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Kiwiblog’s Dunne deal – breaking the law or breaking the rules?

Written By: - Date published: 4:27 pm, October 2nd, 2013 - 21 comments
Categories: dpf, electoral commission, peter dunne, united future - Tags:

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.






21 comments on “Kiwiblog’s Dunne deal – breaking the law or breaking the rules?”

  1. karol 1

    Yep. Looks like desperation & very sloppy. Mark Textor must be on holiday.

  2. Rich 2

    Your tax dollars at work keeping Farrar’s blog going, as well.

  3. vto 3

    Peter Dunne and David Farrar would make a great couple, sort of like The Odd Couple.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      Do you know why one of the guys was called Felix Unger ?

      Thats because in the 1950s stage show where the Odd Couple debuted one scene required the letters F U. Which was as naughty as you could get back then.

      Ohh the audience laughed for a few minutes at the joke. !

  4. the pigman 4

    Now I’m wondering how much of UF’s parliamentary funds go towards the sterling promotional services provided by Messr. Pete George…

    • I need a right of reply here.

      I have never received parliamentary funds for anything.

      I have never received funds from any political organisation.

      I have never received financial assistance from UnitedFuture. To the contrary, party involvement has cost me, including all online costs, travel and accommodation.

      All of my political and online activities have been self funded apart from very modest membership fees and donations received in 2011 when I floated a new party proposal.

      My current election campaign in Dunedin (standing for mayor and for council) is totally self funded.

      Political activities cost me significant time and (my own) money. That is my choice. I owe no favours to anyone and am owned by no one.

      I don’t intend to return to commenting here for reasons already stated. If anyone responds to this statement with counter claims, insinuations or doubts they should be regarded as totally unfounded and mischievous.

      I presume speculation as per ‘the pigman’ would be frowned on here if it was directed at authors or commenters at The Standard.

      [lprent: Yes it would. But that is only for comments about authors and this site on this site. It is a specific policy to make this home site comfortable for our authors without the petty harassment by fools attacking us personally rather than the ideas in posts, or trying to tell us how we should run our site. Since we have no control over other sites (like your Standard obsessed whining), we don’t presume to tell other sites to do the same. Nor do we restrict comments about other sites and authors on this site outside of the legal restrictions. ]

  5. George D 5

    Well, it’s incumbent on someone to lay a complaint over this breach then, if it is as serious as alleged (it probably is, but let’s ask Graeme Edgeler just in case…)

  6. Disraeli Gladstone 6

    It’s not a breach of law. Well, it could be argued as breaching s 3 of the Electoral Act and it might be better to have put a statement there, but it’s very unlikely that it actually is a breach. Graeme Edgeler seems to agree.

    Hatchet job, really, Mike. Poor form. Once again, I implore the left to raise the current tone of the debate onto policy issues and not have an obsession on right-wing bloggers.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      So I don’t understand – in your first paragraph you say that it could be argued that there was a breach of electoral law…then you say that it’s an obsession with right wing bloggers?

      Then you say it’s a “hatchet job” despite Mike being pretty clear on his rationale, and you being completely unclear on yours.

      Please, don’t try and “raise the tone”, just make an effort at an actual argument the next time.

      • Disraeli Gladstone 6.1.1

        “but it’s very unlikely that it actually is a breach”.

        It’s right there in my post. I acknowledge that there’s a chance of it being a breach, because this is the law, there’s always room for legal interpretation. But I think the likelihood of this being a breach is very low and I don’t think we don’t need full blogposts on something that is at best a slim chance of legal creativity on an issue that is hardly of pressing importance.

        The ad was not about voting. It was about a single issue, seeking feedback on a certain policy. As Edgeler has said on Twitter, and he’s probably far more versed in electoral law than me, not all uses of party logos count as election ads and therefore the banner is fine. The post, while closer to the line, is still most likely to be fine because it is not about voting but about a specific policy and gaining feedback responses to it.

        In the end, Mike’s argument falls down because it’s not actually an “electoral advertisement” according to the proper definitions.

        I also called it a hatchet job due to the frankly ridiculous use of the word “plagiarised”, which makes it seem like Farrar has just copied the post without permission when in reality he has been paid as an advertisement to post it. Which is obviously not plagiarism.

        And now we’ve spent five minutes discussing something that isn’t worthy of discussion instead of something else like National’s complete disregard for the Commerce Commission over Chorus.


        • Pascal's bookie

          No one is forcing you to discuss things d, so if you choose to do so, then whinging about having ‘wasted your time’ is pretty pathetic.

          Secondly, the post is listed as being posted by DPF. The only indication that it isn’t written by dpf is in the tags. there is one tag for ‘paid advert’ and a couple of others.

          Itw ould be better for dpf to post ads with paid ad as the by-line, and not tag them at all.

          the plagiarism claim is at least as plausible as paintergate being ‘forgery’. He posted it under his name. #OMGScandal.

        • wtl

          Meh, complaining that a blog post is “hardly of pressing importance”? What next? Complaining that there are too many cat videos on the internet?

          Hint: If a blogpost isn’t worth discussing, the solution is simple – don’t discuss it.

          • Colonial Viper

            Complaining that there are too many cat videos on the internet?

            Well, now you mention it, the internet is a scary place as many are reminiscent of David Cunliffe…

    • Mike Smith 6.2

      Disraeli could you please cite the reference for Graeme Edgeler’s agreement that it is not a breach of Section 3? I don’t seem to be able to find it.

      • Disraeli Gladstone 6.2.1

        On his twitter. He tweeted about it a few hours ago when talking with Clint Smith about it.

        • Mike Smith

          Thank you for that Disraeli. The relevant passage in Graeme Edgeler’s twitter seems to be this:
          “it’s an ad encouraging feedback on a policy, while somewhat selling that policy, it’s not about voting.”

          The Electoral Commission guidelines http://www.elections.org.nz/guidance-mps-election-advertising-rules/definition-election-advertisement
          are clear that in the definition of an election advertisement in Section 3A the encouragement or persuasion to vote by reference to views held can be direct or indirect. It is an objective test which depends on context.

          Saying that Farrar’s post is “somewhat selling the policy” so closely identified with Peter Dunne and United Future (to the point of it being part of their confidence and supply agreement with National) but it is “not about voting” seems more subjective than objective to me.

  7. Sable 7

    So United F**KW*TS is trying to dig itself out of the ordure by trying to push a policy of yet more social inequality and injustice. If it wasn’t for the damage Dung is doing and stands to do it would be positively funny…

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