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Greens - victory on free speech & fairer elections

Green Party victory on free speech and fairer elections

With the inclusion of changes negotiated by the Green Party, the Electoral Finance Bill tabled today should allay many of the concerns raised by New Zealanders.

The Green Party had negotiated strongly with the Government for a number of changes to the Bill to ease the burden on third parties so that there would be no breach of human rights or the right to expression, Green's Musterer (Whip) Metiria Turei says.

"The 1986 Royal Commission quite correctly said that there was no point in limiting political party spending if other campaign groups were not also limited. Wealthy supporters often drown out the campaigns of ordinary groups with extensive advertising. Elections should be about issues - not about the size of wallets.

"Recent protests have been a little premature given the changes we have secured in the Bill. These changes have been made precisely to protect the freedom of expression and ensure that secret campaigns of millions of dollars do not drown out Kiwi groups and people with legitimate election issues.

"We believe the original Bill, as introduced by the Government, severely restricted the spending of third parties in the campaign and imposed greater burdens on them than political parties. Anonymous donations to third parties were banned but not those to political parties.

"The Greens negotiated a change to that. Under the amended Bill, political parties will also be severely restricted in the value of anonymous donations that they can receive - no more than $240,000 over a whole election period (3 years). The legislation as it stood at the last election allowed for unlimited anonymous donations and during that three-year period before the last election Labour reportedly received $400,000 anonymously and National more than $2 million.

"We negotiated an increase of the maximum third party spending cap from $60,000 to $120,000 and made sure that ordinary kiwis could deliver pamphlets, advertise in local community newspapers and undertake other general electioneering activity without being caught by the legislation.

"We have also protected the donations community and advocacy groups receive, which are intended for their ordinary work and not for electioneering. Before our changes the bill caught virtually every donation to a third party and that was simply ridiculous," Mrs Turei says.

ENDS

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