Groups set to put Electoral Finance Act to test

Sunday Star Times 28 August 2008

Lobby group the Sensible Sentencing Trust is planning to defy the Electoral Finance Act in the lead-up to the general election. The group has decided on its course of action after receiving conflicting legal advice over whether material it intends to distribute during the election campaign contravenes the act. Its decision highlights a common problem facing similar groups pre-election and one which has forced Family First to abandon a pamphlet drop to all households outlining the voting record of MPs on what it identifies as “important family-based legislation” such as civil unions, anti-smacking and prostitution law reform.

The groups say the act which limits advertising spending by non-political parties soliciting votes for or against a party unless they register as a third party is anti-democratic and stifling public debate….McCoskrie said he had reached the conclusion that having an opinion “was almost illegal in New Zealand”. “We are are an organisation advocating for certain issues and we have as much of a right to be heard as anyone else. That is what an election is about. We shouldn’t be afraid of the debate of ideas.”