Tuesday, December 03, 2019

This is bullshit, and our democracy deserves better

The government has said it will ban foreign donations to political parties and candidates, and will be introducing legislation to be passed under all-stages urgency this afternoon. While I agree with the goal, I don't see a particular case for urgency, unless the government is concerned about a flood of foreign money being snuck in before the ban comes into place (in which case, simply include a retrospective reporting requirement, and let the parties face the voters). And given the complexities (we allow anonymous donations of up to $1,500, while targeting foreign-controlled NZ companies and trusts is going to be fiddly), this seems like a move which needs serious select committee scrutiny. Otherwise, we're either going to end up with a cosmetic PR move, or a fuck-up. And the public deserves better than that.

Update: The bill is now online. It limits foreign donations to $50, and imposes a duty on party secretaries to "take all reasonable steps in the circumstances" to ensure that anonymous donations aren't from "overseas persons". Meanwhile, it leaves the definition of "overseas person" unchanged, meaning NZ front companies can still be used to run a herd of Mongolian horses through the law. This is bullshit, and our democracy deserves better.