Free Speech Union gives feedback on Independent Electoral Review Interim Report
With submissions closing today, the Free Speech Union has given its own feedback to the Independent Electoral Review on its recommendations to reform our electoral system. The right to free speech is foundational to our democracy and the Review must ensure that its recommendations are speech-maximising, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.
“During an election, it is crucial that Kiwis’ speech is as free as possible and that the ballot box is allowed to be the ultimate judge of the merits of ideas and the fitness for political candidacy. Our submissions reflect this view, seeking to ensure that in the election’s “contest of ideas” the competition is open and fair.
“We were pleased to see that on many issues the Review was well aware of the importance of speech rights and free expression, with many recommendations seeking to enhance these rights, which we were happy to support. Our areas of support included recommendations such as allowing political advertising on election day and giving political parties a freer hand with how to conduct their advertising, alongside the removal of areas of compelled speech, such as removing the ability for scrutineers to force Kiwis to reveal whether or not they have voted.
“There are however significant areas for improvement in the recommendations. We oppose the Review's position that only enrolled voters should be allowed to make political donations, as it would deny groups such as iwi, hapū, trade unions, and companies from expressing their political views with their funds.
"Crucially, we also opposed the view that the offence relating to spreading disinformation during the election should be extended. The remedy for speech that is false must be education and ideas that are true. Laws against disinformation are too open to political abuse and should be abolished, not extended.
"Democracies rise and fall based on the respect they maintained for the voices, whether popular or not, of each of their voters. Speech rights must continue to be the foundation on which our elections are built."