Thursday, May 07, 2020

Why we need more transparency over party donations

Party donation returns were quietly released yesterday, and the big news is that NZ First has refused to name its foundation donors, apparently falsifying its return. Hopefully that will be investigated and any criminal behaviour prosecuted. But looking at the other returns, I'm appalled by how much secret money our political parties are raking in. Labour took in $784,000, of which $323,000 was secret - 41% of donations. NZ First took in $368,000, of which $317,000 was secret - 87% of the total. The Greens collected $339,000, of which $101,000 was secret - 30% of the total. And National took in $1.2 million, of which 87% was secret - more than a million dollars of secret money.

The basic idea of electoral transparency is that bribing politicians is fine, provided we all know about it, so we can be sure they aren't delivering. But our parties are taking in huge amounts of donations, some of which are obviously large, and we have no idea who is bribing them and what they are getting in return. And that is simply not acceptable. The disclosure threshold needs to be lowered immediately, to a very low level - $100 or $250 or $500, so that we know exactly who is giving what. And if this means that rich pricks are reluctant to bribe politicians and buy influence in secret, then so much the better for our democracy.