ACT Party demands end to Government's 'Unite for the Recovery' campaign

The ACT Party is demanding the Government end its 'Unite for the Recovery' campaign by Friday, accusing it of using taxpayer funds to "boost its election campaign". 

On Friday it will be three months until the general election, due September 19. 

The Cabinet Manual - which is described by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as the "primary source of information on New Zealand's constitutional arrangements" - says while there are no laws against it, Governments in the past have "chosen to restrict their actions to some extent during this time, in recognition of the fact that an election, and therefore potentially a change of Government, is imminent".

After Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved New Zealand moved to alert level 1, the Government's 'Unite Against COVID-19' website and information campaign changed to 'Unite for the Recovery', with the focus shifting from the immediate health crisis to the economy. 

ACT leader David Seymour says the shift means the Government is now promoting "its own vision for the COVID-19 recovery with taxpayer money", which would be "totally unacceptable" during the election campaign.

"We will be three months from election day on Friday. Will Labour follow the rules?"

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub the new campaign was "based on strong feedback from the business community that supporting New Zealand businesses, products, and destinations would be important to our economic recovery". 

"It would be a shame if that was seen as political."

The Unite for the Recovery campaign urges Kiwis to buy local, travel the country (in the absence of foreign tourists) and has information on how to access services like mental health, financial support and community funding. 

The Unite for the Recovery website.
The Unite for the Recovery website. Photo credit: Newshub.

Seymour said the new campaign also "promotes at least a dozen new Labour Government COVID-19 programmes, a clear breach" of the Government's own advertising guidelines, also detailed on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's website. 

"The overnight shift from 'Unite Against COVID-19' to 'Unite for the Recovery' shows Ardern and Labour will stay in crisis management mode for as long as possible," Seymour said, accusing the Government of trying to deflect voters' attentions away from "its failings on child poverty, housing and infrastructure".

"Labour doesn't want the crisis to end. It has managed to control the narrative, the people and the polls."

The Taxpayers' Union has also laid a complaint over the Unite for the Recovery campaign, calling ads it put in newspapers "not primarily informative or educational".

Labour is sitting pretty in the polls, registering over 50 support in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, with the overwhelming majority of voters backing the coalition Government's COVID-19 response. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz