Select Committee told spending controls are essential for a fair MMP referendum

A large majority of submissions on the MMP referendum process have called for campaign spending caps to ensure the debate is not dominated by big spending lobbies, says the Campaign for MMP. This is the “key issue for ensuring the referendum has credibility”.

Spokesperson Sandra Grey, who appears before the Electoral Referendum Committee today at 4pm, said the group has analysed hundreds of the submissions and found that most by far back the Campaign’s key concerns: providing spending caps, as there are for all parties and other referenda, having a compulsory review of MMP and retaining the proposed clear, simple referendum form.

“We also emphasised the need for a well-run public information campaign,” she said.

Ms Grey said over 80% of these submitters – including the Campaign for MMP – have urged parliament to put in place a spending controls for the referendum. “Spending caps are necessary to ensure a fair referendum and a result that voters will trust.”

But the Campaign for MMP has also backed a new idea that had come up during the Select Committee hearings for levelling the playing field in the 2011 referendum.

“A number of submitters have suggested that campaigning groups should advertise in papers, magazines, billboards, Internet and so on, but not on television and radio; noting that TV and radio are most susceptible to big spending manipulative advertising campaigns. This would mean the information on television and radio would purely be that provided by the Electoral Commission in the official public information campaign”

“Campaign for MMP would prefer proper spending caps for the MMP debate, but a compromise position could be the suggested restriction on broadcast advertising. The crucial concern of submitters is that the big-business funded lobbies should not be able to buy their preferred electoral system as they nearly succeeded in doing in the 1993 electoral referendum.”

“We hope parliament is listening to these concerns and acts on them. Voters need trust the referendum process,” she said.

The Campaign for MMP is pleased that overall there has been support for the two-stage referendum process set out in the Bill, with many people pleased it mirrors the 1992 ballot which saw New Zealand move from first-past-the-post to MMP.

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

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