Annette King did not have a good question time. Have to feel a bit sorry as she inherited this hospital pass from Burton, but not up to her normal standard. If you have time watch her on You Tube, or just read some extracts below:
I suggest everyone read this post on how the definitions of what constitutes an election advertisement have changed from the Electoral Act 1993 to the Electoral Finance Bill 2007. Then let’s look at her answers:
First Heather Roy pinches one of my points:
Heather Roy: How does this bill not breach freedom of speech under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act when, by closing third party registrations before candidate nominations, a group could spend only $1,000 on speaking out about a candidate whose views it opposes, and is this Government not railroading this bill through the House before it can be challenged in the courts for being inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The date by which a third party can register that it wants to be involved in the electoral system—in fact, wants to campaign for a party or candidate—is, in this bill, *writ day. I believe that the date could be changed to the date for closure of nominations.
So that’s one admission of a flawed law. They really need to change it to be say three days after nominations close. Or why have a period at all where you can’t register.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the new definition of “publish” in terms of election advertisements now includes any manner of bringing a political view to the public, including comments on Internet forums, press releases that are put out, even if they are not published by the media, and someone going down the street *door-knocking and saying: “Vote National.”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That question borders on the ridiculous. The law of *common sense applies, as it always has in electoral Acts. The law of common sense applies, and the member knows that. One could argue that under the Electoral Act now a press release could be covered, but it is not covered because trivial matters are not taken into account. The law of common sense applies. A bit of common sense from the National Party would be appreciated.
Here Annette has real problems. The Electoral Act 1993 does not include a press release as an election advertisement, because such things are very narrowly defined. The EFB however defines anything which communicates with the public as publishing an advertisement.
And sadly Annette’s law of common sense will not over-ride the very specific provisions of the Electoral Finance Bill. Myself, and others, asked the Select Committee to have a more narrow interpretation, but instead they made it worse.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that if someone goes *door-knocking down a street, knocking on doors and saying: “Vote National.”, then under her law that action constitutes the publication of an election advertisement, and therefore such persons constitute a promoters under the law; and if those persons are promoters, then when they knock on a door, they will have to give their name and address to the person they are addressing, present the authorisation by the financial agent for the party for which they are canvassing, and then say: “Good morning.”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: If the person were a National Party campaigner, he or she would probably be told to buzz off. I say to that member—[Interruption] I am answering the last part of the member’s question about saying “Good morning.” The member is wrong. That example does not apply. No one expects someone who knocks on the door to say: “This is an election advertisement.” That example is patently ridiculous, and everyone who has listened to those examples, given to the member by **David Farrier off the National Party blog, says they are ridiculous.
Note to Hansard: Farrar not Farrier
I agree it is ridiculous, but it is also what the Bill now says, because the Select Committee deliberately added in an extra clause to include oral communications. Rather disturbing that the Minister of Justice no less, can’t defend the Bill by quoting clauses from it, but just keeps referring to the law of common sense.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister bothered to go and read her own law, which states that any expression of a view that encourages any member of the public to vote one way or another, communicated to the public in any manner, constitutes an election advertisement, and the other part of the law, which states that anyone who publishes an election advertisement is a promoter—that is in her law—and that any such advertisement must include his or her name and address, which is why, for instance, placards must now include the name and address of the person who is holding them?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Under the Electoral Act as it stands, one could argue that a placard should have an authorisation on it. But I have to say that nobody I know of has been prosecuted under the current Act because he or she held up a 1c placard that did not have his or her name on it. The law of common sense applies. I suggest to the member that he apply it.
Now once again the Minister is wrong on the facts. She really needs t read the current Act. The current Act does not include a placard as publishing an election advertisement. The EFB does.
Hon Bill English: Well, they are now. Can the Minister tell the public and the House what will happen when a well-meaning member of the public or community group looks up the Electoral Finance Bill and reads the Draconian provisions that mean that any person expressing a point of view in any form at all about whom to vote for is covered by the Act and has to comply with its regulations; and whom does that person approach to find out which rules now no longer apply because of common sense, and which rules will continue to apply because Labour wants to clamp down on public opinion?
Bill gets to the core point on this. The negative impact will not be that suddenly hundreds of people get arrested for unauthorised placards. It will be that it discourages the average citizen from participating in normal political activity, because the Act states they will be in breach of it, unless they comply with the regulations.