Trust formed to protect New Zealand's free speech

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Free Speech Coalition was launched today in New Zealand due to the "grave threat" on New Zealand's free speech the Electoral Finance Bill has, according to co-founder, Cameron Slater, who spoke to Wikinews.

David Farrar, author of Kiwiblog; Cameron Slater, author of Whale Oil Beef Hooked blog; and Bernard Darton, leader of political party, Libertarianz, compose The Free Speech Coalition trust set up to educate the "woefully informed" New Zealand public and campaign against the "draconian aspects" of the Bill.

The Electoral Finance Bill will mean, among many other "draconian" restrictions, registered third parties campaigning against politically held viewpoints are limited to spending NZ$60,000 for 11 months in an election year. The $60,000 limit is about the cost of two full page newspapers ads, according to Slater. The Bill is currently before the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, which will consider the huge amount of public submissions received, possible amendments and whether or not it should proceed in the House.

Slater believes that Labour, Greens, New Zealand First, and United Future will recommend that minor alterations are made to the Bill while proceeding through the House, "and all the others recommending the Bill be Killed."

As well as The Free Speech Coalition supporting the Bill being withdrawn, so does the Human Rights Commission, and the New Zealand Law Society. The Law Society has said, "The Bill has serious defects, which mean it will not achieve its stated aims. Moreover, it is likely to curtail the legitimate expression of opinions while failing to curb (and potentially even incentivising) clandestine conduct in relation to the electoral process. The bill as a whole represents a backward step in the integrity of democracy in New Zealand."

"seriously flawed and does not achieve its stated aims while effectively regulating and in fact stopping free speech in New Zealand for one third of electoral cycle," was how Slater described the Electoral Finance Bill, which is expected to become law on January 1, 2008.

Slater says that the only way this Bill could work is to be withdrawn, as amendments could not save it, "For one it doesn't even cover anonymous donations which Labour wailed on about ad infinitum." He also criticises the amount of input the public has had into this Bill, with the only input being the public submissions to the Select Committee. "This is a substantial change to the Electoral Act the very basis of our democracy and there has been little or no input from the public nor has there been any public consultation."

"The real danger is that Labour tries to pass this under urgency with no more public consultation," Slater warns.

The interview finished with Cameron Slater simply stating, "Kill The Bill."


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.