A big boost to repealing the sedition law

A big thumbs up to the four minor parties today who combined forces to advocate for the repeal of NZ’s sedition laws. This is a superb example of how minor parties can make a difference on issues which the big parties may not see as crucial, but are important none the less.

Peter Dunne put together what some may call an unlikely coalition of United Future, Greens, Maori Party and ACT. They held a press conference at 2.30 pm to announce their support and to challenge one or both of the major parties to also support repeal. Their 15 votes are enough to pass it with either Labour or National.

Peter spoke about how the provisions conflict with our regard for free speech and that there are other laws to deal with actual criminal incitement. Keith Locke was excellent in outlining all the historical cases of sedition and how regrettable it is Labour have yet to agree to repeal it, considering three Labour Party leaders from the past have been charged with sedition themselves (Holland, Fraser and Nash).

Then Heather Roy spoke about the three modern cases in the last couple of years and how after 50 years of disuse, the Police have suddenly discovered it is a great catch-all charge which they are using instead of more appropriate other charges. The case of the Dunedin bar owner who was charged with sedition for having a beer for petrol soaked couch competition was a great example of how the law is currently being used.

The minor parties hope the Government will agree to repeal as a Government bill (and Burton has said they will decide by October), but if not they may keep submitting it as a private member’s bill.

I met Idiot/Savant from No Right Turn at the conference, and he deserves much of the credit for publicising and researching the issue. It’s a good example of how a blogger can make a difference.

NZPA cover the press conference here.

I happened to run into Steven Price on Molesworth Street just minutes after finishing talking about him over coffee with Idiot/Savant. In between debating electoral law, Steven made the point on the sedition repeal, that if both ACT and Greens are agreed on something, that’s usually a good sign it should be done!

So kudos again to Peter Dunne for organising the coalition, and to the other parties for working together on this. It does show the value the smaller parties can bring to Parliament.