Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Labour drags its feet on electoral finance reform

At the end of last year, the Justice Committee presented the results of its regular inquiry into the last election. Among other things, it recommended electoral finance reform, giving the Electoral Commission powers to investigate and prosecute offences, and closing loopholes allowing foreign funding of political parties. Given the problems we've seen revealed just this term - two political parties investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over their corrupt handling of donations, and a bunch of people facing charges - you'd expect acting on these recommendations to be a high priority. Instead, the government finally presented its response today - a month late - and basicly told the committee to fuck off. Oh, they don't say that explicitly, of course: instead they propose a comprehensive review of electoral law, "to take place over the next two parliamentary terms". But it basicly amounts to the same thing. The clear message is that Labour has no appetite for proper enforcement of electoral law, and no appetite for anything which might limit their ability to receive laundered donations, foreign or otherwise. And so everything is pushed off into the never-never, where it will be someone else's problem, and clearly in the hope it will never happen.

This is not the way to build public confidence in our electoral finance regime. And it invites the natural conclusion that the government are a corrupt, self-serving elite addicted to secret and foreign money - and if they're not, they're doing a damn good impression of it. This simply isn't good enough. When the integrity of our elections is at stake, kiwis expect action, not foot-dragging.