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Electoral Comm'n decision bans public discussion

Media statement Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Electoral Commission decision bans public discussion

The Employers and Manufacturers Association rejects the finding of the Electoral Commission that its newspaper advertisement was in breach of the Electoral Finance Act.

"Our advertisements run in the Herald, the DomPost and the Sunday Star-Times did not encourage voters to vote, or not to vote for the Labour Party, or any other political party as the Commission claims in its determination," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive.

"The Commission came to this incorrect conclusion apparently by interpreting wrongly the "impact" of our newspaper ads.

"A reading of its determination makes this clear.

"If the Electoral Commission's decision is allowed to go unchallenged it will prevent or severely restrict public commentary on all issues of public importance in an election year.

"So we will challenge the decision vigorously.

"Our advertisement asked concerned New Zealanders to contact MP's of all political parties and ask them to stop yet another change being made to the KiwiSaver law.

"The law change in question being promoted by Trevor Mallard would discriminate against employees who don't join KiwiSaver.

"Under it employers would be forced to pay staff not in KiwiSaver four per cent less than staff who join the scheme.

"This would create dissension in the workplace and that's the issue our advertisements addressed.

"We asked readers to contact all parliamentary parties to tell them they opposed this proposed law and stop it.

"The decision by the Electoral Commission says it is illegal to advertise opposition to law changes of this sort if the ads say Stop Mallard passing such a law.

"It says in effect it is illegal to promote any views that oppose those of the government or an MP such as Mr Mallard in an election year.

"Our advertisement had nothing to do with the election. It focused entirely on a single political issue which Mr Mallard said would be passed before the election without public consultation.

"The issue in question - the changes to KiwiSaver - had its genesis well before this current election year.

"Our advertisement was not about influencing anyone about how they should vote.

"Today we have lodged a request under the Official Information Act to access the information considered by the Commission in reaching its decision as a precursor to seeking a Judicial Review of it.

"If the police decide to prosecute we will vigorously defend our right to continue doing what we have done for the past 128 years, which is to lobby Parliament on all business matters, especially those affecting employers and employees."


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