Nats call out Labour over 'most negative' campaign

The National Party says a union advertisement on the front of a newspaper this morning shows Labour diving into the “most negative campaign in history”.

”The Labour-aligned Council of Trade Unions has launched nasty American-style attack ads on National to help their mate Chris Hipkins and his increasingly desperate Labour Party,” National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop said.

“‘Be kind’ has truly become ‘be nasty’ under Chris Hipkins and his union elite buddies.”

The ad wraps around the front of The New Zealand Herald newspaper this morning and is clearly labelled as an ad, carrying a promoter statement and NZCTU tag.

It features a photo of Luxon’s face and makes claims that are similar to what the Labour Party has been touting about Luxon being out of touch and focused on the wealthy few with his position on tax cuts, Fair Pay Agreements and paying for prescriptions.

The CTU also launched a new website that restates those claims, and put the ads on its Facebook page.

Speaking to media this morning, Bishop said he had no issue with the Herald running the ad, but the CTU shouldn’t have run it.

“It’s disgraceful. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

He said Labour had no track record to stand on so it was resorting to “nasty, personal, petty, vindictive politics” that was based on “scurrilous lies”.

Asked if Labour perhaps wasn’t aware of the CTU ads, he said: “I don’t think anyone would believe that.

“We’re not going to engage in personal attacks. Of course, we are going to attack the Labour Party’s record ... to point to the contrast [between National’s and Labour’s plans], but we are not going to engage in the personal.”

Asked about the Taxpayers’ Union ads attacking Labour and Grant Robertson, Bishop said he hadn’t seen many of their ads but he believed New Zealanders didn’t want to see personal attacks.

He said National’s “attack ads, if you want to call them those”, were policy-based rather than personality-based.

Labour’s campaign chair Megan Woods has been contacted for comment. Hipkins is addressing media at 1.30pm today.

The Council of Trade Unions is a registered third-party promoter for the period covering the election campaign.

National MP Chris Bishop. Photo: RNZ
National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop. Photo: RNZ
The spending limit for registered promoters is $391,000 including GST, and if they spend more than $100,000 they have to report their expenses to the Electoral Commission.

An ad promoting a party requires authorisation from the party secretary and counts towards that party’s election expenses, but the CTU ad isn’t asking people to vote for Labour.

An ad attacking a party or candidate does not need authorisation from a party secretary, nor does it count towards a party’s election expenses.

“The National Party, along with their likely coalition partner, have made it very clear they want to do away with the [Fair] Pay agreements,” political commentator and former Labour Party activist Shane Te Pou told Morning Report today.

“It’s a core philosophy for the NZCTU and I think it’s a fair call for them to make.”

He said National had done the same kind of attack ads either directly or via the likes of Groundswell, so if National or Luxon was feeling “a little bit bruised, I feel there’s a bit of hypocrisy there to be honest”.

Political commentator and former National government press secretary Ben Thomas retorted: “Not too sure that the link between Groundswell and National are quite as clear as the trade union movement and Labour. That might be a bit of an exaggeration by Shane.”

Thomas told Morning Report that National was moving towards a more presidential-style campaign, rightly or wrongly, and that meant focusing on Luxon and deputy leader Nicola Willis more than the whole team.

“If you’re going negative, you are talking about the personalities these days.”

In a statement, Bishop said the CTU “grubby attack ads” was aligned with Hipkins “running the most negative election campaign seen in decades”.

“Serious questions need to be asked of Chris Hipkins about how much he knew of his union mates’ relentlessly negative and scurrilous campaign. It’s hard to believe Labour didn’t know about it when a former advisor to Grant Robertson [Craig Renney, the CTU’s director of policy] is now a senior staffer at the CTU and an active Labour Party volunteer.”

Bishop called the ad “spreading disinformation”.

“It seems Hipkins will stop at nothing to cling to power. This weekend, Hipkins launched his campaign with an email featuring outright lies about National.

“Kiwis are crying out to hear how political parties will help them get ahead. But in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, Chris Hipkins has nothing to offer people but lies and negativity, helped out by big unions that are more focused on attacking National than supporting working people who are drowning in Labour’s cost-of-living crisis.”