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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Labour Appoints Former? Trotskyist to Electoral Funding Panel

The government has appointed a three person panel to examine election finance law.

From Scoop

Justice Minister Annette King says Otago University associate law professor Andrew Geddis will chair the Expert Panel, supported by a Citizens' Forum, to review electoral administration and political party funding.

Ms King today also announced the terms of reference for the panel, which begins work immediately. As part of Budget 2008, $4.574m was provided in Vote Internal Affairs for the purposes of the review. The Citizens' Forum, an initiative proposed by the Green Party, is supported by the Government.

"Associate Professor Geddis is an acknowledged expert in electoral law, and will be joined on the panel by Professor Stephen Levine, founding Head of the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr Jean Drage, from Canterbury University's political science department."

Ms King said that during the first stage of the review, the Panel will review the administration of the electoral system, including the structure of the electoral agencies.

"The second stage includes the establishment of a Citizens' Forum to ensure public participation in the review process. This group will include citizens selected from each electorate in New Zealand. They will be tasked with examining the funding of elections and political parties.

"The Expert Panel will assist during the Citizens' Forum learning phase, and will prepare background information on the issues the forum will consider. The work of the Citizens' Forum and its report will inform the Expert Panel's final recommendations to the Minister of Justice."

Andrew Geddis is indeed an expert on election finance. However his background raises questions around his suitabilty for the position. This position requires complete objectivity and impartiality. Geddis's past? extremist political views therefore should be cause for concern.

In the early '90s, Geddis was active in the Otago University International Socialist Organisation, a Trotskyist group led by political science lecturer Brian Roper.

Geddis was a senior ISO member and active protester, mainly with the university's Education Action Group.

In '94/95, the ISO joined forces with former members of the Stalinist, pro-Albanian Communist Party of New Zealand, to form the Socialist Workers Organisation (now Socialist Worker).

A good writer, Geddis joined the editorial collective of the SWO's "Socialist Worker" magazine until 1997 when most of the Dunedin group split from SWO to re-establish ISO.

It is not known how long Geddis stayed with ISO, or indeed if he is still a member. ISO is definitely still active at Otago University.

Before the ISO/SWO split, in May 1997 the British Socialist Workers Party published an article by Geddis and New Zealand SWO leader Grant Morgan (now chair of New Zealands fastest growing political party, RAM).

Entitled New Labour, New Zealand, the article warned British socialists that Tony Blair would do to British workers what "Rogernomics" had done to the New Zealand working class.

The experience of New Zealand under its fourth Labour government should interest everyone wanting a preview of what Britain may be like under Tony Blair's New Labour.

Labour romped into office with a massive majority in 1984 on the back of widespread hatred of a conservative National Party (the equivalent of the British Tories) government. It was dumped six years later in the biggest reversal of political fortunes in NZ history.

During those six years Labour unleashed a blitzkrieg on its working class supporters, who were sent reeling by attack after attack from the party they'd traditionally backed. Labour's policies became known as 'Rogernomics', named after Roger Douglas, finance minister until 1988. These policies involved the privatisation of state assets, restrictions on the right to strike, tax cuts for the rich, massive unemployment, the slashing of wages and the downsizing of the welfare state.

Geddis and Morgan went on to warn that only an effective socialist organisation could save the UK from a sharp right turn.

New Zealand's experience of Rogernomics and its aftermath carries important lessons for British workers facing the prospect of a Labour government pulled to the right under Tony Blair. When in government, Labour will launch vicious assaults against its own supporters to rescue capitalism and protect bosses' profits. Union leaders don't provide a fighting alternative, instead confining their opposition to top level lobbying. Unless there is a socialist organisation able to lead opposition to Labour's attacks, the result may not be a swing to the left, but instead a rejuvenated Tory Party using Labour's betrayal as a springboard to launch even worse attacks on the working class.

There is a hint that Geddis may be interested in electoral reform as a means of achieving "social outcomes".

The Marxists of the Workers Party are apprehensive that election finance law may be used against the left. They oppose such laws because they believe that that they will be twisted by big business to bludgeon socialist parties. They clearly have differences with Andrew Geddis on the subject.

The Workers Party website quotes Andrew Geddis during an interview with Party member and Otago University political science lecturer Bryce Edwards on the dangers of election finance law reform.

According to the Workers Party, Geddis has defended his support of election finance reform, on the grounds that such reform is an effective means of achieving social change.

Similar claims are also made in (say) the field of taxation. Or health and safety regulation. Or environmental law. it's the basic anti state, anti "interference" in the market rhetoric. So why would you think that taxation can be effective in bringing about social outcomes, while election finance law can't?

The Workers Party works very closely with the ISO at Otago University, so this alleged debate raises the question that Geddis may indeed still be an active (though not public) Trotskyist.

If the above quote is accurate, it also raises questions about Andrew Geddis's motivation.

This man is entrusted with advising the New Zealand government on possible legislative change that will greatly influence the future direction of this country.

Should Andrew Geddis's past (and possibly current) Trotskyist outlook and socialist agenda be sufficient reason to disqualify him from this vital responsibility?

Any evidence of Andrew Geddis's involvement with ISO or other Marxist groups after 1997 would be much appreciated.


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