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Should the state fund political parties?

As a result of the debacle surrounding NZ First’s dodgy donations, former prime minister Jim Bolger has called for the state funding of political parties.

The basic idea is that if political parties are paid for by the state, then the influence of big corporations and their donations will become obsolete, removing corruption.

I have to say, I really don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, I do like the idea of political parties not needing to sell out to corporations. On the other, going full hyperbole here, if a nazi party started up in New Zealand, I wouldn’t want my tax dollars going towards that.

Getting rid of donations would remove the possibility of something like what is happening at NZ First at the moment from ever occurring.

On the other hand, removing the need for parties to get donations will further remove parties from the general populace. After all, if you are going to get money regardless, the incentive to focus on the needs of the supporters dissipates.

Not 100% sure of my beliefs in this area. From what I can tell, a mixed model would work best, and the good news is that Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has a members bill in the ballot that takes a step in the right direction.

Ghahraman’s bill would ban foreign donations, as well as forcing all donations above $1000 to be disclosed (as opposed to the current limit of $15000). Her bill would also put a limit of $35000 for donations to a party or candidate per year.

As long as that also extends to organizations, I’m down for this bill. Add a level of state funding for political parties and I think the system would be better.

That said, I’m still not 100% sure of my views on this topic, and I am open to being convinced otherwise. Drop your views in the comments.

Flat Bush!

The proposed changes to the boundaries of NZ’s electorates for the 2020 election have been released.

The big headline grabber is the creation of a new electorate in Auckland, which will be called Flat Bush.

And, Auckland, how you never fail to disappoint. I’m sorry, this isn’t the reaction that I should have, but I cannot get over the fact that a) Auckland has a suburb called Flat Bush, and b) that it’s going to be the name of an electorate that an MP will be elected from.

In all seriousness, Flat Bush will most likely be a National seat, if not a safe one. It takes parts from both the National voting Hunua and Papakura electorates, as well as the Labour voting Manurewa electorate.

Interestingly, Flat Bush will border the electorate of Botany, where there was a heated race from National to become the candidate for the seat. As such, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to guess that some of the potential candidates who ran in Botany will do the same in Flat Bush.

Uneducated guess: Agnes Loheni, current National list MP, and someone who tried to get the National nomination for Botany will become Flat Bush’s first MP.

It’s a move that makes sense – Loheni only became an MP following Chris Finlayson’s resignation and ran in the nearby electorate of Māngere in 2017, (not to mention her attempt at Botany), so she has local ties.

Elsewhere, the Port Hills electorate will be renamed to Banks Penisula after gaining that from Selwyn, making it a marginal seat. There’s also been some changes in and around Christchurch and Dunedin.

Four electorates have had name changes – Rodney to Whangaparāoa, Port Hills to Banks Penisula, Hunua to Port Waikato, and Rimutaka to Remutaka.

A full list of the changes is available in the scoop article I linked at the top.

Corrupt on one hand, corrupt on the other

I’m late to the party about whatever the hell is going on with the NZ First Foundation. But in the long of the short of it, no matter which way you look at it, dodgy stuff is almost certainly going on.

Last time I blogged about this, it appeared that the NZ First Foundation was only giving NZ First loans, meaning they just skirted around electoral laws. But as Graeme Edgeler states, nope, that doesn’t just skirt around electoral laws.

Edgeler says that if the foundation has been used to pay NZ First’s bills, those payments would be considered donations.

The loans were used to pay NZ First’s bills, such as advertising and payments to the IRD. Hence, donation. And these were all large donations over fifteen thousand dollars.

And there’s still confusion as to what the foundation is – is it part of the party? Is it separate? But regardless, it’s probably illegal. Again, Edgeler can state this far better than I, so I’ll let him.

“If the foundation and party are separate, it is likely a corrupt or illegal practice occurred because donations from the foundation were not declared,” he said.

“If the foundation is part of NZ First, then the party secretary has likely committed offenses around declaring donations or failing to keep records.

Just a reminder: NZ is supposed to be the second least corrupt nation on earth. This should not be acceptable here, this is not ok. Donations must be declared.

The good news is that the electoral commission is investigating. The better news is that police might do their own investigation, with Act MP and leader David Seymour stating that he may go to the police.

Worse news: silence from the Labour and the Greens. You can give them the benefit of the doubt and say they aren’t going to comment until after the results of the electoral commission investigation. But the sad fact is that they wouldn’t be in power without NZ First, and hence will most likely not comment because they need it to stay that way.

God, the results of the commission’s investigation can not come soon enough.

A terrible, terrible, idea

Failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has refused to rule out a third presidential run, stating that she is under pressure from “many, many, many, people” to consider a third attempt.

People. Stop.

Clinton lost in 2016. The American people did not choose her, they chose Trump. Yes, Clinton won the popular vote, but the key people, those who live in Florida and Pennsylvania, did not choose her. What about her is going to make them change their minds? Fresh ideas are needed.

The Democratic field is crowded enough by candidates who’s supporters will turn salty when they don’t win already – like what happened with Sanders in 2016 – and they don’t need another. They’re trying to beat Trump, for god’s sake.

Also, she’d not even be entered into the ballot for some states. No matter what way you look at it, at this late, late, stage it makes zero sense for her to run.

A good start

1563 schools will not ask parents for donations come the new year, with a $150 dollar payment from the government per pupil coming in instead.

An excellent decision. Schools from decile one to seven have seen about a 90% adoption rate of the scheme, meaning the lowest-income families will be the ones that no longer have to pay the “optional” school donations. Education in general, but especially outside of the classroom education (which donations tend to cover) should not be something only for the wealthy.

That said, while a step in the right direction, there are still flaws to iron out. Decile eight to ten schools are not allowed to opt into the scheme, as those schools are generally from higher-income areas – but as National education spokesperson Nikki Kaye pointed out, there are still going to be lower-income kids that miss out:

“They have designed a very unfair system and as a result of this there is a group of disadvantaged kids that will miss out,” Kaye said.

“They went to the election and said they were going to offer this to every school in New Zealand and they haven’t done that.”

I don’t think universally getting rid of donations is the answer – there are plenty of rich folks out there that can afford it. But the decile 8 cut off should not be a hard cut off – from there, schools and the government should try and take it on a pupil by pupil basis, where parents that may not have the money to pay the donations can apply to have their child added to the scheme.

The case by case basis should also apply for schools – for instance, Lynmore School is the sole school in Rotorua that is not eligible to apply for the new system – something which is obviously going to hurt them a lot.

All in all however, this is a great step forward by the government.

NZ First gamed the system

NZ First has been getting large loans from the NZ First Foundation. Problem: it’s all anonymous.

If these were donations, then this wouldn’t be a problem. If you donate to an organization that would then use that donation to give money to a political party, then the law would require that you wear that donation. But not so with loans – those can remain anonymous.

NZ First does not seem to know or care about this. Their party secretary only admitted to being aware of the foundation’s existence until after documents proving that she had signed off on loans to the party from the foundation were provided to her.

In fact, everyone is super secretive about it. Only two trustees of the foundation are known, and both when questioned were defensive and refused to comment.

In my opinion, this shows some pretty blatant contempt for NZ’s democracy. The worst part? It’s legal. Loans don’t face the same level of scrutiny as donations. As a country, we’ve done so well to either remove or be transparent about corporate influence in politics, but here we have NZ First disregarding democracy and transparency.

This loophole where loans can remain anonymous while donations cannot must be fixed, ASAP. NZ First cannot be allowed to game the system.

Sadly trivial

Wellington City Councilor Nicola Young has called for the city to start flying Wellington’s flag, which hasn’t been in regular use since the 90s.

This was a new learning experience for me – as a Wellingtonian, I had no idea we had a flag. But I gotta say, the flag looks awesome.

Photo taken from the stuff article

There’s a dolphin and a boat and more flags in the flag!!!!! This quite possibly one of the coolest flags I’ve seen. How many have a dolphin? The yellow and black both look great as well.

It has been raised that this flag does represent colonialism, but as councilor Young said, colonialism is part of Wellington’s history. Also, it doesn’t need to represent anything if we don’t want it to – in the end, it’s just a piece of cloth.

But however cool this flag is, it is, in the end, a trivial matter, and not something worth spending money on. Wellington does have better things to use it’s rates on. But god damn I wish that wasn’t the case, because this flag rocks.

(Also apologies – I know this is a few days old. I’ve had exams recently, so my next few posts will be me trying to catch up with the events of the past few days)

Bernie Sanders shows why the Zero Carbon bill was so important

US presidential candidate and democratic nominee Bernie Sanders has praised New Zealand for our Zero Carbon bill, and has promised to do something similar if he wins the presidency.

This is the power of New Zealand’s action on climate change. This is why the Zero Carbon bill is so important.

Throughout the past few years, people have been questioning why NZ should take action on climate change when NZ produces so little emissions compared to the rest of the world.

While those that say that have a point, yes, NZ introducing measures alone won’t do anything, it’s the setting of an example that matters. New Zealand has just shown to the world that something like this is possible, and other countries can follow our lead.

To have the US, one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, even consider following our lead is a gigantic achievement. Hopefully more nations, and their actual governments will also follow our lead in the near future.

Sustainable NZ – here to sink the Greens

Former Green party male co-leadership candidate Vernon Tava has launched his new political party, Sustainable NZ.

Sustainable NZ claims to be neither left or right-wing, and is apparently here to provide a voice for the environment, and solely a voice for the environment. That’s in contrast to the Greens which is both an environmental and left-wing party.

Sustainable NZ has said that it is willing to work with either major party, which means that it will get an electorate deal from neither. So unless Sustainable pulls off something major, they aren’t getting into parliament.

What Sustainable will do is pull votes off of the Greens. Given that the Greens are hovering around 6-7% in the polls, it’s very easy (and very likely in my opinion) that Sustainable is a scheme set up by the Nats to get the Greens out of parliament.

After all, taking out the minor parties is National’s best path to government.

It’s a strategy that is good for getting National into government – if appalling for the health of our democracy.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about Sustainable is that they could very well result in there being no voice for the environment in parliament.

Please, no return to two-party politics

Bryce Edwards at The Guardian has pointed out the problem Jacinda and Labour have with minor parties:

Bridges knows that his best chance is not making new friends in parliament, but rather taking out Ardern’s current support parties. It’s a cunning, if very cynical plan.
A number of new “micro parties” will be attempting to make it into parliament in 2020. They have little chance of success, but they do have the potential to have a big impact. Two small environmentally-focused parties – Sustainable NZ and the Opportunities party – could end up acting as spoilers, stealing votes from the Greens and sinking them under the crucial 5% threshold.

No no no no no no no.

The change from FPP to MMP was the best and most important political change for recent political history. FPP is a terrible system, voters should not be forced into voting for the lesser of two evils. Yet, that’s what’s essentially that we could be staring at, despite being in MMP.

If we do lose the minor parties, barring changes to the electoral system (which isn’t hugely unrealistic, to be fair) it will be difficult to get any minor parties back in parliament.

Going to a two-party system is a bad idea, period. One party having absolute power in government is bad.

Come 2020, if we are in danger of losing the minor parties, NZ voters, please do the right thing. Vote for the minor parties if you have to.

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