Axed IRD ad campaign 'too risky'
Bill English MP
National Party Deputy Leader
27 August 2008
Axed IRD ad campaign ‘too risky’
Papers released to National under the Official Information Act reveal that Inland Revenue drastically scaled back a multi-million dollar pamphlet drop which risked running foul of the draconian Electoral Finance Act.
“IRD did not trust Labour not to attempt to rort the electoral system using advertising funded by Government Departments,” says National’s Deputy Leader Bill English.
The papers reveal that Inland Revenue drafted a letter to the Revenue Minister and the Finance Minister explaining why the Department wanted to cancel it. The original draft email to the Ministers said: ‘the main reason is that we are concerned that a leaflet arriving into every household in an election year is too risky. There is too much potential for people to say: look how the Government is spending your money to get around the Electoral Finance Act’.
Mr English says according to the papers IRD pulled that line from the email because the Department was worried about it going public through the Official Information Act.
“Previously released papers show that IRD even put in place a process to monitor large orders of the pamphlets by Labour MPs, and the papers today show why.”
Internal emails say ‘the potential for an opposition MP to wave this flier in the House saying look how the Government is spending your money to get around the Electoral Finance Act remains strong’.
“Labour’s claim that the advertising campaign was cancelled because of high KiwiSaver take up do not mesh with the internal email trail.”
On June 19, Mr English revealed communications staff discussed how they would explain the cancelled pamphlet publicly. http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=28111
“The official papers also reveal that pre-approval was given for the 1.4 million pamphlet run with the printers, but an unknown cancellation fee had to be paid.”
Mr English says the concerns about potential law breaches led to a advertising run of only 50,000 pamphlets.