- Date published:
11:44 am, October 2nd, 2020 - 35 comments
Categories: democratic participation, election funding, quality of life, referendum, Social issues, uncategorized - Tags: votesafe
You may have noticed bright yellow and purple billboards around the place advertising the website votesafe.nz and asking people to take a quiz.
There are a number of billboards around the place and the site is professionally designed. It has apparently had some serious money put into it and has reportedly had 50,000 social media shares.
I was intrigued to see who was behind the campaign. The website contains this description of the organisation behind it:
Authorised by Safer Future Charitable Trust, 5 Fig Tree Lane, Silverdale
It’s unlikely donations will be eligible for a tax rebate due to the nature of this campaign, therefore we are not currently listed on the New Zealand Charities Services website.
The three names mentioned are Henoch Kloosterboer, Richard Martin and Gael Goulter.
The links do not work but the entity is registered under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 and not under the Charities Act 2005. It was registered in June of this year. Given that its work is so political I am not surprised that they have decided there is no benefit in seeking registration under the later Act but this does mean that disclosure of information, particularly of financial information, is limited.
The trustees are certainly at the conservative edge of politics. Kloosterboer has a Diploma in Biblical Studies, Theology, from New Zealand’s Laidlaw College. Goulter has some link to the Maxim Institute and helped draft a submission for Maxim opposing the Abortion Legislation Bill.
There is some detail provided in an article written by Graham Adams which for some reason has been taken down from the NZ Herald website and from Scoop. Even Wayback machine has no trace to it. Votesafe is surrounded by lawyers so I suspect that there may have been legal problems with what was said.
The organisation and its tactics have been criticised by David Seymour for using misinformation. From Alex Braae at the Spinoff:
An online quiz related to the assisted dying referendum has been described as a “very clever piece of misinformation” by the End of Life Choice Act’s sponsor, Act leader David Seymour.
The quiz has been produced by VoteSafe, a group registered as a third party promoter with the Electoral Commission for the referendum. In the group’s statement about who they are and why they exist, they don’t specifically say they oppose the referendum passing – however, they do say they “don’t believe in legislation that would allow for wrongful deaths or put any of our fellow Kiwis at risk”.
The quiz asks 10 questions, described as being “approved by legal advisers”, about provisions in the End of Life Choice act. After taking the quiz, users are presented with how many answers they got correct, and further details about each specific area are provided. It has been shared on social media almost 50,000 times, suggesting a wide reach.
“What’s interesting about the quiz is that the purpose is not so much to be a quiz – it’s to imply, and posit, and leave doubt in the mind of the user,” said Seymour, who gave a range of criticisms on how questions were framed, and how they lead the user to certain conclusions.
One example relates to a question that asks “can an eligible 18-year-old receive a lethal dose without their parents knowing?” The correct answer to that is yes – however, it skates over the fact that to be eligible, that 18-year-old would also be a legal adult, be assessed as mentally competent, and would still have to have a terminal illness. He described such a scenario as “vaguely plausible, but the idea that it’s a real concern when the average age of people taking up assisted dying is 75 – I mean, come on”.
To be frank I am in two minds about the bill. But I am concerned that a well resourced organisation should emerge from nowhere and use a quiz to present the issues in a potentially confusing way.
A registered promoter can spend up to $338,000 on a campaign. Expenses have to be declared but not how they were funded. For the sake of our democracy I believe that not only should funding be declared but if it is a significant amount this should happen before the vote. So that an informed assessment on the reliability of the material can be made.