A prominent ad promoting the National Party and the CEO of Air New Zealand, Christopher Luxon, could be in breach of the law.
An advertisement promoting Christopher Luxon and the National Party appeared in this morning’s newspaper – but the National Party says it had nothing to do with it.
The half-page ad taken out in today’s print edition of the Weekend Herald and on its website features an illustration of former National party leader and prime minister, John Key, morphing into outgoing Air New Zealand chief executive, Christopher Luxon. The image is a play on Dick Frizzell’s 1997 piece ‘Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke’.
The ad also features the hashtags #Luxon2020 and #National2020, which seemingly promotes supporting Luxon and National in next year’s general election. Below that is an authorisation statement by ‘S Brooks of 299 Durham Street Christchurch’.
NZME has confirmed the advertiser was businessman and property manager Steve Brooks but was unable to provide any further information on how the ad came about. One of Brooks’ businesses, short-term, high-interest loan company Moola, is based at the Christchurch address listed in the ad. (Moola has been approached for comment.)
NZME’s official rate card puts the cost of a half-page ad in the news pages of Weekend Herald at more than $20,000.
A National party spokesperson told the Spinoff he has “no idea who did it” and that the party would not be taking any further action. A spokesperson for Simon Bridges’ office said: “Nothing to do with us.”
Air New Zealand also confirmed to 1 News that Luxon hadn’t seen the advertisements before being asked for comment, and he “has no knowledge of how it came about.”
Graeme Edgeler, a Wellington-based lawyer and electoral law expert, said the ad was likely to be in breach of election advertising rules.
“You can’t run ads like that without the party’s permission. You can tell people not to vote for someone and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do that. But you do need the party’s permission to tell someone to vote for a party,” he says.
“That would mean the ad was published as an illegal practice so there could be a fine for whoever organised it and potentially for the Herald as well. I don’t think it’s a particularly serious breach – it’s just one ad and it’s well out from the election … but there are obligations on publishers to not do things like that.”
Edgeler said he thought it was “reasonably clear” the ad called for people to vote for National in the next general election.
“Some might disagree since Luxon isn’t the National party leader and argue that it’s suggesting not to vote for National unless Luxon’s the leader. But I don’t think it’s a particularly strong argument considering it says #National2020 and is on a blue background.”
The Electoral Commission told 1 News they would be looking at whether the ads complied with advertising and disclosure rules next week.
Luxon announced this week that he would be leaving as chief executive of Air New Zealand, prompting fresh, sometimes feverish speculation that he is lining up a run at political office.
He told media he is considering his options, but that suggestions there were plans afoot for him to stand for National in the Botany seat held by now-independent MP Jami Lee-Ross were false.