Viva El Presidente!

Seriously, this is getting way out of hand. Peter Davis, the Prime Minister’s husband, has come out swinging against opponents of the Electoral Finance Bill this weekend, via a letter to the NZ Herald.

If passed, the controversial piece of legislation will introduce new rules governing what people can and cannot say during election time and how much money organisations and political parties can spend on campaigning. A scary thing for me is that the bill places no additional restrictions on government spending, which I firmly believe poses a far greater threat to democracy. I cannot for the life of me understand why an academic would support this bill. Seriously – why the hell would an academic support restrictions on freedom of speech?

Responding to rising criticism from opposition parties and recent protests throughout the country, Dr Davis stated:

The Electoral Finance Bill does not diminish ‘free’ speech. It restricts speech that is ‘purchased’ through advertising – and only in an environment that is electorally sensitive.”

Oh, that makes it ok then does it? There’s an old saying in human rights that “you either believe in freedom of speech, or you don’t”. The quote above makes Dr Davis’ position in the latter camp to be quite clear. He then attempts to justify it by inventing a fantastic distinction between ‘free’ and ‘purchased’ speech:

“I would be concerned if ‘free’ speech was being constrained but limits on the rights to ‘purchase’ speech are justified to protect our democracy from money politics, although I can see it might hurt the Herald’s bottom line.

What the fuck? It’s not the speech that’s being purchased, dickhead, it’s access to the audience. One man standing on a soap-box on a busy street can maybe reach a few hundred people a day. The reason paid advertising exists is to expand the message’s reach to those who don’t happen to be within earshot.

So let’s follow his argument through. The government has no issue whatsoever with opposing points of view – we can have as many of those as we like. What we’re not allowed to do is spend a little cash getting our message out. Well let me ask you this:

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there to hear it, does it make any noise?

Whichever way you look at it, this bill exists for one purpose – to restrict access to information. You have to remember that freedom of speech goes both ways:

  1. The person with the idea or opinion has a right to voice it; and
  2. The rest of us have a right to hear new ideas and opinions

This insidious piece of legislation attempts to limit my right to voice my opinions, and YOUR right to hear what I have to say. That’s some really scary shit, kids.

To hear this diarrhetic sludge dribbling out of a respected academic is unconscionable. It’s embarrassing. It’s sad, pathetic, and incredibly disturbing. What’s more it makes me really mad. Fuck you, Peter Davis. Fuck you right in the ear. At its heart, academia is nothing without freedom of speech – paid or otherwise. If and when they find a cure for cancer, where would we be if they weren’t allowed to publicise it? Lying in the Oncology ward with our hair falling out, that’s where.

You are a disgrace to your profession Dr Davis. This isn’t about politics. This is about your public disregard for a basic human right, without which there would be no academia. You should resign immediately. If you don’t have the cojones to do so you should be sacked.

And yes, I accept that there is a certain irony in my recommending that Dr Davis be punished for stating his opinions, but you have to remember that with great freedom comes great responsibility. We should all be free to say whatever the hell we like, provided we’re also prepared to accept the consequences. There is no justifying Dr Davis’ comments. He has stated a belief that renders him incapable and unworthy of his job.

When pressed to justify the legislation, Helen Clark’s favourite response is to pick on the Exclusive Brethren. In the build-up to the last election the Brethren spend a fat wad of cash on anti-government and anti-Green Party advertising campaigns. According to Helen, such activities present a significant threat to democracy and should be regulated. But here’s the rub…

THE LAST ELECTION WAS INDEED BOUGHT, BUT IT WASN’T BOUGHT BY NATIONAL, ACT, OR THE EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN.

The last election (in fact, the last two elections) was bought by the Labour Party. And it wasn’t through advertising (although the multi-million dollar ‘policy campaigns’ must have helped) – it was bribery, plain and simple.

I graduated from university with a $35,000 student loan. Since then I have repaid approximately $30,000, leaving me with an outstanding balance of approcimately $32,000. That’s right sports fans – I’m pouring a ton of cash into this thing and am barely able to handle the compounding interest.

There are lots of voters like me out there, so last election Helen and Mike threw a lovely pre-election lolly scramble, making all student loans interest free for people living in New Zealand. Don’t you think the timing was a hell of a coincidence, coming up right before the election? Vote for us and we’ll write off the interest on your loan? (If it isn’t quite clear, the ruse didn’t work on me. But I know for a fact that thousands of current and former students voted Labour solely because of this bribe – what else would you call it?).

What about the election before that? Does ‘Working for Families’ ring any bells?

A friend of mine once told me that democracy was over the day poor people figured out that they could vote themselves money. This government has certainly cottoned on to that, and is doing everything in its power to keep the chips stacked in their favour.

So, a nice old rant above, but what’s my point? Simple:

The real threat to democracy in New Zealand does not lie with interested parties paying to share their beliefs and opinions. Hell, we should have more of that! The real threat is:

  1. Any attempt to curtail freedom of speech. The Electoral Finance Bill was designed with that in mind and it MUST be defeated.
  2. Pre-election lolly scrambles and ‘policy’ advertising. We see it every year before poll time, and it’s got to stop!

If we don’t nip this in the bud before things get truely out of hand, we’re only a stone’s throw from having Helen Clark as ‘President for Life’, strutting the halls in a military uniform a la Idi Amin to hails of ‘Viva El Presidente!’.

And by the way – while we’re all busy debating these (ableit important) issues, people are still murdering babies.

Have a nice week.

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4 Responses to “Viva El Presidente!”


  1. 1 Camryn November 20, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Here here.

    More on the EFB regularly at Kiwiblog: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz

    Idiots try to defend it here: http://www.thestandard.com (blah blah might not agree with what they say blah blah fight to the death to defend their right to say it blah)

  2. 2 Brownie November 20, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Well said and reasoned.

  3. 3 Linda Reid November 21, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Well said. It’s our right to ‘hear’ what people want to say that is really important. Just as important as their right to say it.


  1. 1 Everything you need to know about Helen Clark « Si Quando Dubium, Illic Est Scilicet Trackback on September 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm

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