Press Council rules against Herald

April 18th, 2008 at 8:27 am by David Farrar

The Press Council has ruled that two of the Herald’s editorials against the Electoral Finance Act were inaccurate due to omission of significant details. The Coalition for Open Government sucessfully laid the complaints, which means they have now won complaints against TV stations for initially reporting the EFB was better than it was (the TV stations made the mistake of believing the Minister’s spin in stead of reading the Bill) and against the Herald for making it sound worse than it was.

The basic issue was statements made in editorials that anyone wanting to promote and issue of concern would have to register as a third party, and that they did not mention this only applies if your spending is over $5,000 (in the original bill) or over $12,000 (in the revised bill). The Herald acknowledged that they probably should have, but stated the limit had been mentioned in other stories.

Incidentially if you wish to campaign for or against a candidate the limit is just $1,000 before you must register.

The Council summarises:

The council accepts that it is probably correct that any person or group wanting to promote an issue of concern would be required to spend more than $12,000.

However, this is not the point. The editorial suggested that anyone who wished to promote an issue of concern would need to register as a third party.

The failure to note the $12,000 threshold was a mis-statement of fact, which in the council’s view was not minimised by the words “to promote an issue of concern”.

Nor is it sufficient in the council’s view to say that the correct amount had been mentioned on other occasions.

Pretty difficult to disagree with the conclusion. The level at which you need to register is material and should have been in the editorials.

Incidentally it is well below the $40,000 recommended by electoral authorities.

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21 Responses to “Press Council rules against Herald”

  1. Monty (947 comments) says:

    Is this a victory for Labour???? They are in desperate need of any good news at the moment – especially as their crowning glory the China EFA has been overshadowed by Winston First raining on the party, the concerns of the anti-everything Loony Greens and then the closure of the F&P factory and contracting out of 500 ANZ jobs to India. Their congress turned into a complete joke and the only lasting memory was the nasty, vile and tuneless song by the Coven.

    So Labour will be looking for anything to be good news – but this??? I would have thought they could do better.

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  2. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Easy to see why The Herald was accused of ‘right-wing bias’ also easy to see how the detail was ommitted in editorial, if it was in other articles. The Press COuncil is absolutely right. I wish more such complaints were laid before it. But, isn’t it the case that at this time you would still be wise to register as a third party in case the issue of concern you raise, is deemed ‘electioneering’? If that is the case, The Herald was correct in substance, and has been to some extent, vindicated by the recent EC ruling viz the EPMU?

    I only ask for information.

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  3. Tane (1,096 comments) says:

    Lee, the EC ruled the EPMU can register as a third party, as the legislation intended. That’s currently being appealed by the National Party.

    Interestingly the Herald has hardly covered itself in glory on that. My co-blogger Steve Pierson recently did round-up of the Herald’s coverage of the issue and found:

    In total, the Herald devoted four articles with 3452 words to Farrar’s attempt to muzzle the EPMU’s 50,000 members… Of course, Farrar’s inept complaint was rejected by the Electoral Commission on the most basic of grounds.

    Did the Herald then retract its stance? Did it reveal the petty political nature of Farrar’s complaint? Of course not. It ran a 48 word article ‘EPMU a ‘third party’’ that made no reference to Farrar’s compliant or the Herald’s editorial position. How far our largest newspaper has fallen.

    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1607

    Good to see the Press Council hauling the Herald up on at least some of their inaccuracies over this legislation.

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  4. Pascal (2,015 comments) says:

    Tane: Lee, the EC ruled the EPMU can register as a third party, as the legislation intended.

    You are being a bit disingenious there, Tane. Was it the intent of the EFA to have a parallel campaign run by third parties that are intrinsically linked to a political party? With the potential for full control of the political party?

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  5. first time caller (384 comments) says:

    Tane, it’s not the number of words…it’s what they say.

    The EFA is a complete balls-up, everyone knows it. Labour need to concede this (Diddums) and get back around the table to fix it before all parties spend a fortune on lawyers.

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  6. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    Thank goodness we have the COG.

    Why haven’t they spoken out against the madness inherent in the Act and in particular the indecipherable clash between in her/his work as a MP and electioneering?

    Why are they silent on the jail terms faced by party secretaries because Heather Roy’s diary isn’t authorised when it’s just her bloody opinions for christ’s sake? Indeed, why has the HRC, top lawyers, the Law Society et al all denounced these draconian provisions, yet COG says nothing?

    Is it because they are too busy making inane complaints to the press council about minor errors in newspaper editorials?

    I have a lot of respect for Steven Price and Graeme Edgeler but this has gone far enough.

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  7. Tane (1,096 comments) says:

    Pascal, unions – affiliated or not – have always been able to campaign politically. The intent of the EFA was to provide some transparency and to place limits on what each third party could spend. National’s just playing politics here.

    first time caller, It is indeed also about what the words say – and the Herald’s partisan frothing, even gloating, before the decision and their silence afterwards says a lot about their pro-National bias.

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  8. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    Thank goodness we have Tane setting out what the intent of the EFA is. Let’s see what section 3 of the Act says:

    Purpose
    • The purpose of this Act is to strengthen the law governing electoral financing and broadcasting, in order to—
    o (a) maintain public and political confidence in the administration of elections; and
    o (b) promote participation by the public in parliamentary democracy; and
    o (c) prevent the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes; and
    o (d) provide greater transparency and accountability on the part of candidates, parties, and other persons engaged in election activities in order to minimise the perception of corruption; and
    o (e) ensure that the controls on the conduct of election campaigns—
     (i) are effective; and
     (ii) are clear; and
     (iii) can be efficiently administered, complied with, and enforced.

    Tane mentions (d) only. No surprises he omits the others.

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  9. insider (990 comments) says:

    Has anyone noticed how quiet COG have gone since all the issues about the EFA have started coming out of the woodwork. Given they were such cheerleaders for it I would have thought they would have been following it closely.

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  10. Tane (1,096 comments) says:

    I also mention c, and the rest are obvious. Try again Gooner.

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  11. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    Obvious?

    I’d say (a) and (b) are complete failures; (c) won’t work,; King et al went totally over the top trying to implement (d) and (e) is impossible as the legislation is a dog’s breakfast.

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  12. Pascal (2,015 comments) says:

    So Tane – let’s see.

    (a) maintain public and political confidence in the administration of elections;

    We have:
    * Retrostpective legislation validating an illegal and knowing overspend
    * Attemtps to use the Public Service to overcome election spending limits

    (b) promote participation by the public in parliamentary democracy;

    We have:
    * potentially opt-in newsletters shut down under the EFA
    * websites setup by individuals shut down under the EFA
    * potentially plays shut down under the EFA
    * Human Rights Commission objecting to it

    (c) prevent the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes

    We have:
    * unknown “loans” flowing into the Labour Party
    * an illegal overspend of almost a million dollars at the last election
    * unions capable of contributing massive amounts of manpower and money, partially from government funded grants, to the Labour party election war chest

    (d) provide greater transparency and accountability on the part of candidates, …

    We have:
    * Retrostpective legislation validating an illegal and knowing overspend
    * Attemtps to use the Public Service to overcome election spending limits

    (e) ensure that the controls on the conduct of election campaings are effective, clear and can be efficiently administered

    We have:
    * Queries over the elligibility of valid third parties
    * Balloons being tested to see if they adhere to the Labour Party’s new legislation
    * Opt-in newsletters being tested to see if they adhere to the Labour Party’s new legislation
    * Website policy archives being tested to see if they adhere to the Labour Party’s new legislation
    * Ministers admitting the law is confusing, unclear

    So is it as you say “National’s just playing politics here.” It seems to me that they are simply trying to work within the skewed playing field that Labour legislated themselves into. It’s not the National Party’s fault that Labour and their cohorts drafted what is a partisan, flawed and confusing piece of legislation in an attempt to give themselves an unfair advantage this election.

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  13. Tane (1,096 comments) says:

    I’m referring specifically to the judicial review against the Electoral Commission’s ruling on the EPMU’s third party status. I’m not interested in relitigating the EFA debate with you.

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  14. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Regardless of the outcome you have to admit that the botched drafting of the EFA has allowed National to silence the EPMU at least until a judicial review is completed. When will that be? The claim that National’s just playing politics is just silly. What else would you expect a political party to do, play ice-hockey? The EFA has merely given them a splendidn opportunity to do just that. I may have inferred this in the past, but my memory is addled by too much aussie wine.

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  15. Pascal (2,015 comments) says:

    Tane, it is telling to see you avoid the ugly truth, even if it relates to the topic on hand. The relevance? National is attempting to work within a piece of legislation the Labour party foisted on us. You bitch and moan when they do and call it politics. The simple reality is that it is a shitty piece of legislation and any troubles it is currently causing anyone is solely the fault of the Labour led government and their supporters.

    So challenges to the unions, to the balloons, to everything else is more than justified and for you to dismiss it as politics or to try and whitewash what the legislation intended is only showing how blind you are.

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  16. PhilBest (5,112 comments) says:

    Has anyone tried to get the Press Council to take any notice of editorial misrepresentations regarding, say, global warming, or the Iraq War, or Fidel Castro?

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  17. sonic (2,818 comments) says:

    Can your report blogs to these guys?

    ;)

    S

    [DPF: Actually you can]

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  18. Right of way is Way of Right (1,125 comments) says:

    Pascal, nicely summarised mate. It’s a pity Tane, Sonic et al are predisposed to avoid these arguments rather than engage.

    I have noted a tendency for the left wing types to seize on one point or phrase and regurgitate ad nauseum, trying to be clever. “John Key = Slippery” for example, but I also note a reluctance to engage in any meaningful debate whatsoever. Annette King is rapidly becoming a bit of a lost cause here.

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  19. sonic (2,818 comments) says:

    I wonder who is going to the first to report yours for hysterical innacuracy then MR F?

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  20. David Farrar (1,810 comments) says:

    Well Sonic at a random guess, I would say someone who is not so cowardly as to hide behind an alias.

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  21. GPT1 (2,042 comments) says:

    Surely the Trotter principle applies – “if it was bias it was surely the most forgivable type of bias”.

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