Peace And Freedom At 11 On The 11th Of The 11th

Published: Fri 9 Nov 2007 12:01 AM
Heather Roy's Diary
Peace And Freedom At 11 On The 11th Of The 11th
Most countries have a day to honour their war dead. For most of the
Allied participants in WWI, that day is November 11 - the date that the
armistice was signed on the Western Front in 1918.
Although Germany was still theoretically at war with Britain and France
until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, it was Armistice Day that
marked the end of armed hostilities and the beginning of a negotiated
settlement. Many soldiers, given the horrors they'd witnessed, thought
there would never be war again - they were to be sadly mistaken.
In Britain, November 11 is Remembrance Day and people honour the fallen by
wearing poppies and observing two minutes silence at 11am. Last year I
took part in Britain's Remembrance observances as I was in London
celebrating the unveiling of the monument to New Zealand British relations
in Hyde Park.
In New Zealand and Australia we honour the fallen on April 25 - the
anniversary of the landings of the Australia New Zealand Army Corps at
ANZAC Cove. While Armistice Day is observed in New Zealand, it is not a
national holiday.
There have been many wars since November 11 1918. In terms of lives lost,
WWII was worse. But Armistice Day marks mankind's first emergence from the
horrors of industrialised warfare. There is something dashing about the
thought of a cavalry charge, but when men are hung up in barbed wire and
machine-gunned it's hard to feel anything but despair.
Are there lessons from the great wars of last century and our current
military situation? We live in a time when liberal democracies dominate
the world militarily and, to date, democracies have not waged war against
each other. But democracies are constrained by the need to respect human
rights, making us vulnerable to guerrilla and other types of irregular
Wars of this kind have rarely been defeated and there seems to be no
coherent plan to deal with the wave of 'Islamic Fundamentalism' that's
sweeping the world. Some of the participants seem to have little more in
common than a love of radical internet websites and bomb-making. Finding
and combating them lies somewhere between police work and a military
I can only say that the answer does not lie in becoming an authoritarian
nation. Our forefathers fought to keep New Zealand free, lest we forget.
Electoral Finance Bill - Attack On Freedom Of Speech
Like so many Bills introduced and passed under Labour, the Electoral
Finance Bill - currently at Select Committee - is a knee-jerk reaction to
the Exclusive Brethren's participation in the last election. Like most
knee-jerks it will flail around uncontrollably, be ineffective and have
unintended consequences.
The Bill makes significant changes to the regulation surrounding general
election campaigns. Its purported purpose is to improve transparency and
accountability in the democratic process, with regard to donations and
election spending, to prevent the undue influence of wealth and promote
participation in Parliamentary democracy. As the New Zealand Law Society
put it so succinctly:
"Unfortunately (the Bill) detracts from, rather than enhances, that
The Bill as introduced to Parliament seeks to restrict the level of
donations, and imposes further regulation on political Parties and
candidates - both of which are already required to submit signed
declarations of donations and spending to the Electoral Commission
following a general election. Under the Bill, they will now need to also
appoint a financial agent.
Further, lobby groups or others who wish to participate in elections - by
distributing flyers, for example - must register as a 'third party', and
will be subject to regulation over what they say and spend. The length of
the election period for advertising spending - three months prior to
polling day - is to be extended, and will take effect from January 1 in
election year until the election day. The best description of the changes
can be found on Kiwiblog (
ACT has opposed this Bill, which is an attack on freedom of speech - vital
to democracy - and restricts New Zealanders' ability to fully participate
in the political process. Limiting expenditure of political parties,
third parties and individuals means that their ability to exercise their
fundamental right of freedom of speech is suppressed. Australia's High
Court struck down an attempt to cap electoral spending in the 1980's on
the grounds of freedom of expression.
There were 575 written submissions and 101 verbal submissions on this
Bill, showing strong interest from many groups. Two submissions made very
strong statements against the Bill.
"While some of the purposes of the bill may be admirable, the detailed
response to them lacks any principled approach. Some reform in the area
may be desirable, but this particualr bill should be returned to the House
with the recommendation that it not proceed. The bill has serious defects,
which mean it will not achieve its stated aims. Moreover, it is likely to
curtail the legitimate expression of opinions while failing to curb (and
potentially even incentivising) clandestine conduct in relation to the
electoral process. The bill as a whole represents a backward step in the
integrity of democracy in New Zealand." - the New Zealand Law Society
The Human Rights Commission raised a large number of concerns, including
that the Bill breaches the Bill of Rights. The Commission stated that, in
its current form, it could have a "chilling effect on the expression of
political opinion".
"The Commission's principal concern with the proposed legislation relates
to the cumulative effect of a number of provisions which have the
potential to undermine the right to freedom of expression and,
consequently, the ability of New Zealanders to participate in the election
process in an informed manner."
This week the High Court in Wellington agreed that, on November 27, it
would urgently hear an application for judicial review of the Electoral
Finance Bill. Plaintiffs are former ACT Treasurer John Boscawen, the
Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar, Greypower president Graeme
Stairmand and ACT Leader Rodney Hide. The legal action seeks an opinion
on whether the Bill breaches the Bill of Rights.
Under section 7 of the Bill of Rights, Attorney General Michael Cullen is
required to report any apparent inconsistencies with the Bill of Rights to
Parliament at the time a Bill is introduced. He did not do so, and the
plaintiffs believe he was negligent in his duty. The High Court is now
asked to decide whether it can review the Attorney General's reporting
duty. The court has given the matter urgency.
This is a complex Bill and the proposed rules around registration,
donation disclosure, spending limits and related offences are confusing
and uncertain. It will make participating in Parliamentary democracy
difficult. ACT believes it is unnecessary. The freedom of speech that
our forebears fought and died for should not be given away lightly in the
unholy rush we now see.

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