Okay the Electoral Finance Bill is back with amendments. And I am stunned. You see I thought the Bill was so bad, so draconian, that it couldn’t possibly be made worse. But I was wrong.
Yes, they’ve actually managed to make it worse!
Not content with regulating written political advocacy, they’ve extended the definitions to also include verbal political advocacy!
The Electoral Finance Bill now even regulates someone who gets up on a soap box and starts communicating to the public.
And while they have scrapped the ludicrous system of statutory declarations, they still treat a placard in a protest march as an election advertisement (if it targets a political party) and that placard will need your name and residential address on it.
Remember all those protesters outside the Labour Party Conference? They would all have been breaking the law if they didn’t have their name and address on their placards. The ones with the megaphones – they would be breaking the law if they didn’t announce over the megaphone their name and residential address each time they chanted.
And this is no drafting error. The select committee report makes it clear they have intentionally widened the scope to capture “the use of loudspeakers and megaphones”. Yes Labour, NZ First, United Future and the Greens have deliberately moved to regulate verbal political advocacy. What sort of parties and Governments are threatened by megaphones?
Press releases that advocate for or against a party are still defined as election advertisements. If you e-mail out a press release, you’ll need to include your address on it.
Political Parties are still banned from certain types of advertisements. For example it would be illegal for the Maori Party to run an advertisement (which includes a press release!) which says “Voters should vote against any party or MP which voted for the Electoral Finance Bill”.
Labour’s usual tactic of trying to maximize advantage for itself is there. They restrict foreign donors to $1,000 yet define a foreign donor in such a way that Owen Glenn can still give his $500,000 to Labour despite not having lived here for 40 years.
Anonymous political advocacy on the Internet is gone. It will be illegal to make a post in the Usenet Internet Newsgroups that advocates for or against a party unless you include your name and residential address. And it’s the same with YouTube videos.
The exemption for non-commercial blogs remains, but there is no clarification of what non-commercial means, so Kiwiblog (which has some significant advertising lined up) may be at serious risk.
There are certainly improvements in other areas of the Bill, and I am working on a post detailing all the significant changes. But make no mistake – this remains a deeply deeply flawed undemocratic bill and it has had its reach extended from written political advocacy to verbal political advocacy also.
There can be only one response – Kill the Bill. Now.