It’s about democracy

The NZ Herald explains why opposing the Electoral Finance Bill is about democracy.

We have called our campaign against the Electoral Finance Bill “Democracy under Attack”. Some have questioned this, saying surely it is an issue of freedom of speech, not democracy. They are perhaps defining democracy in the narrow sense as the right to vote.

Democracy without free speech is a sham. Some of the most repressive states in recent history have called themselves democratic on the grounds that the solitary party permitted to express political views and take part in elections allowed people to vote.

I’ve said a few times that I value my right to free speech as being more important than my right to vote.  I only get to vote once every three years, but through my right to speak out and criticise I can have far more influence.

Nobody is suggesting the Electoral Finance Bill will constrain political debate to that degree. The only element our Government has in common with those further left is that it shares their fear of private money in political debate. The bill is aimed not at outright of voters – long outlawed – but at the right of independent organisations to promote issues of concern to them in an election year.

The Electoral Finance Bill would rule out exercises such as that. Any organisation wishing to spend money to advance a view in election year would be required to disclose its intentions in advance to the Electoral Office, disclose the sources of its finance and face a limit on the amount it could spend.

Political parties must do all of that, though the bill as drafted puts non-parties under a much tighter financial restriction than parties, and another bill this week allows parties to bypass the concerns of the about their use of public funds for electioneering. The political playing field is being tilted very much in favour of parties in Parliament.

Indeed. Labour’s pledge card will be state funded and exempt from spending caps.  Organisations which might disagree with the pledge card will be severely limited in their ability to communicate their view.

Labour could pass another foreshore & seabed type law confiscating off Maori, and there would be serious barriers for groups opposed to that law to be able to communicate their views.

Comments (33)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: