Not a shock to me that United Future is de-registered

I have to say it wasn’t a surprise to me that United Future had been de-registered by the Electoral Commission today as I have heard the rumours around for a very long time.

Here is most of a piece that I wrote on my previous blog in 2011 on this exact issue

I wonder if any of our minor parties are ineligible for the 2011 election.

A fact that I just found out from the Electoral Office is that not only does a group need to attain 500 members to become a party, it also needs to keep 500 on its books to remain a legal entity.

The Electoral Finance Act (1993) states in Section 67, Clause 3 that
“It shall be the duty of the secretary of any political party registered under this Act—
(Part d) to notify the Electoral Commission if the number of current financial members of the party who are eligible to enrol as electors falls below 500”

The Act goes on to explain in section 70, clause 2 of the ramifications of not keeping membership above 500, “The Electoral Commission shall cancel the registration of any political party on being satisfied that the number of current financial members of the party who are eligible to enrol as electors has fallen below 500.”

Political parties are duty bound to provide a declaration every year that their membership is above 500 and the Electoral Office pretty much takes that as gospel. Officially they can challenge the declaration if they are not satisfied, in doing this the Electoral Office can request the members list, and for evidence on how the information on the list was gathered. I am reliably informed this ‘challenge’ has never happened to any party.

To be a member on a political party list you must be an eligible voter which means you must be living, over 18, a NZ Citizen who has been in the country sometime in the past three years or a Permanent Resident who has been in the country sometime in the past 12 months. Finally you must not be incarcerated at the time of the election.

So of our minor parties, are there any that don’t fulfil that membership criteria?

I have just spoken with ‘Margaret’ at ACT’s head office and asked her about how many members ACT has, and how they check if their members are eligible voters. Margaret let me know that they had about 1,000 members and when they send out renewal forms they had to sign the bottom declaring they were over 18. ACT does not check any of the other criteria to ensure their members are eligible voters. Margaret tells me that she would know if any of the members were not in the country during the previous 3 years as ‘the membership is so small’ that she knows them all. When I questioned her on ‘knowing’ 1,000 people I was informed that the board members check to see if anyone was off shore making them ineligible.

‘Michael’ at The Greens tells me that they check to make sure their members are eligible by comparing names of members to the electoral role. The Greens say if they are eligible to vote, they are eligible members…not strictly true when you think that this process must happen every year as a declaration to the Electoral Office which means in theory members could vote in an election, then move offshore for a period of time (or end up in prison) and no longer be eligible.

The Maori Party openly accept members who are not eligible, they have some members as young as 13 years of age, and their checks on the criteria around location is based around someone’s address. However they have 15,000 active members according to Te Orohi Paul, which would mean even if there are some members who would breach the criteria they would still have more than enough to breach the 500 threshold.

The Revenue Minister and Honourable Peter Dunne spoke to me personally when I phoned United Future, and whilst first stating UF won’t disclose numbers of memberships stating the membership was ‘substantially in excess of [500]’, by the end of our cordial chat, and upon hearing that other parties had disclosed their numbers, Mr. Dunne estimated the membership to be around the 800 mark. When pressed about how UF confirms that his membership is eligible I was told that there was a revamp of how they do it this year, including conversations with the Electoral Office and a new form was in place. On the new form there was now a place to make sure the members are eligible. The form asks if the member is over 18, and eligible to vote. Nowhere on the form does it explain actually what criteria are needed to be fulfilled to be eligible.

Although they are not in parliament presently, and most don’t seem to think they’ll be there after November 26th, I thought it might be interesting to find out how NZ First has gone with its membership since 2008. Membership Secretary Tracey Martin explained that it was party policy that they would not release how many members they have, explaining that it was no use to anyone but her to know that number. She made it clear that she had to sign the declaration with the Electoral Office each year and that was all the information that I should require. They do check their memberships against the electoral role and they must have a valid NZ address which once again puts them in the same camp as The Greens where NZ First is putting the onus of truth onto their members that the information they are giving is true on whether they are eligible.

The idea around looking at minor party membership began when I heard ‘whispers’ that ACT and United Future didn’t have the 500 members required to be eligible party to compete in the election…pure rumour no evidence given, however an interesting observation began to take shape when I told the various minor parties about what I was writing about without mentioning what rumours I had heard, they almost all mentioned ACT andUnited Futurenot having 500 members. Was this true…or had I become a patsy in a smear campaign against two of the minor parties supporting the National Government?

So are ACT and United Future viable? Was their claim to me that that had 1,000 and 800 members respectively accurate?

I told ACT of the whispers and asked if there were prepared to release their list of members, or provide other evidence of their numbers to dispel the rumour and was told by Party Secretary Gary Mallet that he ‘was not interested in dispelling the myth’ and ‘why would [he] do that…what was in it for [him]?’ and then he promptly hung up. Likewise United Future, upon hearing of the rumour said they had more members than required to ‘satisfy the 500.’

Subsequent to my little investigation, I also interviewed Peter Dunne as a part of our short lived (but maybe soon to return) political podcast with comedian Jeremy Elwood, ‘The Slightly Correct Political Show‘ where Mr. Dunne jumped in on a casual question to make sure we were aware that United Future were legit.
Me thinks the Minister doth protesteth too much? Maybe…
By the way, we are in planning to possibly bring back ‘Slightly Correct’ so why don’t you head there now and like the page as we’ll probably have some news for you in the next couple of weeks 😉

Family First Loses Charitable Status

So Family First has been struck off the Charities Registry and as of the 27th of this month will lose all the financial benefits of being a Charity, as will their supporters.

Family First and I may not agree all the time, but I know Bob McCoskrie pretty well and have no problems with the idea of them getting financial gain from being a Charity. See when it comes down to it, it is you and I who subsidise Charities for the non-tax paying, non-bank fee paying, rebates to supporters financial benefits they get.

We subsidise them by paying the tax, paying the bank fees, and then having our government giving back to their supporters some of their donations which never actually make it into the hands of the public coffers. Groups like Family First get the donation, and then from our taxes the government via IRD give one third of that back.

So whether we support a particular charity or not, we do indeed subsidise them, and I’ll say again I have no problems subsidising Family First as I have no problem subsidising many other charities.

But now comes the conversation specifically about Family First. I also have no problem with a group, who now falls outside prescribed definition of a charity being struck off. The question is does Family First no longer fit the criteria they have apparently adhered to for the 7 years they have operated as a charity.

I have two questions for you. What charitable work does Family First do? What is Family First’s ‘core business’?

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) says for an entity to be charitable it must

  • fall within one of the four charitable purposes set out in section 5(1) of the Charities Act and
  • provide a public benefit and
  • not be aimed at creating private financial profit.

Notice that an entity must do all three be considered a charity, it’s not an ‘either or’.

The four charitable purposes in section 5(1) of the Charities Act “includes every charitable purpose, whether it relates to the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community.”

I think it’s pretty clear that some of those ideas are relative, in other words who is to decide if a group is providing a public benefit. In the case of Family First, much like any group, those who support and agree with them would say ‘Yes!’ and it’s likely that those who do not would say ‘No!’ which is also an interesting time to point out that there is only a three person board for registering, or de-registering a charity. So if two of the three people on the board have a vested interested in an issue, they could then get an entity registered as a charity or indeed de-registered. I am not implying this has happened in this case, I do not know that, but those are the facts when it comes to a charity losing its status.

I do wonder if where Family First has run foul of the DIA is around some more measurable criteria.

The DIA uses court definitions of what advocacy is deemed ‘charitable’. “personal and representational advocacy — for example, helping people access benefits as part of your charitable work” is acceptable where as “political advocacy — for example, lobbying for a law change” is not.

So what is ‘political advocacy’?

Again the DIA uses the courts definition which states “advocacy for political change, for a political party, for a law change or enforcement of a particular law has, however, been regarded by the courts as non-charitable” which is likely the death rattle for Family First.

I don’t think it can be argued that Family First, in the two public campaigns they have gotten the most exposure for, have advocated hard for political change with the smacking bill and for a law to be enforced in the case of Same-Sex Marriage. If you are following what the DIA sets out to be a charity then these criteria is where Family First have fallen short.

I think Family First is a lobby group and I wonder if a lobby group can also be a charity. I have no problems with Family First being struck off using the legal definition of what a charity is, and the DIA saying certain advocacy cannot be performed if you want to call yourself a charity…it’s their game and their rules to follow.

However here is my concern, and it is reflected in the last post about Aaron Gilmore, for me it now comes down to consistency. If you are going to say that because Family First doesn’t fit this part of the definition of being a charity, if that’s going to be your filter …then how many other entities need to also be stuck off? If what the DIA is saying is that the ‘core business’ of Family First is political lobby, as opposed to family advocate, how many other charities have a similar ‘public perception’ versus ‘reality in practice’ and need to be struck off.

This is where I need your help. Can you list for me in the comments below what other charities you think might have their heads on the block, if you used the same filter on them, as appears to have been used on Family First.

Thoughts?

A not so happy Gilmore

gilmoreI have been fascinated with the vitriol surrounding National Party MP, Aaron Gilmore.

Let me make it clear, I think the way Aaron Gilmore acted in Hamner Springs is abhorrent. He is an egotistically boof-head, a doosh, an idoit, and someone who I think was described beautifully this morning on talkback as ‘the kind of guy who played two minutes for the First XV.’ He is the kind of person who then claimed the rest of his life to have been in the top team at college.

Aaron Gilmore has already had situations in his politically career, he…ahem… massaged his CV and was forced to change it and in this current incident has gone from bad to worse when he first apologised for the behaviour of the whole group, to the have John Key label that group as ‘boisterous‘ only to have a member of the group, lawyer Andrew Riches, then speak out pointing out it was only Gilmore who made a scene. Further to that statement the PM re-stated that he wouldn’t be calling for Gilmore to step down but did offer for the staff in Hamner Springs to complain officially, and if they did there would be an investigation. Full wrap here.

The first thing is that the PM is if he ejects Gilmore, and Gilmore doesn’t step down he becomes an independent, which could leave National in the position of giving the balance of power to the Maori Party (assuming Gilmore then voted against them…and he seems to be the kind of smarmy twonk that may do that out of spite) the second thing though is that I have been intrigued with the opinionated outpouring by the media over this.

Being very blunt, Aaron Gilmore has been a dickhead…but is that a sackable offence?

To hear on numerous talkback show over the last 24 ours, 100% of the hosts calling for ‘him to go‘…is intriguing to me. The reason it is mostly intriguing is that many of these media outlets have homophobic, arrogant, racist, bigoted, entitled, egotistically and in some case criminally convicted people working for them…many of their traits I would find much more severe that Gilmore’s arrogant dickishness…but they  are calling for him  to go.

Hello kettle, this is pot…you’re black.

I don’t support Aaron Gilmore in this post, I think by the numerous use of synonyms here for being a nob is testament to that but if the media, of all groups of people, are going to call for someone to be removed because they are a tosser…if that is the yardstick for removing someone from a position…then I’d be interested to see who’s left on air, on our screens, or in a newsroom once that yard stick is applied across the board.