- Date published:
8:03 am, October 21st, 2016 - 140 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, brand key, election 2014, john key, Media, national, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: darren watson
I wrote this just over a year ago:
Also last year the Government chose to through proxies attack Darren Watson for his Planet Key song which was as pure an example of gentle yet biting political commentary as you could imagine. Key described the song as an example of dirty politics. Surely he was joking. The Electoral Commission’s continued harassment of Darren needs to be investigated. It appears National’s indifference to the intellectual property of musicians is comparable to its indifference to their right to freedom of expression.
The High Court ruled that the Electoral Commission was wrong. The Electoral Commission then decided to appeal. From the Herald:
The Electoral Commission has lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal over the High Court’s recent ruling that the satirical Planet Key song and video during last year’s election had not breached electoral laws.
In a statement, the Electoral Commission said it had filed papers with the Court of Appeal because it wanted clarification on the meaning of ‘election advertisement’ and ‘election programme’ after two apparently inconsistent rulings by the High Court.
Chief Electoral Officer Rob Peden said it was not challenging the findings of the court on Watson’s song as they applied to the facts in that case. Its appeal was to clarify the approach the Commission should be taking when it was weighing up whether something was an ‘election advertisement’ or ‘election programme.’
He said the the High Court in two decisions it made relating to the 2014 campaign had appeared to take different approaches to the legal interpretation of election advertisement.
“Clarification is needed to ensure the Commission is able to provide advice and guidance to parties, candidates and third parties on their obligations in respect of electoral matters.”
It is all very well to seek clarification but the effect was to cause Watson to have to go to the trouble of going to the Court of Appeal to defend our freedom of speech. But the trip was worth while. Because the Court of Appeal has confirmed the Electoral Commission was wrong and Darren Watson’s song should not have been banned during the election campaign.
The decision is a carefully worded pleasant reading slam dunk for Darren.
It describes the background in these terms:
 Planet Key was a satirical song and video that but for the intervention of the Electoral Commission would have been broadcast in the lead up to the 2014 general election. The Commission is said to have overreached by interfering in the expression of personal political views. Planet Key itself is now of historical interest, but the legal controversy that it engendered is not; the controversy concerns the meaning of the legislation that the Commission administers and it has significant implications for future elections.
The video was motivated by this John Key comment in Parliament:
I do not know so much about “Planet Key”, but my expectations are it would be a lovely place to live, it would be beautifully governed, golf courses would be plentiful, people would have plenty of holidays to enjoy their time, and what a wonderful place it would be.
Darren Watson’s motivation was succinctly explained in this passage from the judgment:
The first respondent, Darren Watson, is a professional songwriter and musician with a bleak view of New Zealand politics, which he thinks tainted by greed, obfuscation and wilful dishonesty. The Prime Minister’s answer inspired him to write the song Planet Key to express those views in the lead up to the 2014 general election.
And the song and video were described in these terms:
 The song and video were artistic and satirical, but they also conveyed political messages sharply hostile to the National Party and several of its senior Ministers, particularly the Prime Minister. Notably, the song advised the audience not to vote for Mr Key if they wanted compassion and the video portrayed negative views of Mr Key and several Ministers on contentious issues of the day. The respondents conceded before us, as in the High Court,5 that the song and video were likely to encourage voters not to vote for the National Party or for Mr Key.
 Messrs Watson and Jones acted alone, not for any political party or interest group. Mr Watson paid the production expenses — some $721.63 — himself. He intended to publish the song on iTunes for paid download, with royalties to be shared with Mr Jones.
The Court recognised the intent behind the legislation. It is funny that the low cost effort of a left wing musician was caught.
Parliament intended to limit the influence of money on the electoral process, so preserving equality of voice among participants, and to promote transparency by requiring that parties, candidates and promoters be identified with their election advertisements.
The Court ruled that neither the song or the video are electoral advertisements for the purposes of the Electoral Act or electoral programmes for the purposes of the Broadcasting Act.
John Key is supposedly relaxed about the ruling. From Radio New Zealand:
Mr Key said he didn’t lose any sleep over the parody song.
He said he was not bothered by the findings as he always knew the song was a parody.
“Election campaigns always bring up these kinds of things. It’s good to have the Court of Appeal ruling, because at least that way people understand what the rules are, but I didn’t lose any sleep over the fact that somebody wrote a song about me that was slightly less than complimentary.”
Its funny really. Because two years ago Key cited the song as an example of dirty politics. Is he relaxed about dirty politics?
The problem is that there are too many of these victories two or three years down the line. Whether it is the refusal to release information that should have been released or the stopping of free speech during an election campaign, winning the battle two years later means that there is a political advantage to the other side.
Anyway the last word belongs to Darren …