INDEPENDENT NEWS

Electoral Finance Bill Now Worse

Published: Mon 19 Nov 2007 01:13 PM
*Electoral Finance Bill Now Worse*
The Free Speech Coalition has slammed the revised Electoral Finance Bill as being even worse than the original.
Spokesperson David Farrar explains "The original bill sought to regulate almost all written political advocacy by defining an election advertisement as "any form of words or graphics" (Clause 5(1)).
The revised bill extends this to also include verbal and spoken political advocacy by expanding the definition of publish to include "bring to the notice of the public in any other manner".
"This means that on a protest march, not only are placards an election advertisement, so are the actual speeches and chants. And this is no accident – *the Select Committee makes clear in its explanatory note that the bill is now intended to cover megaphones*. Megaphones are such a threat to the Government that it wants to regulate them.
The revised Bill also outlaws anonymous political advocacy for or against a party on the Internet, except on non-commercial blogs. It will be an offence to advocate for or against a political party by uploading a video to You Tube or posting in the Usenet Internet newsgroups unless you include your name and residential address with the post. "This is the sort of regime one expects in China" said spokesperson David Farrar.
"The protest march and demonstration outside the recent Labour Party conference would be illegal next year as none of the placards had the name and residential address of the protesters on them. Likewise those who chanted into a megaphone against the Labour Party would be breaking the law unless they finished their message with their name and home address.
While the definition of an election advertisement has been changed to eliminate the preposterously wide taking a position on any proposition associated with a party, the remaining definition is still problematic.
For example it would be illegal for the Maori Party to run an advertisement (which includes a press release!) which says "Voters should vote against any MP who voted for the Electoral Finance Bill".
This remains a repressive and undemocratic bill. Any MPs who vote for the Bill should expect to suffer the electoral consequences of voting to strip New Zealanders of their ability to easily criticise political parties and MPs.
ENDS

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