Tuesday, September 06, 2022

A corrupt abuse of power

There's an election on, so the government uses its websites to host advertising for its members, explicitly promoting their re-election. Russia? Thailand? Some other corrupt, authoritarian state? No, its South Auckland's corrupt liquor trust:

A South Auckland licensing trust's decision to help promote candidates in this year's local body elections was ill-advised, but not illegal, according to Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske.

Nick Smale recently complained to Ofsoske about social media posts by the Wiri Licensing Trust endorsing the Manurewa Action Team - a political ticket running in the election for the trust, council and local boards.

"In my opinion, this is a blatant misuse of public resources squarely aimed at influencing the election. It influences not just the licensing trust election, but the council election too," Smale said.


But Smale said he understood there was nothing he could do about it because it involved a licensing trust.

Ofsoske confirmed his suspicions in a response to questions from Local Democracy Reporting.

So apparently while its obviously unfair and an abuse of power, its not actually illegal for a local body - or a liquor licensing trust - to use their control of public resources to put their thumb on the scales to secure their own members' re-election. Which seems like a significant omission. Fortunately, there's an opportunity to remedy it: there's a Local Government Electoral Legislation Bill which is currently open for submissions. Parliament could include an explicit ban on such abuses, which would hopefully prevent them in future.

(Of course the real solution to the constant abuses of power by licensing trusts is to vote to end their monopoly, then dissolve them. But they'll fight tooth and nail against that, and spend as much public money as they can get away with resisting that fate).