Greenpeace taking Electoral Commission to court

Newstalk ZB reports:

Environmental groups are taking the Electoral Commission to court over a ruling on a climate change campaign.

Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, WWF and others launched the Climate Voter initiative last month.

But the Electoral Commission says the campaign counts as an “election advertisement”, and is therefore subject to rules around wording of communications and spending restrictions.

Greenpeace says the ruling could gag grassroots advocacy groups – and the organisations are planning to take a freedom of speech test case to the High Court.

Greenpeace spokesman Steve Abel says it’s become a free speech issue.

“Organisations that are advocating for anything, whether it’s better cancer funding or milk in schools or lower taxes, the organisations should be able to do that without having to put a promoter statement on under electoral law.”

Organisations can advocate on issues without promoter statements. But if they are seen as encouraging a vote for or against a political party, then they need a promoter statement.  As this is a campaign headlined “Make your vote count” I am not surprised the Electoral Commission thinks they should have a promoter statement.

You might wonder why they don’t just stick a promoter statement on their website. The organisations backing it are already known. So why are they going to court, rather than sticking on a promoter statement?

Well Greenpeace has another lawsuit before the courts at the moment (a supporter might ask what proportion of their donations are going on lawsuits!) fighting the decision to deregister them as a charity due to their political advocacy. If they put a promoter statement on their website, then they weaken their own case that they are a charity, not a lobby group. So to try and keep up the pretence they are a charity, they are going to court again.

I hope the Electoral Commission seeks costs, if Greenpeace loses.

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