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EFA to close Hollow Men (and all political theatre)?

  • April 17th, 2008

The law has probably prohibited political theatre during election year, but I’m sure the Electoral Commission will do its best to avoid telling the Police to close a theatre. It would too convincingly highlight the idiocy of the law.

For the sake of free speech I hope they’ll find some way to rationalise that the law does not mean what it says.

My letter I wrote to the Electoral Commission last week is set out below.  

Unintended theatre bans are the kinds of train smashes that happen when you’re stupid, ruthlessly indifferent to your opponents’ rights, and you want it to be illegal for ordinary citizens to take part in electoral debate (persuading their fellow citizens how they should vote), so you restrict  participation to:

a) sitting politicians, or

b) people with licences from a sitting politician; or

c) people with the resources to hire accountants, who register with the Commission and promise only to attack, not support another party.

If Labour and the Greens had not debauched the language of human rights, the Commission could have replied instantly to my letter with an official – “don’t be stupid”.

I hate to see theatre threatened, but Labour can remove the threat immediately, perhaps while the courts are asked how to interpret the section, by consenting under s.65.

The honourable thing for them would be to consent in the meantime if there is even minor risk to the innocent producers and players. Any consequent erosion of Labour’s election headroom by the amount of production costs would be a fair punishment for not exempting theatre in the first place.

Alternatively the producers could register as a third party.

“Dear Dr Catt

In budgeting for my campaign I have wondered how to treat expenses associated with public addresses. They can include loudspeaker hire, hall hire, security, compulsory use of venue ushers and other staff, equipment to serve the traditional cup of tea and biscuit, advertising the event etc.

 I am trying to decide whether public addresses and performance are caught at all. Speeches clearly involve “words or graphics” for the purposes of the offending “advertisement” definitions. Only mime would exclude speeches, drama or street theatre from the advertisement definition if it had the effect of persuading or encouraging people to vote, or not to vote in particular directions.

But there is a second question – whether direct presentation or performing to the public is “publishing” for the purposes of the Act? I fear that it might be caught by “publish” in the following paragraphs of the definition:

(b) “display to the public” 

(d) “delivering to the public by any means”;

(e) “broadcast” when amplifying equipment is used; or

(f) if clips go on You Tube (which may happen without the approval of the presenter or performer “include in a film or video displayed to the public”. As you know, the exemptions in section 5(2) benefit stuff editorially selected by written news media, radio, television and non-commercial blog sites.But there is no exemption for theatre or any other live presentations (or for film distributed of them other than thru the exempted main stream media).I can not imagine the Labour Party meant to end the long and noble tradition of street theatre (Red Mole?).

I’d be willing to take a risk on continuing the long custom of arranging public meetings for voters, except that the consequences of being wrong are so draconian.

Has the Commission considered this matter? Can I take any guidance from the current playing of the Hollow Men in Auckland. It would be appalling for that to be banned, whether it is a true or false view of history, but if any kind of performance is caught it must be a play like that. It is polemical in nature, in intent and in effect according to those who did not (like me) miss out during its season here.”


  • Graeme
  • April 17th, 2008
  • 12:11 pm

Ahhh … candidate questions are the preserve of the Chief Electoral Officer, not the Electoral Commission…


time is speeding up my friend,
the author of the past will go away soon, forgotten and meaningless in his own little hollow,
there is a call now to the common good,
New Zealand needs a coalition,and now,

  • Chuck Bird
  • April 18th, 2008
  • 11:24 am

Stephen, if the Hollow Men is considered to be in breach of the EFA I would think that Big Gay Out 2008 would be.

The important part is at the end of the video where Chris Carter asks his mates to vote Labour.

The Big Gay Out 2008 would cost a lot of money. Part of the function is funded by the NZ AIDS Foundation which is in turn funded by the taxpayer.

Like any political meeting there would be considerable cost involved.

I have not see the Hollow Men but I would be surprised if the play actually blatantly asked the audience to vote Labour like Chris Carter did at the Big Gay Out.

What really annoys me is that Labour does not just try to avoid spending limits but actually get the taxpayer to fund their advertising.

I would appreciate your opinion as to whether you believe that Big Gay Out 2008 breaches the EFA.


From a quick squiz I think there is no doubt at all about the effect of that clip.

I will not lodge a complaint on that or the Hollow Men, and I suspect that neither the Electoral Commission nor the Chief Electoral Officer will act without one. I will not seek to have them silenced because I believe in free speech, even for the enemies of free speech.

I am happy to expose the left’s hypocrisy and Annette King’s unsuitability to hold any legislative office, let alone Minister of Justice (applying the “law of common sense”). I hope Labour are forced to accept the costs of the adverts for them, but someone else will have to do any complaining when public officers are not taking the initiative to enforce the law.

The left would lie about the purpose of any complaint. Note that their blogs are already accusing Farrar and I of trying to shut their propaganda down, but carefully avoid linking to what we’ve actually said, because that would show them to be lying.

  • Anonymous
  • April 18th, 2008
  • 3:21 pm

Stephen – please don’t disappoint us by sounding plain daft without having seen the play. Like all good political theatre, its target is broader than a single political party. It merely feeds from, and into, the growing realisation on the part of the electorate that the political process in general is devious, lacking transparency, and vigorously self-serving. But I’m sure you know that already.


I tried to see it but the Wellington season closed booked out.
In questioning its status I was relying on what Nicky Hager was reported to have said about its effect, and his comments that deliberately linked it to current National Party people,not just the protagonists of the last election.

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