Banner ads for UnitedFuture’s signature policy on flexible superannuation have been appearing on Kiwiblog for the last week or so. They’ve carried the Parliamentary logo, but have had no promoter statement. You could click through to a United Future Party page on the policy which did have an authorisation and also an invitation to join the party.
Yesterday a post promoting the policy appeared on Kiwiblog under David Farrar’s byline. It included a photo of Peter Dunne with his phone number and the parliamentary crest. Several commenters queried whether it was indeed written by Farrar. After one linked to exactly the same wording on another website also with the banner ad, DPF responded (in person this time):
[DPF: It's not a press release. It's a paid advertisement as indicated by the tag, and also the use of the parliamentary crest which is required for advertisements by MPs]
So by his own admission Farrar’s plagiarised post is in fact an advertisement by Peter Dunne MP, paid from parliamentary funds provided by the taxpayer. It doesn’t ask explicitly for a vote, which means that it is eligible for parliamentary funding. However it does meet the Electoral Act definition of an electoral advertisement in that it may reasonably be regarded as encouraging voters to to vote for a candidate by reference to views that candidate holds, namely the aforesaid signature policy as the United Future website makes clear. As it is recycled, it does not appear to be the individual views of Farrar the blogger which would make ti exempt.
That means it is required to carry an promoter statement, as the Speaker’s office clearly reminds MPs:
The rules relating to parliamentary publicity are separate from the rules relating to election advertising that are specified in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. The two sets of rules operate independently and both must be complied with. This means that a piece of publicity funded from Vote: Parliamentary Service could have a parliamentary purpose and, without being explicit electioneering, also be an election advertisement.
The banner ads are also presumably eligible for parliamentary funding, but also do not have a promoter statement. The click-through page does have such a statement, but it also has an explicit invitation to join the party. That page is not therefore eligible for parliamentary funding. So there is a question as to whether the banner ads are to be read on their own or together with the click-through. If the former, they do not meet the Electoral Act requirements. If the latter they do not meet the parliamentary requirement for the use of taxpayer funding.
The Electoral Commission’s directions to MPs are pretty clear:
An election advertisement, irrespective of when it is published, must contain a promoter statement.The promoter statement must be clearly displayed in the advertisement if published in a visual form and no less audible than the other content of the advertisement if published in an audible form.A person who wilfully publishes, or causes or permits to be published, an election advertisement in contravention of these requirements commits an offence.
Dunne must be getting desperate – he’s blogging to John Key for help.
Failure by National to nurture its government partners now – and not the Labour leadership change – could yet prove to be turning point in determining the shape of the next New Zealand government. And that is something for John Key to ponder on his flight home after his current overseas trip.
Pretty sloppy work from publisher Farrar as well.