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Statement on the Electoral Finance Bill

Human Rights Commission

19 November 2007

Statement on the Electoral Finance Bill

Several significant changes to the Electoral Finance Bill go some way to addressing the Human Rights Commission’s concerns about freedom of expression and citizen’s rights to participate.

“We’re pleased to see the very wide definition of election advertisement has been dropped which allows outside groups to participate in issues-related advocacy,” says Human Rights Commission, EEO Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

“We also welcome the acknowledgement of younger people’s rights to participate and the end to age discrimination against those under 18 years in electoral processes.”

The Commission also welcomes the proposed amendment that removes the need for a statutory declaration which was an unnecessary compliance burden.

While the redrafted bill increases third party spending limits and thresholds for registering as a third party, the bill does not go as far as the amounts recommended by the Electoral Commission which were supported by the Human Rights Commission.

The Commission was also among those that opposed the extension of the regulatory period which remains unchanged. The Commission in its original submission said coupled with the overly broad definition of election advertisement it would have the effect of limiting freedom of expression for a significant period. Now the very wide definition of election advertisement has been dropped the Commission believes this goes some way to addressing its concerns.

“The Commission has stressed throughout, the importance of an open and transparent public submission process given the fundamental changes to New Zealand’s electoral law. We’re disappointed that there will not be a further round of public consultation on a redrafted bill. We note that the Select Committee has taken up the Human Rights Commission suggestion that an executive summary be emailed to the 575 submitters.”

“Submitters should be able to assess the proposed changes and make their views known to Committee members and other MPs in time for parliamentary debates on the redrafted bill.”

ENDS

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