Auditor General Investigation
02 September 2020
by Chris Leitch, Leader
Social Credit has asked the auditor general to investigate the possible misuse
of taxpayer-funded Parliamentary Services money for election campaigning
by National's Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti.
The request for the investigation cites a series of newspaper adverts in the
Northern Advocate and Whangarei Leader newspapers, many of which are
full page size.
The advertisements, which have run for over 12 months could amount to
thousands of dollars of spending.
Rules for the use of Parliamentary Services funding for advertising purposes
clearly state that MPs are not allowed to use funding entitlements for any
communication that explicitly seeks support for the election of a particular
person or political party.
The adverts however include headlines such as "Roads not Sticks", & "National
Commits to 4 Lanes", & "I Will Fight in Our Corner", &"Working Hard For You",
and &"Your Strong Local Voice in Wellington", which would appear to be
designed to elicit support for Dr Reti and National.
These are not simply advertisements advising the public on how to contact
the MP, but are effectively campaign advertisements.
In our view, if an opinion on them was requested from the Electoral
Commission their response would likely be as follows: -
"Considering the overall effect of the newspaper advertisements, the Electoral
Commission’s view is that they may reasonably be regarded as encouraging
or persuading voters to vote for Dr Reti. This is because of the combined
effect of statements such as “National Commits To 4 Lanes”, “I will fight in our
corner” and "Roads not Sticks".
"Where advertising encourages the reader to visit a website the content of the
website also needs to be considered to determine whether an advertisement
is an election advertisement. Having looked at the content of the National
Party website the Electoral Commission’s view is that they are an election
advertisement with content that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging
or persuading voters to vote for National and Dr Reti"
Parties and MPs in parliament are funded by the taxpayer to the tune of
hundreds of thousand of dollars every year. That money is supposed to be
used for their job representing constituents, not promoting their party policies
in the run up to an election.
In reality a good proportion of it is used to promote themselves and their
That includes free travel around the country which they often use for speaking
tours promoting their party and making contact with business and community
groups to build up support for their local MP colleagues.
Parties outside parliament are denied any of those opportunities.
Additionally they get the bulk of the $4.1 million taxpayer funded allocation for
broadcasting in the last four weeks of the election campaign.
Parliamentary Services funding should be restricted to supporting MPs in their
job of servicing their constituents, not used for thinly disguised campaign
advertising and party promotion.