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Democracy still at risk in control freak bill

Bill English MP National Party Deputy Leader

19 November 2007

Democracy still at risk in control freak bill

National remains committed to repealing the anti-democratic Electoral Finance Bill which is still an attack on democracy despite minor changes, says the Party's Deputy Leader Bill English.

"What this is really about is whether we are going to treat the public as mature enough to hear the differing points of view and make up their own minds. This is just another manifestation of control freakery from a Government that treats the public as if they are stupid."

Mr English says while the select committee has altered some of the most ludicrous and untenable provisions, the vast majority of the bill is unchanged, with the addition of a new last-minute donations regime.

"We have concerns about: The length of the election period; continuing uncertainty about the definition of an election advertisement, and the discouraging effect this will have on participation in democracy; the overbearing regime that third parties are subjected to; the blanket exemption for MPs; the partisan process the bill has been through."

Mr English says the Government has been quoting very selectively from a Human Rights Commission letter which it is using in its defence. (Attached)

"What that letter actually says is there have been some improvements, but the HRC urges Labour to put this bill out for further public consultation - in spite of the changes made. This move was rejected by Labour.

"National tried to get the HRC back before the select committee to discuss these issues but, true to form, National was voted down by Labour."

Mr English says shortly after media reports last week, Labour decided to pull clause 119AA, which would have given an exemption to Government advertising. (See attached paperwork)

"The media rumbled Labour's secret agenda and then Helen Clark got cold feet. It's the clause they never wanted the public to see."

Mr English says National has always been open to discussions about anonymous donations, but is surprised to see a regime that "coincidentally" allows Labour to collect about as much in donations in 2008 as it did for the last election.

"Labour is working hard to silence its critics in election year. If this draconian bill is allowed to pass, free speech will be heavily regulated for one year in every three. Labour is sacrificing all our political freedoms to save its own skin."

See also:

  • HRC letter

  • National's Minority Report
  • Clause 119AA
  • ENDS

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