An advertisement attacking Winston Peters, paid for by Act, is proof David Seymour’s party is worried about New Zealand First returning to Parliament, Peters claims.
Seymour, who doesn’t think NZ First will reach the 5 per cent threshold needed to make that return, says he is worried at the prospect of Peters and his party back in Parliament and claims the ad is a “public service announcement” to remind people why they too should be worried.
The ad has also caused a headache for the Electoral Commission after it emerged Act’s ad had appeared next to one of the Commission’s ads, which goes against its instructions that they are not placed near or next to political advertising.
It comes as the latest Taxpayers’ Union - Curia poll, released today, showed NZ First was on 5.8 per cent, up 2.5 percentage points.
It was more good news for the party that was jettisoned from Parliament in 2020 - last week’s Newshub Reid Research had NZ First at 4.1 per cent, up 1.1 points.
Act’s ad, seen in Wellington on Tuesday, showed an image of Peters behind the statement, “DON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN”, a reference to Peters’ decision to form a government with Jacinda Ardern and Labour in 2017 over Bill English and National.
Peters had already been made aware of the ad when he was contacted by the Herald today.
“This country is in a real mess and there are so many things that need serious attention and I don’t think unnecessary, childish behaviour and gutter politics is what New Zealanders want to see from us,” he said.
“When you haven’t got any leadership, when you haven’t got purpose or commitment and policies, you might resort to that sort of behaviour.”
In recent weeks, Seymour has argued there was little point discussing NZ First’s return to Parliament given the party hadn’t regularly polled over the 5 per cent threshold.
Peters, currently in the South Island holding public meetings, believed Act’s decision to spend money on the attack ad “somewhat suggests that they’re worried”.
Peters ruled out publishing any attack ads against any other party in this election campaign.
”We’re running on the issues.”
Peters last year ruled out ever working with Labour again, citing his opposition to Labour’s support of co-governance among other things.
Last week, Seymour was reported to have ruled out working with NZ First. He later clarified to the Herald that he would not work with Peters at the Cabinet table but wouldn’t discuss any other potential arrangements until NZ First polled above 5 per cent multiple times.
Seymour, also on the road ahead of public meetings in Hawke’s Bay, described the ad as “entirely patriotic”.
“Anybody who thinks that maybe it’s a helpful thing to try and solve the problems caused by the Labour Government by voting for the person who gave us the Labour Government, they need to realise that that’s not going to work.”
Asked why his party was spending money attacking a man he didn’t believe would return to Parliament, Seymour said: “The stakes are high, you want to make sure you’ve got some insurance.
“I think the whole country should be worried about NZ First being anywhere near Parliament.
“I don’t think he will but we’re not taking any chances considering how much damage he’s done to New Zealand in the past.”
Seymour believed it was the first attack ad against Peters published by Act and did not rule out making more.
“Well, you never know, if we can get generous reporting of this one billboard in the Herald, we might not need to.”
He said he was “keeping a wide range of options” when asked whether Act would publish ads attacking other parties.
Seymour believed New Zealanders were accepting of attack ads as long as they were based on truth.
A photo sent to the Herald showed Act’s ad on one of a pair of LUMO billboards with the other displaying an Electoral Commission ad that reminded people to enrol for the upcoming election.
A Commission spokesperson said instructions were given whenever it placed ads to ensure they didn’t appear near or next to political advertising.
“All our advertising is placed through an agency and we’ve asked them to look into what happened here. Our agency provides instructions for the placement of advertising to avoid situations like this.”
The spokesperson could not explain why those instructions weren’t followed in this instance.
Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.