Thursday, February 22, 2024

Ross to force vote on overseas donations in Parliament

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Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross will soon force a vote in Parliament on the issue of overseas donations.

The move comes as concern around overseas donations and foreign influence in elections grows in prominence in New Zealand politics.

Ross said today he has submitted amendments to the Local Electoral Matters Bill, which is scheduled to be considered at the committee stage in Parliament this afternoon.

Ross’s amendments will see MPs vote on where they stand on overseas donations.

“The leaders or spokespeople for political parties representing a majority in Parliament have said we should ban overseas donations. I agree,” he says.

“New Zealanders do not want our electoral system to be compromised by overseas donations and Kiwis don’t want our democracy to be hijacked by the threat of foreign influence.”

Ross says there are serious flaws in the Local Electoral Act 2001 when it comes to the rules around candidates receiving overseas donations.

“Right now there are zero restrictions on candidates receiving overseas donations in local government elections,” he says.

“The restrictions that exist for parliamentary elections under the Electoral Act 1993 are not mirrored in local government legislation. There is also no limit on the amount of an overseas donation that can be accepted.”

An overseas donor can make a donation of an unlimited amount, and the candidate would only have to declare this after the election, he says.

“We have an opportunity this week to put in place greater restrictions on overseas donations, and we should be doing that.”

Ross is proposing three different options for amendments to the Local Electoral Matters Bill which would restrict the ability of people overseas to interfere in New Zealand’s democracy.

One option would bring the Local Electoral Act 2001 into line with the Electoral Act 1993 with regard to overseas donations, where overseas donations are capped at $1,500.

However Mr Ross has proposed even greater restrictions that would ban overseas donations entirely.

“The amendments I have put forward include the option of a legislative ban on overseas donations at the local government level, and a restriction so that only New Zealanders that are enrolled to vote could make a donation to a candidate.

Ross says with the 2019 local government elections only now months away, it is “imperative” that the Parliament takes the opportunity to tighten the overseas donations regime at the local government level.

“As councils and mayors around New Zealand are making greater attempts to forge overseas relationships between their cities and overseas cities, it’s appropriate we take steps to ensure our electoral system is not influenced by large-scale foreign donations.

“I hope MPs will follow through on their public statements to date on banning overseas donations.”

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