Campaign Against the Electoral Finance Act

During late 2007, I led a New Zealand wide campaign against the Electoral Finance Bill, a bill drafted by the (then) Labour led government, the purpose of which was to restrict New Zealanders rights to freedom of speech during an election year.

I fought the campaign against the Bill because I felt passionately about the impact of the Electoral Finance Act on freedom of speech in NZ.

The Human Rights Commission said the Bill would have a chilling effect on our freedom of speech and described the bill as “inherently flawed”. They called for the bill to be withdrawn, but the government ignored them.

The Human Rights Commissioner said; “This Bill represents a dramatic assault on two fundamental human rights New Zealanders cherish; freedom of expression and the right of informed citizens to participate in the election process.”

I described it as “the most repressive election law in any English speaking Western democracy”.

This was not an issue of political philosophy, but freedom.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. The Act unreasonably restricted the rights of private citizens to speak out either in support of, or against political parties and individual politicians – at a time when it had been made much easier for politicians to spend taxpayer’s money to do so.
  2. Parliament ignored the protestations of the Human Rights Commission and passed into law an Act which restricted free speech for one year out of every parliamentary term of three years. The Human Rights Commission had recommended a restriction on free speech of no more than three months. It was ignored.
  3. Parliament ignored the Electoral Commission recommendation (endorsed by the Human Rights Commission) and set the maximum spending for third parties at $120,000, instead of $250-$300,000.
  4. Parliament had passed a law which made it much harder to challenge an incumbent MP.
  5. Parliament ignored the Human Rights Commission when it said that “It would be essential that any changes be subject to the widest possible public scrutiny to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of whatever electoral reform emerges”. Parliament passed the Act without a further round of public consultation.
  6. These issues go to the heart of our democracy and govern the very way in which we conduct our elections. It is unconscionable that Parliament chose to ignore both the Human Rights Commission and the Electoral Commission on such important constitutional issues.

Parliament passed the law despite the protest and objections of many thousands of New Zealanders.

We all enjoy the freedoms that our forbears fought for. I strove to ensure we maintained those freedoms, and I remain committed to always being vigilant to ensure those freedoms are protected.

This section of my website outlines a chronology of the key events in my campaign against this draconian piece of legislation and includes submissions from the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Law Society.