Conservatives go to court over airtime

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 17:59 22/08/2014

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Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is taking the Electoral Commission to court over its broadcasting allocations, after a review saw the commission decide not allocate all available broadcasting minutes.

Craig confirmed to Fairfax Media the party had filed papers to the High Court in Auckland this afternoon, asking for a review of its decision

The commission released in June indicative allocations for the amount of money and broadcasting minutes registered parties were able to use in their campaigning ahead of the election.

Those allocations were revised after the cut-off date for parties to register, and the remaining funds and broadcasting minutes were often reallocated.

In it's decision, the Commission announced it would reallocate the funds originally dedicated to Expatriate Party of New Zealand and Truth, Freedom, Justice proportionately to all of the other eligible parties.

It would not however, reallocate those parties' broadcasting minutes - a total of four minutes airtime.

The priority rankings, which determined the order in which political advertisements would be played, would not be changed.

The commission said it gave "full consideration" to submissions made by parties, including the Conservatives, which hired public law expert Mai Chen to request the party be elevated to a status higher than ACT's.

The Conservatives received a boost in funding from $60,207 to $61,499. But Craig said the commission had failed to fufil its statutory obligations.
"They are under statutory obligation to allocate the time to parties for broadcast advertising and at the moment it's not all allocated."
He said he would not expect his party to receive all four minutes, but an additional ten seconds could make a world of difference to any small party. 
Craig also said the priority rankings the commission applied, were not prescribed anywhere in legislation.
"We object to their priority ordering, we think it's highly flawed. But nonetheless, it not and never has been their job to come up with some sort of priority ordering."
"It's ridiculous to see us at number 10, when you've got parties that frankly are not going to make it into Parliament and next to no support, who are ranked far higher. Ultimately the test is fairness, we don't think they've met that test at all."
A spokeswoman for the commission said they were aware papers had been filed.
"The Commission has been advised by lawyers acting on behalf of the Conservative Party that they intend to file proceedings this afternoon seeking a judicial review of the Commission's broadcasting allocation decision.  
"As this is a matter that will be before the Court we have no further comment."

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