NZ First's Ads Attacked   29 Jun 2004

By Rachel Walsh

Winston Peters’ New Zealand First party has resorted to advertising in newspapers to drum up support – and taxpayers are footing the bill.

The party has spent tens of thousands of dollars on full-page advertisements in daily and Sunday newspapers, which have been paid from New Zealand First’s parliamentary Leader’s Budget.

The decision was made to take the advertisements out after Peters expressed his frustration over the lack of mainstream media coverage his speeches were receiving. Senior New Zealand First press officer Frank Perry said the media was ignoring all speeches by smaller parties and concentrating on Labour and National. "So he’s [Peters] got to go past the media and communicate directly with the public.’’

This week’s advertisements held Labour responsible for same-sex relationships, legalised prostitution, third world disease, and gang crime.

National stood for the war in Iraq, ending New Zealand’s nuclear-free status, privatised health and education, and "selling out to Uncle Sam,’’ New Zealand First’s advertisement said. It cost $7375.20 plus GST.

Perry said a party with 13 MPs expected more news coverage. "He makes a lot of speeches and they’re basically ignored but when [National leader Don] Brash makes the same speech it’s seen as the second coming.

"The Greens employ people to research marijuana. What do you do? You’re given money to promote policies – why not use it?’’

The advertisements have prompted Green co-leader and Christchurch MP Rod Donald to renew his call for all political advertising paid from taxpayer funds to be clearly labelled as such.

At present parties must only display Parliament’s House of Representatives crest on public-funded advertising.

Under Parliament’s rules, parties may use their leaders’ budgets for any research or electorate-related purpose, including paying for staff and materials and for advertising their policies to the public.

Donald said the recent spate of political advertisements reflected the looming end of the financial year on June 30.

Under the rules, parties must return any money from their leaders’ budgets not spent before the start of the new financial year.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he thought the advertisements smacked of desperation by a party which had been increasingly shut out of the frame since both Labour and National had indicated that NZ First would not be their first choice of coalition partner post-election. But he said Peters had a fair point criticising the media over its coverage of the smaller parties.

Dunne said United Future had also resorted to advertising at times and he believed the tactic would become increasingly common.

"Since the Orewa speech and the resuscitation of National I think we’ve slipped right back to it being perceived as a two-horse race.’’

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