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Electoral Commission investigates potential breach by Green Party MP Darleen Tana

Author
Philip Crump,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 May 2024, 2:46pm
Green Party MP Darleen Tana has been suspended following "deeply serious" allegations of migrant exploitation. (Photo / Shelley Wood)
Green Party MP Darleen Tana has been suspended following "deeply serious" allegations of migrant exploitation. (Photo / Shelley Wood)

Electoral Commission investigates potential breach by Green Party MP Darleen Tana

Author
Philip Crump,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 May 2024, 2:46pm

The Green Party has confirmed to ZB Plus this afternoon that it has alerted the Electoral Commission of potential issues associated with the electoral return of embattled Green Party MP Darleen Tana which shows that a paid article about Tana appeared in Verve Magazine in May 2023 without a promoter statement as required by electoral laws.

Green Party co-leader, Chloe Swarbrick, was questioned about this earlier today and said: "I have been made aware of this in the last few hours and as I understand it, it was declared to the Electoral Commission, but it did not carry with it an authorisation statement.  The Greens take really seriously compliance with electoral law.  To that effect we have had conversations with the Green Party itself and my understanding is that the Party has referred this on to the Electoral Commission."

The Electoral Commission has advised ZB Plus that it will look into the issue and make inquiries with the Tana and the publisher, Verve Magazine over the course of the next week.

Tana was suspended following allegations of migrant exploitation involving her husband Christian Hoff-Nielsen’s bicycle company. Hoff-Nielsen denied all the exploitation allegations at the time and told the Herald: “This is not a news story, there is no news.”

The independent investigation, launched on March 14 and led by barrister Rachel Burt, had used up $43,000 of Parliamentary Service funding available to the Greens’ leaders’ office.

The investigation has lasted nine weeks, and it was unclear when it would conclude.

In this latest controversy, ZB Plus can reveal that Tana declared that, as part of her election advertising for last year's general election, she spent $2,415 on a paid article which appeared in Verve Magazine in May 2023.

The article, which is still available online, does not include a promoter statement as required under the Electoral Act 1993.

Under the Act, an "election advertisement" is an advertisement in any medium that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote for a candidate, party or type of candidate or party.

All election advertisements must include a promoter statement. This rule applies at all times, not just during the 3-month regulated period immediately prior to a general election.

Not including a promoter statement is an offence under the Act which could lead to a fine of up to $40,000.

ZB Plus understand that the Green Party was unaware of the issue until it was alerted to it by ZB Plus earlier today.

There are conflicting reports regarding who paid for the Verve article.

Jude Mitchell, a co-owner of Verve Magazine told ZB Plus this afternoon that the invoice for the article had been paid for by Bike and Beyond, the business owned and operated by Tana's husband, and that that is reflected in the magazine's accounts.  However, a Green Party representative has told ZB Plus this evening that their accounts show that the party paid Verve for the article.

Lawyer and commentator Graeme Edgeler said: "It is clear that a promoter statement should have been included.  Responsibility for this can fall on both the publisher and the candidate.  This involves a single advertisement, initially published outside the election period, so it is not the most serious breach of this fine-only offence.  Nevertheless, the rules should be clear to all candidates and publishers."

A spokesperson for the Green Party said: “The Green Party was made aware earlier today of a campaign advertisement commissioned by Darleen Tana, which had been declared to the Electoral Commission but appears not to have included a promoter statement. The party makes it clear to candidates that they are required to follow electoral rules and has brought this to the attention of the Electoral Commission to ensure full transparency and accountability.”

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