Follow Up to "Major Events Management Act" Post

After my last post my dad, sister and I all wrote to our representatives asking for clarification on the “Major Events Management Act 2007”. To my delight both my dad's representative (Colin King) and my sisters representative (Marion Hobbs) wrote back within a few days. Unfortunately my representative (Annette King) never replied.

While I'm very pleased that Mr. King and Ms. Hobbs took the time to reply, I'm not very comfortable with the content of their replies. I'd like to post their replies directly but I'm not sure how reasonable it is to post private communication with a public official. In my opinion the gist of their responses boils down to:

  • Hosting the Rugby World Cup will earn New Zealand a lot of money.
  • In order to host the World Cup passing legislation is required.
  • Making money is more important than civil liberties so we have to pass the legislation.
  • The legislation sounds tougher then it is, nothing bad will actually happen.

I'm not surprised at their response, I'm sure there's a lot of pressure on them to facilitate events which bring revenue to New Zealand. I am however, concerned that as a country we are prepared to trade our civil liberties (even in theory) for cash.

On a more positive note, Mr. King took the time to locate and forward a report from the Commerce Committee, which includes a full copy of the bill, and shows that the issues were considered and some sensible recommendations were made. Below are some quotes from the report:

Protection of expressions of personal opinion

We recommend clarifying that the definition of ‘‘advertise’’ in clause 4 excludes communications of personal opinion made by a natural person for no commercial gain. In our opinion, the definition as drafted is too broad.

Exception for reporting of news, criticism, or review in the media

In the bill as introduced clause 11(1)(d)(v) provides exceptions to clauses 9 and 10 for the reporting of news, criticism, and reviews.

We recommend that the exception in clause 11(1)(d)(v) be expanded to cover the reporting of ‘‘information’’. In our opinion, this change would clarify that the exception would apply to publications that might not be news, criticism, or review but included information, such as major event schedules and information about participants.

We recommend that the words ‘‘by a person who ordinarily engages in the business of such reporting’’ be deleted from clause 11(1)(d)(v), because the exception should apply equally to a newly employed reporter with no previous reporting experience.

Powers of enforcement officers

We recommend inserting clause 65(1A) to limit the scope of the power provided in clause 65(1) for a person named in a search warrant to search a place, vehicle, or thing. Under this new clause, that power must not be exercised by an enforcement officer unless the enforcement officer is accompanied by a member of the police when exercising the power. We believe that clause 65(1) as drafted could give enforcement officers, who might be civilians, too much power.

Declaration of major event

Some submitters were concerned about the strict criteria for declaring an event to be a major event (clause 6). They argued that the bill should apply not only to internationally significant events, but also other important events that are unlikely to meet the criteria, such as the Big Day Out and the Bledisloe Cup.

As the protections provided for in this bill would restrict freedom of speech and business activity, we believe that the threshold for declaring an event to be a major event should be high. We do not recommend any change to the definition of major event.

After reading all of this, I'm still disappointed about the bill and disagree with the reasons why it was considered necessary.

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