Govt to ban foreign donations to political parties, candidates

Andrew Little
Andrew Little

The Government has announced it will ban foreign donations to political parties and candidates in a bid to "protect New Zealand from foreign interference".

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament this afternoon and passed under urgency.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said there was no need for anyone other than New Zealanders to donate to our political parties or seek to influence our elections.

"The risk of foreign interference in elections is a growing international phenomenon and can take many forms, including donations. New Zealand is not immune from this risk."

He cited a recent Canadian Government report which found half of all advanced democracies holding national elections had their democratic process targeted by cyber threat activity in 2018.

That represented a threefold increase since 2015.

"We must protect New Zealand as best we can from this risk to our democracy," Little said.

The bill contains a minimal threshold of $50, to ensure that small-scale fundraising activities such as bucket donations and whip-rounds won't be affected. But big donations will be gone.

It also introduces a new requirement that party secretaries and candidates must take "reasonable steps" to ensure that any donation is not from an overseas person.

Little said the Electoral Commission will issue guidance on what these "reasonable steps" entail.

The new law will also extend the requirement to include name and address details on election advertisements to apply to election advertisements in all mediums.

"We've seen in other countries an avalanche of fake news social media ads that contain no information about who is behind them. That's not fair and we don't want to see it repeated here.

He said that anonymous online advertisements aimed at interfering with our democracy will be prohibited.

"If someone wants to advertise online they need to say who they are, the same as if the ad was published in a newspaper."

The Green Party, which has been lobbying for this change, welcomed the news.

"Limiting foreign donations to $50 will reduce undue influence from powerful vested interests and create a healthier and fairer system," the party's justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said.

Comments

The major thing that epitomises this government's 'ideas' is the complete lack of consideration given to the pragmatics of implementation. We live in a complex commercial world full of industrial strength lawyers and accountants making fortunes out of enabling their clients to fly extremely close to the wind, without crossing legal limits. AML legislation is currently taxing the reality out of the market. The Brexit vote gave international exposure to the ability of (especially social) media giants to algorithmically target swing voters in private, with no audit trails, from outside the jurisdiction of the election. Many of the world's top academics are analysing these very problems right now. Many of us look forward to each new research paper as it becomes available.

I don't think this governments knee jerk reaction will do anything more than provide our politicians something to talk about, and a few more photo opportunities.

Of course we want transparency and non-interference in our democratic process. Bur first we need some politicians that are actually capable of thinking through the implementation issues.

That said, I do think this is a nice photo of Mr Little.

 

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