Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is backing calls by academic Professor Anne-Marie Brady for action to be taken to reduce the threat to New Zealand of foreign influence from overseas donations.
“All MPs owe it to the public to ensure our democracy is as open, transparent and free of corruption as possible,” Ross says.
This follows Ross’ public falling out with National party leader Simon Bridges, who Ross accused of fraudulently handling a $100k party donation last year.
Ross questioned Prof Brady during her appearance before the Justice select committee today about the risk of foreign interference in New Zealand’s political system, and about donations that appear to have foreign origins but were channelled through a New Zealand company.
“Prof Brady is an expert in this subject and her views should be listened to,” he says.
“The current rules under the Electoral Act 1993 are far too loose.
“They allow foreign nationals to use a company in New Zealand to make donations, thereby creating a backdoor to donate to political candidates.
“Donations to local government and parliamentary candidates should only be accepted from people who are enrolled to vote.
“And any loophole that allows foreign entities to give money to a candidate here and hide the source of that donation must be closed.
“We’ve seen well-publicised examples in recent years of foreign interference in other countries. We cannot allow that to happen in New Zealand.”
Prof Brady’s submission to the committee suggests a number of important changes that should be made around foreign donations including:
• New Zealand political parties should be required to do due diligence on all donations
• The NZ Electoral Commission needs to have the resources to assist with that work
• Donors must verify they are the source of the donated funds
• Trusts and charities should be required to be fully transparent about donations
• Loopholes that enable a candidate to give a donation under $15,000 to a political party without having to declare it must be fixed
• Donations from New Zealand non-permanent residents or non-citizens should be prohibited.