Despite advice from the Electoral Commission that they should register as third parties, six churches are funding a $100,000 campaign on “social justice” and refusing to register, and presumably refusing to put authorisation statements on the campaign advertisements.
They are lucky to only be spending $100,000 as if they spent more than $120,000 and they were deemed to be election advertisements, it would be an automatic corrupt practice [s66(1)].
The Herald reports:
The churches’ leaflet urges local churches to act directly by “supporting activities at a lower decile school in your area, volunteering your time to help with some form of family support or youth work, or being a good friend to families who may be isolated or in poverty”.
It also encourages them to ask politicians two questions: “Do they have explicit policies about lifting children out of poverty? Do they have clear policies about provision of social services to help children in need?”
Now the second part could be seen as advocating against parties and candidates that do not policies to lift children out of poverty. And considering the churches use a definition of poverty which makes it basically impossible to have some families not in poverty (this is known as the poverty industry), it is a very loaded question that is promoting extreme income redistribution.
Now let us look at s5(1)(a)(ii) of the Electoral Finance Act:
In this Act, election advertisement … means any form of words or graphics, or both, that can reasonably be regarded as doing 1 or more of the following: …
encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a type of party or for a type of candidate that is described or indicated by reference to views, positions, or policies that are or are not held, taken, or pursued (whether or not the name of a party or the name of a candidate is stated);
Does the pamphlet encourage people not to vote for a party which doesn’t have explicit policies to lift children out of poverty? I wouldn’t want to say without seeing the full pamphlet, but it is certainly arguable. What is the point of encouraging people to ask politicians the question unless it is to then take that into account when voting? If anyone has a copy of the pamphlet, could they send one to me?
The Electoral Commission has said:
Electoral Commission chief executive Helena Catt said she gave the churches the same advice that she gave to any group planning election-related advertising – that the definition of an election advertisement was still “a large grey area” and it would be “safer to list [as a third party] than not”.
But Annette King said it was a law of common sense, so how can it be a “large grey area”?
As I said above, a copy of the pamphlet would be most useful.