Thursday, 14 August 2008

JOHN BOSCOWEN: Freedom of Speech Trust Newsletter-Edition 4

Freedom of Speech Trust Newsletter No. 4
By John Boscawen

15 August 2008

Dear Darren,

Campaign goes to the Sunday newspapers

We took the campaign to repeal the Electoral Finance Act to last weekend’s newspapers with full page ads in each of the Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday.

The ads focused on the following issues:

1. Parliament ignored both the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Law Society in passing the Act.

2. New Zealanders have been subject to a form of election year censorship never seen before in this country. The ad itself had been carefully drafted to ensure that it could not be seen as an “election advertisement”. There was much that we dare not say and that was censorship pure and simple.

3. The Act has had a profound impact on how political parties campaign and many are afraid in case they overspend. Labour, NZ First, the Greens and the Progressives have all fallen foul of it. (With the Progressives recently having had an ad referred to the Police for possible prosecution).

4. The law regarding third parties is uncertain and complex and limits those who wish to be involved in the election campaign to spending less than half that recommended by the Human Rights Commission.

5. The promise of greater transparency that cannot be circumvented is simply not true. For example if the Vela family had ten companies each could give up to $10,000 of its own money to New Zealand First and this $100,000 would not need to be disclosed (this is not a hypothetical example as the New Zealand Companies Office records suggests that there are eight or more Vela named companies with a further five related to the Vela owned New Zealand Bloodstock group).

6. At the same time that Parliament severely limited what you and I can spend and do in election year it passed another law giving political parties more taxpayer’s dollars for their own election campaigns.

A copy of last Sunday’s ad is attached to this email. Please forward it to your friends and colleagues or print it off and post it on a noticeboard.


What needs to happen now?

The Act needs to be repealed before this years election otherwise the election risks becoming a farce, marred in legal challenges both before and after the election. As a very minimum the third party spending limit should be increased to $300,000 as recommended by the Human Rights Commission.

Dominion Post Editorial – Monday 11 August “System to suit an African despot”

Under this heading The Dominion Post has again called for the repeal of the Electoral Finance Act.

“The act must go. It has had only humour value since January 1 …..The act’s critics foresaw the current muddle. The law is undemocratic and the way it was imposed an exercise in arrogance.”

The Dominion Post is but only one of the newspapers that have spoken out against the Electoral Finance Act. The tragedy however is that it represents far more than “humour value”. It undermines four of our most cherished democratic rights

1. The right to hold free and fair elections.
2. The right to exercise free speech.
3. The right to campaign either for or against the government.
4. The right to be fully informed.


High Court grants strike out application in our case against the Attorney General

Late last year Garth McVicar spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, the late Graham Stairmand, then national president of the Grey Power Federation, Rodney Hide, MP and myself commenced legal proceedings against the Attorney General, Michael Cullen seeking a declaration that he had failed in his duty to notify Parliament that the Electoral Finance Bill was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (BORA). After the Act was passed we amended our claim to also ask for the Court to make a declaration of inconsistency, on the grounds that the EFA was inconsistent with BORA .

The Crown sought to strike out these claims on the grounds that we had no right to bring them. The strike out application was heard in the High Court in Wellington on 15 May and the Court delivered its decision in late June. The Court agreed with the Crown and struck out both actions. While we were not surprised that the action against the Attorney General was struck out, on the grounds of parliamentary privilege we were both surprised and disappointed that the Court struck out our claim for a declaration of inconsistency. The High Court also relied on an earlier case in 1992 and we anticipated that we would need to go to the Appeal Court to have this overturned.

We have decided to appeal this ruling and the appeal will now be heard by the Appeal Court in Wellington on 23 October.

While this hearing will probably be before the election, there is no guarantee we will get a decision before then, and in any event, even if we are successful it is very unlikely we will be able to argue the substantive issue before the election.

If you would like to read a copy of our submissions to the High Court on the Crown’s strike out application and the Court’s judgment please email me and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Please forward this email on

No one should be in any doubt about the type of censorship the Electoral Finance Act imposes. It does little if anything to increase transparency over donations that cannot be circumvented. Its real objective is to restrict the right of ordinary New Zealanders to speak out and to campaign either for or against a political party in election year.

Please take the trouble to discuss the issues this newsletter raises with your friends, family and work colleagues.


Regards

John Boscawen
Trustee – Freedom of Speech Trust
021 760 630


Electoral Finance Act coverage @ Political Animal

Tauranga Electoral Finance Act protest goes off
Labour first to break own Electoral Finance Act
Auckland Electoral Finance Act protest
Owen Glenn and Labour Party funding
Labour buys Tim Shadbolt's silence
Victim of Electoral Finance Act forced to shut down website
Extending a middle finger in 2008
Electoral Finance Act: The vote
Historical day as New Zealand loses democracy
Tuesday 18 December 2008: The death of democracy
Mike Moore turns the knife on Electoral Finance Bill
List of MPs who voted for the Electoral Finance Act
Electoral Finance Bill debate continues
Cartoon and comment: Winston Churchill Clark
Electoral Finance Bill: The purpose is clear
Electoral Finance Bill gets stalled in Parliament
Auckland EFB protest gets 5000
Christchurch March against EFB
2nd Auckland EFB protest
Wellington March against EFB
Auckland EFB protest March: Nov 17 2007
NZ Herald gets nasty over EFB


c Political Animal 2008

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