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Election Advertising and the Electoral Act 1993

7 September 2005

Chief Electoral Office Ministry of Justice

Election Advertising and the Electoral Act 1993

The Chief Electoral Officer has received a number of complaints about advertising by political parties, candidates and others (third parties). This statement is a general summary of the law. Specific cases need to be examined in relation to the detailed legislation set out in the Electoral Act.

Most election advertising can be conveniently grouped into 3 categories.

Category A- advertising by political parties, candidates or third parties encouraging support for those political parties or candidates; Category B - advertising by third parties relating to the election but not encouraging support for a political party or candidate; Category C - negative advertising (ie discouraging support for a political party or candidate).

Requirements

Category A - This requires: (i) authorisation in writing by the political party or candidate (ii) a statement on the advertisement setting out the true name and address ( business or residential) of the person who has directed it to be published.

The costs are election expenses and are returned by the candidate or political party, as the case may be, regardless of who pays the expenses.

Category B - This requires a statement on the advertisement setting out the true name and address (business or residential) of the person who has directed it to be published

The costs are not election expenses of any candidate or political party.

Category C - This requires a statement on the advertising setting out the true name and address (business or residential) of the person who has directed it be published.

If the negative advertising is published by, or on behalf of, a candidate or political party the costs are election expenses of that candidate or political party. If the negative advertising is by a third party and has not been authorised by a political party or candidate the costs are not election expenses.

Breaches of the advertising requirements

A breach of the advertising requirements, for example, advertising without the required statement or use of a false name or address in the statement, is an illegal practice carrying a maximum fine on conviction of $3,000.

Content of advertising

The Electoral Act is generally not concerned with the accuracy of content in advertising. Section 199A does however provide criminal sanctions if a person publishes a statement of fact which the person knows to be false. However this provision is limited to publications of fact on polling day or the two days preceding it.

Complaints about the content of election advertising

Complaints about election advertising on television or radio should be made to the broadcaster in the first instance and then, if necessary, to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Complaints about election advertising in media other than television or radio should be made to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.

Inquiries by the Chief Electoral Officer

The Chief Electoral Officer carries out a preliminary inquiry into complaints made to him and if he believes an offence has been committed and it is appropriate to carry out a full investigation he refers the matter to the Police for investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution. Action taken is of course a matter for the Police.

In regard to individual complaints about specific advertising, the Chief Electoral Officer does not issue progress reports on his preliminary inquiries but will respond to the complainants when he has completed his inquiries.

ENDS

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