One interesting sidelight in the John Banks donations affair is his alleged request to split Kim Dotcom’s $50,000 donation into two lots of $25,000 “so it could be declared anonymously.” Banks apparently was not aware that the limit above which donations in local body elections must be declared is $1,000, the same as it is for electorate candidates in general elections. He may have been confused with the limit above which declaration of party donations from known persons in general elections is required, which is now set at $15,000. This provision does not apply in the Local Electoral Act.
Party donations for the 2011 general election must be declared to the Electoral Commission by the end of April, and will be published on Tuesday . One new provision in the Act provides for the declaration of the number of donations in two bands, from $1500 to $5,000, and $5,00 to $15,000. It will be very interesting to see the number of upper level donations in National and ACT particularly.
These parties proposed as policy the partial sale of electricity assets. One of the reasons given for this by the Capital Markets Task Force was the need to deepen our thin capital market by providing more high-dividend stock. Whatever may be the outcome for mums and dads, there is no doubt that sharebrokers, the NZX, and asset sales advisors were advocates for and will be principal beneficiaries of this policy, to the tune of $100million according to Tony Ryall.
They are also the most likely to be able to manage donations so that they come from a variety of companies, just as Banks asked Kim Dotcom to do according to the German. Of course we will not know the specifics as the only information we will have will be the number of donations at each level.
The concern about this is that it raises more questions about the provision of policy for money. This is a live issue in Britain, with revelations from a Conservative fundraiser Peter Cruddas offering this explicitly, as well as the ongoing saga of the Murdoch media and the BSkyB takeover. Closer to home we have the issue of access given to SkyCity by John Key resulting in the Casino of National Significance.
All of this says that we have a considerable way to go before we can say that our political system is transparent and that there is no question of unknown money buying influence. In my opinion, we need complete transparency about all political donations, and public funding of political parties to make up the shortfall and guarantee complete independence from the influence of money in politics. At a few million a year, it would certainly be a much better spend than $100million to the overseas finance companies.