National leader Simon Bridges says the Ministry of Transport blocked at least 1000 objections to the so-called car tax-rebate scheme encouraging the purchase of low-emissions vehicles because they were submitted through a website set up by National.
The Ministry of Transport dubbed the objections as "spam" after receiving 500 and blocked any further ones from the same address, according to documents obtained by National under the Official Information Act.
Bridges said it was an "affront to democracy" and called on Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter to reopen the public consultation.
"It is utterly unacceptable for a minister to ignore submissions from people who don't agree with her and to even go as far as blocking opposing views," Bridges said.
He said it was hypocritical of the Government to block submissions on forms supplied by National when it had no problem accepting 4190 form submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill from the likes of Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and Generation Zero – although the acceptance of those was a matter for the environment select committee, not the Government.
Genter says she will get greater clarification on Monday but has been advised that the message was the same and that they were counted as one submission.
The consultation was over a proposal launched by Genter on July 9 to apply charges or subsidies for new and used car imports, depending on their emissions profile, at their first point of sale.
For new vehicles, it includes a levy of up to $3000 for heavy-emission vehicles and a subsidy of up to $8000 for low-emission vehicles.
For used cars, there would be a fee of up to $1500 and a subsidy up to $2600.
The Ministry of Transport set up a public consultation which closed on August 20.
National set up a website opposing the plan and 1594 people made submissions through it, while 14,060 signed a petition to stop what National calls a planned "car tax".
Bridges said National did not bend anyone's arm to speak up.
"These people did so out of genuine concern about being stung up to $3000 for not buying a low-emission vehicle.
"We know Julie Anne Genter was being liberal with the truth when she said in August that about 80 per cent of online responses support the car tax."
Bridges said Genter should reopen public submissions "as well as explain to New Zealanders why she will only entertain people who share her way of looking at things".
National obtained a briefing document from the Ministry of Transport to Genter on August 15 updating her on submissions. And while it does not specify the name of the blocked website, it says: "We have received over 500 spam emails from the same address opposing the Clean Car Discount. We have blocked any further emails from this address."
National assumes its website is the one mentioned and submissions through it were rejected because in the MoT advice to Genter, it summarised the results as being from 467 responses to an online survey and it had overwhelming support: 78 per cent thought the clean car discount was appropriate.
The Herald has seen the digital submission form and while it is clearly set up by National, with messaging by National above the submission details, the form has fields for the individual submitter's name and email address - and according to National, the body of the form message could be changed by individual submitters.
Each submission was sent from the email address of the campaign, firstname.lastname@example.org
Genter responded today saying: "The Ministry of Transport advised that during consultation they received over 500 emails from a single digital signature.
"I am told the Ministry classified these emails as spam as they contained the same message and were received consecutively over a very short period of time.
"Ministry officials then made the decision to consider the emails as one individual submission.
"I have asked officials to clarify on Monday whether the emails in question came from the National Party and whether they resemble an online form submission.
"I note that National Party's petition on the Clean Car Discount included claims about the policy which the Advertising Standards Authority has since rule to be misleading and likely to deceive and confuse."