COMMENT



The saga of Mayor Hubbard's complaint about the dastardly leafleting activities of his defeated rival's campaign boss risks entering the realms of high farce.



Three weeks ago, an angry Dick Hubbard declared that John Banks' disgraced campaign manager, Brian Nicolle, should not escape the scrutiny of the law, and directed his lawyers to refer the matter to the police.



That followed Mr Nicolle's confession that he was the one behind the mass distribution of an anti-Hubbard leaflet.

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But now the police say Mr Hubbard's lawyers have not given them enough information to start an investigation.



You do have to wonder how much food you have to leave out before Her Majesty's bloodhounds will leap into action.



The evidence presented over several days in the pages of this newspaper was surely good enough to have set noses twitching without prodding from the legal fraternity.



In the police's defence, a letter from Chamberlains, Mr Hubbard's solicitors, on October 12 might have thrown them off the scent. In response to a police request for more information to back up the Mayor's complaint, Chamberlains replied, with more legalese than common sense, that "we did not allege that an offence had been committed".



It seems they were complaining, but not alleging - a legal nicety rather lost on the rest of us, police included.



You'll recall how late last month, during the Auckland mayoral campaign, the National Business Review featured a "hatchet job" on Dick Hubbard, which is now the subject of defamation proceedings.



Within days, a four-page reprint was being distributed to suburban homes.



After continuing revelations in the Herald, Mr Nicolle reversed his earlier denials and resigned, admitting he had "facilitated the distribution" of the leaflet.

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Mr Banks said he knew nothing.



On September 28, Mr Hubbard complained through electoral officer Dale Ofsoske to the police that Mr Nicolle had circulated unauthorised campaign material designed to denigrate him and increase Mr Banks' chances.



The Local Electoral Act requires all election advertising to include the name of the candidate, the candidate's agent or the organisation publishing it.



The letter also raised the question of whether the cost of printing and distributing the 30,000 copies would push the campaign budget over the permitted $70,000 limit.



Three weeks on, no investigating has begun.



The September 28 complaint to the police directed them to Section 113 of the act dealing with election advertising and said the NBR-based leaflet lacked any acknowledgement of its source.

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The letter also repeated a Herald report of that day saying $10,000 had changed hands to pay printing costs, and asked Mr Ofsoske to make sure this amount was included in final campaign costs declarations.



The police wrote back to Mr Ofsoske saying they needed further information, such as a copy of the offending pamphlet.



The police also asked whether Mr Hubbard was alleging that an offence had occurred.



Chamberlains replied with a copy of the pamphlet and the answer no, they were not making any such allegation.



And that's where it all lies. Until someone goes to the police and utters the magic words "I accuse", nothing, it seems, will happen.



The Hubbard camp says that until the 55-day deadline for presenting expense returns is up, no one knows how the cost of the pamphlets will fit into the campaign budget - if at all.

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But the failure to print the name of the person authorising the advertisement seems to be a matter that could be followed up without delay. Why don't the police do some detective work?



As for Mr Ofsoske, he says it's not his role to be the sleuth. His job, he says, is to be the collector of expense returns, not to monitor or police them for possible breaches.



It's up to members of the public to spot something fishy. Once they have, he's happy to refer their suspicions to the police.



Or if people prefer, they can complain directly.



Which takes us back to the bloodhounds. The Herald gave them a bowl full of tempting morsels more than three weeks ago. How loud do we have to shout "Eat?"