Court rules ad breach

By Imran Ali

3 comments
The High Court rules in Northland MP Winston Peters' favour.
The High Court rules in Northland MP Winston Peters' favour.

The High Court has ruled in Northland MP Winston Peters' favour that two election advertisements, including a video recorded in Mandarin before the last general election that alleged he spoke ill of Chinese people, breached the Electoral Act.

An application by Mr Peters for a judicial review of the Electoral Commission's ruling on both advertisements by the Act Party and Conservative Party was this week granted by the court. A video was recorded in Mandarin for Act deputy leader Kenneth Wang which commented on a speech Mr Peters gave about the opening of a brothel in Auckland by the Chow brothers.

The commentary in the video was to the effect the New Zealand First leader was "anti-Chinese" and believed Chinese people had turned Auckland "evil" and into "the Capital of Sin". The video was available on Youtube from September 7, 2014 and also on the Act Party website from September 8 and remained on them until September 18 and 19 respectively.

The second advertisement was a pamphlet for the Conservative Party which compared its policies with those of New Zealand First.

That advertisement was on the party's website from September 14 and through to September 18 and 19. The general election was held on September 20, 2014. Under the Electoral Act, any form of campaign advertisements in a public place is banned on polling day or the two preceding days.

Mr Peters complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about the pamphlet was upheld and it ruled the document contained a substantive error.

That error related to a statement that the Conservative Party would implement the five key recommendations of the Law Commission's report on alcohol reform and the corresponding statement that Mr Peters would not implement them. The authority said there were only four parts to the report.

Mr Peters also complained about both advertisements to the Electoral Commission, arguing they breached the Electoral Act and requested the commission to refer the matter to police. The commission ruled no breaches occurred and that its response was not reviewable.

Mr Peters then made an application in the High Court and sought an order to quash the commission's decision. In its decision, Justice Jillian Mallon rejected the commission's argument that it was doubtful a political party's website or Youtube could be considered a "public place".

"The internet is a place open to the public and used by the public. It is often free of charge although a fee is payable for access to some sites," the judge ruled.

- Northern Advocate

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