Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Join Australia Movement solicits foreign donations

Today was nomination day for the Botany by-election, and ten candidates are standing (the Greens apparently missed out after being stuck in traffic. Another reason to fund public transport in Auckland). Among the parties was a newcomer - the Join Australia Movement, who (as you'd expect from their name) advocate political unity with Australia. In the course of putting together the basic Wikipedia article on this party, I dug around their website, and discovered something quite dodgy: the party is soliciting donations from overseas persons in excess of the statutory limit.

Here's what the party has to say on its membership page:

Please note membership is only available to New Zealand residents or citizens. If you are not a citizen or resident you may aid the movement by donating to the party.
And here's what they say on their donations page:
b. If you are an Overseas Donor , please click here (maximum donation per year NZ$9900.00)
(Screenshot, in case they try and hide the evidence; emphasis added)

The Electoral Act prohibits donations of more than $1,500 by overseas persons. But here's the twist: that only applies to registered parties. Unregistered parties, like the Join Australia Movement, can take all the foreign cash they want. If they then pass the money on to their candidates, they will be caught by the contribution rule, and the excess will have to be returned or surrendered. But if they don't, they can take as much money as they can solicit, and we would be none the wiser (as unregistered parties are not subject to any disclosure requirements beyond those of their candidates).

The ban on overseas donations exists for good reason: to prevent foreigners from buying our elections. Here we have a party explicitly soliciting such donations. There's no evidence that they have received any foreign donations, but the fact that they are asking for them ought to ring alarm bells, and invite questions from both the Electoral Commission and the public.