Fixing the Anti-Free Speech Bill

The Anti-Free Speech Bill is such a bad piece of legislation that it would take an awful lot to fix it. It is possibly the worst piece of legislation to come before our Parliament-ever. You can criticise Robert Muldoon (or Ruth Richardson if your left wing)  until the cows come home, but at least, despite Muldoons economic mismanagement, or the Employment contracts Act and benefit cuts, Muldoon nor Richardson ever tried to ban people from spending more than $60 000 in one year criticising them.

Despite all its flaws, idiot/savant on No Right turn has done a poston how he thinks the bill could be fixed. Despite his noble stand on sedition and other free speech issues, idiot/savant lets himself down badly when it comes to free speech at election time. He proposes amending the definitions of regulated advertising to limit it to groups which encourage people explicitly, or by issue advertising, implicitly, to vote for a certain political party. While it will improve the Bill, it will still restrict free speech in a number of areas (for instance a “vote for tax cuts” add would be regulated), while one encouraging people to attend a protest march against high taxes might not be).

As hard as it is for me, given my righteous outrage about the fact Labour plans to ban me from spending more than $60 000 criticising them, there is some good in the Bill, even if it is dwafed by the bad. Firstly, it enables us to see who is behind advertising, something the Exclusive Brethren  didn’t do, and the public should have a right to know who is behind advertising. A large part of the reason why the advertising gained so much publicity was because of the mystery of who was behind it. The Exclusive Brethren should have called a press confrence, handed out copies of the pamphlets, said this is what were doing and why we are doing it, and said that although they had met with National to disscuss policy and issues, the pamphlets were their own work. If they had done that it might get a small article on page 5 of the Dominion Post, and Don Brash might be Prime Minister today. Instead, we all know what happened. 

Also, it does adress the issue of parties using “third parties” as loopholes to avoid spending limits. The main worry here is not pamphlets (like the Brethren did) but TV advertising and radio time for which their are very strict limits to what parties can spend, and they must use taxpayer funding in doing so (although there is no precedent for this happening).

In order to gain my support, the anti-Free Speech Bill should be radically rewritten, to remove the $60 000 limit, but forcing groups to register would be OK with me, as the public should have a right to know who is putting out advertising. In order to prevent third parties being used in order to circumvent spending caps, a ban would be placed on collusion with a political party, in which it would be prohibited for a third party to disscuss the content of advertising with a political party (unless that disscussion of content was to be the same with al political parties, so an enviromentalist group can go to all parties and say “were going to handing out pamphlets diinforming voters of party’s and candidates positions on the enviroment, whats your policy on these issues, and then hand out pamphlets with the views of all parties listed on them”). The only problem here is that the rules will be difficult to enforce. Although there are arguements for limits on the amount third parties can spend, I go with the view that third parties should be allowed to spend as much of their own money as they have. This is because money, while it can help, can’t buy elections. Also, if we accept the view that the government can tell us how much were allowed to spend criticising them (even if the limit is large) it leads to a slipery slope, by which the regulated period could in future be extended, or the spending cap lowered. In general free speech is very important (in my eyes) and very rarely should it be tampered with, and I’d much prefer to live in a society with too much free speech being allowed than too little.

Another core problem behind the Anti-Free Speech Bill is that it is devised by politicains for their own self intrest. If we are to change election finance laws, it should be done by a Royal Comission, followed by a referendum (like MMP), not politicians acting in their own self intrest. The current Bill, as well as undermining our democracy, is a disgrace to our democratic system. At the last election Labour never siad anything about changing Election Finance laws. My question to MPs who vote for this Bill is: who gave you the right to tell me how much I can spend criticising you?

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One Comment on “Fixing the Anti-Free Speech Bill”

  1. equaliser Says:

    Bad tactics is bad tactic is bad tactic !! but which tactics are the worst ?

    Yes i can understand why some want it completly wiped . But should it be that those with the money can band together and use it for election gain ?.Is that a good tactic or one just as bad ? .With what? and how? or who campaines for the poor ? or would that be bad tactics in your books ? .

    No i see fixing it as the best tactic !! other wise we might as well all click our heels together and say “Heil Hitler !” before the election even starts .


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