- Date published:
6:55 am, December 11th, 2019 - 75 comments
Categories: election 2020, electoral commission, electoral systems, labour, making shit up, national, same old national, Simon Bridges, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
The trend is becoming clear. And many of us on the left are trying to understand the the background and the motivation for what is happening. But the right have a new game plan when it comes to campaigning and damn it but it may work.
The old rules no longer apply. The media is that compromised, that bereft of resources and that fearful for its future that it will not and cannot question the crap that is coming out of the right.
There have been two recent local examples.
First there was this attempt to graphically (and statistically) lie about the actual change in fuel taxes.
It received a real trashing on Twitter. So what does the Government paid Opposition Leader’s
propaganda squad social media team do?
They repeat it.
This is not some random Hamish Price type attack. This has been focus grouped to within an inch of its life and it will have a robust business case.
Maybe the reach is more important that the truthfulness of the message. And spats on social media increase the reach. Our righteous angst against the content may just mean that more people get the message.
This issue has been brought into stark relief by the release of the Justice Select Committee Report into the 2017 election. The report canvasses an intense debate about how the law should handle deliberate lies during an election campaign.
Labour wanted to extend the time it is an offence to publish a false statement with intent to influence voters. Currently the relevant period starts two days before election day but with the advent of early voting it is rational to increase the time. They wanted it to be two days before the start of advance voting.
It seems so rational. There are so many votes now cast during the lead up period that this period should be included in the protection. After all if the intent is to stop the illegitimate influencing of votes surely all votes should be protected, not just those cast on election day. Last election 40% of votes were advance votes. Why should these voters have less protection?
National’s response? Nope. Seems they want the ability to lie safely for as long as possible.
This is National’s view as set out in the report:
The purpose of the tight and tough constraints in section 199A that apply just to the two days prior to the election is because of the reduced opportunity for scrutiny or rebuttal so close to an election. They were introduced to stop scandalous claims being made in the last moments before an election. They come with a very high penalty. A person being declared guilty of a corrupt practice is liable to imprisonment of 2 years, a fine of up to $100,000, and inclusion on the Corrupt Practice List, removing their right to vote or hold elected office.
But with so many early votes nowadays why should these voters be treated differently?
The key legal test in section 199A is that the person has published a false statement. The issue is “what is” and “who determines” what a false statement is that becomes subject to the penalty of a “corrupt practice”. There will be different views from Election 2017 on whether National’s claims of a $12 billion fiscal hole or Labour’s of 100,000 Kiwibuild homes
are false statements, but these are best contested in the context of freedom of expression and not being shut down by this draconian “corrupt practice” provision.
What strange examples. The only defence for National was that the $12 billion fiscal hole comment was made through a complete lack of understanding of basic accounting. Labour’s Kiwibuild Homes proposal was aspirational and would never have breached the test.
The proposed amendment to section 199A is hugely significant and poses major risks for the free expression of views in the three weeks prior to a general election. National views this proposal as a further worrying erosion of free speech by the current Government that will compromise free and fair elections.
How much of a threat would the change be to National’s advertising?
The relevant section of the Electoral Act says this:
A person is guilty of a corrupt practice if the person, with the intention of influencing the vote of an elector … first publishes or republishes a statement, during the specified period, that the person knows is false in a material particular; or … arranges for the first publication or republication of a statement, during the specified period, that the person knows is false in a material particular.”
My initial impression is that false graphics, like those above, may well get the publisher into trouble. The graphic is a material particular of the statement. No wonder National is so worried at the proposal.
Get ready. This could be a brutal election year.