Thursday, May 22, 2008

Church group tells Electoral Commission to get stuffed - and rightly so

Six churches are funding a $100,000 campaign on social justice but although the Electoral Commission has suggested they register as third parties under the Electoral Finance Act, they are refusing to do so. David Farrar asks , Will the churches be sent to jail?.

The answer, is of course, no. If anyone was to be sent to jail it would be the NZ Council of Christian Social Services (NSCCSS), whose material it is. It is sending leaflets and posters to the churches next week as part of this campaign. You can view the material here. I`m of the view that this does not breach the Electoral Finance Act.

Sure, the NZCCSS is encouraging people to think about policies and ask questions of politicians. Their material is not election advertising because the NZCCSS is not "encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a type of party or for a type of candidate that is described or indicated by reference to views, positions, or policies that are or are not held, taken, or pursued. That is because there is no evidence that the NZCCSS is encouraging people to ask politicians questions with the express intent of using those discussions as a platform for a voting choice. It is as simple as that.

What this shows is that the NZCCSS has a better idea of how to apply the Electoral Finance Act than the Electoral Commission does.


Blogger Steve Withers said...

Material about issues without reference to parties, candidates or voting seems harmless enough. The problem might arise when one group distributes container-loads of utter drivel on a serious issue that most voters haven't got up to speed on....and that's most serious issues, to be honest. Horrendous mis / disinformation could enter the public realm and have an effect that could not be addressed by verifiable reality prior to voting day.

The underlying dilemma is: to what extent do we as a society and a democracy tolerate cynical lying or the sharing of unfounded belief? Both can do great harm.

If we don't tolerate the high error rate inherent in these two things, then how do we prevent / address this problem?

May 22, 2008 at 9:12 AM  

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