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The Votesafe campaign

Written By: - Date published: 11:44 am, October 2nd, 2020 - 35 comments
Categories: democratic participation, election funding, quality of life, referendum, Social issues, uncategorized - Tags:

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

Registered as New Zealand Charitable Trust No. (50038580)(NZBN: 9429048338165)

Registered as a third-party promoter with the Electoral Commission for the End of Life Choice Act referendum.

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.

35 comments on “The Votesafe campaign ”

  1. dv 1

    Interesting Thanks Micky for the heads up.

  2. woodart 2

    act (who take money from hidden donors,) pissed off with another group who do the same thing. perhaps the late robin williams had the best idea. anybody involved with politics has to wear their sponsors names on their chests, like pro sportspeople.

    • greywarshark 2.1

      Robin W died at 63 in 2014. The best people go early it seems.

      He found happy moments and that idea about sponsors for pollies is good as well as a humorous touch. I think he and Bobby McFerrin have the right idea, along with Bill Irwin.

  3. gsays 3

    Whenever Seymour speaks about this Bill I hear "clever misinformation", he has several times given a blanket assurance there will be no coercion, what he probably means is that there are "safeguards" to stop the process if coercion is detected. Big if.

    I am also fairly wary of anyone who is absolutely certain of something of such a serious nature. I understand a VERY strong desire, this does not equal certainty.

    While I may have missed it, J am not aware of any organised campaign lobbying for a No vote on the euthanasia referendum. TBH, I wasn't aware of this campaign till I read this post.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      what he probably means is that there are "safeguards" to stop the process if coercion is detected. Big if.

      Yes, there's a possibility that the process may fail but its likely to work most of the time. As we learned a few weeks ago such processes do work.

    • McFlock 3.2

      Also, this is the dude whose party thinks employers and employees don't have a massive power imbalance when "negotiating" contracts, so take his opinions on coercion with a grain of salt.

      • Gabby 3.2.1

        He may just mean there'll be no way to prove coercion.

        • Incognito 3.2.1.1

          When there’s reasonable doubt then don’t do it. Of course, this could be ‘misused’ too; a knife cuts both ways.

  4. Cinny 4

    I contacted the electoral commission about this just yesterday, they are going to look into it, will be interested to know what comes of it.

    I was extremely concerned to receive the votesafe flyer, inside an electoral commission leaflet in my letterbox on Wednesday night. They used the exact same shade of yellow as the commission had on it's leaflet and the font was very similar. On first glance I thought the votesafe flyer was put out by the commission. Hence my concern, votesafe is super misleading.

    Dodgy dealings, excellent post. Thanks Micky

    • georgecom 4.1

      remember a similar occasion leaflets just started turning up in peoples letterboxes. Some quotes that float around that occasion

      "actually I don't know who wrote them, one thing I do know is it's not the National Party"

      'The Brethren, um, errrr, um, we met for prayer'

      "your/our campaign……"

      • woodart 4.1.1

        good comparo georgecom.

        • georgecom 4.1.1.1

          and I forgot to add

          " Who’s doing the nasty pamphlets?" "I don’t know actually Paul. One thing I do know, its not the National Party."

          "I knew they were going to issue some pamphlets attacking the Government and I said that's tremendous I'm delighted about that because the Government's lousy and should be changed."

      • Cinny 4.1.2

        Too true…

  5. Incognito 5

    @ MickySavage: see message in back-end.

  6. Chris T 6

    Personally going to be voting yes for bill what ever sub groups on either side try to coerce people not to or to do.

    I bothered reading the thing.

    Funny I actually agree with Ardern for once.

  7. Muttonbird 7

    I'll vote against anything and everything David Seymour proposes.

    • solkta 7.1

      That sounds rather moronic. Wouldn't you rather make your mind up for yourself? I have and i will be voting yes regardless of my thoughts about the hologram.

      • Muttonbird 7.1.1

        I have made up my mind myself. It always happens to be against what David Seymour proposes. Without fail.

        Is there a correlation between Victoria’s libertarian legal suicide law and their woeful Covid-19 response? I think they both are indicative of the dangers of Libertarianism.

        • woodart 7.1.1.1

          no comparison. if you draw that bow any longer YOU will BE in victoria.

          • Muttonbird 7.1.1.1.1

            I don't know about that. I think there's a link between the personal responsibility and personal rights promoted in libertarian ideology and a lack of collective, effective response to adversity. I also think the societies which embrace such policy are more likely to embrace legalised suicide.

            Slippery slope.

            • woodart 7.1.1.1.1.1

              I thought it was people who felt empathy that didnt want to see their granny suffer.

    • Chris T 7.2

      Way to disappoint Ardern, but I am sure she will forgive you.

  8. McFlock 8

    Yeah, I don't like this lot. This issue needs to be carefully discussed and considered, not propagandised.

    • weka 8.1

      The EoLC Bill should have been postponed until next year. Given the importance of the precedent, we haven't been able to do justice to the nation carefully discussing and considering.

  9. greywarshark 9

    If not now when? NZs don't want to have to think, get informed and made decisions. It will never be the right time and never be well written enough. It's a difficult one, to let people make up their own mind about dying. It's at that moment that they suddenly become precious to us, if not ever before.

  10. Duncan 10

    How much will it cost to be euthanized. Is it a doctors fee + prescription

    Certainly not cheap at the vet.

    And who is going to profit from this.

    Can't see any answers on the referendums website.

    • Muttonbird 10.1

      I imagine there will be a few go to doctors who specialise in profiting from suicide.

      • Barfly 10.1.1

        Heh after both my brothers died horribly from cancer I personally wanted an option to not suffer as much when the time comes. Ironically now with my new medication regime, should I choose to it would be simple and very quick (i think).

      • e-clectic 10.1.2

        Exactly what happens in other jurisdictions – disproportionate amount of approvals and application of fatal dose by a group of practitioners. "Doctor shopping" to find doctors who will approve is how it works.

  11. ken 11

    I am not religious.

    I just do not think that it's the government's place to sign it's citizen's death warrants.

  12. Muttonbird 12

    It is indicative of ACT policy that the rights of the self over-ride the rights of others. In this case the self is able to suicide, to die prematurely, while the others have that person taken away prematurely.

    Seymour and his type are convinced society is nothing more than a collection of individuals. I see society as greater that the sum of those individuals.

    Our stellar Covid response reflects this, notably something which Seymour also disagrees with.

  13. e-clectic 13

    Further evidence that referendums are a crap way of making these types of decisions – complex, nuanced matters being dumbed down to soundbites and simple emotive messages. They are open to capture by well-resourced interest groups and individuals (remember Peter Shirtcliff the chairman of Telecom who fronted $1m to keep FPP in the MMP referendum).

    Citizens assemblies are the future – small randomly selected groups (like jury service selection) that are given plenty of time and access to subject matter experts to deliberate on solutions that work for society as a whole.

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