How about we just follow the law?

The Listener editorial:

The Greens have an idea for cleaning up political donations, starting with “an independent citizens’ assembly” because, they say, “it’s clear that Parliament is incapable of [making] meaningful reforms to itself”.

Here’s a different idea for cleaning up political donations, which is simpler and more cost-effective than the Greens’ proposal: obey the law. Everyone else must, whatever their line of work, and political parties should, too.

Just because parties and individuals sometimes fall foul of electoral law does not automatically mean the law needs “reform”, just as restaurants falling foul of hygiene regulations does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with the regulations. 

I strongly agree.

While the current law is not perfect, it is actually a very good law in regards to donations and expenses. It has the following features:

  • Annual disclosure of large donations
  • Immediate disclosure of very large donations
  • Provisions to require contributors to a donation to be identified
  • No significant foreign donations
  • No splitting donations between body corporates to avoid disclosure
  • Reporting a summary of small donations
  • Only NZ residents or companies/organisations can donate
  • Spending limits on parties and candidates for the 90 days before the election

Those who say the answer to people breaking the law is to change the law are in fact trying to cover up for those who broke the law.

The answer to people breaking the law is to prosecute them.

Now again there are improvements one can make to the law. I would favour a greater role for the Electoral Commission in being able to see all donations, not just those above the disclosure limit. But these are changes that can be made in the triennial post-election review.

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