Monday, 15 June 2020

PM should release SSC advice on 'Unite for the Recovery' campaign

“The Prime Minister should release the advice she has received about the propriety of running a taxpayer-funded ad campaign during the pre-election period,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This morning on RNZ, the Prime Minister said the Government had asked the State Services Commission whether its ‘Unite for Recovery’ campaign was within the rules. Ardern should release that advice so taxpayers can be assured they’re not funding publicity for political purposes.

“If continued beyond Friday, the nationwide ad campaign could breach the Cabinet rules and government advertising guidelines. The Cabinet Manual reads:

‘Successive governments, however, have chosen to restrict their actions’… ‘from about three months before the general election is due…’ and ‘…government advertising has been considered inappropriate during the election campaign, due to the heightened risk of a perception that public funds are being used to finance publicity for party political purposes.’

“The Guidelines for Government Advertising go on to say:

‘Government advertising should be presented in a manner which is…free from partisan promotion of government policy.’

“This morning, the PM asked rhetorically how the campaign could be considered political. The ‘Unite for the Recovery’ website promotes at least a dozen new Labour Government spending initiatives.

“The Government’s economic response to Covid-19 is now at risk of becoming hyper-political. It is spending tens of billions of dollars and running a nationwide, taxpayer-funded ad campaign during an election campaign telling voters what money they’re eligible for.

“The Government’s economic response is also deeply ideological. It has given no consideration to reducing the tax burden or pausing new regulatory initiatives, and, in fact, it has continued with freshwater regulations, increases to the minimum wage, and taxes on road users.

Grant Robertson’s outline of his economic plan yesterday focussed solely on spending money. There was not a single mention of reducing tax or regulation to boost the economy, or using innovative technology to reopen the border.

“New Zealanders are deeply anxious about jobs and debt. They don’t want ideology; they want certainty.

“The Government can provide that certainty by laying out a clear economic plan. Of course, it will need to spend more in the short-term, but it must also show that it is considering ideas other than just spending money.

“It should look to ACT’s clear, comprehensive plan to reduce taxes and red tape, boost economic growth, offer new job opportunities, and use innovative technology to create the world’s smartest borders, while taking on less debt.”