COG on Electoral Finance Bill

I have already given several examples of how incredibly bad the Electoral Finance Bill is. Now a few partisans out there think hey anything DPF is against must be good, so they are mindlessly supporting it.

So let me quote from some blog posts the Coalition for Open Government has to say on it. And bear in mind this is a lobby group which supports restrictions on third party campaigning.

First of all in this post they point out that the $60,000 limit is even worse if an unincorporated organisation has even a single member who is 17 or a foreigner. That organisation is then banned from being a third party and can spend only $5,000 in election year. So if a campaign group had a single member aged under 18 they would not be able to spend more than $5,000 in election year.

Secondly they point out that the ban on “taking a position on a proposition with which 1 or more parties or 1 or more candidates is associated” is so wide it will affect even commercial advertising. If a candidate stood for election with a policy of students should study at their local university, then Otago University would be banned from spending more than $60,000 encouraging students to enrol at Otago. If the Greens adopt a policy of encouraging people not to eat at McDonalds, then McDonalds will be banned from advertising itself. Yes the bill really is that fucked.

Thirdly the COG looks at how the EFB defines publication in relation to election advertising. They conclude the following activities will now be regulated and need statutory declarations or registration in order to be able to legally undertake any expenditure on:

  • handing out leaflets on a protest march
  • sending out a press release
  • operating a website
  • displaying placards at a demonstration
  • posting clips onto Youtube
  • putting up posters
  • writing slogans in chalk on the pavement

Then the COG discovers the bill is so badly written that it actually bans political parties from publishing issue ads in election year. So a Green Party advertisement opposing the Trans-Tasman Therapeutics Agency would be illegal.

But it gets even worse than that.  The definitions are so wide, that if it was election year National would not even be allowed to send out and publish press release calling for the Prime Minister to sack her Environment Minister.  Because as a proposition identified with a party, that is an election ad.

Now this is not my analysis.  This the analysis of a lawyer who is a member of the Coalition for Open Government.

If there has ever been an issue on which you should ring up talkback about,  write a letter to the editor, alert any organisations you belong to, and most of all make a submission to the Select Committee – this is it.  This is the biggest threat to free speech that we face.  Do not just assume that the bill is so draconian and badly drafted that of course it will be made better in select committee.  This is too important to leave to blind faith.