News of an apparent $150,000 donation to the National Party from a Chinese citizen has revived calls for electoral finance law to be amended, ahead of the 2020 General Election.
Whilst there is nothing to say that under current law the donation was an illegal act, it reminds me of the time National Member of Parliament Todd McClay handled a donation from a non-New Zealand business operating here. More recently, former National Member of Parliament Jami-Lee Ross levelled accusations at his former boss Simon Bridges about donations made by businessman Zhang Yikun.
Like Dr Nick Smith, who said in January that donations should be restricted to New Zealanders, I believe that the law should be amended to bar all donations from anyone who is not a New Zealand permanent resident or citizen. Other countries including the United States forbid non-____________ (nationality) from making donations to political parties. Politicians who receive such donations should report to the amount, name of donor and date the donation was offered to the Speaker of the House.
I have no problems with donations of any size being made by New Zealanders to political parties, though perhaps lowering the limit above which they must be formally recorded to something like N.Z.$500 would encourage greater transparency. As a former Electorate Committee Chair and Treasurer I understood that a certain amount of paper work and other administrative activity was inevitably involved, but it is because of this formal record keeping that New Zealand has one of the more transparent political systems in the world. Whilst a New Zealand First member between 2010-2017 I made a regular donation to my Ilam Electorate bank account to enable the electorate to meet its annual fee.
As a warning to anyone considering the act of bribing, or accepting a bribe, Section 102 of the Crimes Act 1961 stipulates that the bribing of a Minister of the Crown is an offence with a jail sentence of not more than 7 year. A Minister accepting such a bribe is liable to a jail sentence of not more than 14 years. Section 103 of the same Act stipulates that a member of Parliament accepting such a bribe is liable to a jail sentence of not more than 7 years, as is anyone who facilitates such an offence.
Going through the Justice Committee in Parliament seems like an apparent waste of time. On to its sixth chair in four months with little in the way of work to show for it, the Committee has been told that Minister of Justice Andrew Little may bypass it. Dr Smith has also indicated that he might be prepared to put partisan politics aside to help Mr Little move necessary changes through the House of Representatives if the Justice Committee does not pick up the pace. Whilst I wonder what – on their past history regarding this subject – National and Labour bipartisanship will achieve, it should be welcomed as an acknowledgement that New Zealand really does need to do something decisive with electoral finance law. And encouraged.