The Auckland EFA protest

The Herald reports on an anti-EFA protest march in Auckland. Helen shows her empathy:

But Prime Minister Helen Clark dismissed yesterday’s march, saying: “The problem with silent protests is that no one listens to them.”

The issue is that Helen didn’t listen to anyone at all in ramming this through.

March co-organiser Jim Bagnall estimated about 500 people marched from the Auckland Town Hall to QE Square at the bottom of Queen St where Auckland University law lecturer Bill Hodge spoke.

“Essentially what the act will deny voters is the to be informed, so that they vote intelligently,” Dr Hodge told the protesters.

This is a very key point. They have deliberately set the spending limits so low that the effect is to actually deny candidates and the ability to effectively communicate.

“The law is just bad legislation, and I feel Dr [Michael] Cullen has failed in his role as Attorney-General and should not continue in that office.”

Dr Hodge, a constitutional law expert who had not participated in any protests in Queen St since 1977, said he felt compelled to this time because he didn’t want to have elections that were won in court rather than the ballot box – like American President George W. Bush did in his victory over Al Gore in 2000.

It is worth recalling that Dr Cullen told Parliament that the original EFB (the one which would have regulated people who took a position on any issue a party had a position on) was not a breach of the Bill of Rights. It defied both common sense and the opinion of almost every lawyer in NZ.

Protester Ramesh Kunagaran, an immigrant from Malaysia, said waking up to the news that the Malaysian Government had had its worst result since independence at the country’s general elections last Saturday made him come to the march.

“I am a Labour supporter and I am worried that if they do not repeal this law, it could be the single issue that would bring them down,” he said.

“I come from a country where free speech and even the media are controlled, and I don’t want the same thing to happen in my new country – and from the Malaysian election results, I hope Labour can see that gagging is not the way to win elections.”

Clark still thinks that opposition to the EFA is just from the right, when in fact it has been condemned and opposed by people from all over the spectrum.

The protest march was organiser John Boscawen’s fifth against the legislation, but his first since it took effect on January 1.

“Free speech is an issue that concerns all New Zealanders and the is a profound betrayal of trust by the people whom we have voted to represent us,” he said. “I intend to continue protesting throughout this year until such time as the act is repealed.”

John has devoted an amazing amount of his time to this issue, and it is great to see he is going to carry on.  It is no coincidence that the massive gap in the polls has happened since the public started to be informed about the EFB and now EFA.
Personally I would have rather the EFB had been defeated, even if it meant the gap in the polls was less.  The main reason for that is the damage to the constitution conventions of having had such a major electoral change pushed through without even an attempt at bipartisan consultation.  It is one of those genies that when is let out, is very hard to get back in.

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