If the Government is going to close one donations loophole, let’s close them all

Closing the New Zealand First Foundation loophole is a good step towards a more transparent political donations regime, but it’s not the only loophole that needs closing, the Green Party says.

“The New Zealand First Foundation loophole isn’t the only one at risk of being exploited by big money. If we are going to avoid an American style system where corporate money gets to have more of a say than voters, then there is still much more for the Government to do,” says Golriz Ghahraman, Green Party spokesperson for electoral reform.

The Supplementary Order Paper published today would tighten the Government’s Electoral Amendment Bill to make clear that any money received by a person is a party donation, if that money is intended to benefit a political party. 

“At the conclusion of the New Zealand First Foundation count case last month, the Government cast doubt on whether it would take action before the next election to close a loophole that had enabled some donations to NZ First to avoid being publicly recorded as party donations. The Green Party made clear that any delay in fixing this problem would not be good enough. 

“Action to improve transparency in our political donations regime is just too important to kick the can down the road. We’re delighted the Government has listened and taken the lead from election experts who had pointed out that there were some relatively easy fixes. 

“But this problem isn't solved. The law still protects donations from disclosure if they are given to the Electoral Commission first. When this happens, the commission is able to hand over the donations - regardless of the amount - anonymously to political parties. 

“My strengthening democracy bill would close this loophole - and if the Government doesn’t support it at first reading then we’ll look to close the remaining loopholes by tabling an amendment to the Government’s bill. 

“The Government’s bill does include some positive changes which will help to limit anonymous political donations. Much of this has been taken from my member’s bill, which seeing as the Government keeps agreeing with parts of it - such as allowing Māori to switch rolls at any time and prisoner voting - has had a real impact even before its first reading.

“If the amendment announced today shows us anything, it’s that the Government can move quickly to limit the influence of big corporate interests. However there are still two obvious changes it is yet to make: lowering the disclosure threshold further to $1k and putting a $35k cap on annual donations. Once again, there is an easy fix: vote for my member’s bill,” says Golriz Ghahraman. 

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