Home > The Body Politic > Lies, Damned Lies, and National Party Campaign Advertising

Lies, Damned Lies, and National Party Campaign Advertising



National currently has a set of eight billboards, each featuring Dear Leader’s face, plus a short “statement of intent”, such as “Balance the Books Sooner“, “Building Better Public Services“, etc. They’re catchy and  positive-sounding.

But when compared to National’s real track record over the past three years, the current crop of National Party election hoardings is right up there with Soviet-style propaganda and Orwellian Double-Think. The phrase  “barefaced strangling of Truth”  comes to mind.

Let’s ‘test’ National’s “statements of intent”…



The first question is “sooner than who“? No one else is currently in government. And when Labour’s term of government ended, they had paid down net debt to about 5.6% of GDP. In dollar terms, Labour paid down NZ’s sovereign debt from approximately $25 billion in 2001 to about $10.2 billion by 2008.


NZ Net Sovereign Debt 2001 - 2009 (Source NZ Treasury)


Considering that only half of our sovereign debt  – $18.4 billion – is due to the cost of rebuilding Christchurch,  the remainder is due to two tax cuts (April 2009 and October 2010) which we could ill-afford as a nation. Those tax cuts mainly benefitted high-income earners and the top 10% of this country’s wealthiest.

The top 150 “rich listers” wealth increased by a staggering twenty percent in just this year alone.

So really, we are borrowing money from overseas, to stuff into the pockets of the richest people in this country.

Does that sound remotely sensible?

The second question is who pays to “balance the books”, after borrowing billions to pay for tax cuts?

Answer: who do you think?

So the next time you see one of these billboards, promising  to “Balance the Books Sooner” – don’t forget why those books need “balancing” in the first place, and who will be paying for that “balancing”.



When I see this billboard around town, all I can see is this: “EXPORT MORE REAL JOBS”.

Like the case of the contract for new  rail wagons that was awarded to Chinese companies, rather than our own workers in Dunedin and the Hutt Valley. Result; around 70 jobs lost.

Little wonder that Dunedin’s mayor, David Cull was angry,

This is frankly a form of economic vandalism. What are we mounting here? An economic development strategy for China?”  Source

Minister of Transport Steven Joyce responded by saying,

The reality is KiwiRail has been treated like Cinderella for too long. This Government will not place requirements on KiwiRail which we don’t on any other government or private-owned company.” Source

It’s obvious how little Steven Joyce cares about his fellow New Zealanders losing their employment.

It seems we’re already very good at exporting… Dairy products… Seafood… Timber… And jobs.



All I can say to this is that starting the rebuilding seems to be taken an awful long time.

In the meantime, we’re losing timber sawmillers through lack of demand. At a time when the construction industry should be going through massive growth – we are seeing Fletcher shares dropping in value and uncertainty in the industry. How can Fletcher’s profits be falling at a time when an entire city requires re-building???

Other jobs are also being lost in Christchurch. And the dole queues grow.

But yet again, it seems that this government is quite content with “exporting” jobs to overseas workers.

Despite Dear Leader’s cheery (if vacant) smile on the billboard, there seems little to be happy about. Certainly the lack of leadership, action, and jobs is nothing to be happy-clapping about.



This particular billboard has a weird, dark, ominous feeling to it.

What, precisely, is the “welfare incentive to work”? If National is hinting that it plans to abolish or reduce social welfare – let them come out and announce it to the public.

At the same time, they can announce where the neccessary 154,000 new jobs are, to take on the unemployed.

Let’s not forget that those on unemployment are not there by choice. Let’s not forget that the December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment rate stood at 3.8%.

Then the full impact of the banking crisis and global recession hit us.

Unemployment reached7.3% in the  December 2009 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey.

As of August this year, the jobless rate has fallen to 6.5 per cent – just under twice that of 2007.

So, Mr Prime Minister, an “incentive to work” can be something as simple as having jobs available. But having contracts to manufacture rail wagons going to China, or allowing Irish builders to work on Christchurch’s reconstruction will not be very useful to anyone.

Threatening the unemployed with “the stick” is not as effective as offering them a “carrot” – a job.



Building rail“?!

What new rail are you referring to, Dear Leader???

In fact, as far as I am aware, Mr Key, your government is cutting  back on funding public transport in Auckland,


Full Story


Telling fibs again, Dear Leader?

As for the rest,

  • Building roads. Yes, you are. But wouldn’t greater investment in public transport make more sense?
  • Fast broadband. Again, yes. This government is subsidising  telcos to the tune of $1.5 billion to build a fast broadband network throughout the country. (I thought subsidies were a naughty thing in the world of the free market?)



This one is probably one of the top two most asinine claims for National to be making. The voting public would have to be practically braindead, with the IQ of a wild mushroom, to put any credibility on this statement. Of all the campaign statements that National has ever uttered, nothing screams Arrogance! better than this billboard.

Less debt“? “Less debt” than who – Rarotonga?

The government’s borrowings have exploded almost exponentially, until we currently owe $18.4 billion to various lenders overseas.

If  more borrowing equates to  “less debt” , I’d like to see my bank manager agree to lend me a few million!

As for “lower interest rates” – obviously no one in the National Party campaign committee passed this by the Finance Minister, Bill English,


Full Story


Can I send impending increases in my mortgage rates to Bill English or John Key to pay?



Again, I’ve no idea what this statement is supposed to mean; “staying strong on crime”.

Does it mean locking up offenders for longer periods?

Does it mean more prisons?

Well, not according to Bill English, who recently admitted that prisons were a “moral and fiscal failure”,


Full Story


And the Prime Minister has recently suggested that we might not need any new prisons,


Full Story


So what, exactly, does “staying strong on crime” mean? Well, nothing really. It is basically a meaningless utterance that panders to the red-neck, lock’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key element in our society. As long as these low-information voters are kept happy, National is assured of a few more votes on Election Day.

This last billboard is probably the one that would most rankle with many people – especially those 2,000+ who have lost their jobs in the last few years, as government cuts back on state workers,



I’m not quite sure with how a “better” public services can be “built” when this government has effectively been gutting it. Despite clear committments from John Key and Bill English that National would only cap the civil service and not cut numbers,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.” – Bill English

If National is elected to lead the next government, I personally guarantee that we will:  ensure government spending is focused on frontline services such as health a education by capping the number of bureacrats…” – John Key

That promise has been well and truly broken.

Sacking over 2000 workers who have worked with dedication and loyalty is hardly a fitting reward.

For such political statements to be made successfully, and without looking like liars and fools, politicians require only that the Voter has not been paying attention. Otherwise politicians would not dare put such rubbish out for  public consumption.

It’s simply amazing what garbage politicians will feed us, if they think they can get away with it.




Full Story




  1. Matthew
    26 October 2011 at 1:55 pm

    National are either deranged fantasists or deliberate misrepresenters of truth.
    In other words they’re either loonies or liars. I reckon they’re both, but either way they have no business being in the Beehive. They shouldn’t be the government. They shouldn’t even be the biggest party in opposition (if it was anything like a meritocracy, which it ain’t). They are completely gormless and I’d rather have garden gnomes occupying seats than them. Garden gnomes would certainly make less mistakes. $12 billion dollars (the amount the govt coffers went backwards in financial year ’10/’11) would buy (at the $12.99 buy now Trade Me price) 923 million garden gnomes.
    Each of the 69 National politicians in the current parliament could be replaced by 13.4 million garden gnomes to have the same detrimental effect that they have had.

    Anyway you look at it, that is a helluva lot of garden gnomes. At a packing rate of 9 garden gnomes per square metre that is over 102 square kilometres just for the space alone, which is bigger in area than Hamilton City.

  2. Gemma
    26 October 2011 at 4:52 pm


    National might be running a campaign chockablock with cheesy, nonsensical buzzwords…but at least they are running a campaign! At least their leader is visible, unlike the embarrassing absence of Phil Goff http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5854431/Goff-absent-from-Labour-billboards

    What is Labour doing? I travel all over Auckland for work and I have seen numerous Labour billboards and posters. Labour’s advertising fails for several reasons:

    The slogans are written in the negative: “No asset sales,” “No GST on fresh fruit and vegetables.” People respond positively to positive statements. That is why Labour’s 2008 television ad showing a woman saying (and I paraphrase), “I just don’t trust you John” was so cringingly awkward. Negative statements do not work. Labour could have rephrased the above slogans: “Keep our assets,” “Protect our assets,” “Kiwi assets in Kiwi hands,” “GST off fresh fruit and vegetables,” etc. I have no marketing or media expertise. To me, it is commonsense to run a positive campaign. Perhaps Labour should sack their media and marketing advisors. They are doing a poor job.

    The Labour candidates’ billboards should, but don’t, contain pithy messages, so people associate the candidates with the party’s policies.

    The word “Labour” and the tick need to be bigger on all the Labour party hoardings.

    Some of Labour’s hoardings contain obscure messages that would be incomprehensible for some people, especially people for whom English is a second language. For example (again, I paraphrase), “If you’re in a hole don’t take away the ladder”, “Do you really want to be a tenant in your own country?” etc. Another hoarding bizarrely and inexplicably urges people to “Vote National…” I forget the rest of the message because what stayed with me was the absurdity of Labour urging people to vote for National! Remember, New Zealand, and especially Auckland, is becoming increasingly multicultural and populated by people who do not have English as a first language. Therefore, political advertising, particularly in Auckland, should contain messages that are clear so the meaning doesn’t go over people’s heads. Labour’s slogans are unacceptably negative and murky.

    Goff’s absence from Labour’s hoardings is shameful, especially in light of Key’s ubiquity. I can’t help feeling that treachery is afoot in Labour. It seems that a faction is plotting and scheming to sideline, undermine and oust Goff. The prospect of such disloyalty saddens me, not only because I am a Labour voter but also because any party, regardless of what the party represents politically, should be in it to win, even if the battle is an uphill one.

    Labour can say that they are giving this campaign their all. However, talk is cheap – Labour’s election advertising looks half-hearted, lacking in any discernible branding, bereft of positivity and willfully puzzling.

    I, along with other concerned people, have contacted Phil Goff, Moira Coatsworth, the Auckland Labour party regional office, and various MPs’ offices about our concerns.

    Come on Labour – buck up your ideas and show that you have integrity by campaigning like your heart’s really in it.

  3. 29 October 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you for the thoughtful responses. I too see these these types of comms and scoff, but it’s great that you took the time to document the utter lack of sense and substance.

    The sad thing is that for so many people – your ‘low-information’ voters – a few slogans is all that is needed to be convinced…

    Lower the debt? Good, debt is baaad. Stay strong on crime, you say? *I* hate crime too!

    Ugh, democracy can be so depressing 😉

  4. Theodore
    2 November 2011 at 12:40 am

    Depressing is the right word. I can’t understand why so many people have fallen for this guy. He acts like a conman. He is a conman. I’m damned if I know what people see in him.

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