The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Those pesky unionists

Recently I heard Don Brash defending the sources of his (former) party's political funding by saying that Labour had funding from (shock, horror) unionists!*

I know, this is pretty stunning news, and we all await the best-selling expose book with glee. (Suggestions for the title welcome in comments.)

But there is rather a big difference between the kind of secretive business funding that Idiot/Savant has summed up well today, and the donations unions give to Labour (and other centre-left political parties).

1. Unions are run by their membership through democratic structures, meaning the people who fund unions (members) say how those funds are spent. This extends to donations to political parties for election spending. Union's financial statements are published and easily accessed.

2. Everyone knows unions give money to Labour. In fact many people assume that all unions give a great deal more to Labour than they actually do.** In particular Kiwiblog commenters.

3. Unions do not publicly distance themselves from their donations through anonymity or trusts. The donations are instead publicly declared.

None of these three points apply to all businesses who give donations. I'm sure there are many who do it above board, but Hager's book is purported to show evidence that there are some notable exceptions. And that is Not Good for our democracy.

I'd also note that the kind of returns for investment that Idiot/Savant is talking about in his post, for business donations, aren't really available to unions. A union could not make hundreds of millions of dollars from a change in Government policy, unless that policy remained unchanged for a considerable period of time. And that extra money wouldn't come directly from tax-payer funds, unlike the sort of business advantages I/S details.

Right, now that I've nipped that one in the bud I'm off to bash a tennis ball repeatedly against a wall. Yay!

* In the interview I heard, which I think was on Nat Rad, and definitely pre-dated his resignation, Brash actually said "unionists and communists" fund Labour. I find the communist accusation so funny - I hear that God loves a trier.
** And in fact, to the best of my knowledge public sector unions (who have the most dosh) don't give money to political parties at all.


Rich said...

Moreover union money goes through Labour's accounts and is counted against election spending limits.

Not spent on illegal anonymous leaflet drops.

Graeme Edgeler said...

I'm not saying the two are necessarily comparable, however, companies are run through democratic structures, meaning the people who fund the companies (the shareholders) say how their funds are spent. Companies' financial statements are published and easily accessed.

Everyone knows business gives money to National.

rich - business money donated to National goes through National's accounts in the same way and is counted against election spending limits.

Unions ran anti-National campaigns with leaflets etc that were not counted against election spending limits.

What anonymous leaflet drops were organised by business "in favour" of National at the last election (or any election)?

Anonymous said...

"Companies' financial statements are published and easily accessed."

Isn't this only the case for listed companies?

Graeme Edgeler said...

No. The requirements for listed companies are substantially greater, however. And the accounts are probably easier to find.

Most of the companies complained of are of course listed companies

Anonymous said...

As this rebuttal hinges on the secretive vs public aspect of union and business donations, then I feel compelled to point out that there may be good reasons for this.

Unions exist to support the labour movement. Their political ties are unquestionably with Labour and parties of the left. A labour union would not often feel the need to donate to the National party.

On the other hand, businesses are considerably more diverse. Some are driven by individual personal interest, some exist to provide an income to their owners' families, some are directed by a board and shareholders. Businesses sole purpose is not to support a political movement. Business owners undoubtedly draw from all parts of the political spectrum. Some of these do not want their support of political parties to be on public record.

Perhaps ironically, the present government's attack on anything that supports the opposition (including those pesky anonymous donations) is exactly the reason why anonymity is needed.

Anonymous said...

While unions may not have the financial recources to support the Labour party, they do have feet on the ground. This "manpower" cannot be costed and thus is not able to be added to the Labour party contributions list.

I cannot comment on unions operations today but I can recall not ever having a democratic call for a vote, while in the Engineers union, to allocate union funds towards electioneering for the Labour party by paid union officials.

Union electioneering for the Labour parety is by and large uncosted and thus not considered a monetary contribution and is never put to a vote in any union meeting, thus not democratic.

Anonymous said...

"(suggestions for the title welcome in comments)"

Given the literary bent of Hager's titles, may I suggest "Once Were Workers"?

Anonymous said...

I was an EPMU member for quite a while; there have been regular votes on the Labour affiliation. They have to get a certain majority (two thirds?) to pass each time. That affiliation carries all the rest with it. They usually pass fairly overwhelmingly, and a lot of people don't actually bother to vote on them for that reason.

Insolent Prick said...

What absolute tripe, Span.

It is not public knowledge that almost every Labour list candidate is a trade unionist. It is not public knowledge that unions collectively own over $100 million in financial assets. It is not public knowledge the extent to which unions assist Labour during the election campaign. It is not public knowledge that none of the unions' attack campaigns against National are not counted as Labour Party election expenses.

Just as it was not public knowledge the extent to which Margaret Wilson's Employment Relations Act was written by CTU president Ross Wilson.

But I'd welcome you to suggest that the unions divulge every contribution, in terms of financial and organisational support, that they make to the Labour Party. Because it's certainly not common public knowledge. And as much as you like to defend them, you're kidding yourself if you think that middle New Zealanders agree with the extremist views of many trade union organisers.

Anonymous said...

"Isn't this only the case for listed companies?"

Only companies that are 25% or more foreign owned are required to file accounts.

This was in fact recently looked at by the (obviously, Labour) government and the rules were not changed. Why? Because the big NZ-owned private companies argued that it was nobody elses business how their companies were doing. (an example at the time were the many businesses owned by the Todd family).

Accounts are filed at and, where available, will cost you a dollar.

Anonymous said...

"you're kidding yourself if you think that middle New Zealanders agree with the extremist views of many trade union organisers."

Middle NZers feel the same way about many extremist right wing fascists like yourself, Prick, who smear their drivel far and wide through the blogosphere in desperation.

Not all in the union movement are ardent socialists ready to smash the stae, probably about as many National Party supporters who believe in the unfettered role of the markets in distributing wealth.

Psycho Milt said...

"Just as it was not public knowledge the extent to which Margaret Wilson's Employment Relations Act was written by CTU president Ross Wilson."

Christ, if that was written by Ross Wilson he's a disgrace to the union movement and should be stripped of his membership...

There's a difference between "not public knowledge because the public can't be bothered reading publicly available info", and "not public knowledge because we laundered the money through a trust we control", IP.

Michael said...

I guess Don Brash's frustration is the third party leaflets put out by the CTU are not being mentioned by the media, whereas the EB ones are. I'm sure the costs are comparable as the CTU delivered to everybody as well.

I got one in my letterbox, which no volunteer would have delivered due to the two big Vote National signs on my front fence.

Just my opinion said...

Pablo, what is a right wing fascist?

Get your facts straight mate.

Just a question Span. Why is it ok for unions to give vast sums of money to Labour and get policy tradeoffs, and if there is a hint of any money coming from business to National to lobby for business friendly policy, Labour and others go off their tree claiming corruption? Just seems a little off colour don't you think?

Psycho Milt said...

Ooh! Ooh! I can answer that!

It's entirely OK for business to donate money to National, as long as it's done openly, as the unions do. But it's not OK (ie, it's a corrupt electoral practice) for a political party to call donations "anonymous" if you know who's donating. Laundering those donations through a trust you own and control may make it possible to get up in court, put your hand on your heart and say "Those donations weren't anonymous Yeronna, they were made by the Waitemata Trust," but don't expect the Left to sit back and say "Oh well, that's alright then - carry on."

Just as an exercise, how about totalling these vast sums of money donated to Labour by the unions, and then defining it as a fraction of the million bucks the Brethren alone had available for National? I have a suspicion it would be a fraction comically lower than 1.

Span said...

You know I wouldn't mind the right wing commenters so much if they actually read my post before spewing forth the vitriol. Luckily there are good lefter commenters to put them right (boom boom).

Just my opinion said...

Um, you never answered my question PM, but nice spin nonetheless. I should of guessed I wouldn't get a stright answer :(