Good process, but spending caps essential for a fair MMP referendum

Campaign for MMP says that both the referendum question and proposed review of MMP are positive aspects of the Electoral Referendum Bill introduced today. However, the glaring omission in the Bill is that there is no spending cap on interest group advertising in the lead-up to the 2011 referendum.

“We believe that the proposed questions, timeframe for the referendum, and the public information process are fair,” said Sandra Grey, spokesperson for Campaign for MMP.

“We also support the proposed review of MMP, should a majority of voters opt to retain it at next year’s referendum. This will allow people who support MMP in general to have the confidence that there will be a process for improving it.”
“However what’s missing is a cap on spending by third parties. Spending caps in elections and referenda are crucial to ensure fair campaigns. Political candidates and parties cannot spend as much as they’d like on election campaigns, and the same should apply for groups wanting to advertise in the lead up to the electoral system referendum.”

Currently the spending limit on Citizen Initiated Referenda is $50,000. “This is what all groups and individuals involved on either side of New Zealand’s recent smacking referendum were able to spend, and we still had a very thorough public debate.”

“Spending caps don’t limit free speech, they limit paid advertising. Until this issue is addressed, we won’t have a fair referendum process,” Sandra Grey said.

The Campaign for MMP was established in February to rally wide public support for retaining MMP.

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