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Lobby Groups still Disadvantaged by Bill


20 November 2007

Lobby Groups still Disadvantaged by Electoral Finance Bill

While amendments to the Electoral Finance Bill, as reported back yesterday are welcome, the Bill may still curtail the policy, advocacy and lobbying activities of industry organisations, according to the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce (NZCCI).

“Further consultation on and changes to the Bill are required”, Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive and NZCCI director Charles Finny said today.

“Even though the absurd clause that would have prevented lobby groups from taking a position on anything that a political party has a view on has been omitted, there are still some flaws in the Bill for industry organisations such as ours.

“For example clause 5(1)(a)(ii) remains. This clause prevents the use of words that refer to views on an issue which might persuade voters to vote for a party based on those views. This means it may not be possible to publish a summary of party policies on an issue and compare them with our own.

“Keeping our members informed of what parties’ policies are and comparing them with our own could be deemed to be persuading them to vote for a party under the Bill.

“We are issue-driven not party driven. We are not in the business of telling members who to vote for but we do want parties to adopt policies that enhance New Zealand business. We also have a role in keeping our members informed as to where parties stand on particular issues affecting businesses. This legislation could prevent us from doing this.

“The Chambers are also opposed to the cap on election spending by third parties as well as the lengthy period (the entire election year up to the election) to which the law applies.

“We have written to the Minister of Justice, Annette King, as well as party leaders outlining our concerns on these issues and calling for a further round of public consultation. We welcome some of the changes announced yesterday but further changes are necessary to accommodate our concerns before the Bill becomes law,” Mr Finny concluded.

ENDS

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