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Act lied and gets away with it

Written By: - Date published: 2:21 pm, November 30th, 2008 - 11 comments
Categories: act, Media, spin - Tags:

At the Media Law Journal, Wellington based media lawyer Steven Price has been looking at the recent decisions of the Advertising Standards Complaint Board (a self-regulatory body) related to the election. There are a series of them and the decisions are weird. More importantly they are ineffectual in the great tradition of industry self-regulatory bodies. This can be seen clearly in the third decision – where there was clear lie from Act, but which they get no penalties for.

Wrong – ASC Appeal Board upheld a complaint against Labour that a YouTube video saying the National was planning to cut KiwiSaver in half. Steven thought that decision was wrong, and so do I. Everything I’ve seen says that the contributions from government will be dropped by more than half, and employer contributions by a lot. But it appears that the ASCAB have a problem with numbers.

Wrong again! – The ASCB upheld a complaint against Act that their advertising “ACT was the only party opposed to the Emissions Trading Scheme” was incorrect. The Kiwi Party also opposed the ETS. In this case we’re talking about a party that had virtually no chance of getting into politics. In fact they got less votes than the Bill & Ben party. Again the ASCB seems to have a problem distinguishing the numbers and reality.

Right – Act said ‘Safe’ New Zealand is now almost three times more violent than the US.

Steven comments

As usual, the ASCB invited ACT to substantiate its claim. It seems from the decision that ACT, despite being given two opportunities, could not. The party merely talked generally about how it depends on how you compare statistics. It seems that ACT didn’t supply any actual source for its claim.

Pause here. How staggering that ACT was happy to garner votes with this claim, but not prepared to substantiate it  – even to a body whose self-regulatory nature ACT would presumably applaud.

Looking at how Act played with some incomparable statistics to get to this statement, it is completely unjustifiable, and in my opinion has to have been done deliberately. This is probably why they didn’t bother to mount a credible defense against the complaint. The question is what gets done about it?

Well nothing – the decision comes from a self-regulatory industry body with no teeth. From the ASCB judgment

In making its ruling the Complaints Board acknowledged that it had received advice from the Advertiser that the claim as it stood would not be used in any future advertising. This it said indicated the Advertiser’s commitment to the self-regulatory process.

Well of course not – the election is over. It doesn’t mean that they swear off using this type of dirty political tactic again, or that other parties will not follow the same path. After all there are no penalties. The lie has presumably helped Act get votes by screwing the political system. This is something that they rail against for everyone else – ask Winston. Act are hypocrites asking for penalties for others and avoiding it themselves.

Now what was Rodney put in charge of again? Something to do with government regulation that usually carries penalties. This from a party that wants to reduce government regulation and prefers self-regulation. So now we know the type of self-regulation that Act prefers – ineffectual.

11 comments on “Act lied and gets away with it ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    It was the ACT party smear campaign against Jim Sutton’s long overdue reforms of “Public Access to Public Land” in 2005 that fired me up and got me active blogging. The line they pushed back then was the “wander at will” scaremongering, implying that Sutton would have thousands of uncouth city folk raping and pillaging over our farmlands. Sutton’s reasoned and carefully researched proposals didn’t stand a chance and got buried for another generation. Bastards.

    Right from the beginning this miserable runt party has shown no compunction whatsoever to use smears, misrepresentations and outright lies to push it’s agendas.

    They represent everything I loath about NZ politics

  2. the sprout 2

    I can understand the ASA’s complicity against a proper understanding of Kiwisaver, what with the ASA being “Industry Self Regulated”, and therefore staffed by people from the very industries that would prefer to not have to contribute to Kiwisaver.

    But as for the Act ruling, it’s odd that companies aren’t allowed to lie but according to the ASA it’s ok for political parties. I would’ve thought they’d apply even higher standards to political parties?

    Forgeting for a moment that the past ‘controls’ on the finance institutions demonstrate how self regulation is a nonsense, with lies like Act’s the ASA also needs to be able to make judgements during elections in a much more timely manner, ie. a 48 hour turn-around – in order that such lies can be properly exposed before they influence popular understanding.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    The ASCB sounds like one of those institutions set up specifically to have no teeth so that when one of the persons who are supposed to be regulated by it fall foul of the rules that it’s supposed to be governed by all it has to do is say “Cheers, we’ll do something about that later” and then continue on as if nothing had happened.

  4. Julian Garrett 4

    Helen Clark lied and *didn’t* get away with it – paintergate.

    So fucking what… a politician lying… I think an article about a politician telling the truth would be a bit more newsworthy…

  5. lprent 5

    JG: I’d guess this is the standard tactic of diversion – avoid addressing the issue and blow crap instead. Characteristic of Act supporters as well I might add.

  6. Camryn 6

    A bit tough, Lynn. I think that examples of rabid supporter types (and actual politicians) who use that tactic can be found in all camps. It annoys the hell out of me too. For the record, I’m an ACT supporter but they’re clearly wrong here and there’s no apparent justification so I won’t be attempting to make one.

  7. lprent 7

    Cam: Yeah it is a gross generalization. But the tactic does annoy the hell out of me. It is the equivalent of going along to a Epsom election debate Where Act supporters yelling at other candidates apart from Wodney – another reprehensible tactic.

  8. Draco T Bastard

    I suspect ACT knew this already and hence why they continued to publicise a figure which I’m sure even they knew was dodgy.

  9. Tigger 9

    The ASA are very keen proponents of self-regulation and have even just published a glossy booklet about how great it is. And for the most part they do a pretty good job.

    Then they make decisions like these, decisions that cannot be appealed to a higher body (thus denying the complainants any form of redress or at least a review). These are clearly biased decisions. The decision on the Labour ad doesn’t even use the correct standard! And suddenly self-regulation looks like its full of holes.

  10. Graeme 10

    Tigger – complaints determined by the ASCB can be appealed, and they can be (and have been successfully) judicially reviewed.

  11. lprent 11

    Graeme: yes, the appeal board was used in one of the ones above. But
    the legal expenses start mounting up rapidly on the complainant for judicial review. That is an effective barrier to using that process.

    You notice that I was commenting on the quality of the decision making by the ASCB – frankly the first two should have been appealed in an ideal world (but I suspect neither will make it to a judiciary). I haven’t actually seem any political decisions by the ASCB being taken to a judicial review. It could have happened, but I suspect not, otherwise the decisions wouldn’t have been so suspect.

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