19 problems still remaining with the Electoral Finance Bill

November 19th, 2007 at 4:50 pm by David Farrar

There are probably more than this, but here’s an initial list of 19 problems with the revised Electoral Finance Bill:

  1. It now includes speaking into a megaphone as a regulated election year activity. [Page 8 of Select Committee Report]

  2. The definition of publishing an election advertisement is extended to include the catchall “bring to the notice of the public in any other manner” which will include speaking in public. [Clause 4(1) – para (i) of definition to publish]

  3. Anonymous political advocacy on much of the Internet is outlawed as uploading a political video to You Tube even a post into the nz.politics Usenet newsgroup advocating for or against a party will require a name and residential address. [Clause 53(1) – para (a) and para (g) of Clause 4(1) definition of publish]
  4. The regulated period of all of election year remains one of the world’s longest at 30% of an electoral cycle (in Canada it is 6 – 8 weeks only for third parties) [Clause 4(1) – definition of regulated period]

  5. Third parties are restricted from advocating in all of election year to vote for or against parties on particular issues such as the environment or taxes. For example Greenpeace could not spend more than $10,000 a month advocating a vote against parties who do not support Kyoto.[Clause 5(1) para a(ii)]
  6. Blogs are left in an unsure legal position as only non-commercial blogs are exempted. All commercial blogs and other websites are now regulated if they express an opinion for or against a party or candidate. [Clause 5(2) para (g)]
  7. Other online forms of advocacy such as e-mail are now regulated. [para (g) of Clause 4(1) definition of publish]

  8. No right of reply for people attacked in an election campaign. You can spend only $12,000 nationally defending yourself if you or your organization is attacked during a campaign as third party registrations close on writ day. [Clause 17 para (a)(i)]
  9. By closing third party registrations after before candidate nominations close, a local residents group would be restricted to spending $1,000 opposing a last minute candidate whose views they find repugnant. [Clause 17 para (a)(i)]

  10. Different rules for third parties and political parties remain – political parties have twice the disclosure limit of third parties. [Clause 47(1) para (ab)]

  11. Spending limits not adjusted for population growth and/or inflation so an effective decrease in real per capita spending of 31%, plus that now has to last all year not just last 90 days [Clause 4(1) – definition of regulated period]

  12. Instead of banning anonymous donations, a compromise deal has seen them remain legal up to a certain limit, obviously designed to favour the incumbent Government. [Clause 28C(1)]

  13. All forms of political advocacy which promote votes for or against a party (or candidate) have to have a name and residential address supplied – even for placards, e-mails, speaking at street corners, posters, chalk on pavement. [Clause 53(1) para (a)]

  14. Parliamentary expenditure which was clearly electioneering under the existing (such as pledge cards) is now exempt from the spending caps [Clause 80 – para (d)]

  15. New candidates face a near impossible job against incumbent MPs as they are limited to just $20,000 over 11 months, and MPs parliamentary spending is exempt. [Clause 4(1) – definition of regulated period]

  16. Political parties are banned from running ads which advocate against candidates on particular issues (such as vote against MPs who voted for the Electoral Finance Bill) [Clause 53(2) para (a)]

  17. Political parties remain immune from prosecution for breaches of the Electoral Act – only individuals such as financial agents can be fined. This provides an incentive for parties to place pressure on individuals to risk breaking the law as the party itself will face no penalty.
  18. Smaller parties remain disadvantaged with broadcasting rules, as they are banned from purchasing their own broadcasting.

  19. The public have no meaningful opportunity for input into the revised bill, with its masses of changes
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