Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Mock election advert draws fire

Matthew Ridge says the billboard is tongue-in-cheek but he wouldn't vote for Labour anyway. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Matthew Ridge says the billboard is tongue-in-cheek but he wouldn't vote for Labour anyway. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Former rugby and rugby league star Matthew Ridge could face prosecution and a fine of up to $10,000 for advertising his Greenlane car wash company with a mock election advertisement.

The billboard features a picture of Ridge, an All Black who later captained the Kiwis, and uses a play on words to promote the hand-washing car service: "Say no to Labour - We'll hand wash your car for $15".

Ridge says it's just a play on words and he isn't standing for Parliament.

But Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden says it meets the definition of an election advertisement under the Electoral Act and must have a promoter statement. The Electoral Commission also wants to know whether the advertising campaign will run to more than $12,000 because if it does, the promoter of the ad would have to register as a third party.

"The billboards are, in the Electoral Commission's view, election advertisements as defined in the act because of the words 'Say no to Labour', and the reference to voting and tick in a box on a blue background which may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters not to vote for the Labour Party as a political party," Mr Peden said in a letter to Car-fe company directors Robert and Siobhan Bonnici, who run the Takapuna franchise of the business.

Ridge said yesterday the ad was just a parody. "It's just a bit of fun. I think anybody that's got half a brain will see that 'hey look, it's tongue-in-cheek'."

He said it wasn't meant to be "Don't vote for Labour" though he added that if it doubled as that he would be quite happy "because I wouldn't vote for Labour anyway".

The campaign was devised by Rascals advertising.

There were two billboards up so far with another four planned for next month that would be more political parody. Ridge was sure they would come in under $12,000 but he said he would consult a lawyer about whether he should put a promoter statement on the ads.

ELECTORAL ACT

Election adverts are defined as those that may encourage or persuade voters to:
* Vote or not vote for a constituency candidate
* Vote or not vote for a party
... whether the party or the candidate is or is not named.

- NZ Herald

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