Peters wins tightening up of campaign laws
By Richard Harman (author)
Winston Peters has won a claim against the Electoral Commission over anti-NZ First advertising from the last election.
And in the process he has persuaded the High Court to tighten up the limitations on advertising in the lead up to an election.
Mr Peters complained about two advertisements – one from ACT which was a video recorded in Mandarin for Kenneth Wang, the Deputy Leader of the Party.
It commented on a speech which Mr Peters had made about the opening of a brothel in Auckland owned by the Chow brothers.
The commentary in the video was to the effect that Mr Peters was “anti-Chinese” and believed that Chinese people had turned Auckland “evil” and into “the Capital of Sin”.
The second was about a Conservative Party pamphlet which Mr Peters claimed wrongly reported his attitude on alcohol reform.
The New Zealand First Leader’s complaint was that both ads breached a section of the Electoral Act which prohibits anybody publishing “a statement of fact that he or she knows is false, with the intention of influencing the vote of any elector” at any time on polling day or the two days immediately preceding polling day.
Mr Peters complained to the Commission who rejected his compliant arguing that “publish” meant that the first publication had to take place within two days of polling day and both the ads he complained about had been available for some days before.
But Judge Jillian Mallon disagreed.
She said the Commission’s interpretation of the law was wrong because the section in the Act applied to statements on the internet on polling day or on the two days preceding polling day, whether they were first placed on the internet at that time or were first placed on the internet at an earlier time.
Had the Commission taken this view when Mr Peters initially complained last year the Police may have become involved and charged both ACT and the Conservative Party but Mr Peters told the Court he would not refer the ads to the police.
Nevertheless he was last night trumpeting his victory.
He said The High Court ruling today sent a powerful message to the Electoral Commission – “do your job, that’s what you are there for.”
“The commission failed to uphold the law in the last General Election, which is exactly why we sought a judicial review, which the court has granted.
“We were forced to fight a General Election with false information being put out because the commission was abysmally silent when two political players broke the law.
“The court has ruled in our favour saying the commission misinterpreted the law.
“The Electoral Commission is there to do a job. That job is to prosecute when there is wrongdoing. They failed to do so.
“This is a wake-up call for the commission, and to political parties, and will hopefully lead to better practice in the next general election.”
THE FULL JUDGEMENT IS HERE