Update on pamphlet-gate

Last week I blogged on how the NZ Herald had exposed plans of Labour to use KiwiSaver and Working for Families pamphlets as part of their election campaign. Now Helen Clark has pulled the idea, no doubt not out of integrety or principles, but because word of it got out to the NZ Herald.

However, more facts on the incident have come to light, and it turns out that while it was an idea proposed by one delegate, it was publicly endorsed by Labour Party President Mike Williams as a “damned good idea”. And (In)Justice Minister Annette King and Trade Minister Phil Goff, both likely future Labour Party leaders, were present when this occured and raised no objection (although King claims to have been busy talking to Goff and thus didn’t hear the proposal, something that sounds like a nice excuse to me). So while Helen Clark wasn’t involved (She should be thanking her lucky stars She wasn’t in the room at the time) Mike Williams definately was, and Phil Goff and Annette King raised no objection to the plan. It wasn’t just one enthusiatic delegate, it was some very senior members of the Labour Party.

Even giving Annette King and Phil Goff the benefit of the doubt, ithe support from Mike Williams indicates very distirbing views towards the use of public money for partisam polirical benefit. He should be sacked.

Sadly however, there is no chance of him being sacked, as the use of public money for electioneering is almost standard Labour Party policy. And its not just the pledge card, and the now legal taxpayer funded parliamentary communications adds (which are explict electioneering). Labour has a clear record of using public funds for partisan political purposes.

Last election the Labour government carried out a massive working for families propaganda information campaign, so big that the Auditor-General raised concerns about it. Jane Clifton wrote an excellent article in the listner last year, the last three paragraphs containing very useful information on political uses of Government infromation campaigns. She writes “The most noxious stealth advertising by political parties may well be done by governments using “public information campaigns” for blatanly political purposes. … Last elections Working for Families ad campaign was a blatant “Vote Labour” push. But it was also a public information campaign; we had to pay to tell ourselves, at election time, what a provident and benign Labour government we had”.

Clifton then goes on to talk about an ACC campaign. The National/NZ First coalition Government in 1998 reformed ACC, so as to give New Zealanders the choice of paying their ACC levies to a private insurance companies to take care of them instead of the Government ACC scheme. These reforms were reversed in 2001 by the new Labour Government, which called National’s ACC reforms “privatisation”. National had the re-implementation of its 1998 ACC reforms as its 2005 policy (its 2008 policy is yet to be released). Clifton writes:
Recently, the Government signed off on a new cunning little sleeper campaign in the same vein, the current Accident Compensation Corporation “You’re Covered” promotion. The obstensible reason for these ads is that some people, in particular immigrants and ethnic minorities, still don’t realise what the state will do for them if they have an accident. Clearly this is piffle. Medical staff thrust ACC forms at you if you have the slightest mishap. … And if immigrants are missing the plot, there are way more effective ways of targetting them than spending $5 million on an advertising campaign in English. (Less than $40 000 of the You’re covered budget has been spent in the ethnic media.)”

Maybe the reason why the campaign (which featured many TV adds) is being run, and only a tiny fraction of its budget is spent in media specifically related to ethnic minorities, is that the campaign isn’t about informing immigrants at all, it is about raising the pro-file of ACC, while Helen Clark and her cronies launch a scare campaign about National privatising ACC. Need any further evidence? The campaign “will run through election season next year as well”. So the ads are going to be played again on TV come election time. I wonder why.

If Labour devoted a tenth of the energy it puts into devising cunning new ways to rort taxpayer money for its election campaigns, into helping our country solve its real problems, one wonders how much better off we will be.

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