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Speaker: Legislating in the Twilight Zone

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  • Ian MacKay,

    A breath of fresh air! It is so hard to find out exactly what the real issues are as the partisans cloud the issues. Thanks.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I'm still hoping that shortly I'll land back in the New Zealand that has a sense of fairness and proportion

    Well put - I suppose it's an unfortunate effect of politics that many smart people find it easier to whip up angry public sentiment than confront things rationally. I believe that's why I find myself siding against Opposition (of any "hue") on a more regular basis than their policy would suggest - because I can't stand the irrational points scoring...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1712 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm still hoping that shortly I'll land back in the New Zealand that has a sense of fairness and proportion, and can debate this revised bill on its merits.

    Yes, Stephen, and perhaps you might like to tone things down a bit yourself. Yes, I agree some opponents of the Bill really need to turn down the rhetorical thermostat, but that goes both ways. Is it within the realms of possibility, folks, that opponents of the EFB aren't 'hollow men' whose secret agenda is to allow filthy plutocrats to buy elections?

    And at the very least, perhaps the new Justice Minister can mount a marginally more convincing defense than Annette's Law of Common Sense, which I'm having a bugger of a time finding a copy of...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    Have just read Nicky Hager's Opinion piece in of all places, New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10477286
    That is two breaths of fresh air inside an hour.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    How can you justify calling this "heavy regulation" of free speech? Shouldn't you mention that no more than a handful of people want to spend more than $120,000 on electioneering?

    Shouldn't you acknowledge that there are organisations consisting of more than one person?

    The AA have more than a million members in NZ, this bill classifies any amount they spend more than 12 cents as undue influence. Regulating a million New Zealanders to 12 cents expenditure is "heavy regualtion". How do you justify calling otherwise?

    Get Up Australia is a left wing on-line political community opposed to the Howard government, they have 220,000 members. They organise actions and protests and campaigns from online and it is really very good at spreading the left wing ethos to the wider community. A similar NZ community would effectively be made illegal under this bill, because though it might be possible there are an equivalent proportion of NZers (40,000?) who aspire to be politically involved any action entailing more than $3 or $4 per member will be illegal under the EFB*.

    This bill is a heavily regulates free association and free speech.

    * Actually that is a moot point as some members of Get Up Australia are (shock horror) under voting age and so the whole political organisation would be restricted to less than $500 (?).

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The AA have more than a million members in NZ, this bill classifies any amount they spend more than 12 cents as undue influence. Regulating a million New Zealanders to 12 cents expenditure is "heavy regualtion". How do you justify calling otherwise?

    Actually, I presume it regulates the AA spending to $120,000, same as my local Lawn Bowls club. It might work out at 12 cents a member, but the regulation pays no attention to membership size as one organisation is still one organisation no matter how many members it has.

    If an individual is a member of an organisation, that organisation can do their electioneering, and the individual could do their own electioneering, independently. Correct?

    If that's true, the only thing I'd be worried about would be 15 different versions of the 'fat cats club' with the same members all running similar campaigns.

    This bill is a heavily regulates free association and free speech.

    God that gets tiring. It regulates election spending, debate that. People can still associate with who they want, and they can still say what they want.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Kent Parker,

    Steven, Farrer is claiming that you agree with his interpretation of the bill:

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/11/paranoid_and_odious.html#comment-370203

    Personally I can see huge differences between your view and his. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Hawkes Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Jonty,

    <If that's true, the only thing I'd be worried about would be 15 different versions of the 'fat cats club' with the same members all running similar campaigns.>

    And you can bet your sweet life the BRT and their mates are already searching for devious ways to circumvent the new rules.

    Katikati • Since Mar 2007 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Kath Dewar,

    People interested in this might like to check out what Metiria Turei the Green MP on the select committee has had to say about it on Monday:
    Link: www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/other11407.html

    Metiria represented the Green position to negotiate seven of the amendments which have made the Bill fairer.

    Like Steven we (the Greens - I'm a member) want to see the cap for anonymous donations brought down further - we reckon $1,000 is about right.

    We've also argued all along that NZ should have used a citizen's assembly process like Canada did.

    In a citizens' assembly an independent body (probably the Electoral Commission) would randomly select a male and female voter from each electorate and bring them together to consider the rules around electoral finance. The citizens' assembly would make recommendations that would become a bill that was introduced into parliament.

    Democracy belongs to the people and we should be the ones who set the rules.

    The Greens will be moving amendments to the bill to establish a citizens assembly to review the electoral finance rules. It would be nice to think that other parties like National would support the idea.

    Piha • Since Jan 2007 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Get Up Australia is a left wing on-line political community opposed to the Howard government, they have 220,000 members.
    ...
    A similar NZ community would effectively be made illegal under this bill

    No, they would just be limited to spending $120k in election year. That buys an awful lot of web hosting.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4209 posts Report Reply

  • Malcolm,

    I think that is an overly rosy picture of the bill.

    In fact, changes to the bill have only been made under heavy political pressure. To then claim those bringing the political pressure are excitable seems a little circular. Are they excitable because they are successful? What if they failed? Would then then have been just wrong? Or still excitable? And what other changes are sneaking through in the one week we have to examine this bill?

    I also take issue with the argument that the very long regulated period is okay because you are unlikely to have political advertising early in the year. If this is true, why have the restriction at all? It seems a bit odd to justify it by effectively saying it isn't needed.

    Meanwhile, RadioNZ is saying

    The Electoral Commission says it is deeply concerned that some aspects of the revised Electoral Finance Bill are not clear, and could result in a lot of litigation.

    So this seems like, at best, a botch up job like the Terrorism Suppression Bill. I'd rather not trust the enforcement agencies to make sense of it. After all, they didn't do a very good job with sedition...

    Since Apr 2007 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Price,

    Craig: I don't think all opponents of the bill are plotting to subvert democracy. Some of them are just misguided. :)

    Angus: this is the sort of Twilight Zone misinformation my post is aimed at. Where did you get that idea? In fact, all 220,000 members of the AA can each spend up to $120,000 on election ads (though there are some provisions to stop people colluding to get around the limits). Independently, AA could also spend $120,000 on election ads. Not terribly frightening is it?

    Kent: As I pointed out, I think the bill still overreaches a bit. I don't think anyone is going to be arrested for failing to put their name on a placard, but I think the bill should be tweaked to make it clear that this can't happen (and the government has said it will).

    Malcolm: You want to criticise the process for drawing up this bill? I'm there with bells on. And yes, an ad in January that plainly calls on people to vote a particular way will count under the spending limits. I'm just saying that most political speech in January isn't of that nature, even though it technically falls within the regulated period.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    Stepehn misses the point that much of the shriller rhetoric has been promoted by the partisan and secretive way in which the Govt has pushed the bill. They have been on the EB yet still fail to accept that they did anything wrong in their own manipulation of electoral advertising/funding rules, and then had the gall to change the rules to allow them to replicate their rort.

    They have been rushed, they have withheld advice, they have been dismissive of concerns and have arguably broken with convention in not being more consultative within and without of Parliament, the delivery has been clumsy and the result has been a series of embarassing exposures that give many little faith in the process around and the motivation of this bill.

    It would be very rare that organisations such as HRC and the NZLS would call for the outright withdrawal of a bill. That should be warning enough that the Govt needed to go slow.

    I would have thought COG would have had a lot more to say about the way this law is being pursued and the messages that sends, but they seem to be happy that the end justifies the means.

    History shows that it takes a ling time to build up rights but they can quickly be rescinded. So anything that has the smell of restricting speech is bound to cause some response.

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Angus: actually, the AA and GetUpNZ could spend as much as they liked talking to their own membership, as communications by an organisation with its members are exempt.

    If this results in the formation of groups like GetUp over here, then so much the better for our democracy.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1591 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    rich in ob -

    No, they would just be limited to spending $120k in election year. That buys an awful lot of web hosting.

    Yes it does, but we will not be allowed to do any of this campaigning marlarky:

    http://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/

    And technically the limit is lower ($500?), by involving people under 18 in the democratic process.

    kyle -

    If an individual is a member of an organisation, that organisation can do their electioneering, and the individual could do their own electioneering, independently. Correct?

    You presume incorrectly, if they say the same thing. If an AA member wanted to spend on any additional advertising of the AA campaign, they shall not be able to.

    God that gets tiring. It regulates election spending, debate that. People can still associate with who they want, and they can still say what they want.

    Unless they want to say the same thing their association says and it relates to an election.

    The EFB ensures that any few thousand ordinary NZers banding together in a common cause can only be as loud as one rich man and nowhere near as loud as a politician. The EFB is crap, because it claims to be protecting ordinary NZers from the influence of big money, when it so obviously restricts their ability to unite against the rich & powerful*.

    The Coalition for Open Government is in seemingly favor of a bill that prevents NGOs from effectively questioning government action in an election year. That seems oddly ironic. IMHO - Large groups of New Zealand citizens involving themselves in an electoral campaign is a good thing and needs to be encouraged. If I had my way I would limit each NGO to a campaign funding of $X per member. That way all New Zealanders rich and poor can have the same voice and actually have a voice.

    * rich & powerful does include career Labour Party politicians, being as they are both rich & powerful.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The Greens have removed that underage stuff from the bill.

    And yes, an organisation isn't going to be able to collect $$$ from its members and spend up on electoral, as opposed to issue based campaigning. That's the whole point.

    Most Labour politicians live on their salaries and a few investments - I don't believe there are any with tens or hundreds of millions in the bank like National's backers.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4209 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Kent - David lists me as one of the people who agrees with his interpretation. I can pretty much confirm this. There's are some minor differences over the interpretation. I suspect he thinks cl 5(1)(a)(ii) is somewhat broader than I do.

    I don't believe advertising revenue necessarily implies that a 'blog is commercial (though it would have been nice to have that spelt out in the bill).

    There are perhaps a couple of other (minor) things too. His analysis of the law around third parties since it came back is pretty much correct.

    That's not to say I support all he claims. Things he says are bad (a 1 Jan start date for example) I'm not necessarily opposed to, but his recent postings on what the law requires on the third party stuff "the EFB forbids anonymous YouTube posts that call for people to vote for a party", "the EFB regulates press releases", "it now regulates loudhailers" etc. coincide with my view too.

    I'm of the view, as I suspect DPF is, that there won't be mass arrests, and people who don't put their name and address on election-related placards won't be charged, but it's not because they won't have technically broken the law.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Moreover, as an AA member, I primarily want to get my car sorted if it breaks down.

    If they start telling me how I should vote, then I'll be writing to the Commerce Commission about their monopoly of breakdown service.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4209 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Steven

    Yours -

    (though there are some provisions to stop people colluding to get around the limits).

    Mine -

    You presume incorrectly, if they say the same thing. If an AA member wanted to spend on any additional advertising [in support] of the AA campaign, they shall not be able to.

    How is the prevention of collusion in a campaign not a block on any of the million New Zealanders who are AA members supporting the AAs message?

    If you are right and I am wrong, why is the limit so high? If it is as you suggest 100 rich men can put up $12 million for any concerted campaign they want. It would officially make this the greatest waste of time bill in the history of the universe.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Moreover, as an AA member, I primarily want to get my car sorted if it breaks down.

    If they start telling me how I should vote, then I'll be writing to the Commerce Commission about their monopoly of breakdown service.

    But in their role as car owner advocates, they'd be quite within their ambit to mention in the AA mag that one party is more likely to raise the petrol tax, or ban toll roads or other relevant policy stuff. Whether that would count as an ad for a particular party would depend on the phrasing I suppose.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 825 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Graeme: what do you think of Dean Knight's proposed amendment? While it may very well be unnecessary, I think it pretty much covers the bases around placards, megaphones and the like.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1591 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    How is the prevention of collusion in a campaign not a block on any of the million New Zealanders who are AA members supporting the AAs message?

    I'm an AA member, and much of the time I don't support their message. Like Rich, I just want them to fix my car when it breaks down. And I actually get quite pissed off when they use my money to campaign for policies I don't support.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17936 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Meh, I feel the same way about the Govt, and I don't even expect them to fix my car.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2468 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Price,

    Angus - I'm a member of AA. Let's say they run a $120,000 electioneering campaign that says "Vote against the parties that didn't support the Road Building Bill." I decide that I agree. Damn those parties who didn't support the Road Building Bill. I decide to run my own $120,000 campaign telling people what I think of the parties that didn't vote for the Road Building Bill and urging everyone to vote them out. I can do that. So can every other member of the AA. Yep, that allows a lot of people to spend a lot of money in electioneering in relation to a particular issue. In total, it could be way in excess of the party spending caps, in fact. That's democracy and free speech.

    What's not allowed: AA wants to spend a million dollars on its campaign, so it gives eight of its members $120,000 to run similar campaigns. That's not allowed. Or it phones up some wealthy pals and coordinates its $120,000 spend with their $120,000 spends so that their messages lined up (for example, AA helps them design their leaflets). Not allowed either.

    True, sly people may try to circumvent these rules. But that's no reason not to have them.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Meh, I feel the same way about the Govt, and I don't even expect them to fix my car.

    Quite right too - that's where Trabants came from...

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 825 posts Report Reply

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