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Tauranga march against EFA an outstanding success


By John Boscawen

Trustee, Freedom of Speech Trust

4 May 2008

Tauranga march against the Electoral Finance Act hailed as an outstanding success

The march against the Electoral Finance Act in Tauranga yesterday (Saturday 3 May) has been hailed an 'outstanding success' by John Boscawen, trustee of the Freedom of Speech Trust.

'I am absolutely delighted with the turnout of between 600-800 people. This has been by far the largest protest march and rally in the Bay of Plenty for some years, possibly even since the Springbok tour protest over 20 years ago' he said.

'The weather was fine and the protesters marched slowly and peacefully down Devonport Road through central Tauranga to the rally at Baycourt.' The speakers at the rally included John Boscawen, Ralph Maxwell and Ken Evans. Ralph Maxwell was a former Labour Cabinet Minister in the Lange Government and served on the Electoral Select Committee for three years during his time in Parliament. Mr Ken Evans is the local representative of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Mr Boscawen said 'in a democracy it is the right of the people to challenge their elected representatives and to hold them to account. The Electoral Finance Act imposes unreasonable restrictions on the rights of individuals and groups such as the Sensible Sentencing Trust to be involved in the electoral process throughout the full election year. These restrictions go far beyond what the Human Rights Commission and the Electoral Commission consider reasonable.'

'The Electoral Commission said that the Labour and National parties and their candidates would each be allowed to spend up to $4.8 million in their election campaigns ($9.6 million in total). The Electoral Commission recommended to Parliament that if there were to be restrictions on 'third parties' they should be able to spend up to $300,000. Parliament ignored both the Electoral Commission and the Human Rights Commission on this issue and imposed a maximum spending limit of $120,000, or just 2.5% of what each of the major political parties are able to spend.'

Mr Boscawen said 'The Human Rights Commission called the original Bill 'inherently flawed' and called on the government to withdraw it. Failing this, the Human Rights Commission recommended as a minimum four major changes to the legislation. While Parliament moved on three of these, they failed to reduce the regulatory period from the full election year to the three month period immediately prior to the election as recommended by the Human Rights Commission. New Zealanders are subject to these restrictions for more than three times longer than the Human Rights Commission said they should be.'

In his address to the rally Mr Maxwell referred to the importance of all changes to the electoral law being subject to bi-partisan support. He said this had not happened on this occasion and the Act was passed by a simple majority of 63 to 57. At the end of the meeting, Mr Maxwell moved the following motion that was passed unanimously by the more than 600 people present.

The resolution was:

'That this meeting respectfully and sincerely, calls upon the Prime Minister to repeal the Electoral Finance Act in this session of Parliament, on the following grounds:

1. It offends the fundamental principles of electoral law in that it does not enjoy bi-partisan support within Parliament but exists purely on account of six compromised list member votes.

2. This complex, confused, piece of legislation is not even understood by our Minister of Justice or the law fraternity, let alone the voting public.

3. An election later this year under this Act is more likely to be decided in the courts rather than by the votes of the people, with the High Court already involved; and

4. Constant confusion and squabbling over the Electoral Finance Act seriously detracts from other serious issues being debated.'

Mr Evans, a local representative of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, an organisation affected by the restrictions in Act, referred to the sacrifice of the ANZACs and those who had gone after them to fight for the freedoms that we now take for granted, and particular the freedom of speech.

Mr Boscawen concluded the meeting by reminding attendees that this was only the first of a series of provincial protests planned throughout New Zealand this election year.


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