Archive for the ‘Anti-Free Speech Bill’ category

NZ Herald under attack

April 15, 2008

The Standard has details of yet another issue relating to free speech, this time the “coalition for open government” launching a complaint to the press council on a NZ Herald editorial being misleading, as it omitted the fact one could spend $12 000 on free speech, without registering. I am interested in knowing how The Standard (maybe via the Labour Party) got hold of this descison. And I am also interested in knowing why my comments on the blog never appear.

The New Zealand Herald last year toke the noble step of running a campaign to inform people of the effects of the Electoral Finance Bill. Had the campaign not been run, many New Zealanders would have been ignorant of the Bill (now the Electoral Finance Act). As a result the newspaper drew much criticism from those on the left of the political spectrum.

The latest move shows that the “coalition for open government” and press council don’t understand that we (use to) live in a free society, and one of the cornerstones of a democracy and free society is freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Indeed it hard to see how democracy can function properly without these freedoms. Obviously there are some limitations on free speech (for instance shouting fire in a crowded theatre, child pornography, and defamtion are not protected by free speech). Freedom of the press means that the press have a right to say whatever they want, so the NZ Herald should be able to run an editorial entitled “vote Labour out” with a list of reasons why on election day, if they want.

As for the issue of whether the editorial was misleading, it would have been more honest if it did mention the $12 000, but at no point did the editorial state that every cent of political advertising would require registration. It is arguable that this was implied. In any case readers can view the editorial here themselves and make their own judgements about whether or not it was misleading. If this complaint is upheld (as the standard says it is) than any selective use of data or spin can be called misleading, and the newspaper behind it punished.

On the issue of what is misleading this is a clear cut case to me (see speech by Don Brash here): “This card was paid for and delivered by Labour supporters”, which was stated on the 1999 Labour Party pledge card. It really was paid for by Labour supporters- but also by National supporters, and the whole country, out of our taxes.

State funding

April 11, 2008

One of the big issues of electoral law, which was ignored by the Electoral Finance Act, as Labour had it in the “too hard basket” politically, is the issue of state funding of political parties. One of the realities, is that we have de-facto, if not de-jure state funding of political parties, as shown by taxpayer funding of a NZ First election advertisement recently.

I have posted my thoughts on Electoral Finance laws here, but in that post did not disscuss the issue of state-funding.

Under current law, there are two types of state funding for political parties:

1) The broadcasting allocation. This is money that political parties recieve from the taxpayer, to pay for TV and radio broadcasting promoting their party. The money is allocated by the Electoral Commission. Last elections allocations can be seen here. Parties are not allowed to spend money, other than that allocated on broadcasting. There was considerable controversy (largely overshadowed by the pledge card) when it was discovered after the last election, that National had spent more than it was allocated, as it (claimed to) not realise that the allocation was GST inclusive, and couldn’t pay the GST as it would involve overspending.

2) “Parliamentary communications” which involve telling people to vote for you. This was done illegally by Labour last election (the pledge card being the prime example), and all other parties, except the Progressives to some extent. Now, it is perfectly legal. A little known fact, is that at the same time Labour passed the Electoral Finance Bill, Labour passed another insidious piece of legislation, the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill, which legalised the spending of parties (total $14.6 million) parliamentary budget on anything that does not explitly ask people to vote for that party legally, thus legalising the pledge card and NZ First’s recent election advertisement. This, combined with the EFA, is an astonishing gerrymander of our electoral laws, which allows the incumbents (i.e. Labour) to use huge amounts of de-facto state funding to protect themselves, while tight spending limits apply to their opponents. A good example is how under this law, and the Electoral Finance Act, an incumbent MP can use $60 000 of taxpayers money, telling their constituents what a good job they are doing for that electorate (as well as $20 000 of their own money), while his opponent can only spend $20 000. Talk about an unfair election. More information on this legislation can be found here.

For those interested in a basic sumary of this legislation, under the Bill, temporary definitions of what can be spent by parliamentary service (which are anything which does not explicitly solicit votes, ask for money or membership of a party, is legal, so the pledge card, because it did not say “vote Labour” on it, is legal) are extended until June 2009 (after the election), enabling Labour to legally steal $5.4 million of taxpayers money for its 2008 election campaign. You can see here the amounts of money parties can legally steal from the taxpayer for their election campaigns. Although all political parties can legally steal this money, the parties which won the most votes last election get the most free money (which protects the incumbents, and disadvantages those parties not in office). While National gets a slightly bigger parliamentary services budget to steal from than Labour, this is because it has to fund press secretaries e.t.c out of its parliamentary services budget, while Labour cabinet ministers don’t, so Labour probably has more money left over. Further, the legislation helps Labours partisan political advantage more, because it had to pay back (thanks to public pressure) $800 000 it stole previously from the taxpayer for its 2005 election campaign, leaving it short of money and in desperate need of free money to fund its 2008 campaign.

But this is not all. Worse, Labour inserted a clause into the Electoral Finance Act (clause 81(2)(g), saying that election advertising “does not include anything done in relation to a member of Parliament in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament”, which means that anything paid for by Parliamentary service, including advertising like the pledge card, is exempt from the spending cap. So Labour can legally steal $5.4 million of taxpayers money this election, and not have it count as part of their election campaign expenses (and thus be exempt from the spending cap). So Labour can this election, spend $2.4 million of their own money, and another $5.4 million of taxpayers money on their election campiagn, while their opponents (outside Parliament) are only allowed $2.4 million, with not one cent from the taxpayer. Talk about unfair.

It is facts like these that really make me wonder if there is any limit to the corruption in the Labour Party.

3) Sadly, this is not the end of taxpayer funding of the Labour Party election campaigns. There is a third type of state funding: Government advertising. This is mostly innocent things, like anti-drink driving and speeding campaigns, defence force recruitment and so forth, when the Government provides information to its citizens. However, they can be used for partisan political purposes. For instance, last election, large amounts of money was spent to infrom people of working for families (WFF). This policy was closely associated with Labour, which had made extending WFF a key election bribe. Last Australian election, the coalition used millions of taxpayers money to promote Workchoices, and improve its image, no doubt for partisan political purposes. Although the money can not be used for direct political advertising, and thus can’t fund anything like the pledge card, it can still be used for partisan purposes. The intention of Labour to do so was made clear last year, with the sacking of Ms Setchell from the Enviroment Ministry. Watch out for Government advertising on Kiwisaver and carbon neutrality this year.

 

I pay for NZ Firsts election campaign

April 10, 2008

Thats right, I am paying money to help NZ First fund its 2008 election campaign.

But I am not doing so by choice. I am doing so because I am paying taxes to the Government, which are being stolen, legally or illegally, by NZ First, to fund its election campaign. A copy of its latest election advertisement, which appeared in the Dominion Post and possibly other newspapers can be seen here. It is an election advertisement.

Lets apply Annette Kings law of common sense. Is it an Election advertisement? The law (section 5 of the EFA) states anything that is “encouraging or persuading to vote … for 1 or more specified parties”. The specified party is NZ First, which has its logo, and picture of its leader on the advertisement, and the name NZ First is mentioned three times in the advertisement. It clearly statesNZ First policy, and why they hold those policies. The questionare at the bottom, designed to add a legal facade to the advertisement by asking people to send in their views on the issues, so disguising it as a questionare to consult people on the policies. Unfortunately for NZ First, the arguement that it is a questionare instead of an election advertisement is rather weak, as it seeks to persuade people (clearly by its language, i.e. “don’t you agree?”) to support those policies. It looks like an election advertisement, reeks of taxpayer funding like a NZ First or Labour election advertisement, and according to both the EFA, and law of common sense, is an election advertisement.

If it is election advertisement, then it is illegal, because it does not have the correct authorisation required by section 63 (2) (a) of the EFA. So NZ First has broken the Electoral Finance Act (which it voted for).

Visit the website Labour tried to ban

March 6, 2008

Its right here at dontvotelabour.org. It was set up in January and on the 6th of January the Electoral Commsion forced the guy behind the website, Andy Moore to shut it down, because it was considerd illegal under the Electoral Finance Act. It reopened on the 11th of February as a blog. It gives several good reasons not to vote labour including the Electoral Finance Act and Anti-smacking bill. The fact it was shut down shows that the Electoral Finance Act can and in this case already has had an impact on free speech.

Using democracy to destroy it

March 5, 2008

The results of Russia’s election are in, and the new leader of Russia is, surprise surprise, PresidnetPrime Minister Putin. Despite Mr Putins popularity, largely from economic growth delivered from high oil prices, and the fact that Mr Putins chosen President would have won even in a fair election, there are indications the election may have been rigged, with the Economist describing a ballot stuffing incident here. There is no doubt that under a Medvedev presidency, Putin will play a large role in the background as PM, and might return as President in 2012 (the constitution only bans two consecutive terms).

Putin, like Helen to a lesser extent in New Zealand with the Electoral Finance Act, has used democracy to undermine democracy. In other words, he, like Helen, Mugabe and Hitler, came to power by democratic means, and once in power abused that power to undermine democracy. Political opponents are sometimes beaten and dealt with violently in methods that could be labeled Stalin-lite (see article Democracy a la Russe in Economists April 19 2007 issue).

The challenge when dealing with leaders who use democracy to try and destroy it, is to vote them out at the ballot box, and protest against them at the first opportunity, before they entrench themselves. Sadly in Russia it may be too late to do so. In New Zealand, our democracy is already being labelled “Putinesque” by a NZ law journal editorial. We must kick Labour out this election. If we don’t, who knows what will be in a possible Electoral Finance Act II?

(Note: There is a massive difference between Hitler, Mugabe, Putin and Helen. I am not trying to say she is just as bad, merely that she, with the Electoral Finance Act and pledge card, has taken some steps in that direction.)

Union caught out by Anti-Free Speech Act

February 29, 2008

The new Anti-Free Speech Act (officially known as the Electoral Finance Act) has caught its first victim. The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which has been barred from campaigning for two months while the Electoral Commission sees if it is eligible to be a third party this election.

The EMPU applied to be third party in early February, and faced an objection from David Farrar. The objection is done on the basis that the EMPU is affiliated to the Labour Party, and thus involved in its affairs. Reading the letter Farrar wrote to the Electoral Commision hereit makes it clear the EMPU is far closer connected to Labour than the Brethren ever were to National.

Although I support David’s objection, it raises a disturbing possibility. What if someone was to maliciously raise objections to certain third party’s registering in order to keep them muzzled an reduce the time they are allowed to campaign in?

The Electoral Finance Bill by example

October 29, 2007

Our sedition laws are gone. Yay.

But meanwhile Labour is trying to pass the Electoral Finance Bill, which represents the biggest attck on free speech in New Zealand history. prior to the bill being passed, the blogger idiot/savant at No Right Turn constructed a sedition by example index detailing all the abuses of sedition laws in New Zealand history. I decided to see if the people prosecuted for Sedition could also have been prosecuted under the Electoral Finance Bill if it was law at the time, and it was an election year, and the person who committed the crime of sedition failed to register as a third party or make a statutory declaration to spend under $500. The results are:
II: Peter Fraser (1918), No, because he only spoke and did not publish anything.
III: Bishop James Liston (1922): No, same reason as above.
IV: Charles Davis (1865): Yes, he printed and distributed political pamphlets.
V: Rua Kenua (1916): Yes, not for the speech, but his flag (which was used as evidence) could be counted as a election advertisement.
VI: Hatty Weitzal (1921): Possibly, section 5(2)c exempts newspapers, but so long as the newspaper material is solely to entertain readers.
VII: Harry Holland (1913): No, same as II.
VIII: The Green Ray (1918): Possibly, see VI above.
IX: The NZ Celt (1868): No, the newspaper was merely reporting on other events
X: Tim Selwyn (2004): Yes, the pamphlet counts as an election advertisement.
XII: Walter Nash (1921): No, he had not distributed the pamphlets.
XIII: Robert Semple (1916): No, see II above.
XIV: Christchurch Sedcond Division League (19170: No, were comunicating to internal members.
XV: Edward Hunter (1913): No, see II above.
XVI: Te Whiti and Tohu (1881): No, see II above.
XVII: OF Nelson: No, didn’t print or distribute anthing.
XVIII: Maoriland Irish Society (1918): Yes, the advertisement is clearly an election one.
XIX: Tim Armstrong (1916): No, see II above.
XX: Thompson (1927): Possibly, see VI above.
XXI: Reverend James Chapple (1918): No, see II above.
XXII: Christopher Russell (2006): interesting, can an e-mail count as electioneering? It appears yes. This is incredibly scary, if you mention a political issue in an e-mail to a friend next year, without registering (or making a statutory declaration), you will be breaking the law.
XXIII: Sidney Fournier (1917): No, see II above.
XXIV: Father John Roche (no date, WWI): No, see II above.
XXV: Paddy Webb (1917): No, see XIV above.
Even in the silly “petrol-soaked coach” pamphlet which didn’t become too funny once the police laid sedition charges, could be prosecuted under the Electoral Finance Bill.