Repeal Of The Electoral Finance Act
Repeal Of The Electoral Finance Act
BY JOHN BOSCAWEN
Trustee of the Freedom of Speech Trust
10 August 2008
The Freedom of Speech Trust today placed a full page advertisement in The Sunday Star Times and The Herald on Sunday highlighting key issues associated with the Electoral Finance Act and again calling for the repeal of the Act.
John Boscawen said “The Electoral Finance Act imposes a form of election year censorship never seen before in New Zealand.”
“The Act affects all Kiwis as it undermines four cherished democratic rights: the right to hold free and fair elections; the right to exercise free speech; the right to campaign either for or against the government; and the right to be fully informed.”
The Freedom of Speech Trust was formed to campaign against the Electoral Finance Act being passed and since its enactment it has campaigned for its repeal. As the Trust is not seeking to place “election advertisements” which encourage or persuade voters to vote, or not to vote for any particular political party or candidate, it is not required to register as a third party. The Trust has been very careful to ensure that the advertisement placed today complies with the law and there are many things that might have been said, but were not for fear of breaking the law. This is a form of censorship – pure and simple!
“The Act imposes complex and uncertain restrictions on what each of us can say and do in election year. The Human Rights Commission argued last year that these restrictions should apply for no more than 3 months prior to the election, yet Parliament ignored the Commission and imposed restrictions for the full year. We can’t undo the censorship we have had to put up with since 1 January 2008, but it is not too late to repeal the law and for the parties to fight this election under the old electoral law.”
John Boscawen also said “Both the Human Rights Commission and the Electoral Commission said last year that third parties who wanted to influence the election result by placing election advertisements should be allowed to spend up to $300,000. Parliament ignored them on this issue also, and if the Act is not to be repealed in its entirety before the election, it is not too late for Parliament to amend it and to allow third parties to spend up to $300,000 as recommended by both these bodies.”
The parties supporting the Electoral Finance Act had argued last year that it was required to increase transparency of donations to political parties. We have seen in recent weeks how easy it is to get around these restrictions. We are now told that the Vela family and their companies reputedly gave New Zealand First $150,000 over 5 years. Winston Peters says neither he nor New Zealand First did anything illegal in this regard and he could be absolutely correct. More importantly, exactly the same thing could happen in 2008 despite the Electoral Finance Act. If the Velas had 10 New Zealand-owned companies, each could give up to $10,000 of their own money to New Zealand First (or any other political party) this year. Nothing in the Electoral Finance Act would require this $100,000 to be disclosed (the New Zealand Companies Office records show that there could be at least 8 separate Vela family branded companies and a further 5 associated with New Zealand Bloodstock Limited business).
John Boscawen also said: “The uncertainty and the complexity of the law has been highlighted by the fact that Labour, New Zealand First, The Greens and the Progressives have all fallen foul of it, with the Progressives recently having had an advertisement published early this year referred to the police by the Electoral Commission.”