1979, or any direction given by the Speaker of the House of Representatives under this Act:

      • (e) the provision of services and resources to support electoral candidates to whom section 9C applies in accordance with directions given by the Speaker under section 9B:

      • (f) the provision of benefits or privileges of a specified kind for former members of Parliament and members of their families in accordance with an appropriation by Parliament of money for that purpose.

      (2) However, funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes does not include funding for—

      • (a) any communication that explicitly—

        • (i) seeks or discourages support for the election of a particular person or people; or

        • (ii) seeks or discourages support for the casting of a party vote for a particular political party or political parties; or

        • (iii) encourages a person to become or discourages a person from becoming a member of a particular political party or political parties; or

        • (iv) solicits subscriptions or other financial support; or

        • (v) seeks support for casting a vote for one of the answers to the precise question to be put to voters in an indicative referendum initiated under the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993; or

        • (vi) seeks support for casting a vote for one of the responses to a proposal to be put to electors in a government initiated referendum; or

      • (b) an election advertisement published during the regulated period in relation to a general election, regardless of whether all or any part of an expense in relation to the advertisement is incurred or paid before, during, or after the regulated period in relation to a general election that regulated period; or

      • (c) a referendum advertisement published during the regulated period in relation to a government initiated referendum, regardless of whether all or any part of an expense in relation to the advertisement is incurred or paid before, during, or after the regulated period in relation to a government initiated referendum that regulated period; or

      • (d) expenses attributed to the publication of an election advertisement or a referendum advertisement during the regulated period in accordance with section 3B; or

      • (e) the provision of travel, accommodation, and communications services in accordance with any determination made by the Speaker of the House of Representatives under section 20A of the Civil List Act 1979 in respect of members of Parliament participating in the official inter-parliamentary travel programme.

      (3) Subsection (2)(b) and (c) are subject to section 3B.

    3B Apportionment of funding for election advertisement or referendum advertisement published both before and during regulated period
    • (1) This section applies if—

      • (a) an election advertisement is published—

        • (i) before the regulated period in relation to a general election and continues to be published during the regulated period; or

        • (ii) both before and during the regulated period in relation to a general election; or

      • (b) a referendum advertisement is published—

        • (i) before the regulated period in relation to a government initiated referendum and continues to be published during the regulated period; or

        • (ii) both before and during the regulated period in relation to a government initiated referendum.

      (2) If this section applies,—

      • (a) the election advertisement is deemed to be published during the regulated period in relation to the general election, or (as the case may be) the referendum advertisement is deemed to be published during the regulated period in relation to the government initiated referendum; but

      • (b) the expenses for the publication of the advertisement must be apportioned so that only a fair proportion of the expenses is attributed to the publication of the advertisement during the regulated period.

      (2) If this section applies,—

      • (a) the expenses for the publication of the advertisement must be apportioned so that only a fair proportion of the expenses is attributed to the publication of the advertisement during the regulated period; and

      • (b) only expenses attributed to the publication of the advertisement during the regulated period in accordance with paragraph (a) are excluded from funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes under section 3A(2)(b) and (c); and

      • (c) expenditure under Vote Parliamentary Service in respect of the publication of the advertisement is invalid only to the extent, and from the date, that expenses are attributed to the publication of the advertisement during the regulated period in accordance with paragraph (a).

    3C Opinion given by Electoral Commission may be taken into account in determining whether advertisement is election advertisement
    • An opinion given to any person by the Electoral Commission under section 204J(3) of the Electoral Act 1993 (as inserted by section 7 of the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010) may be taken into account in determining whether an advertisement is an election advertisement for the purposes of section 3A(2)(b) of this Act.

    3D Interpretation of determinations under section 20A of Civil List Act 1979
    • All determinations made by the Speaker under section 20A of the Civil List Act 1979 must be interpreted consistently with sections 3A and 3B.

6 New heading inserted
  • The following heading is inserted above section 4:

    Purposes.

7 New heading and section 35A inserted
  • The following heading and section are inserted after section 35:

    Recovery of amounts paid made outside entitlements

    35A Recovery of amounts paid outside entitlements to funding for parliamentary purposes
    • (1) This section applies if the Parliamentary Service makes a payment against a claim to an entitlement to funding for parliamentary purposes and it is subsequently determined that the person or recognised party in respect of whom the payment was made did not have an entitlement to that funding under section 3A.

      (2) If this section applies, the Parliamentary Service may recover from the person or recognised party, as a debt due to the Parliamentary Service, the amount paid.


Legislative history

29 July 2010Introduction (Bill 186–1)
3 August 2010First reading and referral to Electoral Legislation Committee