28 Feb 2017

Fears Planet Key ruling will herald dirty politics

10:31 am on 28 February 2017

Opposition parties fear attack advertisements will be a feature of this year's general election campaign.

A screenshot of Darren Watson's Planet Key video

A screenshot from Darren Watson's Planet Key video, which poked fun at then-Prime Minister John Key. Photo: DARREN WATSON

In October, the Court of Appeal ruled the Electoral Commission was wrong to have banned the satirical Planet Key song from being broadcast before the 2014 election.

The decision appears to have made it possible for private organisations and individuals to run election advertisements on radio and television.

Labour and the Greens say this development is unwelcome, and will lead to 'big money' influencing the outcome of the 2017 election.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw speaking after Budget 2016.

James Shaw doesn't want a repeat of the last election which was dominated by dirty politics allegations. Photo: RNZ/Elliott Childs

Green Party co-leader James Shaw believes his party could be the subject of attacks.

"I think that's certainly possible - and of course the Electoral Finance Act was originally brought into play because we were the subject of attacks, in the form of leaflet attacks by the Exclusive Brethren.

"I guess the most concerning part of it is that money can have a very big role to play in the election."

Mr Shaw doesn't want a repeat of the last "pretty ghastly" election which was dominated by dirty politics allegations, much of it surrounding John Key and his staff.

Labour's campaign manager Andrew Kirton is also worried about the possible outcomes.

"It's great that satire and freedom of expression are protected, but we don't really want to see a return to the style of politics that we see overseas, where big money and a small number of individuals can influence the result.

However Associate Justice Minister Mark Mitchell said voters were smart and would not be unduly influenced by attack ads run by private interest groups.

He said there were strict rules that meant anyone spending more than $12,000 on election adverts had to register with the Electoral Commission.

National was looking into the ruling, campaign manager Steven Joyce said, but he was not particularly worried about the implications.

"We're used to dealing with full page ads from [the New Zealand Educational institute]or [the Post Primary Teachers' Association] or whatever.

"There's always new things in every campaign, but we've been used to attacks for a significant period of time. They normally appear on billboards or on print or online.

"If this is true this will mean broadcast media will be able to broadcast them as well."

But John Ansell, who created National's controversial Iwi Kiwi election billboards in 2005, said it was about time political parties lost the monopoly on broadcast advertising.

Everyone should be able to take the mickey out of parties, he said. "The more the merrier. Why not? it's freedom of speech."

Under existing law political parties will not be able to take out ads to counter any private attacks.

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