Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Election funding: more scaremongering

Since the release of the Justice and Electoral committee's report [PDF] on the Electoral Finance Bill, there has been a barrage of scare-mongering from the right, with opponents of the bill (and advocates of big money) claiming that it imposes disclosure requirements on protest placards and public speeches, and that ordinary New Zealanders will have to watch what they say in order to avoid falling foul of the law. The latter is simply bullshit. As for the former, here's what Dean Knight (a lawyer, not a spindoctor) has to say:

Farrar is correct that, on its face, the new definition would seem to capture megaphones, chalk on the pavement, and placards. But I'm not convinced that a court would necessarily hold that such speech would be covered. Legislation needs to be interpreted "in the light of its purpose", including any other contextual indications in the legislation (s5, Interpretation Act 1999) .

Any sensible purposive interpretation would hold that holding a placard or shouting through a megaphone would not be an advertisement for this purpose. The purpose of the regime is transparency. Personal advocacy where one's identity is readily apparent doesn't need the same disclosure regime as billboards, newspaper adverts, and TV ads. I would expect that the courts would interpret the provisions accordingly in the unlikely event that those policing the regime actually cared about the conduct enough to prosecute.

(Emphasis added).

So, nothing to worry about. But for the avoidance of doubt (and really, to get the clowns to shut up, though I'm sure they'll just find something else to scream about), he proposes some clarifying amendments. which fix the problem - which is more than those complaining about it have bothered to do. Hopefully some party will take them up and put them in an SOP by next week.