Saturday, December 01, 2007

Who ARE these people?

The news media reported tonight that some 5,000 people marched in Auckland against the Electoral Finance Reform Bill, currently before Parliament. The organiser is John Boscawen, usually called “a businessman” by the media. What kind of businessman—apart from, apparently, right wing?

Prominent participants included the leader of the neo-conservative ACT Party, the leader of a new far-right christianist party connected to a NZ TV preacher and the leader of the far-right christianist group that was the centre of organising against the anti-smacking bill (and now engaged in organising boycotts of advertisers on “Californication”, among other far-right christianist causes).

So, who are these people? Are they merely a gang of political extremists worried that they can't buy the next election? Some of the signs carried referred to “Helengrad”, a favourite schoolyard taunt used by the right and far right in New Zealand.

The original purpose of the bill was a response to a far, far-right christianist sect that spent more than a million dollars in the 2005 election on a smear campaign against the Labour and Green Parties in an effort to get the National Party elected. The group spent the money secretly, never openly identifying themselves until their true identities were revealed by an ex-member.

Another aspect of the bill will severely limit fat-cat campaign contributions and outlaw anonymous donations through trusts, a despicable practice that allows very, very rich people to donate huge sums to a party without their names being known publicly (very useful for rich business owners whose customers may not approve of their political donations). This has benefited primarily the conservative National Party and they will suffer the most from the changes.

Some proposed changes have been criticised by disinterested parties, and the government plans to deal with those objections through amendment. But the level of heat among opponents, the level of venom hissed at the Government and at the Prime Minister in particular seems out of proportion.

Which leads me to wonder if there isn't a larger agenda at work here, especially given who some of the high-profile opponents are. This looks to me to be another aspect, basically, of neo-conservative efforts to get a National Party-led government in order to promote their full agenda. If they really are ordinary people, and not far-right ideologues trying to appear ordinary, they could go a long way to reduce my suspicions by simply turning down their volume and using normal discourse, not the screeching rhetoric of the Grumpy Brigade.

Unless that happens, I'll keep wondering who these people really are.

Update: The Green Party has revealed that the leader of the protests is also a member of the neoconservative group, Business Rountable (previously, commentor Downunder Mark documented that he was a chief fundraiser for the neoconservative ACT Party--thanks for the info, Mark). Members of the Business Roundtable raised huge piles of secret cash for the National Party in the 2005 election. The donations were secret only to voters, since the money was given anonymously through trusts, but it's likely that National's top leaders knew who the big donors were.


Unknown said...

John Boscawen is (and probably still is) the chief fundraiser for ACT and has been a member since 1994.

Christine Rankine is a lead organiser is not suprising given her departure from WINZ in 2001. I still think she doesn't get why she had to go.

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks for that. I new there must be a connection to the neocons, but I hadn't had time to research it myself--and I hoped someone else had, so thanks!

I knew about Rankin being part of it, and she's been a strong backer of the rightwing christianist group "Family First", who are also leading the charge against the bill.

Whatever the bill's faults may really be, it's clear to me that the loudest voices against it so far are from the right and far right who are frightened they may not be able to buy a right-wing, National Party-led election victory in 2008.

Unknown said...

It is interesting that he says he is willing to spend up to $250,000 of his own money on this campaign

In the next paragraph he claims he is not rich just because he isn't on the Rich List.

Arthur Schenck said...

That's so funny: He says "I live on Paritai Drive" but claims he's only "comfortable". By that standard, I must be living in abject poverty!