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Free Speech Coalition Launched

Free Speech Coalition Launched

The Free Speech Coalition, a group dedicated to stopping the draconian Electoral Finance Bill has publicly launched itself today.

We agree with the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Law Society that this bill threatens the human rights of all New Zealanders and is so flawed that it should be stopped, not amended. A replacement Bill should be introduced after there has been public consultation and debate on the key issues - something totally absent from the current Bill.

A copy of the e-mail sent out to potential supporters is attached below. Most of the information on what we hope to achieve is in the e-mail and on our website at www.killthebill.org.nz

http://www.killthebill.org.nz/


If you send an email like this to a friend after January 1, 2008, you'll be breaking the law. Under the Government's Electoral Finance Bill currently before Parliament, you'll be fined up to $10,000, and even be risking a jail term if you do it deliberately.

Why?

Simply because the email dares to discuss how we run our society.

Yes, this Bill is that sinister.

That's why I'm asking for your help to Kill the Bill. If we don't kill it, then on New Year's Day your Government will strip you of your right to criticise the Government, other parties, MPs and policies you don't like.

The Bill has been described by several lawyers as a serious breach of the Bill of Rights. The Human Rights Commission has labeled the Bill as an infringement of human rights, that will discourage participation in the election process and suppress freedom of expression. In an almost unprecedented step, the New Zealand Law Society has called for the Bill to be stopped as it will curtail the legitimate expressions of opinions and represents a backward step in the integrity of democracy in New Zealand.

In an Orwellian twist, the Government claims the purpose of the Bill is to promote participation by the public in parliamentary democracy. The Human Rights Commission labels this a mockery of the actual likely effect of the Bill.

Despite this, the parties that voted for it - Labour, NZ First, Greens and United Future - won't give a commitment to stop it.

In fact, journalists report that the Government is determined to pass it.

The Bill will regulate political speech to an extent unheard of in New Zealand history:

* The definition of a political advertisement is expanded to be "any form of words or graphics, or both, that can reasonably be regarded as taking a position on a proposition with which one or more parties or one or more candidates is associated." Such ads will be highly regulated.

* You'll be banned from expressing your view on any political issue associated with a party or candidate unless you swear an oath via a statutory declaration that you will not spend more than $5,000 in the whole of election year in publishing your view.

* Unincorporated groups which have even a single member aged under 18, such as churches, will be banned from spending more than $5,000 a year - or $100 a week - on political advocacy.

* What sort of draconian activities does the Bill seek to protect us from? Handing out leaflets along the course of a protest march. Sending out a press release. Operating a website (other than a non-commercial blog). Displaying placards at a demonstration. Posting clips on YouTube. Putting up posters. That's right, all the things democratic societies call lawful expressions of free speech.

* Commercial advertising that conflicts with the views of a political party will not be allowed beyond a limit of $60,000 a year. How much evil propaganda will that buy you? About two full page newspaper ads in the NZ Herald.

* Political parties will be banned from running "issue" ads that oppose Government policies. For the whole of election year. They can only run ads that directly ask for votes.

Say your group wants to spend more than $5,000 a year publicising political issues. (Remember, that's anything to do with how we run our society.) In that case, the Government sees you as trouble. So you'll have to register with the Government. You'll also have to tell the Government who gave you your money. And in any case, you'll be banned from spending more than $60,000 of it in election year.

By now I hope you're feeling as outraged about this as I am.

If so, please help us Kill the Bill - while we still can.

A group of us have launched the Free Speech Coalition. We want it to be a focal point for all individuals and organizations opposed to the Electoral Finance Bill.

We plan to run an ad campaign. Our ads will educate New Zealanders about this Government's unprecedented assault on our cherished freedom of speech.

We've got a creative team waiting to get cracking. But we need your support. Specifically, your money.

Please pass this e-mail on to any of your friends and colleagues who you think will want to know about this Bill and do something about it.

You can donate instantly online at www.killthebill.org.nz . You can also donate via Internet Banking (BNZ 02-0500-0908920-00) or by sending a cheque to the Free Speech Coalition, PO Box 12270, Thorndon, Wellington.

With your support we can make a difference. It would be tragic to have the Bill pass into law - and your right to free speech pass into history - just because everyone assumed that someone else would fight it.

Remember: if the bill is passed, even a harmless e-mail like this one will soon be illegal. That's reason enough to Kill the Bill.


In the cause of free speech,

ENDS


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