Watchdog issues warning to anti-Labour website

By Paula Oliver

A 21-year-old who set up a website urging people to vote against Labour has been contacted by the Electoral Commission because he is not complying with provisions of the controversial new Electoral Finance Act.

Andrew Moore set up the website on the final day of 2007 after coming up with the idea while doing some dishes at home.

The site highlights particular issues related to Labour, including the passing of so-called anti-smacking laws, the Electoral Finance Act, and funding cuts to the Southern Institute of Technology which Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has spoken out against.

But Mr Moore's website falls foul of the Electoral Finance Act because he has not included a name and address on it.

Asked yesterday if his website was set up as a direct challenge to the act - which passed into law just before Christmas - Mr Moore said it did not begin that way.

"Initially it wasn't, really, but as time has gone on it's pretty much become that," he told the Herald.

"For one thing, I don't think I should have to put my name and address on there - I think it's a breach of freedom of speech."

The Electoral Commission yesterday confirmed it has looked at the website and is going to talk with Mr Moore because an authorisation statement is required on the site.

Mr Moore said he had received a message from the commission and had emailed back, but had not yet received any further contact.

"If they want to get in touch with me they're most welcome," he said.

The website does not promote any particular party but strongly criticises Labour.

Under the Electoral Finance Act such a website must carry a statement saying who is behind it, and if it cost more than $12,000 to set up then the person behind it must also be registered with the commission as a third party.

Under the previous electoral law, the internet was not covered in that way - although Mr Moore would still have had to provide a name and address if he had placed a similar message in an advertisement in a newspaper.

Mr Moore is a member of the Act Party and he was involved in marches against the anti-smacking laws and the Electoral Finance Act.

He said part of the reason he didn't have a name and address on the website was because he lived at home and wanted to protect his family.

"I'm not going to say that's the only reason there's no address and name on there, but it's part of it," he said.

His family were "not necessarily all that delighted" with what he was doing, he said.

Mr Moore said he was "not scared" of the commission and a large number of people would stand alongside him if he was eventually prosecuted for the breach. The scenario potentially carries a fine of up to $10,000.

His comments come as other opponents of the new election campaign rules threaten a period of civil disobedience against them.

Some internet bloggers are threatening to deliberately flout the Electoral Finance Act to see what happens, while well-known shareholder activist Tony Gavigan has applied to register himself as a third party and wants all New Zealanders to do the same.

Mr Gavigan, who has represented shareholders in action against a major oil company and is now helping Feltex Carpets investors who lost money, said he did not register because he was planning to campaign politically.

"No, I think this is the way, civil disobedience, if we can put everyone's name up there then the whole thing becomes a nonsense," he said yesterday.

He was amused that while trying to register he had been told one of the criteria was a check on whether the third party's name was obscene, confusing or misleading.

"My mother thought my name was okay," he said.

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