Mallard offers ticket cash back

JOHN HARTEVELT, TRACY WATKINS AND JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 16:00 16/02/2012
Homegrown tickets
ANDREW GORRIE/FAIRFAX NZ
PRICEY EVENT: Nick Potts, Laura Signal and Stuart Garner bought tickets for this weekend's Homegrown event from Trevor Mallard and paid a lot more than face value. There is nothing illegal in on-selling tickets.

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Labour MP Trevor Mallard has offered to refund the cost of tickets he sold to a group of Wellington students after a furore over the profit he made from flogging them off on Trade Me.

Mallard sold four tickets to the sold-out Homegrown festival at a $276 profit.

Mallard said he had left a message with Whitireia music student Laura Signal offering to refund the money but had not heard back.

He said he would be happy to give the tickets away to some deserving students if Signal took him up on the offer.

This afternoon Labour's veteran attack dog had his nose rubbed in it by the Government benches after he became  the butt of jokes on Trade Me in response to criticism he is a regular ticket scalper.

At the end of Question Time, National's backbench MP Tau Henare directed a query to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.

What progress, Henare asked, had been made declaring the Volvo Ocean Race stopover a major event under the Major Events Management Act 2007? The question had nothing to do with yacht races and everything to do with Henare's nemesis, Mallard.

The legislation he was asking about, known as MEMA, was passed by Mallard when the Labour MP was in the ministerial role now held by Joyce. A major purpose of the act was to prevent so-called ticket scalping for big events.

Joyce, grinning widely, told Parliament he had received a report on ticket scalping "as late as this morning".

The report, he said, indicated scalping may have been taking place "from a red painted ticket sales office in Naenae". That would be Mallard's electorate office, where he handed the tickets to three young concert-goers.

"It is possibly part of a chain of offices all across Lower Hutt," Joyce said to uproarious laughter.

Even Mallard seemed tickled by the performance, laughing along as Joyce continued: "Notwithstanding that the perpetrator has been quoted in the paper as saying 'it's not what it looks like', I think in this case, it is what it looks like and what it looks like is a clear case of do as I say but not as I do."

At that, Speaker Lockwood Smith - who himself has had a rough week - said: "that mercifully brings to a close questions for oral answer".

But the ribbing of Mallard has some way to run yet.

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Even from Christchurch, where Prime Minister John Key is visiting today, Mallard has been copping it.

"I don't know the ins and outs of it, but it sounds untidy," Key grinned to reporters.

"It's probably a bit embarrassing, this is the guy that passed legislation back in 2007 to try and outlaw the stuff."

And when Mallard had earlier protested that a colleague's efforts to table a press statement in Parliament was being stymied, leader of the House Gerry Brownlee quipped that he would be happy to put the original press release on Trade Me with a buy now price for his benefit.

AUCTION BACKLASH

The criticism was a hot topic on Trade Me today, with users auctioning off Mallard's conscience and credibility.

One auction selling Mallard's 'conscience in a jar' has a current bid of $1.50: 'This item is second-hand but is brand new and has never been used. I have to be honest I'm not sure that it is in working order as it is rather old and I have seen no evidence of it being used in recent times or whenever the Homegrown concert rolls around''.

Another auction offers 'Trevor Mallard's credibility and a pen' and says proceeds from the auction will go to the Christchurch earthquake appeal.

Mallard told Radio Live this morning that he hadn't been aware he could put a "buy now" price on the auction.

His TradeMe account shows he has been a member of the online auction site since 2005, and has sold plenty of tickets in the past.

These include a Wellington Sevens ticket in 2009, two Homegrown tickets in 2009, four Homegrown tickets last year, and a ticket to the Canada vs USA ice hockey match in Christchurch last year.

Mallard yesterday said that the recent sale was neither scalping nor dodgy. He bought the tickets last year but now had another engagement.

"I'm slightly surprised if promoters with whom I spend several hundred dollars a year on tickets complain when I sell some I can't use to someone who wants them using a Kiwi-based online auction."

He listed the tickets at face value, but let the auction run above $500 because he "knew that they were worth more".

"It's an auction system, I mean apparently there's some system when you can 'buy now'...I do [know] now because people have been telling me about it but I've never used it at all in the past."

The young people he had sold the tickets to had seemed perfectly happy when they came to pick them up, he said.

The anti-scalping law he had initiated in 2006 was for "major events, for international events. This is not one of those and if they didn't like it they shouldn't have bought it....I'm a bit p*ssed off, it was a private agreement."

Signal, 19, and her three friends were desperate to attend so they bid for four tickets on Trade Me, paying a final price of $656.

Signal was surprised when the trader turned out to be the Hutt South MP, who used his parliamentary email address for the auction.

She and her friends collected the tickets from him in person.

"He came out and gave us the package really quickly and he kept saying: 'It's not what it looks like; it's not what it looks like,' to random passers-by."

Homegrown director Mark Wright said was up to Mallard to decide whether he believed it was "appropriate behaviour".

On-selling was a problem the festival organisers faced every year once tickets sold out.

"They are profiteering off the work that my team and I are putting in to it. What can I do about it? We set a ticket price that we see as a fair price."

IT'S LEGAL

Trade Me allows the on-selling of event tickets after a poll showed 81 per cent of its traders in support.

The Major Events Management Act was passed in 2007, and was initiated by Trevor Mallard while he was economic development minister in 2006.

It protects events such as the Rugby World Cup, the World Rowing Championships and the 2015 Cricket World Cup from scalpers and ambush marketing. It is illegal for tickets to be on-sold for such events under this act.

- The Dominion Post

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