Government rushing electoral law changes through under urgency

Andrew Little announced:

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

No they’re not. His very first line is a lie.

Foreign donations over $1,500 are already banned. They are merely changing the level from $1,500 to $50. The level is a de minimis level recognising that it isn’t practical to check the residency status of every single person who say attends a dinner, or makes a minor donation.

As far as I know the number of donations between $50 and $1,500 from foreign individuals to political parties is near zero. The change is cosmetic.

$1,500 was probably too high. $50 is too low. But either way it is not a new ban. It is a mere change in threshold.

The real issue with this bill is that the Government has said it will pass it through all three stages today under urgency. That is outrageous. There is no reason it should bypass select committee scrutiny and shame on the Greens for supporting ramming it through under urgency.

Some Government apologists have tried to claim it must be done under urgency tonight to stop a rush of mythical foreign donations flowing through before the law takes effect. But the apologists haven’t even read the bill. It doesn’t take effect until 1 January 2020 so passing it tonight under urgency still means you could have the imaginary flood of donations occur.

The other thing worth noting is that this law change doesn’t stop the NZ First Foundation from receiving unlimited foreign donations, and then using those funds to loan money to NZ First or possibly pay expenses on their behalf. If the bill went to select committee an amendment could be considered that would extend the ban (over a certain level) to foundations established by political parties to fund them.

But Labour and the Greens don’t want to do anything about any foreign donations to the NZ First Foundation, so they’re rushing it through under urgency. Shame.

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