Tag Archive: democracy

More dodgy donations

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel is the latest NZ politician to run afoul of election donation laws.

When Dalziel was fundraising for her mayoral campaign this year, $40,100 came from a dinner and wine auction at the Southern Asia Restaurant in Colombo St organised by her husband, lawyer Rob Davidson.

Davidson had donated the wine, and Dalziel identified him alone as a donor at that event despite some bidders paying high prices for bottles.

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The largest donor was Wei Min Lu, who paid $17,000 for wine – more than 11 times the $1500 limit that must be declared under the Act.

Dalziel said on Thursday she took Davidson’s advice on what she was required to declare. She then said she regretted not taking independent advice on her election return. 

So Davidson actually *donated* the wine, even though they were paid for by other people. Dodgy.

This could be acceptable if this was someone who had never been in politics before. But Dalziel has been Christchurch’s mayor since 2013. Before that she was an MP from 1990, which included time as a minister. She should know better than this.

This needs to be investigated by the Christchurch electoral officer.

But what’s really frustrating is that dodgy donations like these are a re-occurring theme in NZ politics.

The article I linked above lists a number of examples of dodgy practices like this at a local level, citing examples such as Auckland mayor Phil Goff, a pair of candidates in Marlborough, and the new Waimakiri mayor.

On a national level the NZ First Foundation scandal is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and National aren’t squeaky clean in this area either.

NZ is one of the least corrupt nations on earth. News like this shouldn’t be constant.

What scares me is that this is probably only a fraction of the real amount of politicians that run foul of donation laws. There are probably more that don’t get caught.

Terrible bill, terrible delivery

Today, justice minister Andrew Little “banned” foreign political donations.

Everything about this is awful.

First, the “ban”. The bill is advertised as a blanket ban on all foreign donations when it literally isn’t. Rather, foreign donors have a cap of $50 dollars compared to the previous threshold of $1500. Last time I checked that isn’t a ban.

Because anonymous donations up to $1500 are allowed, the onus is on party secretaries to make sure that a donation over 50 dollars is not from any one foreign. As such, someone foreign could anonymously give $1499 dollars to a party. As long as the secretary has no reason to suspect that the donation comes from anyone foreign, it’s fine.

There’s also nothing to stop foreigners from donating to organizations such as the NZ First Foundation, which can then promptly loan the party that money without the scrutiny of donations.

If that isn’t enough, companies that are NZ registered but foreign-owned will still be allowed to donate to political parties. So this bill does nothing to stop foreign money from getting into NZ Politics.

All of that’s without mentioning the true problem with political donations – big companies practically buying parties. But the bill does not address that.

That’s four (maybe five) paragraphs briefly detailing the flaws with this law. All of these could be fixed had the bill gone through proper process – being edited first by a select committee, and then by a committee of the whole house.

But Little and Labour decided to pass this law under urgency, meaning that it has to be passed, consulted and edited in a singular day.

This is unacceptable. Laws should only be passed under urgency during, ya know, urgencies.

But for something as important as electoral law there needs to be a lot of review. This is something that has to be gotten right regardless of the amount of time it takes.

But no. Little and Labour went for the flashy headline that solves nothing, whilst abusing democratic process to try and hide the lack of fixes.

Repugnant.

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.

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.

Minor party shortage

No Right Turn recently blogged about TOP’s dissolution.

However, it’s the last line of his post which I find the most interesting:

But while its clear that TOP has died a natural death, it means we’ll be down to only 12 registered political parties (and only 5 in Parliament). Which isn’t a lot of options for voters to choose from. One way of measuring the health of a democracy is by the number of registered political parties. And on that metric, ours seems to be in slow decline.

Not including the five parties in parliament, the seven remaining ones are:

  • Maori
  • Legalise Cannabis
  • Conservatives
  • People’s Party
  • Democrats for Social Credit
  • Outdoors
  • Mana

Of those seven, the only party which holds a reasonable chance of actually getting into parliament come 2020 is the Maori party. What’s more, all three of our current minor parties are in danger of failing to be re-elected in 2020: NZ First and the Greens are hovering around the 5% mark, and National have refused to guarantee ACT that they will endorse them in Epsom.

This does leave me concerned that we will just have two parties in parliament in 2020, and if that happens, given there will be no coalitions with minor parties, the ruling party will have no power checks. That ain’t good. And even if they’re not in power, as NRT said, having minor parties is good for democracy.

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