November 30, 2022

Political parties’ views on the upheaval in donations remain secret under an agreement with the Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice has reached an agreement with the political parties to keep their proposals on the reform of the law on donations secret.

Last month, the government announced its intention to overhaul the donations regime. The shakeup will cap anonymous donations to parties at $5,000.

As part of the reform, political parties – and the public – were asked to give their views on a range of policy options.

The ministry says it will publish submissions from ordinary people. But he will not disclose those of the three political parties.

READ MORE:
* What place for anonymous people in political financing?
* Prohibition of anonymous political donations among election law reform options
* Insults fly in Parliament as NZ First Foundation allegations spark urgent debate over Elections Act

“Political parties from which the department has received submissions have provided them on a confidential basis,” Kathy Brightwell, chief civil and constitutional policy officer, said in response to a request from the Official Information Act of Things.

“These parties might not have provided submissions if they knew they were going to be identified, so it would be in the public interest to withhold their submissions, as their publication would likely harm the provision of similar information, and it is in the public interest that the department can continue to consult political parties in the future.

Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced plans to overhaul the donations regime after a series of scandals.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced plans to overhaul the donations regime after a series of scandals.

Brightwell did not specify which three parties requested anonymity and Things asked for clarification.

However, last month National released its submission to Things when asked. The Labor Party refused.

National Justice spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it was “deeply shocking and ironic” that officials had conspired to keep the submissions secret as part of a political process designed to increase transparency.

“These things are written on the basis that they will come out. You say things that you are ready to respect.

He called on Labor to publish his submission. “One can only conclude that they might submit to their own bill or do something they are embarrassed about. It’s totally indefensible.”

However, Labor said it never provided a written statement. Instead, the general secretary, Rob Salmond, met with officials.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: ‘As you can imagine Labour’s position is in line with the Government’s position.

On Wednesday, ACT leader David Seymour delivered his letter to then-Justice Minister Kris Faafoi. He called plans for reform in the current election cycle “repulsive”.

“Nowhere do you explain why you believe political donations have an inappropriate influence on election results,” Seymour wrote.

He said lowering the threshold for reporting an anonymous donation to $1,500 would most certainly curtail political freedom of expression. (The government ultimately opted for $5,000).

“It’s a sad thing, but I often hear from people who don’t want to make a reportable donation because they fear political retaliation,” Seymour said.

“They say things like ‘we support you, but our company works for the government and we can’t risk that…’ You want to narrow the range of options for people who disagree with the government to to oppose it. To do so without a demonstrated reason is frightening.

Te Pāti Māori did not participate in the consultation process. But a spokesperson said: ‘We want full disclosures. We have such a great digital record these days, it should be easy.

The party has the opposite view to the ACT – they believe transparency will prevent a punitive regime.

“People should be able to donate to political parties without fear or favor that their contracts will be withdrawn,” he said. “Let the court of public opinion determine who and why supports certain parties, and for what results. Its very important.

The Greens said they would be happy to publish their submission.

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross appeared in court last year.  National, Labor and New Zealand First are currently embroiled in legal cases centering on the donations.

Ricky Wilson / Stuff

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross appeared in court last year. National, Labor and New Zealand First are currently embroiled in legal cases centering on the donations.

The new rules, which will be introduced ahead of next year’s general election, will also require parties to reveal the number and total value of party donations under $1,500, which are not made anonymously.

They must disclose “in-kind” or non-cash donations, such as works of art, and report loans made to candidates by unregistered lenders and publish annual financial statements.

But the new rules won’t tackle ‘cash for access’ schemes – which allow wealthy citizens to pay for an audience with ministers and politicians.

In June, it was revealed that the Labor Party and the National were charging the wealthy for an audience with key political figures, including leaders Jacinda Ardern and Christopher Luxon.

National, Labor and New Zealand First are currently embroiled in legal cases centering on the donations.

Luxon’s National Party strongly opposed many of the proposals, warning of a “chilling effect” on democracy and problems implementing changes in an election year.

But Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan said the reform was substantial, but necessary to restore public confidence in politics.

The ministry received 276 submissions on proposed changes to political donation rules, 269 through public consultations and seven through targeted consultations.

Officials declined to disclose any submissions to Thingsciting an OIA clause that allows agencies to withhold information because it will soon be made public.