Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Electoral Finance Bill restricts legal participation

progressively updated
Report is here. Posted just a minute ago. The statutory declaration regime has gone, and the Human Rights Commission appear to have been of influence. The Select Committee hopes that it has struck a good balance between freedom of expression and equality of participation in the democratic process. But it has created a law that is unenforcable in some instances as those who express a political opinion have to communicate their name and address in doing so - even if it is audible expression.

The revised bill now means that if you have a megaphone at a protest or you speak any political statements in, say, a church sermon criticising the government, you will have to audibly state what your name and address is. Labour, NZ First, United Future and the Greens have deliberately supported this. This should be removed via SOP, as none of the protesters have to register if they spend under the limit, so it is unenforceable unless the entire protest is captured on TV or video.

That is crazy and I can't believe that the select committee thinks it isn't. Wait for the Herald to do a story about unintended consequences after this story.

Third parties can spend up to $12,000 on election advertising before they have to register under the new law - up from $5,000. They can then spend $120,000. But although they can recieve anonymous donations up to $5,000, they have to register if they get three $5k donations.

Third parties are not restricted to registered electors, but those who are NZ citizens or residents. Good. That means that those under 18 can be involved in the poiltical process. The Human Rights Commisson is doing the Children`s Commissioner's job as the HRC advocated for this change, as I also did.

The Human Rights Commission appears to have been responsible for the committee deciding to delete clause 5(1) (a) (iii), which was the clause limiting freedom of speech to anyone who takes a position on a proposition that one or more candidates is associated with. Thats all well and good, but clause 5(1)(a)(ii) means that an election advertisment is "any form of words or graphics" that encourages voters to vote or take a position - so it means the same thing as 5 (1)(a)(iii) does it not?

The Commission also recommeded that further publication should be on the redrafted version of ths bill. It has today expressed its disappointment that it was ignored by the Select Committee members, who dont appear want to have further public input to a dramatically changed bill (as seen on point 30 of this letter from the HRC to the select committee).

Instead the committee is to forward executive summaries of the bill to all submitters " to indicate the extent to which all submissions have been taken into account". Note the word extent.

There has been no consultation/expert opinion bringing the advertising period out to one year.

The purpose of the bill is to promote participation by the public in parliamentary democracy, maintain public and political confidence in the administration of elections.

The bill fails its aim because it restricts such participation.

It will be illegal to make a post in the Usenet Internet Newsgroups that advocates for or against a party unless you include your name and residential address. And it's the same with YouTube videos, and media releases. I`m not going to obey it, and give out my name and address every time, because I dont get a chance to have input into the many changes in the altered bill.

And I won't get arrested, either.


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