High Court vindicates Climate Voter groups
Auckland, 8 Sept 2014 - Organisers of an online campaign aimed at raising the profile of climate change as an election issue, say they have been vindicated by the High Court on crucial points of law.
This morning the High Court released its decision on the Climate Voter website at http://climatevoter.org.nz which the Electoral Commission considered to be an ‘election advertisement’ and therefore subject to a range of legal requirements.
Lawyer for the Climate Voter initiative, Dr Matthew Palmer QC, says the Court’s judgment accepts the core legal arguments made by the Climate Voter groups.
“The ruling confirms the core legal argument that the Electoral Act was not intended to capture normal issues-based advocacy. It upholds the right for websites to promote an issue as long as they do not encourage people to vote for or against a party or type of party,” he says.
The Climate Voter groups say they believed that there was a very real risk that, if this law went untested, it could have had significant and insidious implications for freedom of speech in New Zealand.
“That’s why we challenged it and we’re very pleased the Court has recognised the important role that advocacy groups play in our democracy and agrees that the Electoral Act was not intended to capture non-partisan civil society groups who engage only in issues-based advocacy,” they say.
While the court accepted the core legal arguments of the Climate Voter groups, it pointed to two particular aspects of the website that meant it could not make the declarations sought. The Climate Voter groups will examine these further.
More than 58,000 people have added their support since Climate Voter was launched on July 22 by Forest and Bird, 350 Aotearoa, Greenpeace, Generation Zero, Oxfam New Zealand and WWF New Zealand. Last week more than 13,000 people tuned in during the live stream of The Great Climate Voter Debate. The two-hour event at Auckland’s Q Theatre gave six of the main parties a chance to convince the live audience and online viewers that they are taking real action on climate change.
The High Court also ruled that a parody website at http://simon-bridges.co.nz created by Greenpeace, which the Electoral Commission said was an election advertisement, leading to the site being taken down, could not be considered an election advertisement. The site, which appeared to belong to the Minister for Energy Simon Bridges, was engulfed by swirling oil as part of an ongoing campaign by the organisation against deep sea oil drilling.
“Greenpeace is very pleased that our position on the Bridges parody site is completely vindicated,” says spokesperson Steve Abel.